Riding the rails at Bethany
Duane Krueger’s interest in model trains began at an early age and as an adult he was an avid collector.
He had 60 feet of track for his model trains in his basement.
“I always enjoyed model trains,” he said quietly, seated in a wheelchair at Good Samaritan Society Bethany in Brainerd where he has lived for eight years.
“When I came in here I had to get rid of all of that,” he said of his train collection and extensive track layout. On Wednesday Krueger, wearing a train conductor’s cap, inched his wheelchair closer to the activity — volunteers from the Northern Minnesota Railroad Heritage Association in Crosslake were setting up a three-track model train table display at Bethany. Several residents watched the progress in the Garden View Lounge.
Bethany added a small model train set to its lounge area about four years ago. The train table set up Wednesday is considerably larger. The layout was constructed by Northern Minnesota Railroad Heritage Association members from a gift the club received from the family of the late Douglas Fritscher.
Fritscher, who had a home on Gull Lake, was a collector of model railroad equipment who died from cancer of the brain, said Dennis Olson, club president. Fritscher was such an ingenious layout builder he created a train table that folded away into a wall pocket like a Murphy bed to save space. His layout was featured in Classic Toy Trains magazine. That layout was donated to the club and is now entertaining the residents at Bethany. Dick Elmquist, club member, was the leader of the Bethany train project.
Liz Foss, Bethany activities director, said they want to have a monthly railroad group meeting.
“They love the railroad and reminisce,” Foss said.
Krueger’s room at Bethany is a tribute to his love of trains. He grew up in Pequot Lakes. His father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad and Krueger used to watch the trains when he worked in a lumber yard in Nisswa. Now he suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
He made a water tower for the Bethany train station that was transferred to the new layout. Wednesday he watched as two trains negotiated their way along separate tracks while a street car wound around a figure eight in the center of the table. Through the years, he said model trains held his attention as he could add and change and alter his train layout. “It was always interesting,” he said.
Now Krueger and other residents at Bethany will have the opportunity to reconnect with the trains that may have first sparked their interest as children.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.