10 Country: Lee Loves Trains - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Lee Loves Trains

December 8, 2005

Sumter County-- Christmas often brings fond memories of electric trains that circle decorated trees or received as a presents. But a special school teacher has an obsession for trains small and large, not only during Christmas, but throughout the year.

The world could certainly use more passionate teachers like Lee Kinnamon. "This is not a traditional classroom," says Lee, the lead facilitator at the Americus-Sumter Performance Learning Center.

Computers on desks with students learning about different subjects prevent him from reaching the room's dry erase board. The board looks as if it hasn't been used in a long time.

In his classroom, students learn at their own pace, and he looks forward to teaching a special part of American history. "The railroads play an integral role in the history of the United States. There is a tie in just about everywhere you look," says Lee, when asked how he manages his love for teaching with his love for trains.

Certainly, a railroad tie in his life. His grandparents worked on the railroad and hundreds of small ones support his model railroad. "I started this garden railroad in 1992. It's been building and growing ever since," says Lee, as he holds a walkie-talkie looking device that controls his trains.

He presses numbers on a keyboard to sound a specific train's whistle and bell, and move it forward or reverse. His model railroad literally goes around his home. "It's about 360 feet of mainline," says Lee. Even longer when including the switching yard track.

His railroad town has decorated Christmas trees near the tracks. "There is a magical connection with trains and Christmas," says Lee, as he controls a passenger train.

One of his sons operates the freight train. Lee loves trains of all sizes, from the little ones to the big ones, where he frequently volunteers his time as a conductor on a real train. "Board!" shouts Lee, after the train's whistle sounds to announce its departure, slowing pulling away from the Cordele station.

"Busy day. We've got 400 people on the train today," says Lee about a Christmas run on the SAM Shortline Excursion Train. It departs from Cordele for Plains for the lighting of Christmas trees, and returns later that night.

"There's a romance to trains. I think a world that was slower, more civilized," says Lee, as he takes four tickets from a family, tears the tickets in half and hands the returning tickets back.

With all that interest in trains, with all the volunteering on real ones, he lacks one experience. "I've never been a passenger on any of our trains," says Lee, who Chairs the Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority and serves as Chief Conductor for the SAM Shortline Excursion Train.

His romance has lasted for decades, but he realized long ago the railroad life was not for him. It requires too much time spent away from his family. So, he did the next best thing by building his own railroad and volunteering on the SAM Shortline Excursion trains.

He has the best of both worlds. "I get to teach school and combine it with trains and railroading," says Lee, who never needs a ticket to ride.

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