SUMMERDALE, Alabama --- Thomas “Tom” Lindsay, a Summerdale resident of about 9½ years, has continued to be constructive in his retirement.
He designed his home with a 26-foot-long and 16-foot-wide room to house his electronic model railroad operation with 13 different steam engines.
Lindsay said he’s always wanted a model railroad.
“Just never had the trains, time or facilities to do it,” he said.
“It goes back to when I was a kid,” said Lindsay, who was born in Newport News, Va., and as a child spent time around trains, coal and railroad operations.
He said he’s been working on his model railroad for about eight years, and that his wife, Mary Ann, creates the scenery, which includes about 50 buildings.
He has had good friends who have helped him with his railroad, he said, including one locally and another he keeps up with via Skype on the Internet.
All his engines are steam powered, Lindsay said, adding, “I prefer the romance of steam engines” over diesels.
He’s a member of South West Alabama Railroad Modelers group, which he said has about 80 or 90 members throughout Alabama and Mississippi.
Lindsay lived in the area where he was born for about 40 years, he said.
At the age of 3 years, he was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the waist down, he said. With the use of braces on both his legs and crutches, he was able to recover enough to have a brace on only one leg by the time he was 9 or 10 years old, said Lindsay.
Despite his limited mobility, Lindsay said, he lives a pretty active life.
“I didn’t know that I had any real challenge,” he said. “I pretty much did whatever I wanted to do to the point that I could. It was that or sit around feeling sorry for myself.”
For several years before he left Virginia, he was active in the area’s Coast Guard auxiliary, volunteering 10 to 12 hours a week.
He grew up on the water right on Chesapeake Bay, with family members who were boat builders and oystermen, and his father who retired from the Navy.
Lindsay worked as an internal auditor for several years before branching out to become a general contractor of residential homes from the 1960s to mid-‘70s. “I always liked building things,” he said.
After suffering some setbacks with that business, Lindsay moved in 1977 to Albuquerque, N.M., where he had family, he said, and there he opened an accounting and income tax preparation agency. While in Albuquerque, he met Mary Ann at a party.
The couple dated 10 years before they got married, he said. “We figured it might last,” Lindsey said.
Lindsay sold his practice after about 13 years, while the couple lived as “RVers” for many years. Over time, the couple used the RV to travel all over, including across Canada to Nova Scotia and to Alaska.
After leaving New Mexico, the two moved to Indiana, where they lived for about 2 years, during which time they visited the Gulf Coast area after seeing a magazine ad and bought property in Spanish Cove.
Lindsey said he had driven the coast from Texas to Virginia after vacationing in 1956 and “fell in love with the area.”
After the Disability Act passed, Lindsay, who said he had always wanted to be in the business of trucking, was able to get his commercial driver’s license.
He and his wife worked part time hauling military freight for about 11 years, he said, with the sleep area of their tractor-trailer designed to be handicap accessible.
Lindsay said he did all the driving, while his wife did the work outside the truck, especially in the last few years when he became more dependent on his wheelchair. “I’d get in the truck and I wouldn’t get out for three weeks,” Lindsay said.
Of all his professions, he said he enjoyed trucking most of all.
“I loved it,” Lindsay said, adding that he got paid to travel, see and do things, but “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it by myself.”
When Lindsay is not working on his model railroad, he spends some of his free time watching TV, particularly sports, history, Discovery and PBS programs.
He’s also a Shriner, he said, though he is not all that active these days.