By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
“I lived beside the railroad tracks pretty much my whole life up in Hendricks,” said Dick Bolinger as he began telling of his love and appreciation of the railway. He recalled his childhood when he would hear the train chugging its way towards town and rushing out to wave at Eldon Plaugher or Reverend Harley DeLeurere who were the engineers. Once the flood of 1985 took out the railroad, Bolinger yearned to salvage his What began as focusing on locks and lanterns grew into anything he could find. He admitted that it’s not as easy now to apprehend these items, as the pieces are getting harder to come by and they are also more expensive. “When I first started I could by a steel lock for $35,” he stated. “Now you’re lucky to find steel locks for $70 to $80 and a brass locks for under $100.” Another example he gave was the lanterns he used to purchase for around $40 are now ranging from $100 to $125.
While now most of his treasures come from antique stores, individuals, and found thanks to word of mouth, he used to find them a lot easier. One of his switches was actually acquired by digging it out of the river in the canyon. “It took me half a day to get it up over the hill,” Bolinger laughed as he explained how he hooked a chain to his pickup to pull it up the embankment. After getting the switch out of the river and home, it took him about a month to clean it up and restore the switch to working order. One of his intentions with all of his treasures is to oil and repaint the items to attempt to preserve this history.
“I just love railroad stuff, I don’t know what it is about it,” Bolinger smiled as he shared his passion. He and his wife Willetta make it a goal to ride trains at least a few times a year, including Cass, the Potomac Eagle, or the Polar Express, which they have been a passenger on six times. His favorite though is the steam engines. “I love the steam engines more than the diesels,” he explained as he has a fascination with the working parts. If Bolinger had his way, he’d have a train caboose on display in his yard. When asked how his wife responded to his infatuation, he laughed saying, “She tells me I have enough.” However, he was quick to admit she’s always supportive when he finds something he likes and she has even found a few items for him.
Bolinger retired after 42 years at Hinchcliff and now enjoys sharing his love of trains as well as his coin collection with his grandkids. Each of his grandchildren have picked out a lock and a lantern and has their name on it that will go to them to help educate others on the history of the railway and preserve these treasures for generations to come. “I’ve got well over 100 pieces,” he stated with approximately 35 lanterns and 40 locks among other pieces. He is always
If you are fortunate enough to be invited into one of his buildings you are sure to find yourself in awe as your eyes wonder between the photographs, oil cans, pocket watches, spike pullers, and anything else associated with the railroad. Each piece has been revived to the best condition possible and is neatly in its own place on display. Bolinger admitted sometimes he likes to go down to the building and just sit and look around at all of his treasures.