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Annual model train show attracts thousands, community members of all ages

November 14, 2022

The Lansing Model Railroad club hosted the annual Lansing Train Show at the MSU pavilion on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. 

Enthusiasts from across the state came to buy, sell and show off their trains to fellow hobbyists and dealers. Many sellers have followed the Lansing Train Show through its many locations across Lansing - passing off the history of the hobby to the young ones seeing it for the first time. 

On Sunday, November 13th, MSU’s Pavilion for Agriculture hosted Lansing Model Railroad Club’s, or LMRC, annual model train show and sale. 

The club has been hosting the show every November since it was established in 1955. Originally, the club and show operated in an out-of-use passenger train station in Lansing.

Kurt Wilson has been attending LMRC shows for more than a decade, ever since he revisited his childhood love of trains. He’s particularly interested in building complex layouts; at his home he has an O-scale layout that can run up to six trains at once.

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Organizers estimated that there were between 2,700 and 3,000 attendees. Most were either young children accompanied by parents, or older hobbyists who, like Wilson, had rediscovered their love of model trains as they aged.

“We get people that are a little later in life, late 30s or 40s,” LMRC president Tim Childs said. “Maybe they had an interest when they were younger, then things like going to college, getting a job, starting a family, all those things kind of got in the way. Now that they’ve got the time and the money they're getting back into the hobby.”

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Alan Vince laughed as he said he “needed an excuse to come to the train show,” so he borrowed his nephew for the day.

Leland Griffith, Vince’s “nine and a half” year old nephew, was mesmerized by the mechanics of the trains at his first train show.

Griffith said he was fascinated by all kinds of locomotion, and that he hoped to someday become an engineer designing full-size trains.

Bob Knight, an attendee who’s been repairing model trains for over 30 years, said that seeing the young children fascinated by the displays is reassuring, as it “shows that (his) hobby has a future.”

The show wasn’t just for those hoping to see the trains in action – it was also a marketplace, with almost 200 dealers selling and trading model-trains and scenery. Some dealers represented brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers, while others were simply individuals who sell and trade to grow their collections and get involved in the community.

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Terry Reese, who’s been a vendor at LMRC shows for seven years, said he loves searching for rare items, sometimes even spending years looking for specific components.

For Steve Johnson, a scenery specialist who’s been dealing at LMRC and Michigan Railroads Association shows for almost 10 years, models are a method of business.

“The biggest draw? Making money,” Johnson said.

Ryan Krengel, a first time dealer who builds in the obscure 1/64th S-scale, spends his days working on full-size operational trains. He’s a foreman of engines at Lake State Railway, and says that crossover between professional full-sized locomotion and hobbyist modeling is common.

“It's an odd hobby, it's interesting, it sort of gets into your blood,” Krengel said, “it’s all-encompassing, where I work at my job, and then it's also a hobby that I enjoy doing as well.”

Attendees had mixed answers on what first drew them to the hobby. Some found nostalgia in something they loved in childhood, parents and family members said they were able to connect with children and almost all were simply fascinated with the mechanics of a train.

“It's been said that the steam locomotive is one of the most fascinating machines ever built, because it's the only one with all its moving parts on the outside,” Childs said.

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