13-year-old volunteer is just one of the train guys | NevadaAppeal.com

13-year-old volunteer is just one of the train guys

RHONDA COSTA-LANDERS, Appeal Features Writer

Chris MacMahon looks like any other 13-year-old. He’s in the eighth grade at Eagle Valley Middle School, enjoys playing strategic games on his computer at home and wears blue jeans and a slightly bigger than necessary T-shirt.

But his hobby is a bit out of the norm for a teenager. He’s into trains. Not just model trains, but the genuine article.

Chris’s interest led him to join the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in July 1997, and became a volunteer at the railroad museum on Nevada Day 1998. Not many 13-year-olds volunteer their spare time.

“All kids like trains when they’re little,” said Chris matter-of-factly with a curious peer through his glasses.

“I guess my interest never wore off.”

Chris attributes his admiration for the impressive engines to the combination of history, power, and how they’ve helped the United States in the area of transportation.

He is one of the younger volunteers at the museum, his basic job being what he calls a “go-fer.”

“I help out the crew, get whatever they need. And I punch tickets and help out on the platform.”

But alas, he’s still about four years shy of conducting one of the great engines.

“You have to be 18 to drive one of the trains – for insurance purposes. But it’s only a matter of time,” he adds with a wry smile.

Chris’s friends don’t seem to find his interest all that big a deal. One of his friends, also named Chris, is a member of Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. And his best friend Josh, has visited him at the museum. Josh wanted to see what he did, so he went to the museum to take a look.

“I just tell them I get to go play trains this weekend.”

When Chris plays trains, he dresses in his blue-jean overalls, or the striped ones (he prefers the blue-jean overalls), and wears his conductor’s hat. And as far as everyone else at the museum is concerned, he’s one of the gang.

“They (adults) don’t treat me any different. You can’t tell they’re adults, actually, because we’re all out there playing.”

Chris does have a model train at home, in part of the garage. He recently changed the model style from an “HO” scale to an “N” scale. The N is smaller and takes up less space.

His train stuff is supposed to be off limits to his sisters, but that’s not always the case. “They touch it anyway,” said Chris.

He also likes the V&T railroad track inside the V&T Restaurant at the Ormsby House.

“I’ve sat there and thought it would be cool if I could make myself really small and be the conductor as it goes along the track.”

Though he’s not old enough to vote, he’s all for rebuilding the V&T line from Carson City to Gold Hill.

“Maybe by the time that gets approved, hopefully, I’ll be able to operate one of the trains.”

Chris would like to conduct Engine No. 22, or maybe the No. 27.

“It would be fun to operate the No. 22. But it’s no difference to me, as long as I get to operate one. I can’t wait.”