Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Tower District says goodbye to Charlie of Tom’s Trains


Tom’s Trains owner Charlie Worstell shows off a holiday-themed train in this Bee file photo from 1998 by John Walker.

I’ve only interacted with Charlie Worstell, the owner of Tom’s Trains, a few times, but when I heard that he died earlier this month, I knew I had to do a story about him. He is what makes the Tower District so unique. He was a colorful character — a talkative, cantankerous, goofy, intellectual character.

With his passing June 8 of lung cancer, many people lost a longtime friend. Even if you didn’t know him, you may have seen him holding court and telling stories on the patio at the Revue Cafe. Or you drove past his store on Van Ness Avenue and saw the long-haired guy sitting out front in a chair, reading a book and smoking a cigarette. That was Charlie.

You can read the full story about him here.

But many of you knew him far better than me. What stories would you tell if you were writing this story? What will you remember most about him?

Responses to "Tower District says goodbye to Charlie of Tom’s Trains"

Joe Wirt says:

Charlie’s old Tom’s Trains shop on Hammond was crazy cool. And he took checks from a nutty high school kid, who’s still a train geek today.

–Joe Wirt, Sacramento (Kerman back then)

Craig Miller says:

It is still very hard to belleve that Charlie is not around. I still look for him at the Revue at morning coffee. He was a wonderful man who would often bake brownies or cookies and bring them into the Revue and share them with the whole crowd. He is sorely missed.

marcel says:

Some saw him as irascible but I thought Charlie was one of the sweetest guys I had ever met.

When I was a regular at the Revue we often joked about starting up the Vietnam War Re-enactment Society. “We have to import mud from there… because it smells different.” he would always insist.

His brand of “full contact storytelling” was really something to behold. Animated and always at full throttle.

I will miss him

John Masier says:

I admit I only knew Charlie by reputation and only now realize he was the Tom’s Trains guy- but I did have a particularly memorable encounter with him.

I live on Van Ness a couple blocks down from his shop. A few years ago they repaved the whole street from Olive to McKinley. Temporary signs went up a few days earlier, warning that the street would be closed on such and such day and that any parked cars would be towed. On the big day, I was walking past Tom’s Trains and there was Charlie looking dumbfoundedly at the freshly paved and very empty street. Although we’d never met, he turned to me with pleading eyes and said mournfully, “Where’s my car?” Being a random stranger, there really was no reason I should have known anything about it, but I think he knew I’d have an answer for him anyway. And I did, or at least a good guess. He then said he’d left the car there for a few days and had only entered and left the shop through the back door- he never saw the signs. When I walked away, he was still staring at the empty street and trying to figure out what to do next.

Cindy...Charlie's eldest niece... says:

My Uncle Charlie was dear to me, we had a special relationship, I was the eldest, he babysat me a lot when I was a child. He was fun and adoring with me! I am so fortunate to have had him in my life…

Robert Spickard says:

Lisa and I are really going to miss Charlie. She pointed out that I’d known Charlie longer then I’d known her and we’ve been together over 40 years! I met Charlie over at the old Cafe Midi on Maroa and Shaw. Don’t remember how we actually met, but I spent many evenings at his house talking about history and science fiction. Played paintball with him on one of the most bizarre teams ever fielded, (the Royal Patagonians!) I’d walk over from my store to his and we’d swap the newest book that each of us was reading. He’d planned to attend this year’s WesterCon, (Western Regional Science Fiction Convention to you non-geeks) but death kept him from that appointment. I plan to post a sign there, “Charlie should have been here!” We’re really going to miss him.

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