by Annabelle Leitner
Ocala Star Banner
January 6, 2004
Since 1979 Irvine has been the home of the Calapooya Pacific Railroad. Fir decades this model railroad has delighted thousands of visitors to the Wayside Antique Store that has now closed its doors.
Tom Gates, who built the model train, founded the family antique business at Irvine in 1970. In later years his legacy was continued by daughter Kathy Pinner and daughter-in-law Roxanne Gates, and it was their responsibility to care for the railroad.
When the decision was made to close the business the ladies wanted Gates pride and joy to continue to delight model railroad enthusiasts in the area for generations to come.
Throughout the years, the train, which occupied an 18 by 40 room, has been maintained by many people, the last one being the late George Priest and his crew, Neal Frisbie and David Taylor. Priest had heard about the train and decided to check it out. It was love at first train whistle for Priest, whose family roots grew deep in northwest Marion County and who was a train and model train enthusiast his entire life.
Priest and his crew volunteered their time keeping the train running and in tip-top shape for the last several years. Priest loved the work that Tom Gates put into the model with hundreds of trees, waterfalls, streams, and the communities of Rooster Rock, Morgan Pass, Sarahville, Saggin Pass, Ketchum, Tuttle and Bliss.
Because of the dedication shown by Priest, the Gates family wanted to show their appreciation to him, and donated this model railroading work of art to the Ocala Model Railroaders.
The model train Gates spent so much time building will now be cared for by the friends of Priest. The train will be recognized as being built by Tom Gates and dedicated to the memory of George Priest.
The train will be removed from its long-time home at Wayside Antiques and the Calapooya Pacific Railroad will once again be riding the rails and blowing its whistle at it new home in Ocala.