Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The Christmas train is once again welcoming drivers to Signal Mountain, resuming community tradition that was greatly missed by many last year.
“A thousand people called my phone wanting to know where the train was,” said Nanci Crewe, whose late husband Stan Crewe originally built the train.
“We came up the mountain after a Christmas concert, and he noticed there was no lighting at Christmastime on Signal Mountain,” said Crewe, who is unable to recall the exact year her husband decided the community needed something unique and festive at the top of the mountain. “He started with the engine, and every Friday morning from that time on Glenn [Showalter] was there and they worked their little hearts out.”
A new car was added each year to the train, which grew to include a big station house, fire engine and caboose and extends about 100 feet.
After Crewe passed away in 2004, the train began to fall into disrepair. Its size prevented it from being stored indoors and it had begun to rot. The train eventually became unsafe to display, as many children like to climb on the train.
The Signal Mountain Lions Club, the town of Signal Mountain and the Garden Club of Signal Mountain stepped in to contribute funds and manpower to get the town’s traditional symbol of holiday cheer back on track.
Around 15 Lions Club members have spent approximately 250 hours repairing the train, said John Niemeyer, the club’s secretary.
“We heard from people in the community who were upset we didn’t have it up last year,” he said, as to how the club became involved. “Plus there’s no other organization on the mountain that would be willing to do this.”
Several thousand dollars have been put into materials for the repairs, and to help raise funds, Nanci Crewe is selling a coloring book with about a dozen pictures of the train drawn by Glenn Showalter. The book also features a poem about the train written by Michael Huseman.
“I can’t read it out loud, because I’d cry,” said Crewe.
The coloring book is available for $5 at Signal Mountain Travel, Mountain Top Toys, Accents and SunTrust Bank.
“We’re trying to raise as much as possible so we can complete the whole train,” she said, as not all the cars have been returned to a display-ready state.