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K.G. man seeks museum for model train
By CATHY DYSON
When Dira Stout Jr. looks at the locomotive models his father made—without blueprints, plans or instructions of any kind—he marvels at the man’s ability to re-create such intricate details from memory.
His father, the late Dira S. Stout, had been working on the railroad for most of his livelong days. He tinkered with steam-powered locomotives that carried logs down from the mountain, as well as diesel engines that hauled the heavy guns used on warships.
“He was fascinated by trains,” his son said. “It was like he was born in another world.”
The elder Stout worked in the West Virginia lumber town of Nallen during World War I and moved to the Navy base at Dahlgren at the beginning of World War II.
He even held a patent for a piece that’s part of a crankshaft of a steam engine.
Stout died in 1988 at the age of 94. His wife, Winnie, lived to be 96, and the two of them were married for 73 years.
As the younger Stout ponders his own mortality, he wants to find a proper place for the train model his father built from scratch.
“I’m getting quite old, I’m 86 now, and I’m running out of time,” said Stout, who lives near Dahlgren in King George County. “I’d like to get this in a museum. I think it’s a real piece of art.”
Stout’s brother, Robert, who lives in Fredericksburg and has a smaller locomotive made by their father, also would like to see his model on display.
Dira Stout spent his career in some of the same machine shops at Dahlgren where his father worked. He’s amazed that his dad could put together a working model, down to the pistons and rods.
“My father had a fifth-grade education,” all that was available after his parents died, Stout said. “I often wonder what he could have done, had he had a formal education.”
The elder Stout started as a timber cutter and eventually became an engineer on small locomotives that pulled log cars to the mills. There were a lot of wrecks on the rickety tracks.
“He liked to work on the trains better than he did run them, so he worked in the machine shop,” his son said.
When Dira Senior started re-creating the two miniature engines, he brought scraps of aluminum and lead home and melted them—on the kitchen stove—then made them into wheels.
He named the one Dira Junior has, which sits atop a shelf in the living room, the “999 D&W Special.” It probably hauled coal or passengers, not logs.
Stout doesn’t know whether “D&W” refers to his parents, Dira and Winnie, or the railroads his dad worked on, Dahlgren and Wilderness.
He didn’t know details of the patent his father held, either—or that his dad even filed one on July 6, 1918—until his daughter happened to do an online search of the name “Dira Stout.”
“You’d think I would have talked to my dad about it,” Stout said. “If I had to do it over again, there are so many questions I would have asked.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425