It’s the collection of a lifetime — Brookhaven man donates massive train set to McComb museum

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Jimmy Perkins’ lifelong infatuation with the railroad began during his boyhood and took shape over the years in the attic of his house in the form of a massive train set that he has kept throughout his life.

Now retired as a United Airlines pilot, his children grown and with children of their own, Perkins recently made a difficult decision to give up the train set, with an estimated value of more than $13,000, and donate it to the McComb Railroad Depot Museum.

Perkins said he decided to donate the train set the day the McComb Railroad Depot and the museum inside it caught fire in an act of arson in 2021.

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“I had no idea of doing this, except one day there was a fire in McComb,” he said.

Perkins drove down from Brookhaven to witness the tragedy and ended up meeting some of the museum’s volunteers.

“I was across the street in the garage. We spoke for a little while,” said museum volunteer Jerry Stubbs. “I think that’s where he got the idea because it was obvious that we were going to lose a lot of stuff.”

Perkins said none of his children or grandchildren wanted the train set, which he said ran the length of his house in the finished attic.

“I was looking for a way to dispose of it that would be appropriate,” Perkins said.

The 131-piece train set contains tracks, signs, buildings and, of course, trains, including large O-scale model engines in the orange and brown paint scheme of the Illinois Central Railroad. Some are new-in-box Lionel models that predate World War II.

Perkins grew up in Brookhaven, where his love of trains began.

“My dad had a furniture store next to the railroad track and I spent a lot of time out there,” he said. “My father was a well-to-do merchant.”

Perkins, who was brought nearly to tears a couple of times while discussing his trains and getting a last look at them before they go into storage, said his dad bought Lionel train equipment for him for Christmas every year, and he kept adding to it throughout his life.

“My friends didn’t have this kind of stuff,” he said.

While Perkins managed to have a career in transportation, he never worked for the railroad.

“I wanted to,” he said. “I was an airline pilot — kind of the same thing. I treated my co-pilot just like the engineers treated their firemen — not well.”

By Matt Williamson, The Enterprise-Journal