The Grand Strand Model Railroaders need only two words for their second annual show: “All aboard!”
The club’s exhibition is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Lakewood Camping Resort Conference Center, on U.S. 17 Business, between Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.
Joe Corsetti of Carolina Forest, the club’s public relations officer, said the inaugural show last autumn at the conference center drew 1,500 patrons over two days.
“In the club, we love to share our knowledge,” Corsetti said. “It’s great to see people have a smile on their face and people relive their youth.”
He said one older woman told him how visiting the show reminded her of her childhood, and that her father, who had just passed away, would set up a family train set every Christmas.
“It’s a great hobby,” said Corsetti, noting that people never grow out of the fun of playing with model trains – year round, not just at Christmastime. He started “modeling trains” 30 years ago.
This Grand Strand train extravaganza resulted from Corsetti and three other club members who had vendor’s sales at the Cape Fear Model Railroad Society’s annual show in Wilmington, N.C.
“I’m driving home thinking, ‘Why can’t our club do this?’ ” he said.
After the Grand Strand club voted to proceed, Corsetti went to other regional shows, making stops in Savannah, Ga.; New Bern, N.C.; and back up to Wilmington. While meeting other host officials, scouting for ideas and explaining the Grand Strand group’s plans, Corsetti said one man seconded the motion instantly.
“He said it’s about time somebody’s doing something like this in Myrtle Beach,” Corsetti said.
Staging this show in October, when “the weather’s still good,” and before the Christmas shopping season heats up, makes for an ideal timetable, Corsetti said.
Ride starts in youth
Ed Sharrett of Myrtle Beach, the club’s president, joined soon after its founding a quarter-century ago. The ages of its 40 members range from 18 to 91, hailing from as far as Murrells Inlet and Brunswick County, N.C.
Sharrett said his father punched his ticket to model trains as a pastime. His dad had bought a train for Christmas 1941, soon after tying the knot.
“My mother about killed him,” Sharrett said of that moment seven years before his birth. “He put $1 down, and paid $1 a week.”
Sharrett said he carried his own interest in toy trains into adulthood, “but I put them away for a little bit while I was in the Air Force.”
While stationed in Turkey amid a 20-year career, which included assignments in 1976-77 and 1987-88 at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force base, Sharrett’s wife surprised him with a small, N-scale train set.
“It didn’t take up a lot of space,” the retired technical sergeant said.
He has since given his daughter’s family a big G-gauge train set when his grandson was born. It made an impression.
“He’ll sit there and watch the train go around and around,” Sharrett said.
Youth today are into model trains, he said, thanks to storybook characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine.
“Kids know Thomas,” Sharrett said. “My grandson’s into it.”
On a larger scale, the club tows a modular layout inside a 5-by-10-foot trailer designed like a “little red caboose” for visits across the area at schools and assisted living sites. Look for its return to the show this weekend.
Another display, about 4 square feet, lets children sit inside, like they’re driving a locomotive, sound a whistle, and play with a throttle made from an old shower handle.
“It was a big hit last year,” Sharrett said. “We got pictures of grandparents sitting in it with kids.”
Art in landscaping
Already packing boxes last week for the 2011 show, Sharrett said he plans to give about seven clinics to show the art of “weathering” landscapes in train sets. That will cover how to build fences and trees, and the tools needed to build train-set accessories and take care of them.
Riding in the countryside also inspires Sharrett. At the 2010 show, he shared a water tower he had modeled after a structure he photographed in Weldon, N.C.
“I saw it out of the blue,” he said, “probably 30 feet tall, and 40 feet in diameter.”
Vines had covered one side so Sharrett created his train-set piece to reflect that feature and showed the photo to illustrate comparisons to the real-life scenery. Having pictures also helps when “weathering mountains” and other settings, he said.
Corsetti and Sharrett both said how proceeds from their annual weekend shows go right into building up the clubhouse, which this past summer was moved into larger, more accessible quarters in the Myrtle Beach mall, near Briarcliffe Acres.
“It’s a constant work in progress,” Corsetti said, welcoming the public to stop in Mondays and Saturdays to see the building and expansion of model train layouts, including a running Lionel set.
The store site, like the Lakewood Conference Center, gives the club enough room to let the trains roll, and all on one floor.
Claude McSwain, director of conferences at Lakewood, said the club uses all of its 7,800 square feet for its show weekends.
“You’d be surprised how many adults are into model trains,” he said. “We have some people who stay on the campground that weekend just to see the train show.”
McSwain said a train show, like a doll show there last Saturday, and other regular events provide families opportunities to “have a ball” together.
“We’re looking to have more of these shows,” he said.
Trains touch Brookgreen
Corsetti said a visit by Robin Salmon, Brookgreen Gardens’ vice president for collections and curator of sculptures, at the 2010 train show led to an invitation to set up a train layout for Christmas last year.
“That gave us more publicity,” Corsetti said.
Salmon said so many people have had trains “under the tree” as a present or as part of the festive décor of the season.
Brookgreen sets up Christmas trees to depict different eras, such as pre-World War II, so a Lionel train model fits the décor perfectly.
Salmon named many reasons why trains enhance Brookgreen’s Christmastime displays. She said the father of Arthur Huntington, from the gardens’ founding family, built a fortune from helping plot the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 19th century.
Nostalgia for the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s also lays the track for model trains, along with their connection “to the theme of the songs of the season,” Salmon said.
Brookgreen staff already has collaborated on setting up train sets – including some borrowed from volunteers – for “Nights of a Thousand Candles,” which opens Dec. 2, and the “Signs of the Season in Art and History” exhibit Nov. 26-Jan. 2.
“The idea with our holiday exhibits,” Salmon said, “is we want to appeal to all ages of people, and of various backgrounds, and that trains sort of cover all those bases.”
If you go
What | Second annual Model Train Show
Who | Grand Strand Model Railroaders Inc.
When | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where | Lakewood Camping Resort Conference Center, 5901 S. Kings Highway, south of Myrtle Beach, between Myrtle Beach State Park and S.C. 544
How much | $5 ages 13 and older, $3 ages 6-12, and free ages 5 and younger
Information | 297-7162 or 293-4386
Also | See train displays again starting next week – 4-7 p.m. Mondays and 10-4 p.m. Saturdays – for free at the model train club’s site in Myrtle Beach mall, at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22, near Briarcliffe Acres, three doors from Bass Pro Shops
Gauges by the numbers
Gauge measures the width of a track, and scale compares the size difference in ratio between a model and the real article.
1:48 | The scale of O-gauge trains, with 11/4 inches between the rails, and produced by Lionel since 1915.
1.87 | Scale of HO gauge, 5/8 inches wide – exactly half the size of O gauge – and the most popular on the market.
1:160 | N gauge, the second most popular gauge after HO.
1:220 | Z, the latest gauge from Europe.
Source: Lionel (www.lionel.com)