The Railway Museum has lost a valuable member of its weekend seasonal team. Alden “Denny” Wilson was an integral part of the Railway Museum as a volunteer in the engine house and a seasonal employee at the automobile exhibit. At the end of the 2022 season, Denny finally decided to retire after 25 years of service to the Railway Museum.

Denny was and is very knowledgeable about trains and cars. He was very conversive and pleasant to everyone. He was more than happy to answer anyone’s questions about any of the exhibits. As a youth, Denny remembers his grandfather taking him to see the steam trains coming into New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad station in Kingston, Rhode Island.

Denny Wilson began his journey with the Railway Village as a volunteer. He volunteered for five years doing whatever was asked of him. Finally, Executive Director Bob Ryan in 2003 asked Denny what he wanted to do at the Railway Village. Denny replied, “Whatever you would like me to do.”

He became part of the shop crew. His first project was scraping, sanding, and painting the 1920 Seagrave fire truck outside the firehouse. Then he helped clean and overhaul the early 20th-century steam compressor, now mounted on a wooden stand at Freeport Station. He volunteered on the shop crew, which consisted of Dave Blackman (now our head Grounds Keeper), Jason LeMontague (now the Chief Engineer at the WW and F Railroad), and former Chief Engineer of the Railway Village Brian Fanslau. They all disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled it. Then they used a steam source (a steam locomotive) to fire it up, and the compressor worked beautifully.

When the 2003 season ended, work started on the Maine waiting area of Freeport station. The work also involved removing many coats of paint and shellac from the walls and ceiling and applying stain. The shop crew, which Denny was now a part of, did most of the work along with another volunteer, Paul Golden. Finally, the Freeport Station waiting area was completed and was ready for the public for the 2004 season.

As part of the shop crew, Denny worked on many projects, such as the rebuilding of the wig-wag crossing signal, restoring and painting the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes drover caboose #551 received from the Portland Narrow Gauge Railroad, and stripping and painting the Canadian Pacific Station across from Thorndike Station. In the summer, Denny volunteered as a brakeman and conductor. His final assignment was to go with the shop crew and other volunteers to Hancock, Maine, to take up several thousand feet of narrow-gauge rail. This rail was used to upgrade the Railroad Village infrastructure.

Denny volunteered during the Thomas the Tank engine weekends from 2007 to 2014. In 2010, Bob Ryan offered Denny a paid weekend Automobile Exhibit Attendant position. He stayed in this position until he retired in 2022. We want to end this tribute in Denny Wilson’s own words, as he was one of the best volunteers we have ever had: “I enjoyed my time as a volunteer and as paid staff. Meeting so many people over my 20-year career and working with many dedicated employees was a pleasure. I will miss the Railway Village but will still visit as much as possible”.

Written by Lorna Durfee and Anthony Lippincott (Model Railroad Exhibit Specialists)