In Pungo, all aboard a family line

Chuck Phillips is the conductor for a miniature rail line he and his wife build in their Pungo yard for their grandchildren. One of the grandchildren’s cousins, Van Dierstein, has his arms outstretched. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]


PUNGO — An elaborate backyard railroad is the stuff young dreams are made of. 

Which, of course, is the point. 

Chuck and Beth Phillips built it last year for their grandchildren, and, this year, they rebuilt it to be even bigger and better.

“We did it together,” Chuck Phillips said. “It was definitely a work of love.”

There are signs with the grandchildren’s names around the track, including Wapacajune, combining the first names of Walker Lovett, 4, Paige Dierstein, 3, Callie Lovett, 19 months, and June Dierstein, eight months.

On a recent Sunday, grandchildren and cousins filled seats on the small train during a family celebration of June’s baptism.

“Everybody is taking a ride, and the conductor is Chuck,” Beth Phillips said.

Children made ready for departure.

“You all set, Paige?” Beth Phillips asked.

Paige replied with a sneeze.

“God bless you,” Beth Phillips said, and she, too, grabbed a seat.

They rode around the yard, around bends, along a fence, through a playground complete with a tunnel, down a long straightaway, around a mulberry tree and back. A couple of children stayed put for another ride, and then it was time for the train to repower, which involved switching the track to bring the train into a barn.

Chuck Phillips said this all started because their eldest grandchild, Walker, loved trains. They went to train shows, and Chuck Phillips built a model train set, which still exists in the barn.

It wasn’t enough.

So he and his wife started building to a 1/8th scale, laying out track, using a sod cutter so they could mow over it, designing and refining the curves and more. There was some trial and error, but it worked. Chuck Phillips even tracked down a railroad crossing sign and rewired it.

First the line was 600 feet long. Now it’s double that. There are 2,700 cross ties that help hold it together.

“We wanted to build a grandbaby mecca,” Chuck Phillips said, “and what we want them to do is not want to go home.”

Chuck and Beth Phillips are seen with young riders, including their grandchildren, during a recent family gathering. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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