This short story tells of the path I took that led me to becoming the president of our local historical society.

Sometimes we ask ourselves how we ended up in our current situation. In my case it is a logical question of how I ended up to be involved in local history. The answer can be traced all the way back to my boyhood with a series of logical connections.

I grew up in a village named Wilmer and the local railroad spur that went out to Devault passed right by our living room door. They ran at least one local freight train a day and I would go out and watch. You knew it was coming because our house shook. When I was in first grade I was given a lionel train with a black diesel engine just like the big train that passed our house. l was an instant rail fan at age six. We put up a train platform every year at Christmas and the trains were set in motion for the joyous season and then carefully packed away until another year.

I remember calling my mother on the phone and asking her for a photo of the train that passed by our house. Her answer was short. "Don't have one - it ran everyday so there was no need for a photo." The only image I have now is in my mind and as I close my eyes I can see it.

When I was much older my boyhood passion resurfaced and I began to collect lionel trains in numbers that were labeled excessive by my wife. I think the explanation is that they somehow brought me back to those happy times. She knew I loved photography and decided to effect a switch in my hobbies. She suggested I photograph real trains instead of spending money on model trains.

This suggestion was well received and soon I was filling albums as fast as I could take the photos. Before long the local photographs were not good enough. I was convinced, after reading a magazine article, that Glacier Park in Montana was the best place in the USA to photograph trains. The BNSF railroad, originally The Great Northern, cuts across the Rockies and reaches the peak at Maria's Pass. Route 2 runs parallel to the tracks for over 60 miles right through the park. There are snow-capped mountains, lush meadows, gentle waterfalls and snow sheds all along the route. I have always done things to an excess as most people with a collector's mentality have a tendency to do. I will say that we have traveled to Montana six times and I have added to my railroad collection hundreds of photographs.

In between trips I was still hanging out at the Royersford station to get a glimpse of the passing trains. It was in 1988 that I talked to Lawrence Shaner down at the Station. Lawrence, the town historian, invited me inside the train station, then serving as a museum, to show me postcards of the old local railroad stations.

A new collecting hobby was born that day as I started going to flea markets and postcard shows looking for railroad postcards. Eventually I expanded into all local cards and purchased any postcard of Spring City or Royersford that I could find.

Lawrence and I were now sharing a hobby and I also joined the historical society. Two years later I was elected to the board of the society. In 2004 I was elected their president.

These things to me are all logically connected like links in a chain and each one leads into the next. If the train didn't run by my house, if I wasn't given a toy train that had to be packed away each year with care... just maybe the story would be different.

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Dave Willauer August 18, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Great post, Bill! I enjoyed reading about your path!
Kelly Thunstrom August 18, 2011 at 06:49 PM
I am so happy that the best historian of Royersford and Spring City is now sharing his knowledge with us! Everyone should stop in to the Spring-Ford Historical Society, where Bill is the president, to see the sometimes surprising history of our towns. A wonderful place!
geowash September 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Wilmer? Where is Wilmer?


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