Despite cancer battle, Springfield man fights to preserve children's train display

Published: Jul. 24, 2019 at 8:44 AM CDT
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A Springfield, Mo man known for his community volunteering and his backyard train display is battling a serious illness.

Despite fighting colon cancer, Bill Hickory is finding the time and energy to help fund and preserve a children's train display at The Library Station in north Springfield.

Bill Hickory is creator, designer and maintenance engineer of his own backyard garden railway too. Every building in every scene in his east Springfield backyard has a story.

But, if you take a quick glance these days, you'll see the trains are not running in Bill's backyard. The tracks need a little nurturing. And, it turns out, Bill needs extra care too.

"It's when the drugs start wearing off. That's when things go bad," explained Bill.

Weathered like his backyard barn by cancer, Bill had to dial back on the renovation work here and some of the volunteering he does at the Library Station.

"We couldn't have done it without him. Bill has been the guiding force to keeping this (train display) going," explained Youth Services Manager: Phyllis Davis with the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

Despite his own health battle, Bill worried about the Library Station's main train engine known as Big John. It's broke. So, he's joined a fundraiser to help buy a new engine and keep the train tracks up to date.

"This is one of our original engines. The reason why it's so expensive is there's a motor under each one of these things," says Bill.

Successful or not with the fundraiser, they love him so much here at the Library Station, they even named a bridge after Bill Hickory.

"I had this tumor about this big (motions) right in here," recalls Bill about his surgery and the tumor.

The cancer first sidetracked Bill last October. Now, he's rounding the bend about to get his 12th and final chemo treatment.

"They bring you that close (makes hand motion) to death (laughs)," Bill says,

When healthy again, Bill plans to get his backyard renovation going full steam ahead again.

"They can't say 100-percent. But, they're saying I think we licked this one," says Bill.

That fund Bill supports for the trains is part of a Help-A-Librarian project called, "Keep The Train Chugging." The link will be to the right of the screen on the web and at the bottom of this story on our apps.