May 23, 2024
  • 3:18 pm Several area seniors receive AgTexas scholarships
  • 3:17 pm 8 area students receive Five Area Connect Scholarships
  • 3:14 pm Muleshoe City Council considers childcare facility tax exemption
  • 3:14 pm This is what the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge Expansion means for landowners
  • 3:13 pm Muleshoe Art Association holds last meeting of the year

Less is heard about trains these days, particularly since the homegoing of 

Johnny Cash. He always loved train songs. Accounts of a single railroad car are 

even rarer, despite the jump start provided in 1930 by “The Little Engine That 

Could,” a children’s book. 

This piece about Christmas centers on a single 1950-model dormitory lounge car 

which trailed behind the Santa Fe Super Chief for several decades before it was 

idled in Lake Charles, LA. 

That’s where the late Donald Rassmussen found it 26 years ago. He was known as 

the “quiet founder” of ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network). A 

lifelong entrepreneur, he spent several years in Brownwood, relocating the 

railcar to a remote area where Camp Bowie was operative during World War II…. 

***** 

No doubt residents scratched their heads in wonderment about someone laying 

track for one railcar, not to mention paying the freight bill. Today, its 

location is still remote, opening as the “Classic Car Diner” after a year’s 

renovation. It’s a virtual rural setting, with only the junior high school and a 

scattering of industries, homes and apartments in the neighborhood. 

In 2004, Kim Bruton noticed online that the diner was for sale. Weary of the 

corporate world, she and her then husband decided to buy it. They moved from the 

Metroplex to Brownwood with sons ages one, two and five. She has operated it 

since that time, naming it “The Runaway Train”. She was divorced in 2006, and in 

2009, married firefighter Brent Bruton, who is in partnership with her in real 

estate ventures. Together, they have five sons, all of whom grew up in the café 

environment. 

Kim credits customers with much, including her becoming a Christian in 2008…. 

***** 

On Christmas Day, 2010, seasonal magic began. Kim and the boys noticed that a 

frequent visitor always walked to the diner. He didn’t own an automobile, and 

was on their hearts when it was decided to serve free meals on Christmas Day, 

1-3 p.m. The walker–and several other patrons–showed up, responding to a 

homemade sign on the front door. 

“It was a joyous experience, one we have repeated annually,” Kim said. Crowds 

grew, with 300 or so now claiming free chili Frito pie and ice cream. Many who 

previously were “partakers” now are “giver-outers.” 

Count her and her family among those believing that it is more blessed to give 

than receive…. 

***** 

Kim now focuses largely on “The Intermission Bookshop,” her charming bookstore 

downtown. It is housed in an old movie theater building. (Brownwood had eight 

downtown movie houses around 1950.)She’s turning over “train” management to son 

Zach, 19, with son Atticus, 18, alongside. Folks still flock to the diner that 

has original features, plus a 10-foot extension on one side for the kitchen. 

They’ve shortened operating hours since COVID. Customers still find their way to 

3600 Stephen F. Austin Blvd. “on purpose.” 

**Maintaining social distancing challenges, but patrons may dine in, grab food 

to go or sit at outdoor picnic tables, Christmas Day or whenever…. 

***** 

The community also has a Thanksgiving Feast each year for whoever wants to 

partake. It was introduced in 1983 by the late Ronald Gray, /Brownwood Bulletin/ 

publisher, and Harold Preston, Howard Payne University CFO. Ten years later, 

Bill Fishback, Preston’s successor, directed the event for 27 years. When he 

retired, Ron Keener, pastor of Northlake Community Church, took over. They’ve 

served some 60,000 meals–most of them at Howard Payne University–for the past 

38 years. Some 2,000 persons have been served annually for several years. Area 

residents and businesses underwrite feast food costs. 

Brownwood also has the Lehnis Railroad Museum. The city’s mantra is “feels like 

home.” And it does. 

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. God willing, I’ll begin 

my 21st year of weekly ramblings come February, hoping always to provide smiles…. 

***** 

Dr. Newbury was a longtime university president. He continues to write weekly 

and speak regularly throughout Texas.   

Don Newbury

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