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Man Remembers Wife Through His Train Collection
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Story By: Larry Stine



  Originally Published on: 12/27/2013

For one Georgia man, Christmas means trains. He has been collecting them for nearly half a century. The display draws crowds. But this year, it has taken on a more special meaning. Memories of his late wife. Will Frampton has the story. When you step into Richard Thoreson's living room, it's hard to know where to look first. Like a candy store for the eyes, as soon as one train stops moving, another one starts. Beneath the tree, around the corner, the trains chug along, just as they've been doing in Thoreson's living room, for 50 years. "Each year, we added on more, and more, and more, and now, it's out of control," says Thoreson. It started the year he married his wife, Barbara, 1964. He was 22. She was 18. "I told my wife, you've seen our train at Christmas time when you've come down to visit, let's have one. She said, I'm all for it," says Thoreseon. Their first Christmas together, they had just one train, this one. But they kept adding, and adding, not just trains, but ornaments, and figurines. "Some of these pieces are 100 years old," says Thoreseon. "Some go back to the '20's, the '30's. I've probably got about 110 cars, engines. I've got 11 engines, different kinds of engines, and as far all the little pieces here, houses, people, I don't know, 7,000, 8,000 pieces." After a while, he and his wife discovered, the secret was too good to keep. As the setup became larger, word got out about these trains, and the Thoresons started getting visitors. "Hundreds. I've never counted," says Thoreson. "Sometimes we've got 17 people in here at one time." Every year, there's always something new to see in the Thoreson's train village. This year, the changes are ever-so-slight, yet, so important. If you look closely, you'll see one of the churches is having a special service. Because this year, for the first time in 50 years, Richard had to build this village without Barbara at his side. "She had developed breast cancer back in February of this year, had a double mastectomy and whatever could go wrong, did go wrong," he said. On August 22, she succumbed in her battle with breast cancer. For the couple, who never celebrated a Christmas without the trains, Richard knew this tradition had to carry on. "I think she would approve of what I've done," he said. "I'm glad it's up, I'm happy it's up, I'm happy the way it looks, and I think she would like it and enjoy it very much."

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