Trains a comin'
Jan 10, 2013 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Mike Dowell remembers watching trains travel through Bowling Green when he was a child.
"I've had an interest in trains all my life," he said. "My uncle was a model railroader."
He was delighted when his son showed an interest in the children's character Thomas the Tank Engine at age 2.
"That kind of stirred it all for me. It was a way to share something with him when he was young," Dowell said.
Although his son is more interested in riding and reading about trains than building models, Dowell has continued to enjoy them as president of the sHOw Modular Model Railroad Club of Southern Kentucky.
"It's a hobby that can appeal to a wide variety of people for a number of reasons," he said.
The club hopes to draw a lot of people with its 12th annual Train Show and Sale, which will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Historic RailPark and Train Museum. Admission is $2. More than 50 vendors will display trains and modeling of all scales, railroad memorabilia, books, art and other items. The RailPark will offer half off admission to the museum with paid admission.
The event "is a fundraiser for our group, assisting in maintaining and improving our permanent and traveling exhibits," said Kevin Comer, Bowling Green club event coordinator. "It draws a large crowd of train enthusiasts from several states and is considered to be one of the best shows in our region."
More than 500 people visit the show each year to see what the dealers have to offer, some from as far away as Cincinnati, Dowell said. Dealers have come from Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. The most popular sized models are HO and N scales, which are larger and allow for more realistic setups, and O scale, which is small and the size most people think of when train sets come to mind.
"People build models for different reasons. For some it's the memory of being a child, getting that train for Christmas and having it run around the Christmas tree," he said. "For some it's from seeing steam engines and wanting to run it on a miniature scale. For some it's about the history of the train."
Comer's son, Adam, 7, helped fuel his intrigue with trains in 2007. A friend suggested he join the club.
"It is one of the best things I've ever done. For the past five years, Adam and I have had the opportunity to make several really good friends that are among the most genuine and talented people you could ever find. There is no task that someone from this group could not accomplish if asked," Comer said. "We meet weekly for breakfast and help each other out with our individual pursuits as well as maintain the permanent museum layout at the Historic RailPark. We take our traveling modular train layout and exhibit it to a few events per year."
Adam is an integral part of the club. He researches and recognizes trains and is a bargain hunter when it comes to purchasing models and equipment, Comer said.
"For a year he's saved his money up. He's got a shopping list," he said. "He'll wheel and deal, too."
Using the knowledge that he has learned from the club, Adam uses professional equipment and photographs railroads. He researches and organizes information about the southcentral Kentucky railroads for the local chapter, Comer said.
"The Historic RailPark is our home away from home. We also enjoy photographing trains together, working on our home model layout and exploring historical areas," he said. "Many in our group share these same interests, and we are like a family."
The local club will celebrate its 20th anniversary in November and is always looking for members, Dowell said.
"We need people to help work on (the display) and learn about the railroad," he said.
Dowell hopes the group will eventually find a business to set up its modular layout for a couple of months so that members can work out the bugs in exchange for letting the public view it for free while they are shopping.
"Once or twice a year we find something and need to get it fixed. We don't have a lot of money to spend on it," he said. "We could open up on certain days and times and help bring shoppers to that store."
-- For more information, call 745-7317 or visit www.historicrailpark.com.
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