This is the home of Boyd and Bonnie Grabau at 304 West Courtland in Spring Valley, which will be open to visitors during the Christmas tour of homes Dec. 8 and 9.
This is the home of Boyd and Bonnie Grabau at 304 West Courtland in Spring Valley, which will be open to visitors during the Christmas tour of homes Dec. 8 and 9.
Twenty-five years ago Boyd and Bonnie Grabau bought the lot at 304 West Courtland where a burned-down house was littering the yard. They had their two-story house (with 14 closets!) built to suit their needs. They have just redone the interior with fresh paint, new carpet and linoleum upstairs and down, and the place glows with the loving care it receives.

The kitchen is painted with Grandma's Pumpkin Spice color, and shows all new decos. It overlooks a backyard menagerie: a wildlife haven of countless birdhouses, feeders, warm water bath, and corn where they entertain cardinals, blue-jays, four kinds of woodpeckers, finches and many more - all a delight to watch.

Visitors need to be cautioned: Bonnie collects salt and pepper shakers - a present count of about 1,300 pairs of every kind imaginable. There are at least seven glass-fronted cases in the living room alone, on the wall or as cabinets. There are "kissing" sets (magnets pull them together), about 20 1970s cartoon characters such as Road Runner and the Flintstones, 22 sets of John Deere tractors, even a pig cooking bacon on his stove. It would be impossible to list even a portion of the fabulous sets they have collected from all over the country.

Watch for the unusual handwork done by her mother, Nola Rathbun - a framed birch clump with padding and many kinds of stitching. Note the beautiful clock made by Walt Rollie, fashioned from a slab from a walnut tree cut down on their property.

The spare bedroom, painted in Turkish Red, has all train decos and accessories - dozens of plates, steins, mugs, lamps, clocks, and even more cabinets of shakers. Another clock is train-shaped using old clock parts.

The master bedroom, painted in Sunwashed Green, has four cases of shakers, all with a Christmas/winter theme. An exquisite lighted angel in the room was a special gift from her sister, Joanne, and note the clever lighted scene in the corner with the bear to welcome visitors.

The lovely bathroom in Sweet Clay color is decorated with bears on shelves, and a special 25th anniversary plaque by Terry Redlin, whose museum they visited in Watertown, S.D. Bonnie called attention to the window shades - all pull-down accordion pleated with no cords.

Downstairs you have a choice. Half belongs to Bonnie's greeting card business - she has 7,000 rubber stamps lining the walls plus a wide assortment of cupboards and closets in which to store papers, envelopes, punches, ribbons, inks, scissors, embellishments - all for the beautiful greeting cards she makes and sells at many outlets.

There are only four to six cases of shakers in this area, which also includes a spare bedroom. The basement bathroom is Boyd's retreat - painted in Weathered Sandstone, it has the requisite train decos on every wall, nook and cranny.

But the other half - well, their front yard lets you know this is the home of Grab's Railyard! And what a place it is - one could spend all day here. We see seven levels of HO scale railroads, including 290 steam and diesel engines and over 900 cars. Boyd estimates he has 27,000 pieces in the handcrafted bridge girders overhead, which will be decorated with Christmas lights.

Almost everything in the display has been handmade by this talented gent - most foliage is made from burdock, goldenrod and weeds, scrunched and sprayed with hair spray, then paint; he makes all the curved bridges and tunnels, depots, windmills, television towers, much of the "cargo" on the freight cars, and any and all scenery.

Countless kits have been purchased and meticulously put together for the "places" that boggle one's mind. Boyd tells us that one depot had 900 pieces in it, and took 60 hours to complete, something not evident when you see the finished product. He will have an unfinished one on display. One can easily be convinced he can make anything, even using old soup cans and discarded Styrofoam. One can't begin to describe the innumerable scenes in the display - mountains, valleys, ponds, cemeteries, guardrails, a classic car show, an airport, a bp fuel terminal, a plane crash (!), Kruegel's Gas Co., a tractor repair shop, truck terminal, men roofing buildings - dozens of sights to entertain if you can pry your eyes away from the trains zipping by on the seven levels. There will even be Christmas trains to surprise you.

The walls exhibit more of Boyd's artwork, and he pointed out blinking signal lights, a wall telephone shaped like a train engine, and lighted lanterns hanging about. There is one wall of cases of train engines and cars, and more stored below. A 211-piece collection of die cast miniature pencil sharpeners show off many different types. He says he started working on the train display in 1987, and has probably entertained over 600 school children; in fact a class just had a recent tour. The train exhibit is awesome, to say the least, and one has to see it to believe it.

It is noteworthy to credit Boyd, who makes the wooden and glass cases on all the walls, not only for the multitude of salt and pepper shakers, but he also made all the basement shelving for Bonnie's stamping supplies.

Enjoy a tour with this talented couple, who graciously share their time and talent with eager visitors.