[caption id="attachment_6100" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Ray Keller, Ray of the rails.[/caption]
Like many little boys of his generation, Ray Keller always had a Christmas train. The tradition sparked a lifelong love of model trains. In fact, one of the reasons Ray and his wife, Helen, chose to live at Wichita Presbyterian Manor was because he saw there was room to set up a small garden-scale train off their patio. He has two engines and small loop of track. The trains aren’t set up year round, but all you have to do is ask to see them.
“I’m always happy to show the trains somewhere or other. It takes some time because the trains themselves are not always out in the weather,” Ray said. Ray was a clergyman and lived almost exclusively in parsonages, where he always found room to set up an indoor scale train in a basement or extra room. When he and Helen finally had their own home, he was thrilled to have room for a larger layout. “At Christmas I would have a couple hundred feet of track in the living area, from one end of the house to the other,” he said.
It wasn’t until retirement that Ray bought his first garden trains, on a visit to Denver. Today, Ray is an active member of the Wichita Area Garden Railway Society. This month is the club’s 20th annual Garden Tour on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Five area homes will be on the tour, plus Botanica, where admission will be free that day to anyone with a printed tour guide.
During the summer months, Ray volunteers every Wednesday at Botanica, operating the trains in the Gene E. Spear Railroad Garden. Garden railway club members take turns serving as conductor there. “I think what I love the most is the young mothers bringing their children by who are always excited to see them. Then they don’t want to leave,” Ray said.
That’s the thing about trains – young or not-so-young, they tend to bring out the kid in all of us.