By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN With the push of a secret button, a train horn sounds, and the train that circles Dave’s Town Club on a daily basis is off and running down its tracks.
A new engine that was donated by Crow River Bank recently gave that train a little more steam and the ability to pull more cars, many of which advertise local businesses.
“It’s a symbol of the downtown,” commented Crow River Bank President Dwight Bacon. “A lot of people know it’s here, and it becomes a talking point.”
Dave Carroll, owner of Dave’s Town Club, said some people know his establishment simply as “the train place,” and don’t even know its real name.
Bacon, along with bank vice president Patrick Baumgard, and several others have had lunch at “the train place” many times over the years, and one day they talked about getting a Crow River Bank car to attach to the growing train.
From there, plans eventually grew into finding a larger engine for the train, and Baumgard set out to work.
He contacted the store Only Trains in Buffalo, which has done some cars for Dave’s Town Club in the past. After picking out the engine, it was ordered, and in turn sent to Doug Hodgdon of Douglas Designs in Saint Louis Park for the customization.
The whole process took Baumgard a couple of months from the time it was picked out, ordered, customized, and delivered to Delano.
On a recent morning, Baumgard, Bacon, Carroll, and Hodgdon met at Dave’s Town Club for the presentation of the engine and it’s inaugural run.
Carroll opened Dave’s Town Club in Delano in 1986, and it was originally located one building north of where it is now between the current town club and Rieder Meat Market.
As far as the train coming into play, Carroll said it was just an idea he came up with one day.
“I thought it’d be kind of cool to have,” he said. So, he set to work creating a makeshift track and running a smaller train around his bar.
“It worked,” he said, “but it wasn’t great. It had two or three cars, and everything was small scale.”
A unique feature of the train at that building was a mural that was hand-painted around the track by Patricia Riley that included Delano businesses and homes. The mural is still found in the building next to Dave’s.
In 1992, Carroll moved to the building that presently houses Dave’s Town Club. He and several other people, including brothers Dave and Dan Rieder, set to work on constructing the new bar. With that, they decided to again do the train and this time, do it right.
“We built the entire bar, and then built the train around it,” Carroll said.
Demonstrating it was indeed done right, Carroll jumped and hung from the frame of the tracks and did a pull-up.
“It’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Carroll said the train has seen a couple of accidents over the years, mainly with the cars falling off the tracks for one reason or another.
“It’s not so bad now,” Carroll said. “It used to be worse because grease from the kitchen and smoke would dirty up the track.”
Still, every once in a while, a coupler will come undone, and eventually a car will fall down off the tracks and onto an unsuspecting bar patron beneath the tracks.
“When the bar was next door, there was a game of euchre going on,” Carroll recalled. “All of the sudden a train car comes down and nails a lady on the shoulder. She never missed a beat. It hit her and then it hit the floor and she just kept on dealing.”
When Carroll moved from that location, he said times, and personalities, have also changed.
“About two months ago, the same thing happened a car fell off the tracks and hit some burly biker dude, and he whined about it,” Carroll said. “It hits a 75 pound lady who is 80 years old she can take it and he was whining about it. He thought I should buy him free beer the rest of the day.”
Despite the changing times, one thing remains consistent at Dave’s Town Club people enjoying the train that has become a fixture of the downtown Delano establishment.
“They love it,” Carroll said of people’s reactions when they see it. “They think it’s cool.”
He said it also brings back memories of older patrons who may have worked for the railroad at some point in their lives, or have some other connection or love of trains. Along with the memories, it’s also good advertising.
“You sit and eat your lunch, and you pick up the names of every single car that’s up there,” Bacon said.
“I can’t tell you every beer sign (in the building),” he said, “but I know the names of every car on the train.”
The train can be found in operation at Dave’s Town Club during normal business hours. Dave’s is located at 138 North River Street in downtown Delano.