For the past 20 years Pulley operated his collection on three train boards in his 20-foot-by-30-foot garage which has been christened Pulleyville. The panoramic train layouts feature approximately 15 engines and hundreds of cars of every variety that represent such railroad lines as Pennsylvania, Erie, L&N, Lehigh Valley and CSX. Standing beside his four transformers, he becomes an engineer and controls the trains as he puts them into motion.
Pulley can have 10 trains chugging around their tracks simultaneously, and visitors can hear the train whistles whoo-whooing as the engines circle the miniature rails.
The backdrops for the model trains include a Main Street village with shops and churches and a circus set with revolving Ferris wheel and loud calypso music. A miniature ice rink holds wee skaters in motion, while a baseball diamond displays nine players on the field with a game in progress.
There’s a cemetery with a grave digger operating a piece of heavy equipment to scoop a hole in the ground, while another locale features an oil well with a flame fanning skyward. One town features a Cracker Barrel Restaurant, while another possesses a business with the sign “Honest Ben’s Used Car Lot.”
It’s obvious that lots of time and attention to detail has gone into making Pulleyville a place that brings pure delight into the eyes and heart of children of all ages. It was a child that inspired Pulley to pursue the hobby.
“I had a little grandson 2 years old. I felt like he would like trains, and that’s what got me started,” said the train man whose first acquisition was an Engine 2037. “I bought it and about four of five cars for $35 in 1977 and set it up on the floor of my home in Nashville.”
Over time he added more engines and cars, until, he said, “I was running about 12 or 13 trains, mostly O gauge, and doing something different all the time.
“I’m one of the few that runs their trains,” Pulley said, referring to the fact that many collectors just leave their model trains in the boxes they were purchased in and never take them out and play with them. “Many of the trains that you buy hold their value until you put them on the track.”Phyllis, Pulley’s wife of the past 13 years, has enjoyed the hobby as well and likes taking her turn as engineer with her thumb and forefinger on the transformer dial.
“I’m a fast driver. I knock ’em for a loop,” she said enthusiastically. She has also been the one to paint by hand the many hundreds of toy people that populate the grids inside Pulleyville.
“We’ve had a class of students from Tuckers Crossroads Elementary visit and had a nursing home come out here. They stayed and stayed. I thought they weren’t going to leave,” she said with a laugh.Among a highlight of their time together has been trips taken to a gigantic toy train show in York, Penn. The bi-annual event draws more than 13,000 train enthusiasts. (The York Train Meet is held each April and October and sponsored by the eastern division of the Train Collectors Association.)
“After I met him, I went to all the shows,” said Phyllis, who proudly displays a gorgeous engine known as Black Beauty in their den. “We enjoyed coming home with new things to put on the board.”When Pulley signed on with L&N all the locomotives were steam engines.
“The diesels came along in 1949 or 1950,” he recollected. “I can remember when they had a stream of steam engines for a while, and they run ’em together, a diesel and a steam engine running together, pulling the same train. Did you know that a steam engine can pull more than a diesel once it gets started?”
Pulley witnessed the changing of an era. These days, he’s happy to share the memories.
“I knew all the conductors. I was real close to all the engineers,” he said reflectively. “We had passes (to ride the trains). My girls loved it. We’d get a Pullman (a car with sleeper berth). Once I took my Sunday School class of 13-year-olds on a train ride to Chattanooga. They was tickled to death. We left Nashville at 9 a.m. and got back at 11 p.m.
“This was my hobby,” Pulley said. “It’s like everything else. It gets a hold of you and you start collecting.”
“Then,” Phyllis added, “you don’t know what to do with it. You got so much.”
“When I was a little boy, if a child got a train it was something. He had it made,” Pulley said. “Now I’m trying to probably get rid of all of ’em. If something happened to me, she wouldn’t know what to do with ’em.
“Everything has to come to an end,” said the man who turns into a youth every time he enters Pulleyville. He has had it made with trains most of his life and finds it not easy to walk away from the tracks.
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.