John Benson, Mesa AZ

I was born and raised in Kenosha, Wis. I have been interested in railroading as long as I can remember. I remember seeing my first Shay in a hobby shop in Milwaukee. It was the first ones imported by Pacific Fast Mail in the mid 50's. I thought at the time "This has to be a joke, someone really made these things?" That was the beginning of my fascination with Lima's premier product.

I started saving my paper route money to buy it, but it was gone by the time I had enough. As I remember, it was around the magnificent sum of $45.00 or so. As a teen-ager I worked in the local hobby shop. What a dream job for a kid! Every week the boss would say "Well John, let's see how much you owe me for working here this week"

I am a typical railroader, changing favorite roads, scales, and gauges at the drop of a hat. I went from American Flyer to HO before I was ten. I was a UP fan for many years, then drifted over to Great Northern as their Vanderbuilt tenders with the "old goat" emblem appealed to me. I did a short stay in HOn3 after that when I acquired a used Balboa D& RW C-21 for $50. At that time I was going to swap meets in IL and WI. and did custom painting and weathering on brass imports out of the local store my friend owned. I was able to get everything at dealer cost from him, including brass engines!

Along about this time, Precision Scale came out with their On3 Rio Grande K-27 kit with working equalizers. My friend managed to get one of the 75 kits they imported for me and I was off again. Still Rio Grande narrow gauge, just bigger I reasoned. A long love affair with the Rio Grande narrow gauge work equipment followed. During this time I submitted and had published in the Narrow Gauge & Short Gazette plans for the wooden frame flangers as built and wooden framed spreader "OV". I never did finish the K-28 drawings for them, but the plans were used by Peterbuilt locomotives for their Sn3 model. A On3 Mich-Cal #2 Shay followed shortly afterwards. "Just a branch line on the layout", I told myself, but I knew I was lying. The Shay bug had really bit me hard this time, I was hooked again.

I moved to Mesa, Arizona in late 1979, tired of shoveling snow. My K-27 and MC2 and dreams of a bigger and better layout made the trip with me. What a surprise I had when I found out most homes in Arizona do not have basements for a layout. A trip to check out the hobby shops led me to Coronado Scale Models where I met Stan & Sheldon for the first time. I had been ordering Grant Line ON3 parts from them for quite a while. They told me about the local live steam club and where it was located.

This was just the time that Live Steam was running the series on building MC2 in 1-1/2" scale. There was no hope for me, I was switching scales again. I was working on this when I got to thinking about a Pacific Coast Shay. Bigger is better, I thought.

Off again, this time using the web to find PC photos. A chance hit turned up the beginnings of what was to become the future Rick had 200 engines done at that time. Knowing he was a long way from the PC's, I offered to help so he would get to them sooner. Rick jumped at the offer and promptly swamped me with work. The ON-3 engines and the Live-Steam MC2 are gathering dust in my workshop and will probably never be done. The site takes all my free time now, but I'm enjoying every minute.

My current project for the SLc site is finding new owners for Shays. George Kadelak has graciously allowed me to view the Lima Service Department Records he had the foresight to preserve on microfilm. What a thrill for me to be working with this outstanding gentleman and Shay historian! All the new owners that will come to light are due to George's willingness to share his research and records with us all. I hope to have this information ready in late 2001. Thanks, George, for all your help and support.

I would also like to thank the gentleman behind the scenes who has gone way above and beyond what could be expected of anyone. That would be Mr. Charles Bates of the Allen County Historical Society. Mr. Bates has answered what must seem like a endless request for information from Dan Rowe and myself. A lot of the information presented on the site would not have been possible without his unwavering help. Thanks again, Mr. Bates for the countless hours you must have spent finding the information we ask for.