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Massive train set a generation in the making is on display in Tenmile

TENMILE — Sounds of train whistles can be heard from the top of the driveway of John and Karen Pankow’s home. It’s close to a 75-yard walk from the end of the driveway to their garage, which houses what could arguably be a dreamscape for lovers of wintertime, model trains or, for that matter, the upcoming holiday season.

Suffice to say, more than one person has felt that way over the years.

“The greatest thing is the faces of the kids when they see it,” said John Pankow, a lifelong train enthusiast and primary creator of the massive train set. “The first word is always something like, ‘Wow,’ or something. And the joy they have on their faces, the look they have, is one of the greatest memories you could ever have.”

The Pankows have given plenty of great memories to people of all ages from around the nation with their train set, which includes six electrical trains, dozens of model houses and hundreds of trinkets, toys, trees, and miniatures of people and animals. It’s a project that started modestly in 1991 but has ballooned into a toy train world spanning 250 square feet. It also has a “Wow” factor among annual visitors from Lookingglass Elementary School along with young and old adults alike.

“We had one couple that stayed close to two-and-a-half hours,” Karen Pankow said with a smile. “Average is about an hour because there’s so much to take in. The thing of it is we have people who have been coming back for the past five years and every year ... some of them come back and say, ‘Hey! That’s new!’ Five years and they’re still looking at things and finding new things here.”

Each of the six trains in the Christmas-themed display is on its own track, ensuring each engine can run continuously without colliding with another. Old buildings like an S&H Green Stamps Redemption Center were right up the road from a Lowe’s hardware store. Snowmen, ice skaters and scarf-wearing figurines are among the many character depictions. Even Santa Claus is in several places, including his all-too-familiar spots in front of a camera and flying high in the sky with his eight tiny reindeer.

Some of the Pankows’ friends have donated model housing or characters to the cause. Other pieces were the result of impulsiveness, including a merry-go-round from a vacation that went through Pennsylvania and other items that came from places like San Antonio and California, among other places.

“We didn’t drive all the way to Pennsylvania just to get a merry-go-round,” Karen Pankow quipped.

She, it turns out, was the brainchild for a setup more than a generation in the making.

John Pankow, who had always had model trains growing up, decided to give some of his last remaining trains to his grandchildren in the late 1980s. But not long afterward, when the couple was spending their wedding anniversary in Carmel, California, Karen Pankow got excited when she was walking by a storefront.

“She said, ‘That’s what I want,’” John Pankow said. “All I saw was a bunch of ladies’ sweaters, so I said, ‘You want a sweater?’ She told me no and pointed toward the ceiling.”

Hanging from the ceiling were train tracks and a model train.

Soon afterward, John Pankow purchased a starter model train set that’s still running today.

That starter-set engine not only runs by miniature people and houses, but goes through a tunnel and even goes over a river that has a fly fisherman casting a line next to some deer grazing nearby. They’re all pieces of a display John Pankow said takes close to 100 hours to set up each time, though the couple have left the display in place for the past five years. They figure covering it for the spring and summer months and dusting it off in November when it’s time to reopen makes more sense.

“At our age, 100 hours is pretty valuable,” John Pankow, 79, said with a laugh.

The couple, which plans to celebrate its 59th wedding anniversary in January, also plans to keep the display open with free admission to the public through the middle of February. They also plan to keep doing the display every year as long as they’re able, knowing it produces more than just smiles.

“It started out just for us,” Karen Pankow said. “Then it kept growing and growing. We just like doing it, and people seem to like what we’re doing.”


Family
Motorcycle ride collecting toys for kids in South County

Bikers are needed for the 20th annual South County Toy Run on Sunday.

The riders will meet at 9 a.m. at the Pizza Palace in Tri City, where there will be coffee, donuts and hot chocolate, according to organizer Keith Burton.

Burton will have a truck ready to be filled with donated toys in exchange for food tickets, which also act as tickets to claim door prizes. The run will leave at 11 a.m.

“All of the toys that we give to the fire department are split between Myrtle Creek, Canyonville, Milo, Glendale, and all the South County fire departments,” Burton said. “We ask that if there’s anything left, they give them back to us so we can give them to someone else. I just want to make sure every toy is gone.”

The run will follow Santa Claus through Riddle to Canyonville and back to end up at the Myrtle Creek Fire Department, where participants will receive an all-you-can-eat meal.

Burton said he and his family used to help with a run in Roseburg, but when they found out the toys being collected were not going to South County they decided to start a new run to make sure all kids got something for Christmas.

That was 20 years ago, and the run has collected more than 6,600 gifts in a single year.

“We’re hoping, because this is the 20th year, it’s going to be outrageous,” Burton said.

Riders can also donate $10 and Burton will use it to buy gifts for kids generally overlooked, specifically teenagers and newborns.

“Nobody ever thinks of newborns or teens,” Burton said. “It would be terrible for some kid who is 13 to 16 years old and still living with their parents and their younger siblings are getting stuff and the poor kid is getting nothing.”

Burton and his family are wrapping up the final details for the run. Any further questions can be directed to Keith Burton at 541-580-7875, or Colleen Burton at 541-863-4087.


DBain / DAN BAIN/The News-Review  

Umpqua Community Health Clinic’s mobile clinic for out reach programs.


COURTESY OF STEPHANIE BRIGHT  

Keith Smethers dresses in a Santa suit and leads the motorcycle ride during the 18th annual South County Toy Run in 2016.


Roseburg_government
Roseburg City Council to decide whether to expand enhanced law enforcement area

The City of Roseburg continues efforts to enact policies that make downtown more appealing.

On Monday, Dec. 10, the Roseburg City Council will decide whether to expand the Enhanced Law Enforcement Area — otherwise known as the exclusion zone — an area of downtown where people can be prohibited from entering for 180 days if they break certain laws three times within its boundaries.

The expanded area would include Riverside Park. At the council meeting on Nov. 26, Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein told councilors the park has been “overrun” with people who have migrated to the park because they committed crimes in or were excluded from the downtown area.

But the police department has not provided City Council with data showing that migration, according to councilors Tom Ryan and Steve Kaser. If City Council decides to expand the area, it will be based solely on anecdotal reports from the police.

The city instated the area starting in 2017 to increase safety and discourage crime downtown, particularly crime associated with homelessness such as disorderly conduct and drinking in public.

From July 2017 to July 2018, 29 people received only one exclusion warning, according to police data. Eleven people received just two warnings. Nineteen people were excluded from the area for 180 days. Two people were excluded twice.

The most common charge was drinking in public — 65 citations. It was also the most common cause of exclusion. Ten people received their final warning for drinking in public. Trespassing and disorderly conduct were also common charges.

Police issued 10 prohibited camping citations. People were excluded for camping five times. In accordance with a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that decriminalized camping in public, city council removed the charge from the list of exclusion zone crimes.

Kelly Wessels, United Community Action Network Chief Operating Officer, was troubled that City Council may vote to expand the area without first seeing data focused on the new area first. UCAN works to address homelessness in the city.

“It would concern me to make any decision of any magnitude without some form of quantified data to be able to emphasize the need for it,” Wessels said. “That’s not to say that what they’re doing is right or wrong, it’s to say, ‘If I really feel strongly about this, I need to have something that demonstrates why I believe that.’ So that it’s fact-based.”

Wessels said if city councilors expand the area, she hopes they would also work to address the lack of places for homeless people to go if they are excluded from public spaces.

“If it doesn’t exist here, well then where can they be,” Wessels said. “There’s no solution on the other side. And that, to me, compromises everybody’s ability to solve the problem. It puts more pressure on law enforcement to have to do more, it puts pressure on the individuals who are experiencing it and service providers.”

Councilors said Thursday they wouldn’t require the police department to present crime data for Riverside Park to decide whether it should be included in the exclusion zone.

“We’ll leave it to the chief, and we’ll ask him, but it’s the city manager’s job to say, ‘Is this working or isn’t it,’” Ryan, the council president, said. “I’m sure that it will come up, but we leave them to do the job.”

Kaser said he will ask Klopfenstein at the upcoming city council meeting whether or not the police are seeing people who have been excluded from the area migrate to Riverside Park.

“I don’t know if I want to delay the vote to ask him to try to get some data on that,” Kaser said.

At the previous meeting on Nov. 26, city councilors asked if the exclusion zone could be expanded to include more areas than the current one.

Mayor Larry Rich asked if it would be legal to expand the exclusion zone to the city limits.

City Manager Lance Colley said it wouldn’t be, adding that the city considered including more areas in the ordinance, but officials chose to pursue this expansion because they were sure it’s legal.

“Right now, we feel that this was the largest expansion that we can deal with,” Colley said.

City Council will have a second reading of the ordinance and decide whether to expand the area at its meeting on Dec. 10.