An Interview With Pops

Posted on October 7th, 2015, by Michael Rountree

I just found out about this:

An archive of interviews with surviving (at the time) RPO clerks, compiled by the National Postal Museum. Before my beloved grandfather (“Pops”) died, I had the chance to visit this museum in Washington D.C. where he and several others were honored for their service.
(scroll down to Edward Rountree – it’s not under P for Pops!)

Pops really encouraged my hobby, with what may have seemed small nudges at the time. But those nudges ultimately grew, like planted seeds, into the whole WP&P story. When I was 7 years old, I had a Lionel train set that I played with all the time, but then Pops bought me some HO equipment for Christmas, and Dad helped me to set up an actual layout (a 4×8 plywood loop that Dad rigged up with pulleys so that it could stow up at the ceiling of the garage; that later grew to 5×8 with a big mountain hiding a long tunnel). The Lionel train set was a toy, but the HO equipment that Pops provided was a model, and my eyes were opened to the depths of this hobby.

Later, at 11 years old and facing a move to another State, it was time for the HO layout to meet its demise. At that time, I discovered an N scale “Old Timer” train set in the hobby shop, and was astonished by its small size. I made up my mind – I wanted to own that tiny engine and its mini cars! I had the toy store put it on layaway for me, and I saved up the $43 it took to buy it. That small steam engine and set came with me to Virginia; the HO equipment did not.

Bachmann N-scale Old Timer train set

For that first Christmas in Virginia, Pops nudged me again; this time, by buying some N equipment to help me out. As we were in the southeast corner of the state, he opted to get me an Atlas/Kato RS-3 in Norfolk & Western livery – this was a premium quality engine at the time, and it did a lot to make up for the deficiencies in the Bachmann steam engine, and the other cheap rolling stock that I could afford.

Atlas RS3 Norfolk & Western #307

But that wasn’t all! He also got me a set of decals, which wasn’t something I really needed, but it sparked some additional creativity in me. There in my hands was a way to paint a train any way I wanted, and make it look right! The set was a bunch of logging roadnames, and included on it was a circular herald that really caught my eye. That herald was for the WPP CORP.

(the decal set is still produced and sold)

I still have no idea what the original initials stand for. I took them as a jumping-off point, deciding to create my own fiction around them. Knowing I wanted a Virginia railroad, I cracked open a road atlas and found two big cities at remote corners of the state, Winchester and Portsmouth. Needing a third P, though, I decided it would be fun to have one made-up place. I crafted the name “Paston” by taking the name of my church’s pastor at the time, Pastor Easton. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that there is a real Paston in England that might well have served as a model for a colonial place name, lending the name a lot of plausibility.

My first N-scale layout started out as a model of Paston Valley, on an odd-shaped table fit into a corner of my bedroom. Later on, it would move down to the garage, and the towns of Winchester and Portsmouth would be added on. But the whole thing began with that random decal, given to me by Pops. In a way, my whole model railroad story is a tribute to him; this web site is, by extension, the fruit of the seeds he planted.

So I am very pleased to have found this site! If you go there, scroll on down to Edward Rountree, and hear what Pops has to say.

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