Trains blow their whistles and rumble along the tracks all around Dudley Herndon’s life.
He doesn’t seem to mind the noise and the movement, though.
After all, they are in the basement of his Martinsville home, part and parcel of a world he created for himself after he retired.
The trains drive through and around a depiction of Martinsville life, with both realistic recreations of buildings and occasional comedic scenes.
A farm has a red barn with farm animals, including cows at the hay bale, cows and pigs eating from a trough, and a pig rolling cheerfully in the mud. One cowboy is waving his lasso as he rides a cow, two men are working from a wheelbarrow, and, outside the fence, Little Boy Blue has fallen asleep instead of tending the sheep. Above the farm is Jack’s legendary beanstalk, leading from behind the farm up to a shelf on the wall which has a giant at his castle.
A long building partly enclosed and partly open is the terminal of Dominion Freight Lines, where Herdon worked for 30 years. Transfer-trailer trucks are parked around it, as well as the vehicles of the workers. Little figures of men walk about and carry loads.
Near it are milk trucks, a nod to his earlier career as a milkman.
There are a couple of buildings under construction, with construction vehicles and a crane parked behind them. One has a tile floor, white walls with a red horizontal strip, and a bright red roof. Inside, you can see a counter and tables. That’s going to be “McDudley’s,” he quipped.
There’s a construction zone, where a section of a road is being paved. A road-work sign and orange cones block the work area as a man spreads asphalt, with an asphalt roller, a dump truck, and a cement truck at the edge. More construction vehicles and dump trucks are parked a distance away, backed up to stores of gravel, cement, and mulch.
Herndon’s pride and joy is the rendition of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, the church in Axton where he and his wife, Doris, met and attended faithfully. It has the original old-fashioned brick sanctuary and the new fellowship hall wing built in the 1990s. Cars are parked in the lot, and people are walking in and out of the church and shaking hands. When asked which one he was, he said, “I’m inside.”
The Herndons raised three sons, John Dudley “Johnny” or “Rooster” Herndon Jr., Allen “Al” Michael Herndon, and Bobby Dean Herndon (“Termite” from his wrestling days at Martinsville High School).
Dudley Herndon moved to Martinsville at the age of 17, when he worked at a bakery washing pots and pans. “I soon got a promotion to drive the bread truck,” selling to stores, he said.
He was drafted into the army, where he served in France just after the war. His wife joined him there. There they made lifelong friends, a couple from Pennsylvania.
When the Herndons returned from France, Dudley Herndon drove a milk truck, and his wife took care of the children. After years as a milkman, he worked at Old Dominion Freight Lines for 33 years.
“I started making the trains when I retired,” he said.
“I worked on them until my wife almost got a divorce, and I quit,” he laughed. “She said I had to help her some, and so I agreed with her, and I started helping her more.
To make amends, he used the jigsaw to cut out the phrase “I love you.” It still stands on the casing above the kitchen doorway.