This huge model train layout created by Iowa City’s Dick Schwab will be dismantled and moved to Wisconsin next year as the builder and his wife relocate. In this photo, visitors Guy Stackhouse, left, of Marion and Mike Karnell of Coralville marvel at the display.(Photo: Dick Hakes / Special to the Press-Citizen)
You may recall a story in this Taking Liberties column last year about local barn-builder, organic vegetable farmer and innovative craftsman Dick Schwab.
At that time, he had plans for a huge vintage Lionel model train layout in one of his barns north of Iowa City that he had built mostly with recycled and re-purposed material.
A few months ago when a group of us visited, he had filled the 40-by-30-foot loft space with a complex array of track, wiring and scenery, and was running multiple trains at once, using some 13 transformers. In all, he has about 3,000 feet of track, 70 engines and 200 cars at his disposal — an amazing, personally refurbished inventory in which everything runs like a clock.
And now, I learned recently, it is all headed for Wisconsin.
“My wife has family there so we’re moving to a lake in northwest Wisconsin in about a year,” Schwab told me.
He’ll be selling his local properties and moving the train layout with him to a special “play barn man cave” he is building there, along with building a new house.
It will be hard to see this guy go — one of the most talented and interesting characters I’ve met in this territory.
Original story: Barn builder gears up for next project
Here are three more updates:
Boys from Brazil smiling
Brandon and Jennifer Pratt of North Liberty generously shared their story earlier this year about adopting four brothers from Brazil, all age six and younger.
The couple went from zero children to four kids overnight and spent two months living with them in Brazil, getting to know their culture and working through the adoption bureaucracy.
Today they report the boys are making “remarkable” progress in school, especially English and math and, according to Jennifer, are “way more adjusted than we could have ever comprehended.”
The adopted sons of Jennifer and Brandon Pratt of North Liberty are a broadly smiling quartet nearly one year after being relocated to Iowa from an orphanage in Brazil. From left are Cristiano, 6; William, 3; Enzo, 4; and Leandro, 7. (Photo: Lindsay McGowan Photography / Special to the Press-Citizen)
The boys are fond of ice skating, the Iowa Children’s Museum and American food, especially pizza — which is logical because the family is in the Pizza Ranch business.
“We still enjoy talking about their memories in Brazil in an attempt to keep the good parts of their past alive,” she says. “They’re looking forward to Christmas.”
Original story: How four Brazilian orphans found hope in North Liberty
The Pratts had a long road ahead when they decided to adopt four orphaned brothers from Brazil. Humankind
Shank looks to Transplant Olympics
One year after his double-lung transplant operation, Iowa City native Steve Shank continues to exceed his doctors’ recovery goals. He recently returned to work part time at the Hy-Vee in Rochester, Minnesota, where the family now lives.
He’s building his strength with outdoor activities and serves as an ambassador for LifeSource, the state organ procurement organization of Minnesota. This summer, he hopes to compete on his bicycle in the Transplant Games of America in Salt Lake City.
An amazing video by family friend Camilo Pineda details his story.
“I’d like to share this video as much as possible,” says Steve’s wife, Caren. “We first shared it on Steve’s lung anniversary Oct. 23.”
Original story: What a gift: Steve Shank can breathe once again
Biking adventures continue
Coralville native Jonathan Williams finished a 5,000-mile bike trek down the length of South America about two years ago.
This fall, he spent another three months biking through Columbia and Ecuador with Ryson Stuart of Coralville and Cody Wagner of North Liberty. Check out the blog on their latest adventure at followthewallow.com.
Williams was also featured in this column for the unique, 84-square-foot “tiny house” he still calls home in Colorado.
Original story: Coralville biker ends 5,000-mile trek in Argentina
Read the original columns on each of these stories and watch video at Press-Citizen.com.
Dick Hakes is a semiretired newspaper editor who lives in North Liberty.
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