Elich: Taking the last train home | SummitDaily.com

Elich: Taking the last train home

Butch Elich
Special to the Daily

The Chama Coaling Tower, foreground left, stands tall over the rail yard, with a model of the Pitkin County Courthouse off to the right. The blue house in the background is a replica of a house that stands in Fairplay. All of the structures in the train set were handmade by Tom Randolph, his wife, Sharon, and his son, Scott. The set is in need of a new home where it can be displayed for the public to enjoy.

One of my favorite musical arrangements is a song titled "Last Train Home," by Pat Metheny. As a matter of fact, I played it as my inspiration for this article, this story, about Summit County, about Frisco, about the people who make it the wonderful place it is to live, work, learn and love all that it has to offer. One family, the Randolphs, Sharon and Tom, have left an enjoyable and lasting impression on the many they have crossed paths with over the years. If you have visited the Frisco Historic Park and dropped a quarter in the activator of the old train model, a recreation of Frisco's past, you have enjoyed a piece of Frisco's history the Randolphs conceived and created.

I first met Tom Randolph a few decades back while cross-country skiing south of Frisco. I was in my skate-skiing phase and clad with the minimal runner's tights, a light fleece top and a beanie cap, riding 210-centimeter skinny skis with 185-centimeter, super-lightweight poles. That day, I was greeted by my polar (ha!) opposite, a man clad in wool, top to toe, alpaca hat, wool sweater (with a similar era parka), wool knickers, wool knee sox, leather boots, wood skis, bamboo pools with leather grips and basket webbing.

We stood for some time on that beautiful morning, snowflakes the size of nickels falling all around, adding to the depth of this fresh powder day, marveling at one another's ski gear. Soon, a chill set in and movement necessary for survival on such a day brought that conversation to an end. We met and talked at various times "around town" over the years, shared stories and went about our day, a privilege a small town brings to its residents. Tom had a wonderful life and gave to this community the gift of Summit County Search and Rescue Group as one of it founding members.

"Back then, they had what they could put together from home and community donations to gear up for search and rescue events, and it was pretty basic," said Tom's wife, Sharon. "But they got the job done, and without that bunch, many people would not be around to talk about it today."

Not only did Tom enjoy the outdoors, but when weather kept him in, he pursued his passion for woodworking and had a nice portion of their home dedicated to a shop most guys could only dream about. The interior detail of Tom and Sharon's home was trimmed with their woodworking (yes, they enjoyed woodworking together) and decorated with the fabric of Sharon's talents as a seamstress. Their home was built of a love for their hobbies and each other that most people only hope to enjoy in this life. Tom passed earlier this year, leaving a big gap for many, but big memories to ease his family's and our community's loss.

A day I'll always remember with Sharon was when I listed her friend and neighbor's home, just down the street from the Randolph residence, and as I was testing the new entry keys she pulled up in the driveway, blocking my car, rolled down her window and called out, "Who are you, and what are you doing here?" I pointed back at my real estate sign, obscured by the trees, and replied, "I'm Butch Elich; Esther hired me to sell her home." "Well, that's what I figured," she said. "Just keeping tabs on the neighborhood."

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Sharon has always been there for family, friends and neighbors. Even today, many would be at a loss without her. Back when her children were younger, she would chaperone the kids on away ski competitions. If any trouble began, she would give them "the look," a stare that quickly put most of the ornery ones in check, in short order. Having said that, the kids knew that if they needed an adult to talk with, she was there for them — ruled with an iron fist and a heart as big as the mountains she lives in.

Sharon's talent as a professional seamstress has netted her work throughout the mountain communities. She designed and created all the drapery in her home, worked on embroidery projects and logo ware for Colorado ski- and industry-related businesses and designed and created the magical blue-ribbon-winning dolls displayed around her Frisco home.

Oh, yeah, so what about the "Last Train Home" reference? In the lower level of the Randolph residence is an incredible mining-era model train recreation they call "Silverado." Sharon is soon moving to be closer to family and has offered to donate the train, if displayed publicly in Summit County for all to enjoy. So if you know of the right spot for this wonderful offering, please contact Sharon through Butch Elich or Paula Parker at RE/MAX in Frisco, (970) 668-5300, and we will work with you on logistics. Time is short. There's about a week left to find a public home for this, the "last train home."