TCMRM Icon Ray Norton

[Originally published in the Winter 2008 issue of Club Car newsletter.]

“I stole lots of rides on the Soo Line, and I can still feel the thrill of riding the 400.”

It has been said that it’s impossible to be a member of the Twin City Model Railroad Museum without knowing Ray Norton, a fixture almost from the beginning. Ray can tell you about building the bleachers when the railroad club was in the St. Paul Union Depot for those many years.

He will tell you about hitching a ride on the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha atop the oil tender in the days when his father was a Soo Line engineer. Although not a railroad man himself, he once told a Pioneer Press reporter, “I stole lots of rides on the Soo Line, and I can still feel the thrill of riding the 400.”

Hiawatha Scratch-Built by Ray NortonRay is probably best known around the museum for his scratch-built model of the Hiawatha, a beautifully engineered masterpiece of ten passenger cars and locomotive stamped from galvanized sheet metal. The Museum now owns the model, which stands proudly on a shelf above the layout.

Why the Hiawatha? “Because that’s the train I hoboed on many times,” he says. Back in 1940, while looking for a ride from Milwaukee to Chicago, he asked the fireman on the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha if a fellow could hitch a ride, and he was told to wait until the railroad police were finished checking for hoboes, then climb aboard the tender. “Whether designed for the purpose or not, there was a sort of a bench where I could ride in comfort on the 75 mile trip.”

Today, Norton is the unofficial goodwill ambassador for the museum, answering questions and spinning steam train yarns for visitors. Ask him just about anything concerning railroading, and he will draw from his encyclopedic memory to give you the answer.



  1. DOUG MATTSON says:

    I am 49 years old and I remember the day my dad took me to see the the model trains, We sat up in the bleachers at the Union Depot and I was hooked ! Years later I took my son to the present day layout and I had commented on the 1930’s Millwakee Road Loco, Ray took it off the rails and let me look at it in detail, The driver wheels were worn down and grooved from the slipping over the years of heavy pulling, I was told later that Ray just dosen’t let anyone handle his loco ! I will never forget that day, Ironic that my Grandson and I are going to see the layout after some years that I haven’t been there, I feel that dropping some $ in the box and talking to the staff makes everthing better ( Anyone remember Polly’s Slow Food ? ) See you at Train’s !

  2. Ray is a wonderful modeler and his experience in O scale 2 rail dating back to the bronze doorstop era is important to the hobby. He is a gift to the community and you guys should cherish his knowledge and background as a master modeler and friend of the small but devoted O scale 2 rail community.

    Send him my best from all of us at the Denver Society of Model Railroaders (since 1933).

    • Thanks Erik.

      We’ve passed on your comment to Ray.

    • Erik, I am a memeber of the TCMR club. I am glad to “work” with Ray. I appreciate his knowledge and humor very much. Many of our long-time members are a wealth of knowledge. Paul, Ron, and Lloyd are a trio of knowledge that cannot be contained in any book. For when I’ve asked, “where have you read that?”, they would simply say, “I experienced it”. I can only hope to have a fraction of their knowledge someday. Thank you for visiting the museum and we hope that you will visit again with friends and family!

  3. My father-in-law Ray Norton is the greatest. Loved hearing about his stories and chasing trains. We will miss him. He passed away on Feb. 27, 2012. He has lived a great life!!! We all love him dearly. He was 94.

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