• Trains and Christmas

    By Ted Prichard
    The tradition of including a model train setup around or near the Christmas tree has been common in many homes over the decades, blossoming in the post-war ’40s and ’50s. Young boys … and even
    some girls … dreamt of having his or her private railroad empire to help celebrate the holiday season.
    Lionel Trains were fueling this fire, often included in store displays with a rather elaborate complex of tracks, trains and accessories that presented the latest offerings. Typically they were judiciously
    placed near Santa Claus to help inspire wish lists. More recently, The Polar Express film helped us to rekindle that excitement, too.
    A huge influence on the hobby _originated locally with the wartime arrival of a man named John Allen, ultimately a renowned and visionary model railroader dubbed “The Wizard of Monterey.” Born in
    1913, at around age 30 he moved to Irving Street, off Cannery Row. It was there that he began his first model railroad and developed skills that catapulted him to virtually regal status among his peers.
    Photos of his work were in the model train press regularly, continuing up to his death in 1973.

    In the early 1950s, John bought a home on Cielo Vista Terrace, situated near the top of the hill south of Monterey. There, he designed and constructed an extensive rail line that became known around the world. Today its status continues as a legendary example of the hobby at its finest, a miniature empire named the Garre and Daphetid (read that as “gory and defeated”). Ultimately he grew tired of the name’s inferences, referring to the railroad as the G&D or the GD Line. Able to devote his life’s work to creating this small world, he required little in the way of help in constructing it. His attention to detail in the planning was amazing, with so much of the infrastructure laid down even years before it might be needed. He did, however,welcome help in its operation. Local hobbyists became the nucleus of his “operating group,” while others came from some distance for the bpportunity to run trains. Numerous servicemen who were stationed at Fort Ord, DLI or the Naval Postgraduate School also volunteered their time.
    Vestiges of the G&D Operators group remain in this area, although none of the original members are with us. The late Allan Fenton, a Carmel resident, was among those in John Allen’s circle, later being a prime mover in sustaining the nearly-annual model railroad show. This year it’s being held at the American Tin Cannery, Friday and Saturday December 9 and 10. There is no charge to attend.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 4, 2017

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