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A train track powered by dreams.

Byline: THE OUTSIDER By John Rezell The Register-Guard

The train whistle echoed through the valley, drowning out the rumble of the scale diesel engine and ripping smiles across our faces as wide as Christmas morning.

Up front in the train, Sierra and Debbie glowed as they looked back at engineer Ray Robinson at the controls. Taylor sat right in the rear, just in front of the diesel engine that pushed us toward the trestles that transverse the raging creek. Taylor happily nestled between Robinson's dogs, Hooch and Sammy.

The depth of their smiles caught me off guard for a moment or two, until I realized mine matched theirs in intensity, erupting from somewhere very deep within.

I can't say I'm a train fanatic, nor would I necessarily peg my girls as such.

That's when I remembered what prompted Robinson's invitation for a holiday week visit to his slice of wonder in the Coast Range near Deadwood, known as Meadows and Lake Kathleen Railroad.

Robinson fired an invitation after my column about dreams. If there was ever a tribute to dreams that never die, it's Robinson's 41-acre spread.

If you're lucky, you may have caught Robinson's story on OPB's Oregon Field Guide.

During a 16-year career with Southern Pacific railroad, Robinson began amassing 13,000 pounds of rails as he slowly worked toward his dream: building his own railroad.

He eventually left railroads for landscaping. But like the flora he planted throughout the years, his dream lived on, and grew.

Robinson and his wife, Kathy, spent years searching for the right time and the right place to make that dream a reality.

Seven times they moved, lugging that 6-plus tons of rail with them.

One day, a chance meeting with a woman cutting Robinson's hair uncovered the prime piece of real estate they had been searching for.

As Robinson warmed our chilly bones with hot chocolate and coffee on a bright, sunny day between Christmas and New Year's, he shared his story with us.

He laid the first rail in 1996, interestingly enough, the year Sierra was born.

When we headed out to help clear the tracks of debris left behind by the early winter windstorms that have pelted the coastal mountains, it was neat to see how his dream had grown into a 10-year-old like Sierra.

Walking the 4,600 feet of 18-inch gauge track, over the bridges and trestles, through the tunnel, alongside the roaring creek and past his bountiful man-made lake, we came to appreciate the countless hours of work the Robinsons and friends have put into the dream.

The true wonder of the dream, in this area of America where trespassing signs sometimes threaten life and limb, is the Robinson's passion to share it with others.

They often give rides by invitation only to people who visit their Web site ( and contact them in advance.

As we finished our cleanup, we walked the final 900 feet through the meadow that Robinson needs to traverse to finish a 6,000-foot loop around his property. He has the track stacked and waiting behind the shed.

It's just a matter of time before this modern day John Henry drives in his golden spike.

Our prize for the cleanup was a ride on the train that felt, on so many levels, dreamlike.

One look into the twinkle of Robinson's eyes and you understand what it means to him, to blow the whistle and chug across the magnificent trestles.

The important part about dreams, Robinson said, is to never give up on them.

If you just keep plugging away, even a little bit each day, you can make them come true.

That's the message they hear loud and clear, echoing through the mountains around Deadwood.

- John Rezell, aka Raz, wants to experience the Oregon outdoors and live your dream. Invite him on an adventure at
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Title Annotation:Columns; Ray Robinson's train layout near Deadwood is a testament to perseverance
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 2, 2007
Previous Article:BLUE HOLE BOATING.

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