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It takes a village to keep the Christmas trains running

When you have a former industrial arts teacher and an army of volunteers ready to set up shop in your community, there’s no telling what can be accomplished.

The woodworking club at Aberdeen Heights is in its fourth year of building at least 50 three-car trains - most of which are donated as Christmas gifts to children in the community.

“We have a very adequate shop for our residents,” said Alice Mohr, the retired industrial arts teacher who spearheads the annual project. “We have the time, talent, and resources to do this for others.”

The trains are constructed from 2x4s, which are ripped and then planed to smooth them out, before being cut into smaller pieces.

“There are over 1,800 pieces, with about 700 of them being wheels,” Alice said. “Each train has 14 wheels. We buy the wheels, and put a little smoke stack on them, which is actually a candle holder. The rest we take care of ourselves.”

Once the pieces are cut to order, the next step is the assembly - which requires a little machine effort to complete. This part of the project usually brings in upwards of 25 volunteers.

“When we get them constructed, we use a glue and power nailer because we could never put them together with little nails,” Alice said. “We need the power and consistency. Then we put them in the arts and crafts room where it isn’t dusty. Then we paint - that brings in another 10 or so people. We paint the cab and the caboose, and the engine boiler. The rest we leave alone, the wood is good itself - it’s attractive.”

Once completed, about 10 trains are sold to recoup the cost of the train building program. The rest are donated to children in the community - primarily to a nearby elementary school.

“We gave 20 to the school for the pre-school class,” Alice said. “We gave each student one of them. We got to go into the classroom this year. It was really great to see their excitement. We had a few train wrecks there. We also gave eight to Toys for Tots and some to a social services place in the city.”

The project is a great way to bring residents together during the holidays in the spirit of generosity and giving.

“It feels good to do it, to see all the people here learn new things when they make them,” Alice said. “And they like to take part in the painting if they can’t do other things. Also, they use our facilities, and it does feel good to give them away, too.”

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