Local | Volunteer Salute

Trains big and small transport volunteer with local railway museums

Ken Sandock on the F-series diesel Copper Spike. The Arizona & Eastern Railway ran excursions from Globe, Ariz., to a local casino from 2008-2011.
Ken Sandock on the F-series diesel Copper Spike. The Arizona & Eastern Railway ran excursions from Globe, Ariz., to a local casino from 2008-2011.

Ken Sandock’s fascination with trains started when he was a boy — and it’s only gotten stronger over the years.

His family lived in South Bend, Ind., and he would take the Chicago South Shore and Southbend Railroad to visit relatives in Chicago.

“When I lived in Chicago there were trains all over the place,” Sandock says. The Illinois Central went right by Michael Reese Hospital, where he worked. “Whenever we go back there and my wife, Beverly, wants to go shopping, I take a train somewhere. In December I took the Rock Island and the Santa Fe to Joliet.”

Today, Sandock channels his passion for the railroad into volunteering with several local organizations. As a board member and docent at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, he maintains the website (www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org) and assists visitors to the museum, which is located in the Historic Railroad Depot at 414 N. Toole Ave. He offers explanations about the exhibits and about Southern Pacific Locomotive #1673, a painstakingly restored 114-year-old steam engine housed at the museum.

Through his work with the two railway museums Sandock became involved in the Tucson Association of Museums. He also volunteers with the Tucson Association of Jewish Libraries and serves as secretary of the Brotherhood at Congregation Or Chadash. He is a member of the Tucson Maimonidies Society and the Pima County Medical Society.

The transportation museum holds an annual lecture series, and Sandock recently presented a lecture about the railroad’s instrumental role in standardizing time zones. He is also helping with preparations for the museum’s Silver Spike Festival on March 22, which will mark the 134th anniversary of the railroad in Tucson.

“I like working with things mechanically and electrically, and trains are big and mechanical, especially the steam ones,” says Sandock, a semi-retired radiologist. He also volunteers with the Old Pueblo National Railway Historical Society (www.nrhs.com/chapters/old-pueblo) and the Gadsden-Pacific Division, Toy Train Operating Museum (www.gpdtoytrainmuseum.com).

“I work under the table, literally,” he says, explaining that he does the electrical wiring that runs under the model train tracks at the toy train museum. “When we built the layout for the HO gauge model railroad I wired all of the tracks.”

Besides the historical, educational and mechanical aspects, Sandock also loves the leisurely life of railroad travel. “Trains go interesting places and you see interesting things without having to drive. You can just relax and look around. Going to a place as simple as Flagstaff or Albuquerque, it’s a whole different experience on the train. You enjoy good food, it’s comfortable and the whole world goes by at eye level. I recommend it to people who can relax and enjoy things. If you’re uptight you should stay off the train.”

Nancy Ben-Asher Ozeri is a freelance writer and editor in Tucson. She can be reached at nancy_ozeri@yahoo.com.