Model Trains Help Alzheimer's Patients

Two friends in Minnesota are using their hobby to help combat the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

CRYSTAL, MN - You certainly can’t tell by the signage or exterior of this Crystal senior center, but it is home to a unique relationship. A pair of 70-year-olds, friends, both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, both helping one another pursue their passion for model railroading.

“It’s great!”

For Gerry Kramer…

“I love being the engineer.”

Trains bring him peace, comfort and so much joy.

“You come out here and run the trains…it’s kind-of like getting lost in a good book,” Kramer said.

Kramer was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. he may not have total control over his health, but here in his detached garage, he has total control over the Sandburg Masefield Railroad – including scheduling daily runs, from Frostbite Falls to Clara City.

“’Cause that’s where the conductor drops off the orders, and the other conductor picks ‘em up,” Kramer said.

His right-hand man in collecting and building and bringing the model railroad to life is Bruce Erickson.

“Garage sales are another thing,” Erickson said.

“Yeah, garage sales are good too,” Kramer said.

“We find quite a lot of things in a garage sale.”

Erickson is several years older and was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than a decade ago now.

Erickson just has a short walk to his garage at the same senior facility, where he too has cleared out the entire space to make way for his own train collection.

“We support each other. We talk about the disease. Gerry’s in an earlier stage than I am, so I see him going through stuff that I used to go through and so we talk about it. We’re great friends,” Erickson said.

The doctors and medical professionals have told both of them to keep their brains active and to stay busy as they fight the potentially debilitating disease.

With these model railroad sand their changing landscapes, that’s not an issue for this pair of friends.

“It’s very good because you use your hands, you have to use your motor skills, it makes you think. You know, you design the things and build them. You’re always looking for ways to improve them,” Kramer said.

Kramer and Erickson say they are too busy making the trains run on time to be worried about Alzheimer’s.

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