DHI Media Correspondent
VAN WERT — Van Wert’s Chuck White grew up watching his dad’s Lionel train wind its way around the furnace and through various parts of his home’s basement in their Chicago residence. “When I was a kid, my dad built a massive Lionel layout in our basement in Chicago,” said White at the National Model Railroad Association Train how at the Van Wert Fairgrounds on Saturday. “As I got older, I moved on to other aspects of model railroads. I finally joined a club on the west side of Chicago,” continued White.
These days, following retirement several years ago from Central Insurance, White has hit the tracks full speed ahead. He is seeing the United States and Canada from a new vantage point, from his railroad motorcar.
Motorcars became available to the public several years ago after the introduction of Hy-Rail vehicles, which are standard road vehicles with retractable guide wheels that can operate on road or rail. These days, White, who moved to Van Wert six years ago, is superintendent of the National Model Railroad Association. He has also spearheaded the local model train show which has grown from the barn at the historical museum to the Merchants Bulilding at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds.
White takes his railroad commitment serious, so much so that he has investments in the Berkshire Hathaway, a railroad company associated with Warren Buffet and the Northern Southern Railroad.
“Both stocks do really well,” said White.
White, who joined the National Model Railroad Association in 1981, said that job transfers allowed him to see the country from railroads and clubs in different regions.
Over the years, his employment took him to northwest Indiana, Indianapolis, South Dakota, Fort Wayne and eventually Van Wert, where he was employed for 19 years at Central Insurance.”
These days, he spends his life going from event to event. Immediately following the Van Wert show, White is off to Cleveland this week for a national convention. He is one of 2,000 members nationally in the North American Railcar Association.
“Seven hundred of us who own a car operate regularly and buy insurance,” said White. “You see things you would never see from any other perspective,” White said, of his travels on rails throughout the area. “One time I looked straight ahead and there was a mother bear with her baby cubs. You see lots of deer.”
One of White’s favorite regional trips starts north of Fort Wayne and eventually navigates to Hillsdale and Coldwater, Michigan and back. He has ridden with his motorcar on tracks in South Dakota, North Dakota, Canada, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. “This is my nirvana,” said White. “I accomplish something every day. I’m always working on things. At the end of the day I can look at something and say, ‘I made that with my own hand.
“I am so amazed at the way digital technology has become a part of all of this,” continued White. “Today a cell phone is a throttle that can run up to 9,999 locomotive programs at one time. In the old days, you could only run two trains at a time.”