XENIA — Dick Strous’ fascination with trains began at an early age.
“Many years ago when I was a kid, my dad (Curtis) had a hardware story and he gave my brother and I a little American Flyer three-rail train,” Strous said. “That kind of got my interest in it. It kept going.”
Now 84, Strous, loves the locomotive as much as he did when he first put that American Flyer in his hands. And it is a big reason why the Rail Festival at Carillon Park, which takes place Saturday-Sunday June 24-25, is in existence.
At the urging of Xenia Daily Gazette publisher Fred Gibson, Strous started the Xenia Rail & Art Fest in 2004 to promote Xenia’s railroad history. One of his committee members, Ron Mock, eventually started the current the Carillon Park event and drafted Strous to work on that committee.
More than a decade later, Strous is still chugging along like the “Little Engine That Could.”
“I enjoy it, I really do,” he said. “Trains are great.”
So great that Strous has several in his house including a G scale garden rail that winds around his family room. In addition to that, years ago the long-time Xenia resident designed his own layout he called a hydrotrain which like a Murphy Bed, folded up into the wall.
Strous is also part of the Dayton N-Track, a modular train group that attends various railroad events.
“We go all over the country with that,” he said. “That’s my big thing right now. Each year something new kind of comes up and you keep wanting to do more and more.”
Strous isn’t just a train collector. He’s also very much into their origins.
“The history of railroads in someways is a very fascinating thing,” Strous said. “I started out with the (Greene County) historical society, we have a model of the City of Xenia, an actual operating railroad model of the City of Xenia. The rail history thing got injected into it. Curiosity, you know. I wanted to find out more and more, trying to make this layout we have up there more authentic. You have to do a little digging.”
It’s a time-consuming hobby at times, but Strous doesn’t mind being involved with that or many of the other groups for which he volunteers including the Xenia Adult Recreation and Services Center.
“It keeps me going,” he said. “I’m blessed with a lot of things that a lot of people younger than I am can’t do or don’t do. I think it’s because I’m active with these groups. I really enjoy doing everything. It gets me out with the public.”
But there’s still plenty of face time at home with his wife, Dolores.
“I’ve got a wonderful partner, we’ve been together for 63 years,” Strous said. “She understands there’s things I like to do. And I understand there’s things she likes to do. You have to learn to portion out your time.”
However this weekend the trains will be occupying most of Strous’ time.
“It’s worth every penny it costs you … to get in,” he said. “It’s something for everybody to see. We literally take over the park.”
Strous said there are various displays, myriad model train layouts, and other things related to railroads.
“Normal Carillon Park is fascinating in itself,” Strous said. “For those two days, the railroad festival becomes the thing. It attracts kids.”
Strous can certainly attest to that.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.