Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

By Roger Heid

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All this started in 1954. I was all of 11 years old; I wish I still were. Never mind that. Well, then again, maybe I still am, in my heart.

In spring that year, I started to attend a new High School, out of town. It was about 15 kilometers from where I lived, at that time. I needed to commute by train. Great! I had always been interested in trains.  Now I had a chance to experience real world trains on a basically daily basis. This was very exiting! It changed everything, quite a bit. Now I wanted an electric model train set. My pick was Maerklin.

Frequent visits at two toy stores reinforced this intend. One of the clerks actually gave me a catalogue. I drooled over it for months to come. Once done with my school homework, I studied every single page of this book, building up a very long wish list in the process.

At one time, my Mom inquired as to what I was studying so intensively. I immediately handed her my Maerklin catalogue.

“Oh dear, we can’t afford that now”, was her response.

I sort of knew that. But one can dream about it, I told myself.

As fall approached, I learned that, in my school class, there were two types of societies. The first class had an electric model train set; the second class did not, second class citizens. That’s what I belonged to. This contributed to the rapid increase of my heart’s desire.

Christmas of 1954 had arrived. No, I did not get an electric train. My older cousin, living next door, did. He reluctantly let me play with it a few times. This was an exhilarating experience which intensified my heart’s desire to the point of being almost unbearable. Going back to school after Christmas Vacation did not help matters either. Not at all! Now my desire promoted to outright obsession.

Knowing that I needed to apply certain tactics and a specialized strategy to convince my Mom of my priority, I started my plotting early in 1955. Subsequently, she would find this catalogue in unexpected places, including her underwear drawer. During summer vacation, in August, she threw it away. Even though it had become ugly, dog-eared and stained, I was devastated. By Gosh, my favorite book was gone, just like that.

My subsequent constant and obnoxious sulking finally compelled her to buy me a new catalogue, about a month later, after her nerves had become real frazzled. I have to say, this was one of the very few occasions when sulking got me some tangible results. I must have gotten good at it, after all.

During the fall months, I kept low key. I did not want to be responsible for her blowing a gasket or having a nervous breakdown. After all, she was my Mom, regardless. I deliberately left my precious catalogue in places where she had open access to it. Sometimes, the catalogue was not where I had left it. I interpreted this to be an encouraging sign of things to come. I decided to be a very good boy, from now on in. At one time, I even lowered myself to wash and put away the dirty dishes, without her having to prod me. In fact, I did it twice. I kept it that way because I wanted to prevent her from doubting my sanity.

Eons went by, very slowly. It was a real drag. Finally, Christmas Eve of 1955 arrived, the one I will always remember. In Germany, following an old tradition, presents were always opened on Christmas Eve. The Christmas tree did not come to full blossom until that evening. As far as ‘The Longest Day’ is concerned, uh, it’s not in summer. Also, the D-Day invasion took a lot less time than waiting for dusk on a December 24th.

Back then, it always seemed to me that the adults spent way too much time with ceremonial crap before the kids were allowed to shred the wrapping paper. This particular x-mas eve was no exception, but I managed to suffer through the endless waiting,.

Out of courtesy, I handed the first package to my Mom. You see, she had a pair of pot holders that looked like they had been through each and every war mankind ever indulged in. In the box she found a set of new ones. She promptly tossed the old ones, smiling happily. I instantly knew I had picked the right thing.

The next package was for me. The label indicated it was from some aunt from way out of town. She always knitted or sewed some piece of garment for me on every occasion she could think of. Before I even opened it, I knew it would be too small. The last time something from her fit me, was when I was 6 years old. Well, I would still send her a thank you card, not mentioning that the cardigan made a poor neighbor kid happy.

The following package went to my Mom. This was hilarious. It contained some goofy figurine that I remembered her to receive three Christmases ago. I also remember her sending it to a different relative, a year later. This thing was like a boomerang; it found its way back. This made me really wonder about certain things adults do to each other, at times. To this date, I have never been able to figure this out, in full.

There were two or three more packages that contained useful things, especially the one from an aunt in Manhattan, NYC. She sent me a pair of new cap guns, including belt and holsters. There were even faked cartridges in the belt loops. I would definitely dominate the neighborhood during many a gun fight to come. I would make piece meal of all the bandits and rustlers, in short order. Rest assured, Hoppalong Cassidy, I shall be by your side.

At last, it was time for me to take care of some extremely important business issues. Crumbled up wrapping paper flew into every conceivable corner of the room. This action kept my cat from interfering with my affairs. She abandoned the little toy she got for Christmas. Instead, she went nuts with those paper balls, totally ignoring what I was doing. This I was in dire need of. You don’t know that cat. My sweetheart she was, most of the time. I just loved my kitty. I spent many happy moments with her, a time never wasted.

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Taking precise inventory of the contents of several boxes revealed that everything was present and accounted for. The track oval was laid in no time flat. The power transformer was quickly hooked up. Then I had to sit at the table to thoroughly examine my locomotive. She was utterly beautiful, I swear. Even my Mom couldn’t help ogling at it for quite some time.


BR 89

The other items are pictured below. They are self explanatory. I knew there would be more stock added, down the line, as my Railroad Company would certainly flourish.





Now came the moment to have my new train start its maiden run. I had a fully loaded water pistol standing by. Now you might wonder what I would need that for. You see, my train had not even been able to complete two trips around the track when it was attacked by a herd of buffalo, in the form of a single feline. My first train wreck had just taken place. A few squirts from my trusted buffalo gun averted any further buffalo interventions. By all means, my train needed to be on time delivering a variety of merchandise to many locations.

My railroad management procedures were rudely interrupted by my Mom, sternly insisting I’d join her in an elaborate meal. At that moment in time, I would have rather starved than gulping down some adult imposed nourishment, but I had no choice in the matter. The food tasted like straw to me. But, out of respect and courtesy, again, I profusely complimented my Mom for her culinary achievement. Actually, I cannot even remember just what all that stuff was I was force fed.

While Mom was clattering around with an array of dirty dishes, I dutifully resumed my railroad responsibilities as it behooved me. I decided there was freight to be hauled from New York to San Francisco. I assembled a lengthy train and coupled it to a huge steam locomotive.


Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’

It is now in my inventory. Back then, it was a mere dream.

This journey would be a long one. I got a pillow and a blanket to get comfortable on the floor, I mean, along the railroad tracks. Halfway through the trip, we were attacked by a horde of braves on the war path. I must have caught an arrow, because I fainted.

When I came to, it was daylight. The train was parked in San Francisco. My Mom had breakfast ready. It was wonderful. No taste of straw, at all! She had fixed it just exactly the way I preferred it. Moms can be very useful, a lot of times. Don’t you ever forget that, you hear?

Christmas vacation was over.  By now I had become an experienced model train operator, at least in my books. But now it was time to take a much closer look at the real railroad stuff, especially locomotives. On that first day back to school, I took note that the train was headed by a BR64. A model of it moved to the top of my huge wish list.


BR 64

Going back to class was about as triumphant as Julius Caesar’s return to Rome after he beat the living daylights out the Galls. I was accepted into the ranks of 1st Class Citizenship. I had become a railroad owner. The catalogue was in my satchel, of course. Many items on most all pages were circled and accompanied by elaborate footnotes. During the period breaks, hot discussions regarding plans of future acquisitions were made. The older peer forgave me for my humble inventory. Much to my relief, they gave me credit for this being my first season.

Going home, the train was pulled by a BR 38. Hence, it moved to the top of my list. A few days later, however, I changed my wish list back to its original status. For some reason, I liked the BR64 more. This may have been an emotional thing. It reminded me more of the model loco I actually had. The possession of a locomotive of BR 38 dimensions would have to wait for a while. I knew that.


BR 38

By now, in the year 2014, I have a BR 38 and two BR 64s. Sometimes I like to run them in tandem, just like I had seen this done in the real world. About three weeks ago, I ordered a third one. This one will have an mfx+ decoder. Once I get the hang of this, I will let you know how this goes. I can hardly wait.

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Merry Christmas to all of you !

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