Area youth enjoys day at Gopher State Railway Museum

By: 
Patrick Fisher, pfisher@newpraguetimes.com

Gopher State Railway Museum member Jeff Braun, left, guides Shane Mahowald in operating the train at the museum. Shane and his family were able to ride the engine and then he was surprised as he was asked if he wanted to drive it down the track at the site. (Patrick Fisher photo)

Shane Mahowald and his parents Bob and Amy Mahowald were out at Gopher State Railway Museum, north of New Prague, on Saturday, Oct. 2, for Shane’s senior photos at Jordan High School. The family got a surprise in that members of the train museum made sure it was a day Shane wouldn’t forget.

Shane, who is high functioning autistic, had his photos taken by Kristy Johnson, who had reached out to museum member Jeff Braun in late August. “I drive by the museum often and I would see the trains,” said Johnson. She knew that when Shane was younger he loved trains.

Amy said her son was obsessed with trains between the ages of 2 and 8, from Thomas the Train videos to seeing real ones to a custom train table his dad built. “Shane spent hours building and rebuilding track layouts for his Thomas trains,” said Amy. “Shane would create his own imaginative story lines while he played.”

“When he was young he was just nuts about trains,” said Bob. “This is fitting for him.”

There is a history of trains in the family. Amy noted her mom’s dad had been an engineer for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, also referred to as the Old Milwaukee Road, who made the run from Minneapolis to Chicago.

During Shane’s photo session, while standing in front of one of the train engines he held a photo of himself as a young boy. The path between the energetic boy to his being a senior was one that was at times rocky for him and his family. His parents noticed he had anxieties as a child, and they worked with doctors, a therapist and teachers from the time Shane was young and then tests when he was between sixth and seventh grade revealed he was autistic. Before and after the diagnosis Amy and Bob worked with Shane’s teachers in how best to help him through school in areas such as homework to where he became involved in Jordan High School’s After School Gaming Club.

Amy said that many...

To see more on this story pick up the October 7, 2021 print edition of The New Prague Times. 

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