28th Annual Holiday Train Show Thanksgiving weekend
For decades, over Thanksgiving weekend, thousands make it a tradition to attend the Scale Rails of Southwest Florida Annual Holiday Train Show. About half are friends and model train enthusiasts who are like family, traveling in from all over, and the other half are new visitors who are interested in the hobby, holiday gift opportunities and creations of the local club.
The event takes place Saturday, Nov. 27, and Sunday, Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The train show is actually in two locations — with the main event, displays and vendors at Araba Shrine Temple in Fort Myers, and the second part a free tour of the North Fort Myers Scale Rail clubhouse.
The clubhouse is called The Depot, and is a hub of activity now prior to the annual event.
Scale Rails of Southwest Florida is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging the art and craft of model railroading by preserving the history, science and technology of rail transportation. The holiday show is the club’s biggest yearly event.
“I look forward to the train show every year,” said Scale Rails Board Chairman Dennis Little. “It’s an opportunity to see a lot of old friends and vendors that come to the show year after year. We put on the show to raise funds for our club and to provide an enjoyable opportunity to come see our work, our layouts and an opportunity to buy model railroad equipment from our vendors.”
“We also have 100+ tables for vendors with new and used model railroad equipment for all scales, gifts and more,” said Scale Rails President Peter J. Gross. “We’re also going to have a Lionel Christmas Display, an On30 layout, and an N scale layout that is 5 feet by 21 feet, a modular layout built to NTRAK Standards. It depicts the Tidewater Region, of Virginia and the Carolinas.”
For those that don’t understand train-speak, they are impressive works by some masters of the craft and hobby.
For many, these model trains speak of the nostalgia of trains on Christmas morning running around the tree, for others they are precision pieces, complex and fascinating. Children and adults both enjoy the show.
“Vendors do traditional gifts like locomotive, parts, kits for building structures and we also have Thomas The Train and Lionel items,” sad Gross. “We get visitors in from all over looking for trains, and give tours of our clubhouse three days a week. We’re also a designated 501c, a charitable organization and donations can be tax deductible.”
They said many have spouses who have passed away and donate train sets.
One of the big parts of the weekend is a raffle giveaway for a full model railroad layout.
“The raffle layout this year will be a 3-foot by 6-foot complete layout, ready to run, that includes locomotives, freight cars, complete scenery and a power supply,” said Scale Rail member Dwight Sedgwick. “Jim Morse will provide two of the layouts, the Christmas and the On30.”
They sold out their vendor spaces weeks ago, and have a waiting list.
Jim Edmier has been the chief organizer of the event for many years.
“This is the 11th train show I’ve been involved with,” Edmier said. “I got quite a bit of help from members, and at the show, of course all the members help with the show itself.”
While it is a lot of work, it is worth it, he said.
“It’s a tradition. number one, and we still have a mortgage to pay off at the clubhouse,” he said. “People can see what it is, what we have and it introduces a lot of people to our club. From that, we have been able to get some new members.”
There will be maps given to those who come to the main Shrine location for The Depot, where patrons can tour it for free, and a children’s display is run.
The Depot is open regularly three days a week — Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is no admission, but donations are accepted. They also offer everything-model-train clinics after the new year for several months.
The Araba Shrine Temple is located at 2010 Hanson Street, a half block east of Rt. 41 in Fort Myers.
The Depot is located at 1262 Piney Rd., in North Fort Myers.
The cost of this Holiday Show is $6 for adults, $2 for teens and children under 12 and active duty military personnel free. It includes free admission to the clubhouse.