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Wooden train finds home in Illinois

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 6:00 a.m. CST
In this Feb. 12, 2014 photo, a detailed, handcrafted wooden train, donated by Fred and Gretchen Decker to the Mattoon Arts Council and city Department of Tourism and Arts and is seen on display at their offices at the Illinois Central Railroad Depot in Mattoon. (AP Photo/Journal Gazette, Kevin Kilhoffer)

MATTOON (AP) — Mattoon couple Fred and Gretchen Decker found a final destination for a detailed, handcrafted wooden train they've owned for more than a decade.

The Deckers donated the piece to the Mattoon Arts Council and city Department of Tourism and Arts and it is on display at their offices at the Illinois Central Railroad Depot. The couple says they're glad to pass it on.

"It's something that needs to be somewhere it can be appreciated," Mrs. Decker said. "It's a good legacy for many generations to come to enjoy."

Mr. Decker has showcased the nearly 3-foot train display at his gun store -- Fred's Gun Shop -- since he bought it in January 2001. He knew he wanted to make the purchase after reading about the woodworker, Gary Wolf, in the Decatur Herald & Review.

"He had a daughter that was going to enter college, and he built this to sell it and apply that money toward her college education," Mr. Decker recalled from the article. Wolf, who couldn't be reached for comment for this story, made three wooden trains and sold each of them.

"He used several different kinds of wood and I was looking at it and it looks like he used brass nails," Mrs. Decker said about the details of the train.

Wolf spent more than 150 hours on the projects, which include moving blinds in the coach car, which sits on a track over a stone-covered bridge. The time period is set off with a steam engine and street lamps that line the tracks.

"As soon as I read that article I asked if he would want to sell that to me, and he said 'well, sure I would,'" Mr. Decker said. "He and his daughter brought it to the gun shop, and it's been there all these years until the time that we donated it."

Decker says he was drawn to the piece because he's always been interested in trains and antiques.

"It was conversation piece," Mrs. Decker said.

"(The gun shop customers) liked it extremely well -- not only could they look at antique guns when they came in there, they could look at the train too," Mr. Decker added.

Arts Council Director Justin Grady says the train was set up in the depot office about two or three weeks ago and has since been placed in a protective showcase.

"What I like is it's going to be around permanently for others to enjoy rather than it ending up some place where the artistic value isn't appreciated and not seen and loved," Mrs. Decker said.

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