Stay busy, stay young
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Stacy O'Brien) November 15, 2010
Sylvan Lake senior
builds model trains, planes, tractors
Fred Freschette takes his miniature locomotive and train
past the small village on the loop of track on his property
west of Sylvan Lake Saturday.
Randy Fiedler, Red Deer Advocate
Stepping into Fred Freschette's shop, at his home west of Sylvan
Lake, is like walking into Santa's workshop.
Real working models of diesel trains, steam tractors, Second World
War planes and even a steamboat sit or hang from nearly every
He even has a full-size steam tractor, dating back to when the
Prairies were initially being settled, in the machine and welding
area in his garage.
"I'm an old boy who likes his toys, just like little boys like their
toys," jokes Freschette, who is 81, but has the jovial attitude and
energy of someone 30 years younger.
Freschette worked for years as the owner of Central Valve and also
had a welding company and a pipeline ditching company.
Although retired, Freschette seems busier with his projects than
many working people. He said inactivity makes a person old.
He said he doesn't care what a person does, whether they choose to
go for a run, take up bowling or something else, but they need to
"You take an old tractor, sit it in a corner and pretty soon it's
rusted and won't run," Freschette said. "We're not a heck of a lot
Before being employed in the oilpatch, Freschette first worked with
the CNR before turning age 13, making 12-cents an hour.
Large for his age, he would stand next to the train engineer,
shoveling in the coal to heat the water to create the steam to run
Starting at 7 a.m. in the morning as a young man, Freschette worked
so hard that by 9 a.m. he would often have eaten through his entire
lunch. "I was a big kid, but it takes it out of you," he said.
The engineer would tell him to go pick up a can of beans from the
store for lunch. Freschette would set the can on the boiler to warm
up the beans so they would be toasty for lunch time.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Freschette worked on the trains for
four years, but eventually moved to the oil industry in Alberta in
His skills expanded from there. He has five trade tickets, which
include welding, pressure welding, diesel mechanic, body shop and
PSV valve technician. He uses all of those skills in building his
models from scratch and restoring full-size steam traction engines
One of his more recent projects involved laying a miniature train
track on a field near his house. A model train -- about the size of
a soap box derby car, but with the power to easily pull 125 adults
-- runs around the track.
Freschette originally built the train over a three-day period for
Happy Valley theme park in Calgary in the 1970s. The diesel train is
a model of a CPR train from the 1970s and with all its cars can
stretch to around 25 metres in length.
Freschette used a picture of the real train to ensure all of the
detailing was correct and he even has air horns on the model. It ran
at the theme park for years before the park closed.
Freschette never knew what happened to the little train engine until
a woman, who lived 30 miles north of Rocky Mountain House,
approached him around five years during a show to ask if he wanted
to buy a train from her.
He looked at the picture of the model and told her he had built it.
The woman sold him the train, track and a number of little buildings
that went along with it.
Freschette worked to restore the little engine to its original state
and laid track for it over a week-long period. He hopes to expand
the track in the future from its current 450-metre length to around
one and a half kilometres.
The process of building one of his model trains or steam tractors
can easily take him 2,200 to 3,500 hours. He starts with scaling
down intricate blueprints of full-size models.
Freschette is particularly pleased with a model of a Case
65-horsepower steam tractor, which took around 2,200 hours to
complete, with every detail of the larger 1924 version. He said what
he enjoys the most is the challenge of building the engines from
He built his first models with his sister at around age nine. He
said the two built a model airplane together. He continued on from
"My sister was really good at it," Freschette said. "It just gets in
News article: Relic caboose gets new home
(Red Deer Advocate May 2013)
article: Trains still roll for some
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2012)
News article: Back yard model railway track
(Red Deer Advocate Aug.2012)
News article: A work in two golden ages: Ernie
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
News article: New exhibits call Historical
(Innisfail Province May 2010)
News article: 'Sleeper' village grand
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau sub (CNR)
- Mirror to Red Deer and