John's Letter, June 2005
On that note, I have done a little more expansion of the garden railway, but as I look for other interests rather than the clinic, I 'm starting to re-evaluate our house and yard, believe it or not. The train passion really is a lot of fun for me, and what I'd really like to have is a much larger yard... or perhaps a smaller house. They say that's the sign of a true railroader. He looks for a big yard, small house, or a small house with a large basement. One of the jokes is that when a railroader's wife threatens to divorce him, he starts to think about running his trains in the bedroom AND the kitchen as well!
There are only the three of us at home now, and April is getting to that age where she's gone all the time. She heads into grade nine next year, and has mentioned the idea of going on some of these student exchange trips. France was one of the countries she mentioned. So, amazingly, instead of worrying about the loss of my favourite little buddy, I mentally am thinking about a smaller house with a bigger yard! Just a thought of course!
In September, John finds a place. Triple lot. Couple working it. He introduces himself and offers to buy it.
John's Letter, September 2005
I have been keeping my eye out, and discovered a place not too far from us. It's one of the original homes that were built before this area was turned into a subdivision, and it has a triple lot with big trees, and it is in a perfect spot! Lots of room for trains, but a very nicely kept house. I actually kind of lost it when seeing the house. I normally am not a very pushy person, but the older couple were out in the front yard working on their garden, and I went over to them and introduced myself, and asked them to contact me if they ever consider selling. Of course they said they were not, but we agreed that in life you never know, and they said they would let me know if that possibility came up. They have no children living near here, so it's not slated to go to a family member. I saw it while I was out running, so after that conversation, I felt I was running on a cushion of air.
A long gap from September to next April, before the subject comes up again. In this mention, it is the old man, the house is described as wartime, and the lot size is 2.
John's Letter, April 2006
But, as I have mentioned before, there is one little wartime house that sits on two large lots that still survives, and is nicely looked after by an older man.
A few months later and it is back to folks (plural).
John's Letter, June 2006
We will have to downsize one day (which I have learned does not mean losing weight). I have been looking at a much smaller house with a MUCH bigger yard, I have to admit, but those folks are not interested in selling, and as Elly cleans madly, I realize I only deal with things when I HAVE to.
Next month, the lot size is back to 3. Single owner, but plural they and then single He describing the owner.
John's Letter, July 2006
I think a lot about that little house down the way with the big triple lot. I run by it quite often, and have spoken to the owner, but they are not ready to give it up. He did promise me if he did that I would be the first to know about it! I daydream about having more property.
The man gets a name and it is revealed his wife died last year (2005). If this is to be believed, than the wife died shortly after being introduced to John in September. Coincidence?
John's Letter, August 2006
I have had a chance to visit a bit with George Stibbs, the fellow who owns the little house on the large property on the corner of our road (before the bend). His wife passed away last year, and he is recovering well emotionally. His health is still good, and he maintains that whole property by himself. Now, with his wife gone, he seems to be really concentrating on keeping the flower gardens quite spectacular. Perhaps they could not agree before, and now that she is gone, he gets to do it HIS way. I still have dreams of owning the place, and doing something quite amazing with the back yard. It won't happen for a while, obviously, although George has promised me I will be the first to be contacted if he decides to sell. Perhaps I shouldn't dream alone. I do have a partner to consider.
Of course, George Stibbs, retired railroader, loves John’s idea for his yard. He promises to wait a year to sell it (i.e., time frame over which the letter-writing Lynnion is sure Lynn will finally get to this story) and the idea of the property being rental first appears.
John's Letter, October 2006
I still have an interest in that little house I mentioned before (the one with the big yard), and have even had coffee with the owner, George Stibbs a number of times now. Curiously, it turns out he is a retired railroader! Actually, he was a section man, and looked after various sections of track in Northern Ontario. He tells great stories of the days when they used handcars (you know, those people powered maintenance vehicles with the two sets of handles that go up and down.. Buster Keaton used them in some of his old movies) and velocipedes... vehicles that looked like bicycles with a third wheel on the opposite track, that were used by the track gangs. Apparently they were pretty useless in the winter, so they looked after the seven-mile sections of track by walking and pulling sleds with their maintenance equipment. He said life got easier after about 1944 when they got to use motorcars, or speeders, or jiggers as they are sometimes called. They could put winter wheels with ribs on them, and were much better, but still they had absolutely no heat in them, and not even any covers for the first 10 or 20 years. Boy, that was a life of hard labour and very little glamour, but if it was not for them, the trains would not have stayed on the tracks. I have really enjoyed hearing all his stories, and now there are a number of scenes that I want to model that are based on some of his descriptions.
I have told George some of my plans for the property if I was to get it (George loves the idea of putting in a large outdoor railway layout, and even has a bunch of suggestions), and he says he can wait another year before putting it up for sale. He says he is getting too creaky to look after the property, but still enjoys it for now.
That makes me think of George Stibbs again. He really is doing a great job of looking after that little house. Even if we're not ready for it, perhaps it would be a good investment even if we just bought it as rental property. Surely the value of the large lot will be increasing over the years even if the rent only covered the taxes. Hmmm, I'll have to discuss the details with Anthony. He is a pretty sharp fellah when it comes to investments. Gordon has done a lot of expansion, each time a very good financial move. I used to give Gordon all the credit, but lately have learned that a lot of the ideas have actually come from Anthony, and Gordon just executes them. Amazing how teams evolve and each part of the team has different skills that complement those of others in the team. This allows them to accomplish things that no one could have imagined or that they could have done on their own. Well, I can imagine this house and property and a great train layout, so maybe it is do-able after all!
Finally, last month’s letter. Rental property is again mentioned, but this time John goes so far as to ask George to get 3 appraisals, which is a pretty bold move considering Elly disapproved this purchase.
John's Letter, February 2007
April and I went for a walk a while ago, and went our usual way by George Stibbs' place. I have been talking to George about letting me know when he is ready to sell, and he now is. With his wife gone, he has enjoyed the gardening, but he was telling me the other day that the joy is now gone out of it. Maintaining the big yard is difficult, so he is ready to move to a smaller place closer to his sons.
I don't know what the price would be, but I think it would be reasonable, as it's a small house. You never know what the two extra lots are worth, though. I suggested to George that we could get three appraisals done just to see what the specialists would think it would actually sell for if it was put on the market. (He has no idea what it's worth, either). Then we'll know what we are dealing with. It seems crazy to be so determined to buy a house for which we really have no tangible plan, at the moment - still, I see it as an investment and I love the potential it has! We can rent it. Who knows. We're still just talking. It's been nice having George to talk to. Until that first day when I asked about his house, we'd just wave at each other. He was a friendly neighbour, that's all. Now I sit and have coffee with him and I realize I've been missing out on a potential friendship - just when he's planning to move! Shows that we really do live in our own small worlds, even when we're in an older neighbourhood like this one.
I have approached Elly about moving to George's house ourselves, but she didn't think I was serious. She prefers the house we are in, and since we have done so many renovations, it's custom made for us, so she doesn't see leaving. "It's perfect for having the grandchildren over", is what she said. Little did she realize how "perfect" it would be! I am sure she was thinking of one or two overnight stays. Ha!
John plays his trump. We can't get Mike out of the house and alleviate our home pressures, unless we get the Stibb's place. April played it as Mike buying the house, which would work only if John still got to do trains there. So the possibilities are:
1. John and Elly buy out George and rent it to Mike and Dee on the condition John can put his trains there.
2. Mike and Dee buy out George and move in themselves.
3. John and Elly buy out George, but sell their house to Mike and Dee.