Boy, 12, uses love of trains to help stock food pantry
By Dan Moran firstname.lastname@example.org | @NewsSunDanMoran October 28, 2013 7:32PM
Keeping six sets of trains up and running at one time was occasionally a hands-on challenge for 12-year-old Omar Rasidgic during his display at the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum on Saturday, Oct. 26.| Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:16AM
Like most boys who came of age in the 21st century, Omar Rasidagic took a liking to Thomas the Tank Engine during his preschool years. That basic love of trains would lead him to collecting sets that date back to World War II.
“That one is from the Louis Marx Toy Company. It’s tinplate,” he said, pointing to a 1940s set he picked up off the Internet. “The railroad is the Nickel Plate Road. There’s a Pennsylvania Railroad box car and then a Wabash gondola.”
If it sounds like the 12-year-old Grayslake resident knows his stuff, that’s because he’s been into it since he could walk.
“Thomas was his first, I believe. He was maybe two,” said his mother, Alma Hamidovic. “It was one of those things where initially we encouraged it. I think I prefer this to video games any day. It’s built up in time over what he had, but it’s probably a very wise choice.”
Omar shared the fruits of his hobby in more ways than one last weekend. First, he set up six of his trains — including a modern-day Lego version of the legendary Santa Fe Super Chief — for display at the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum.
And during the two-day exhibit, Omar asked visitors to bring in non-perishable grocery items for the Lake County Food Pantry, a charitable effort he said he adopted after reading “about how many people in the United States that are homeless.”
With a little help from family members that included his 11-year-old brother Kerim, Omar spent the better part of an afternoon setting up the exhibit. Along with the collections mentioned above, his fleet features a Lionel HO model and an N gauge Silver Bullet.
His mother said that one of the reasons Omar has been encouraged in his pursuits is that “I think he learned a lot about the history of trains and the history of the Industrial Revolution. He also learned about about physics a lot from trains, so I think it expanded his educational base.”
In fact, the only limitation on where Omar’s trains will take him might boil down to storage space.
“He has a spot in his room,” said his mother, “and he has a spot in the basement and he has a spot in the family room.”
Omar admitted that he’s not sure if and when he’ll be done adding to his rolling stock.
“I don’t know how I got started, but I’ve always had them. I still make layouts in my room with these,” he said. “I’m collecting more and more, and I’m starting an organization on Facebook.”
But when asked for his favorite, he had to go with a classic — from his generation.
“My favorite of all? I can’t say. They’re all nice,” he said. “But to be honest, I like Thomas.”