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26th annual Holiday Train Show set for Thanksgiving weekend

By Staff | Nov 23, 2008



Last year, nearly 2,000 people visited the Scale Rails Holiday Train Show over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s an annual event looked forward to by young and old alike, and the tradition of being held over Thanksgiving weekend will continue in 2008.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 29, and Sunday, Nov. 30.

This year there will be a new location for the main show — the Araba Shrine Temple, located at 2010 Hanson St. in Fort Myers.

It’s actually a two-part event, with each visitor receiving a pass to the Scale Rails of Southwest Florida Clubhouse as well. The clubhouse, also known as The Depot, is located at 1262 Piney Rd., in North Fort Myers. Directions from the Shrine will be provided. There, children can operate a kid-friendly working layout, always a fun time, organizers said.

The cost to get into both events is $6 for adults $6, $2 teens and children and active duty military personnel (in uniform) free. There’s also free parking.

At the main show, there were be intricate and detailed operating layouts available for viewing, and another layout will be raffled off. There also will be a silent auction and numerous vendors. Collectors also will attend, and holiday sale items will be featured.

Scale Rails of Southwest Florida is a non-profit organization, and the annual event is the club’s biggest fund-raiser.

“It’s our principal source of revenue to pay for our building and support construction of layouts,” said Peter J. Gross, president of the Scale Rails. He said the organization offers the community an educational component funded by this event as well.

A big part of the educational effort is the popular series of model railroading clinics open to the public each year January through March. Held at The Depot, the clinics cover a range of model railroading subject matters, including kit building, electronic controls, scratch building techniques, locomotive maintenance and repair, resin casting, scenery and a range of DCC (Digital Command Control) topics.

“Many of our members were introduced to our club by attending these clinics,” said Gross. “Regardless of their skill level, people can come here and learn how to do model railroading.”

A new educational component was introduced this year. The group is working with local Boy Scouts on what are called T-Links.

“They’re modulars that connect up,” said Gross. “We hope this program grows and develops the interest of more and more scouts.”

Gross said one thing that happens each year when the show is announced is a flurry of phone calls about train collections, many locals who have had someone pass away in the family who owned model trains.

“When people call, we let them know we only accept donations, we don’t buy pieces,” Goss said. “We suggest they give them to children or grandchildren, or try to sell them, perhaps on eBay.”

Many members are from the north, and said those calls come because there, people store trains in basements and attics, a rarity in Florida.

“That’s really why we started this club,” said Gross of the roomy space they have at The Depot.

George Alexander is a member who hails from Pekin, Ill.

“I didn’t take this up until I retired,” he said. “The hobby has so many variations and you exercise your brain. That’s what keeps you young.”

One of the more experienced members, Stan Seeds, agrees. Seeds, by the way, is a Grand Master Model Railroader (GMMR). He is one of only five living people in the world who have earned that distinction, having all 11 certificates available for the National Model Railroad Association.

Club member Jim Edmier had fun this year adding specially made models of dump and concrete trucks to a display that bear the name of the company he ran for many years in Chicago, Edmier Concrete Products.

Edmier has organized the event for over a decade now.

“My favorite part is talking to all the people,” he said.

Edmier said he meets kids and adults equally enthusiastic about trains. “There’s also the dealers, the same ones come each year. It’s like old home week,” he said.

The Depot is open to the public when club members are there working on the layouts. That is every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from about 9:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., 12 months of the year (holidays excepted). They do not charge admission, but donations are appreciated.

For more information on the group, visit its Web site at www.ScaleRails.org. For membership information, call Gross 731-3645 or e-mail him at Peter@thepetergross.net.

For information on the show, call Jim Edmier at 731-0520.