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Holiday show brings out model train enthusiasts of all ages

By Staff | Nov 29, 2011

There were already lines around the block before doors even opened for the 28th Annual Holiday Train Show over Thanks-giving weekend in North Fort Myers and Fort Myers

Sponsored by Scale Rails of Southwest Florida, thousands of enthusiasts continued to make it a tradition to see the trains and learn about model railroading from local experts.

“It was an excellent show, and an excellent turnout, all weekend,” said organizer Jim Edmier.

Generations of families attended.

Six-year-old Evan Castner is a new model train enthusiast, after attending with local resident and grandmother Bonnie Sharpless.

“We love it – the show is great. He likes the big train layouts the best,” Sharpless said.

The non-profit Scale Rails group works for months on end for the annual event, said Edmier.

Not only did they host more than 100 vendors at the main Aruba Shrine location in Fort Myers, they also offered a tour of The Depot, the North Fort Myers-based headquarters for the group.

Vendors weren’t just there for the sales.

One moment sticks out for Edmier.

“We have a local vendor called Dan The Train Man (Dan Amoroso) from North Fort Myers. There was a little boy who only had a few dollars in his hand to buy one car – but couldn’t decide between two he really liked. So Dan gave him both and just said ‘Merry Christmas’ and the kid was thrilled,” Edmier said.

Other vendors offered memories.

Photographer John C. LaRue Jr. is a “railroad photographer” who had dramatic pictures taken over many years of trains, most he shot himself, others he purchased or traded to mass a massive collection of train photos.

“I started when I was 17 years old, and my favorite is as Oakfield, Maine, circa 1970 Shaw Electric Crane Company wrecker. I waited three hours to get that photo while they brought it in,” he said.

Many children attended with fathers, mothers and grandparents.

“A little boy named Nicolas Piantieri from Fort Myers who was 4-years-old actually won the raffle layout we do every year – he was just thrilled,” Edmier said.

Scale Rails of Southwest Florida is an 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 a fund-raiser to allow for free model railroading clinics from January through March. Look in upcoming weeks on their website – ScaleRails.org.

The Depot, the home of the Scale Rails ogranization, is now 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. It is located at located at 1262 Piney Road in North Fort Myers.