Monday, April 18, 2011

Train show brings hundreds of model railroad enthusiasts to Windham

Norwich Bulletin: Train show brings hundreds of model railroad enthusiasts to Windham

Willimantic, Conn. — Hundreds of train enthusiasts and families wove their way through model train displays Sunday.

Though smaller than last year’s, Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum’s 18th annual train show at Windham High School was a success, said Mark Granville, the president of the railroad museum.

“Every year it gets a little smaller as fewer and fewer people come,” he said. “But the people who do come always enjoy it.”

At 24 by 32 feet, the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad’s set was among the largest. The individual links in each set are modular and created by members, they said.

“Some members tend to have certain railroads or certain eras that they emulate,” said member Bob Applegate, of Gales Ferry. For Applegate, who grew up near New Haven, it’s the New Haven Line.

The Willimantic train show is one of the larger fundraisers for the museum, Granville said. Each year, the show brings in 300 to 500 people, and about $2,000 for museum upkeep. But the buzz the show generates about the museum is priceless, he said.

Tom Cleveland, of North Stonington, said he made the drive in hopes of finding some new model trains for his collection.

A train collector for 25 years, Cleveland said the train show in Willimantic is one of the best, and only, places within a reasonable driving distance to buy models.

“I’m just checking to see what’s here,” he said, perusing through boxed sets of miniature freight cars and cabooses. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

Each year, Granville said, the crowd is largely split between collectors and train enthusiasts like Cleveland and families with small children in tow.

Adam Cote, of Mansfield, fit into the latter category.

“The kids like trains,” he said, moving 3-year-old Jasper from one arm to the other. In front of him, 5-year-old Amber and 10-year-old Levi looked curiously through clear plastic protecting the Mohegan Pequot display.

For Cote, seeing the model trains is about passing on tradition. His own interest in trains started from a young age, with stories from his grandfather, a train driver on the Central Vermont line, Cote said.

For now, his children’s interest in trains is somewhat more limited. They’ve seen smaller train displays in Chaplin, and at home, the family has wooden train sets, but no electric sets, Cote said.

“You never know though,” he said. “Maybe they’ll get into it.”

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