April 5, 2010

Train Yard Volunteering

Saturday was our scheduled day of volunteering for the Give-a-Day, Get-a-Disney-Day program. Kayden had picked our assignment: the Colorado Railroad Museum, because the idea of possibly painting train cars brought back great Thomas the Tank Engine memories.

Bright and way-too-early, we woke up, got dressed in many layers to anticipate the cold day, and grabbed a Starbucks sort of breakfast. We weren't sure what our assignment would be as we checked in with our team leader, a gentleman named Jim. Scattered here and there, we saw volunteers sweeping up train scraps, scraping paint (hope that's lead-free!), clearing the unused tracks.

With Keene carrying a box of cleaning supplies (never a good sign), Jim led us to Railroad Car 96.

We climbed aboard as Jim explained that this particular car was built in 1895 and used solely by Charles Elliott Perkins (the president of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad from 1881 to 1901) as he traveled the country, entertaining business acquaintances. Jim further explained that visitors are typically not allowed onto this rail car, because of the historical value of the objects within--and of the car itself.

All of the original carpets, furniture, light fixtures, bedding, and even china were still in the rail car. And our job was to clean it. Holy heavy sense of responsibility, Batman!

The rail car was considered to be the pinnacle of railway luxury at the time. The kitchen appliances were stainless steel, the beds had fire protective covers over them, and there was even an additional toilet in one bedroom.

We started our shift in the back of the train car, cleaning the main sitting room.

Even though he's a kid, Kayden didn't get to skate by on this job. He certainly worked for his D-Land ticket. He cleaned all the windows, ledges, furniture legs, tables, and metal heating grates.

Meanwhile, Keene and I polished all the wood paneling, vacuumed the upholstery and carpet, cleaned all the light fixtures and brass accessories...and that was all in one room.

There were some really interesting things in this room: a gorgeous lamp molded to look like it was sitting on a brass lily pad; buttons next to every chair with which to get the attendant's attention; small, built-in wooden cubbies on the walls which I thought were ashtrays and which Kayden thought held french fries; large overhead compartments which folded down into cots; and, stained glass windows near the ceiling.

Fast forward 2.5 hours later, and we moved to the next room. Keene cleaned the master bedroom (which consisted of him standing on a ladder, holding a vacuum with his foot)...

While Kayden and I moved onto the bathroom. Let me tell you: if you have to clean toilets, working on a toilet which is over 100 years old (and unused for the last 50 years) is pretty desirable. It was super, super dirty, but oh-so-so cool. Yes, I said it: cleaning a toilet was really cool.

The whole bathroom was neat. It was incredibly innovative for its time (at the time, not many people even had indoor bathrooms, let alone on a train). But this one had a toilet, sink, shower, and even a window. The shower had a curtain and a knob marked "Shampoo." Interesting...

And this funky thing, which may have been a toilet paper holder? I don't know. Any history buffs out there, please elaborate.

The faucet must have been an ugrade after the train had already been in use for many years, because the manufactured year was 1915.

After 3.5 hours of hard, hard work, Jim let us leave early (the scheduled length of service was 5 hours). With high compliments, he remarked that we had done our half of the train already and had to leave the other half for the next volunteer team.

Overall, a very fantastic experience!


JK @ HandsOn Network said...

What a cool project!

Steve Walden said...

I'd like to convey my personal gratitude for your family's service on CB&Q Car 96. As an amateur historian and kid at heart, I enjoy Colorado's railroads to no end, yet, because I live with a physical disability, I can't do the work. I know the rewards of volunteering and how awesome it feels to give without expecting anything in return. I hope your family finds the same rewards as they give their time.

Thanks again for stepping up and preserving a bit of Colorado history for future generations! God bless!

Steve Walden
Colorado Railroads

Kelli said...

Thank you, Steve!

I've done quite a few volunteering projects over the years, but this was by far the funnest, most exciting, and most fulfilling of them all.

I explained to Kayden, "You are probably the best person for this job, because you like history and you like trains. No other kid would take this as seriously as you." And it was true. He definitely understood what a privilege it was to be in that car.

While this particular volunteering job was to earn the tickets, I think we will sign up to help out in the future, anyways.