Concord resident Duncan Parker has been a busy man. Parker, who lives in Lake Shores Estates, is retired from AT&T as an electronics power technician support trouble-shooter.
He did not end up in this area in the conventional way. In 1967 he was living in Reno, Nev., when he saw an ad by International Telephone and Telegraph for an electronics technician for two-way radios in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. When hired, he and his wife, Carol, relocated to the Virgin Islands and lived for over 20 years on a sailboat in St. Thomas and St. Croix. They raised all four of their children on the boat.
In 1989, AT&T bought the company. "I became an AT&T employee overnight," said Parker, and begin his life in the southern states.
He retired in 1998 and was able to pursue his passion of steam engines full time.
Parker said they settled in Concord because they enjoyed coming here when some of their children had relocated. "We liked Concord and came back to the states periodically from the Islands to visit our children. Every time we came through we loved the area."
He has been building steam engines since 1986.
"I had an interest in trains since I was a little tyke. I grew up in Glendale, California, and as a kid was involved in trains with my father," said Parker. "He even had a kiddy railroad.
"I got away from it for awhile but I came back to it when I started building a little locomotive while I was still on the islands and I had handcrafted the engine from scratch," Parker said. The project took about 10 years.
The steam engines ride on a 7.5 inch gauge aluminum track and are anywhere from 20 inches to 22 inches high. "You can sit on them and ride, and we have different types of cars and replicas of actual full size cars. I sit on it and operate it. The tracks look like a regular rail and with wooden cross ties," said Parker. He has about 900 feet of track in his backyard that loops around his pond.
Parker's backyard is not open to the public, but he is a member of the Triad Live Steamers and is one of the founders of the Harrisburg Chapter.
"The club moved to Harrisburg and built a railroad in City Park off of Robinson Church Road. I take my trains over there and we run birthday parties and we have fun runs, part of the fun of it is just building the railroads" said Parker.
He goes to the Harrisburg Farmers market every Monday, starting around 3:30 p.m. Rides are free and done on a permanent track for people who visit the market.
Parker also creates radio-controlled planes and sailboats. "We have airplanes; fly the planes on floats of off Smith Lake. We have semi-regattas and sail on the lake across the street from me."
His son, Dolan, is a big part of what he does with the engines and tracks. Dolan is as hands-on as his dad and has been since he was a child. "Dolan does all three," said Parker, "but while I prefer the steam engines, he seems to prefer the aircraft."
Parker's favorite part is not flying the planes, riding the engine or launching the boat.
"What appeals to me is I love to build," said Parker. "I have built things from scratch and it's the challenge of constructing something from nothing, making plans and designing and fabricating it. Then the operation is next. I prefer building them.
"The challenge for me is the construction. Once it's done I move on."