The Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association began presenting an annual holiday exhibit in Seymour nearly a dozen years ago.
The stated purpose always has been about introducing model railroading to young children.
If the truth be known, the annual holiday show likely provides just as much enjoyment, if not more, for members of the locally-based organization.
“I like to watch their eyes when they walk up to the layout,” club member Thomas Niemeyer said Sunday during the 11th annual show at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour.
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“It’s fun,” he said.
The holiday exhibit also gives members, such as Niemeyer, a place to show off some of their hard work.
“I have about 500 to 600 hours of work in this,” he said of his N-gauge layout.
Club President Bob Bicknell said the purpose of the event, conducted every year since the club was organized in the summer of 2005, is to try to get the young interested in model railroading.
“It’s a fun hobby,” he said. “It’s also an expensive hobby.”
As part of the effort to get kids involved, the club gives away model train sets during the holiday show each year. More than 350 kids with their families attended this year’s show, conducted Saturday and Sunday.
Brad Blair of Seymour brought his son, Zeke Blair, 4, and daughter, Taylor Blair, 9, to the show for the second year in a row.
“He loves trains,” Brad said of his son. “It’s a neat show. I love to see these guys bring them out and set them all up.”
Taylor said she likes the train layouts.
“They all look so realistic,” she said. “I like the smaller ones. They look so close together like they could crash, but they don’t.”
Tiffany Wathen of North Vernon and her daughter, Molly Wathen, 8, weren’t at the library for the train show but decided to check them out anyway.
“I think they are cool,” Molly said, noting her favorite layout was a Christmas-themed one made with Legos.
Brenda Papin of Seymour brought her grandchildren, Laney Reinhart, 8, and Max Reinhart, 6.
Laney said she liked the Lego train that featured Santa Claus.
Papin said they try to come to the train show every year.
“She (Laney) won a train a couple of years ago,” Papin said. “It’s nice.”
Rylin Saylor, 4, of Seymour came to the show with her mother, Baylee Robertson.
“We came here to return movies, and she’s always been into trains,” Robertson said. “She has two trains at home.”
Bicknell said anyone interested in model trains may attend club meetings, which are from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour.
He said during the meetings, some club members operate trains, while others work on their trains and layouts, and there’s a lot of talking.
“We have 23 families, ranging in age from 77 down to a first-grader,” Bicknell said. “He’s not here today. He’s the grandson of one of our members.”
Members own and operate a variety of trains from the smallest (Z gauge) to the largest (O gauge).
For public exhibits, the club has developed four corners for an HO-gauge layout. Club members maintain smaller modules that can make the layout larger and be switched in and out and still provide a working layout. That serves as the club’s traveling layout and was 8-feet-by-23-feet for the holiday show.
All of those modules, including the corners, are updated and changed often.
“It’s changed from last year’s (layout), and next year, there will be some more modifications,” Bicknell said.
Other club members, such as Niemeyer, set up and operate smaller layouts at shows.
Niemeyer, a charter member of the club, said he had a model train when he was a kid.
“Then, for a long time, I didn’t, when I was trying to make a living,” Niemeyer said.
Niemeyer said model railroading is not a cheap hobby.
“But spread this out over 10 years, and it’s a lot cheaper than sitting on a corner stool (drinking a beer),” he said.
What: Meetings of the Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour
Information: Bob Bicknell at 812-521-3983