Up Close: Train Room Transports West Valley City Seniors To Bygone Era
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – There are so many activities to choose from at the Harman’s Senior Recreations Center — from jewelry classes to sign language and exercise classes.
Tucked away on the lower floor is a special room that takes you back to a time when life was simple. Gas was 53 cents a gallon, and trains ruled the road ways.
It’s a model train room, and the engineers running the place are Lee Fels, 80, and his lovely wife Neva, 76.
“You won’t find anyone holding a cell phone in any of these parks,” said Neva with a laugh while pointing to the landscaping features in the room.
The Fels said they become kids again every time they step into the room.
It’s more than just playing with trains, though. It’s bringing this town of 230 people, 60 animals and dozens of buildings to life.
“This gun is actually pointing at our ski hill over here. We use that for avalanche control,” said Lee as he showed off some of his landscaping features.
“The chairs all stay in place and nobody falls out,” he said, referring to a Ferris wheel in a carnival.
Pointing to another area, Lee said, “I got a bunch of fisherman down there and unfortunately I didn’t tell them, but they are never going to catch anything because I couldn’t find fish that small to put in that pond.”
The Fels are all about adventure. From hot air ballooning to skiing to sky diving. In fact, they have more than 180 jumps between the two of them.
But they’ve always had special love for trains.
They’ve traveled the country so far on 68 different trains. Thirteen years ago, they took over the train room at Harman’s senior center.
It’s the same place in West Valley City were Pete Harman, the man who opened the first KFC franchise, grew up.
“We have a Kentucky Fried Chicken because the person that started this place was Mr. Harman,” said Lee.
As fun as this room is for the Fels, there is a purpose behind it all: helping those seniors who come here to feel young again.
“You can only think about happy things here because it’s a happy time,” said Neva.
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