As somewhat of a newcomer to Perry IA, I am constantly learning more and more about the history of
this area and in particular, the Railroad.
As you may know, our dining room at the Hotel Pattee is dedicated to the Milwaukee Railroad and
is named David’s Milwaukee Diner. Our hostess/host stand is the original ticket window in Perry’s
First Depot. One of the murals is a colorful/life size painting of the Hiawatha train and the other is a
Steam Engine. When we took the hotel over last fall, the lighting under each mural was not functional.
Fortunately, we got that fixed and at night the murals are magical in my opinion. It seems like every
week, I meet somebody whose father or grandfather worked on the Railroad. I have also had the
privilege of meeting a few guests who actually did work on the railroad. Unfortunately, those guests are
few and far between. I truly enjoy the sparkle in their eye and the level of pride in their voice & stories.
There is so much for me to learn when it comes to the history of the railroad in Perry. One resource
that I am enjoying is a great book written by Marjorie Paterson that is titled “A Town Called Perry-
Midwest Life in Small-Town Iowa.” In this book, Ms. Patterson has done an excellent job of covering the
history of this great town.
One of the visions I had for David’s Milwaukee Diner was to put a model train along the ceiling of our
main entrance. It just seemed like a natural fit. Well, that vision came to become a reality, July
Please allow me the opportunity to back up several months. Back in December of 2013, I was working in
David’s Milwaukee Diner on a Sunday morning. I noticed that a few of our customers had a “train” logo
of sorts on their shirts. I introduced myself and told them of my vision. These folks just happened to be
members of a Garden Train Club “Central Iowa Garden Railway Society” or “CIGRS.”
They are the friendliest group of people that you would ever want to meet! They invited me to their
meeting that day which was held at The Perry Public Library. It was there that I met even more great
Before I knew it, we hosted their January meeting at no charge at the Hotel Pattee. Yet even more
introductions to wonderful folks.
Discussions and visions were shared between me and several of the club members as to how we could
install a train and make it very attractive for our customers.
Larry Nelson, one of the members, is an artist of sorts with metal. He offered to build a trestle bridge
and another bridge to ensure a smooth ride for a steam engine train we were looking to install.
Mike Kidman, who happens to own Reindeer Pass Railroad (http://www.reindeerpass.com/) was and
has been extremely helpful with advice, along with the installation of the train that started running
I recently discovered a Historical Group known as the Milwaukee Road Historical Association. http://www.mrha.com/ The association has over 1,683 members according to their Facebook page. Well, that just became 1,684 as the Hotel Pattee and David’s Milwaukee Diner just joined a few weeks ago. This looks like a great group of individuals who are dedicated to preserving and studying the History of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (The Milwaukee Road) from its inception in 1850 to its acquisition by the Soo Line Railroad in 1985.
What will be next? Well, our Frank Lloyd Wright designed lounge is the Inter Urban Lounge. We will
soon be installing a model Inter Urban Car inside the Lounge. Not sure of the date yet.
We will also be purchasing some great DVD”s from the Milwaukee Road Historical Association that will
be on display via a flat panel TV located at the entrance of David’s Milwaukee Diner.
Hotel guests will soon also be able to watch those DVD’s at no charge in the comfort of their guest
rooms as we are almost finished installing all new SMART TV’s in each guest suite/room.
As Mike Kidman put the final touches on the install today, he and I had a great discussion about the
Hobby of Model Trains. It seems as though there is a declining number of “younger” kids/people/
families who are taking up this hobby. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert in this area and I may
not even be wording my thoughts correctly here. Please allow me the opportunity to share my personal
views on this hobby. Model trains of any scale, is a great hobby for kids and families. Period.
Our family has a Lionel Train that we purchased when our boys were very, very young. For years, we
would put it up under our Christmas tree. Eventually, I built a permanent track so the boys could have
fun all year long.
In my humble opinion, we are often too busy and distracted. Model Trains create an opportunity for a parent or grandparent and their child to pursue a hand’s on activity that involves teamwork, conversation and creation of memories that will last a lifetime.
For those of you thinking “is Jay now in the business of selling model trains?” The answer is NO. I have
my hands full at the Hotel Pattee, but invite you out soon to see our newest addition. A Garden Scale
Steam Engine that has lights and sounds! Customers can press the Start button anytime to watch this
beautiful trail make its rounds at David’s Milwaukee Diner.
As I close this week’s blog, I wanted to say a special thanks to my new friends at CIGRS. Jay and Cheri,
John, Mike, Larry, Ole, Howard and many, many more. I am more than blessed to have had the
opportunity to meet you all and look forward to a lifelong friendship.
Until next time, Happy Railroading!
Jay Hartz, owner.