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Track Construction Manager Is Great with Gourds

Dana Goss works on giant jack-o-lanterns at his home in Northfield, Minn. The RailWorks track construction manager carves multiple pumpkins every October to celebrate Halloween. Top photo courtesy of Dan Iverson/Northfield News.

RailWorks’ Dana Goss has carved out quite a name for himself. Each Halloween, the track construction manager has treated friends and neighbors to one-of-a-kind jack-o-lanterns that he’s spent hours intricately etching.

Monsters that appear to be ripping themselves out of orange orbs. Dragon-riding knights in aerial combat. Even the Headless Horseman. Over nearly three decades, Dana has carved an estimated 150 pumpkins and hand-cut thousands of cornstalks for display. It was while he and his family lived in California in the ’90s that they began spending every October transforming their yard into what Dana calls “a haunted corn labyrinth-graveyard.” Since 2001, they’ve carried out the tradition at their Northfield, Minn., home.

As with track projects, pumpkin-carving can mean careful planning and time-sensitive execution as a completion date nears. “You have to do whatever is necessary to make the deadline,” Dana says, “(the) same as installing a road crossing on a weekend closure.” He typically uses several weekends leading to Halloween to be certain everything is in order.

Dana says that on average, he whittles on two small, two medium and two jumbo pumpkins a season. The smaller, more detailed designs, “where I painstakingly cut miniscule pieces of skin out,” can be as time-consuming as larger models.

His heftiest challenge? A 750-lb. ogre, which took about 12 hours to draw onto the gourd’s surface, and another 32 hours to carve. “The meat was 7 inches thick. I built up some muscles gouging that one out.”

While it’s Dana who has a knack with a knife, he is quick to share creative credit with his wife, Marcy. “I could not make Halloween happen without her,” he says. “She’s my official jumbo-pumpkin scooper.”

After so much handiwork, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but Dana recalls having had fun hiding a mischievous image in a seek-and-find puzzle inspired by the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. “I carved a number of different items into the treasure hoard that my kids had to find, and the first one to find them all got a $50 prize.” After three days, daughter Molly located the final figure: the rear of a rat.