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Scale Rails packs them in for model train show

By Staff | Mar 3, 2015

There was a line winding outside the Araba Shrine on Hanson Street in Fort Myers this weekend as the Scale Rails model train club hosted its 25th annual model train show to one of the largest crowds it has ever had.

More than 1,000 people, 125 vendors and numerous train displays crammed the auditorium, many of them coming well before the scheduled 10 a.m. start time. Before long, the parking lot was full.

Jim Morris, chairman of the train show, was very happy to see all the excitement.

“We’re a mad house. We have 120 tables, people have asked for more tables to sell their trains and we’re sold out,” Morris said. “It will be a record event and we’re happy people are enjoying themselves.”

The show featured finished displays made by Scale Rails, with one display, valued at more than $2,700 raffled off as a prize on Sunday.

Also there were vendors selling trains and accessories, such as cars, track and scenery to make your displays of all sizes, as well as non-train-themed items such as model cars, Barbies and T-shirts.

Those who bought tickets were also invited for a visit to the Scale Rails Depot on Piney Road in North Fort Myers, where they could see its 5,000-square-foot, triple-level display that fills nearly the entire building.

Some of the amazing scenery at the Depot comes courtesy of Jim Overman, who is a master designer and a lifelong train lover who works with highly advanced scenery kits that unbuilt are in the $300 range, much more if built.

“They are very intricate, from the stickers on the fences to the bird poop and pigeons on the roof,” Overman said. “This relaxes me.”

Overman said Scale Rails is a prototypical club, meaning it makes its designs using photos from the internet and other things to build a near-exact replica of places past and present.

The show was great fun for the whole family, as well as train enthusiasts. Greg McPhee, a model train lover since he was 8, liked what he saw.

“It’s a good turnout of vendors and patrons. I’ve been doing it for a long time, with breaks here and there,” McPhee said. “Model trains are a relaxing hobby that’s very expensive, but with eBay you can get anything you want.”

Henry Huang of Estero was a first time visitor who came with his wife and baby and thought it was great.

“It’s different than what I expected. I love trains but don’t have the space to set up a model layout,” Huang said. “I love the variety of trains and the history of it.”

Thomas Carberry, of South Fort Myers brought his two grandchildren, Nico, 5, and Christopher, 9, and said they couldn’t wait to get their hands on the trains.

“I just don’t want them to drop anything. The kids really like them. I do also, but not much. It’s for the grandkids,” Carberry said.