While Frederick J. Wertz, Ph.D. leads Fordham College at Lincoln Center into the 2018-2019 academic year, the Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., Ph.D., will spend more time with his model train collection.
“As a passionate collector of model trains, I’ve rarely gotten the opportunity to enjoy my hobby in the past two decades,” Grimes told The Bystander in a recent interview, while he tinkered with his new Atlas HO Scale GE B30-7 CSX locomotive.
Grimes is the longest-serving dean at Fordham, having led FCLC since 1997. During that time, he strove to instill students with a love for model railroading, a goal which he hopes to continue in his time as dean emeritus.
“Model railroading is not just a hobby,” Grimes said. “It’s a lifestyle.”
While Grimes said that he was “happy” with the new majors and minors launched during his tenure and “impressed” by the dramatic increase in student enrollment he oversaw, he was disappointed that some of his more ambitious projects were never implemented. They included a sprawling model railroad layout to occupy the location of the old Quinn library, and founding the Department of Model Railroad Studies.
“I’ve loved my time as a dean, but how am I supposed to be satisfied with overseeing the successful transformation of an entire campus if my students still don’t appreciate the royal hum of a shiny HO model speeding through the hallowed halls?” Grimes lamented as he fiddled with his Walthers model of Alaska Railroad engine #1202.
While the longtime dean of FCLC still has a year ahead to plan, he has already begun to prepare for his research sabbatical in 2019-2020. He intends to spend it touring the roundhouses and short lines of rural Ohio to find inspiration for his next layout. “It’s been my dream to see the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek,” Grimes said, wiping a tear from his eye as he packed up boxes of Athearn catalogs and back issues of Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman.
As an avid model railroader himself, the newly appointed Dean Wertz agreed with Grimes’ goals for the years ahead of him.
“We’re just looking out for what’s best for the trains,” Wertz said, sporting a shirt from the 2012 Norfolk Southern Heritage Locomotive anniversary event in Spencer, North Carolina. “Whatever helps the trains, helps Fordham.”