Model trains can capture the imagination of any age, from 7 to 77.

That’s why the Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association’s annual holiday train display at the Seymour Library is such a hit each year, attracting hundreds of young children and the young at heart.

Watching the little trains chug around and around the oval tracks kept 2-year-old Eli Boss of Crothersville happy and entertained. The little boy’s eyes lit up, and he smiled and giggled with excitement every time he heard a train whistle.

Club member Tom Niemeyer even let him press a button to make the train whistle blow.

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Eli is what his mother describes as “train crazy.”

“He likes anything that has to do with trains,” Kelly Boss said. “So we knew he would love this.”

It was their first time to see the display, which Eli’s grandmother, Georgiana Boss, heard about at the Crothersville Library, where she works.

“I’ve always thought it would be neat to come see,” she said. “I’m glad we did. It’s really something.”

Eli’s fascination and love for “choo-choos” started with the popular Thomas the Tank Engine, Kelly Boss said.

“He likes to see the smoke coming up and the sounds they make,” she said. “He’s getting a train table for Christmas.”

The highlight of this year’s display, set up for public viewing Saturday and Sunday, featured a large, four-table HO model with multiple tracks and scenes, assembled by several of the club’s members.

Some of the train cars were silver passenger cars, while others looked exactly like the freight haulers that can be seen rolling north through Seymour carrying new automobiles on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad line.

There also was a Christmas-themed Lego train set and a couple of smaller Z-scale models on display, including Niemeyer’s, which is an intricate layout featuring multiple levels and tracks that took hundreds of hours to build on his own, he said.

Those who didn’t get a chance to see the display during the weekend will have more opportunities during the next three months thanks to a partnership with Seymour Main Street.

Model trains and railroad history is the theme for Main Street’s next exhibit at the former Knights of Pythias building at 103 N. Chestnut St. in downtown Seymour. It is replacing the Silver Sandhills of Seymour exhibit, which ended last week, and will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Anyone interested in displaying their train memorabilia or volunteering to help with the exhibit may contact Main Street director Julie Huff at 317-696-2635.

Club President Bob Bicknell said most of the older members got involved in the hobby because they also have loved trains since they were young. Many, including Bicknell, still have their first train sets.

“The only difference between a child and an old man is the price of his toys,” Bicknell said jokingly.

Building model trains can be an expensive hobby, depending on how involved you want to be, he said.

Bicknell has an extensive collection featuring more than 300 HO engines, a complete Polar Express, around 20 Lionels and 30 other sets that remain in boxes.

“I just love collecting them,” he said.

The Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association has about 22 families involved and meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 333. S. Chestnut St., Seymour.

Every Thursday at 7 p.m., club members can meet at the church to work on their layouts together. The work sessions are also open to the public for anyone interested in learning more or getting involved in the club.

Gregg Surenkamp of Seymour has been a member since the club began and said the main reason he does it is “for the kids.”

“Their eyes just get really big, and it’s a lot of fun for us to see that excitement,” he said.

Surenkamp has passed the love of model trains down to his now grown son, Cody, who is helping set them up again in his dad’s basement.

Justin Fleetwood of Vallonia said model trains are a great hobby for any age because it helps develop and maintain so many useful skills.

“It teaches you planning and organization, attention to detail and creativity,” he said. “It’s something constructive to do, and with winter, it’s a great indoor activity.”

He has been a member of SIMRA for about six years.

“It’s just really rewarding to be a part of it,” he said.

Fleetwood said he also still has his first train set he received in elementary school.

“I’ve just expanded it,” he said.

At age 7, Jeremiah Durham is the club’s youngest member. He joined with his grandfather, Mike Burton.

“I had trains when I was young, but my kids were never into them,” Burton said. “I got them out of the garage, and he just loved them, so it’s something we love doing together.”

Being a part of the club and the holiday display lets them meet with other model train enthusiasts to share knowledge and ideas.

Jeremiah said he likes to help build the layouts, but his favorite part is “running them.”

If you go

What: Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association

Where: Meets in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour

When: Meetings are at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month and public open house work sessions are every Thursday at 7 p.m.

Information: Call Bob Bicknell at 812-523-3173

Pull Quote

“The only difference between a child and an old man is the price of his toys.”

Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association President Bob Bicknell on the appeal of the hobby to all ages.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.