Ghost Train

Decaying cars, $300,000 in expenditures, and empty promises — that's your new railroad museum.

But the cars did have great stories. The Seneca Valley car, for one, had been resurrected as part of a traveling carnival company.

"When I got it," Winer says, "Royal American Shows was using it like a kitchen car, a train crew car, where the guys who maintained the train stayed, with a big generator there that provided electricity for the whole train." It was a "pie car," so called because the former plaything for movie stars was then kitchen quarters for carnies.

It will be some time yet before it is resurrected yet again to working condition. Despite the professed progress, Campos acknowledges that the cars' restoration is off schedule — by a good year — on what was supposed to be a two-year project. He cites five reasons: hurricanes, a break-in, sketchy historical source documents, not receiving another grant last year, and a PBS documentary crew's delays in filming the project. At least now, he says, the funds are "unencumbered."

The former deputy director of security for the first President Bush, Campos plans to incorporate the cars into the museum — which, though still months from being complete, at least has several finished walls. It will be named after the late wife of George Prescott Bush, mother to George Herbert Walker Bush, and a train aficionado in her own right.

In his capacity at the museum, Campos has two claims to fame. One was dropping a dime on Mohammed Amin, a Jordanian whom Campos says he saw with 9/11 ringleader and former Hollywood denizen Mohamed Atta at the train station in 2001. Campos saw Amin again at the station in 2002; Amin was arrested and, the last the local press noted of him, slated for deportation.

Campos' other claim to fame was helping to renovate the Hollywood station to look as it did in 1927. As he led a visitor around some of the improved and authentic station amenities, a wiry old passenger in sunglasses, looking a bit confused, asked, "Where are the schedules?"

"Are there no schedules?" Campos replied. "Is there no one from Tri-Rail working?"

"No," the old man said. "This place is all fucked up anyway."

Not a history buff, it seems.

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