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Model trains of all shapes and sizes on display in Plano
File photos: Model trains and train layouts similar to these will be on display Saturday at a show sponsored by the North Texas Chapter of the Lone Star Division of the Train Collectors Association. The show will take place at the Holiday Inn Express at 700 East Central Parkway.
Train enthusiasts from across the state will descend on Plano this weekend to show off their collections and encourage more people to become active in model railroading.
The Train Collector Association has been in existence since 1954, and its North Texas Chapter is putting on a train show Saturday at the Holiday Inn Express in east Plano. The annual event features a variety of model train layouts, with train cars ranging in size from several inches to nearly two feet long.
"This is a show that is designed for families and model train enthusiasts who are looking for a fun outing," said Jon Regel, the chapter's vice president. "We have a gentleman from Houston coming up with a children's display that will be low to the ground and have buttons to press that activate the lights and control the train. Another one of our members who will have a display on hand is responsible for building the train features each Christmas at North Park. "
Train-related door prizes will be handed out every half hour, and attendees will have the opportunity to visit displays set up by local vendors.
Of the trains on display at the event, most will be the larger O Gauge, popularized by the Lionel Company. These large trains travel through high mountain peaks and dry arid deserts as they make their way across the layouts, many of which are more than 20-feet long. The size and scope of the display is limited only by the collector's imagination and pocket book, said Plano resident Bob Carter.
"Each layout is a little diorama of what you like, something that interests you," said Carter, who collected trains as a child before re-entering the hobby in 1979. "That is your little kingdom that you built. I try and keep a small layout at the house, but it is currently under construction. One thing they say about the train hobby is that your layout is never finished."
Regel, who lives in Frisco and has been collecting model trains for the past 15 years, said the chapter has about 110 members, some of whom are retired from the railroad industry. While many members have been collecting trains for decades, Regel said the group is always looking for new members.
The issue of recruiting new members to not only the North Texas Chapter, but also the hobby in general is something Carter takes seriously.
"All of the train clubs are experiencing the same problem, and that is trying to get youth involved in electric trains," Carter said. "As a result, we do anything we can to entice the kids since that is where the future is. I am in my 70s and the majority of the train collectors are in their mid-to-late 60s, so the only way to get the hobby to exist past us to get children involved."
The lack of interest in the hobby by younger generations can be at least partially attributed to the number of things currently vying for children's attention, Carter said.
"When I was growing up in the 40s and 50s, there was no television," he said. "What we did back then was play ball in the street, or spend time in the garage working on your train layout. The nice thing about model trains is that you learn a little about woodworking, electricity and mechanical work. It was a learning process, not just a playing process."
While technology improvements such as television and video games may have contributed to the lack of interest in train collecting, Carter said there is still hope.
"There is an interest still in electric trains, even though it is not like it used to be," he said. "Thomas the Tank Engine has been a godsend in creating interest in trains among youngsters. If there is a child that likes watching trains, bring them out and let them prowl, see, touch and feel the trains."
The Holiday Inn Express is located at 700 Central Parkway. The show lasts from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults or $9 per family.