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Man Adds Five Antique Train Cars to Collection

July 21, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ A 60-year-old man says he spent $24,000 to buy five auctioned railroad cars, including an antique steam-powered locomotive, because ″it’s every little boy’s dream.″

″There’s a lot about railroading I don’t know, but I’m gonna learn,″ said William Lathom, who hopes to start a train museum in his native Rockford.

″The most I know about railroading is that it’s heavy and expensive,″ he said.

Lathom said his interest in antique train cars began about a year and a half ago, sparked by his son’s obsession with train models.

″Originally, the idea was to buy a caboose, drive it out to the country and put it in my son’s backyard,″ said Lathom, owner of a tool shop business. ″But it soon got out of hand.″

Lathom owns 25 train cars, including his newest additions, which he bought July 12 at an auction. For $24,000, he got the steam-powered locomotive, a gondola, box car, and two tender cars, which carry coal and water for steam locomotives. All belonged to the York Southern Line.

Lathom also owns several passenger cars, a mail car, a diner, some cabooses, a flat car, and a 1942-built diesel-operated locomotive. None of them run.

His latest purchases are parked at the West Pullman & Southern Railroad Switching Yard in South Chicago, where they’ve been sitting idle for 15 years. The others are parked at a private railyard in Rockford.

He plans to have the five cars towed to Rockford for $4,000.

″I’m not a wealthy man ... but the idea is to preserve this stuff,″ he said. ″Somebody has to grab the bull by the horns.″

Lathom said the steam-powered locomotive, built in 1916, is his best buy. It’s a rusty, faded blue-gray train that weighs about 100 tons and is about 100 feet long.

″One of the attractions to me is I like massive machinery, and what is a lot more massive than a steam locomotive?″ Lathom said. ″It’s every little boy’s dream.″

Lathom said he plans to start a train club, where antique-train ethusiasts can help tinker with his cars without having to buy their own.

Eventually, he said, he’ll start a museum complete with a train-car restaurant. Once the cars are running, he’ll offer train rides to the public.

Lathom has named his train line ″The Soochoo Train,″ because most of his other cars have come from the Soo Line Railroad.

″I don’t know what else to tell you but somebody has to do it,″ Lathom said. ″It’s like an emergency, somebody has to save this stuff.″

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