HUNTINGTON — For some people, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a model train chugging around the tree.
Luckily, Huntington is offering hundreds to choose from at the 62nd annual Model Railroad Show at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena’s Conference Center. The show features about 14 model train layouts and dozens of vendors selling new and used engines, cars, tracks and other memorabilia.
The show resumes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1. Tickets, which are good all weekend, are $6 for adults and $1 for children under 12.
The show, hosted by the Appalachian Model Railroad Society, is one of the oldest in the nation, said its vice president, Carl Miller. The show is important for the hobby’s enthusiasts because the nearest model railroad shop is in Scott Depot in Putnam County.
“This show makes it at least locally available,” Miller said. “There’s only one hobby shop within a 50-mile radius and it’s in Scott Depot. This gives everybody here locally an opportunity to get together if they have something to do with trains at all.”
Miller, a retired civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been building a model train countryside in his home for the past 40 years. Many of the society’s members don’t have the space to accommodate such a model set, so they resort to building “modules.”
Robert Osburn, of Ashland, is a member of the National Model Railroad Association in the mid-central region. Each member builds separate modules that, when brought together, can make up one larger track. When the members are attending a show, they put out a call for modules and make sure they have enough pieces to make one larger circuit.
It’s the latest trend in model railroading, he said.
“People think these trains are old-fashioned, but they are constantly changing,” Osburn said. “We actually have a router on the controller and we run them with an iPhone.”
Cyndi and John Shuman, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, began collecting Fisher-Price GeoTrax about 15 years ago. Ever since, they’ve been attending shows and going to libraries to set up their set pieces. Most of the model railroads at the show are not for touching, but not the GeoTrax, Cyndi Shuman said.
“We do appreciate parents telling children ‘no touch,’” she said.
“So my goal was to have (a display) kids could touch that they don’t even have to clean up after themselves. They can come and play as long as they want, and we will come pick it up Sunday.”
Miller said children are essential to keeping their hobby alive.
“Unfortunately we are competing with video games and all this other stuff. I think this hobby, whether it’s girls or boys, can give parents an opportunity to connect,” he said.
“You can make it as complicated and as simple as you want. You have artistry in it; you can paint and make buildings. If you progress when kids get old enough, you can get into electric and basic controls.”
The Appalachian Model Railroad Society meets at the Kyova Tri-State Mall in Ashland from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Anyone interested in the hobby is encouraged to attend.