Members of the Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association are preparing for their annual holiday model train exhibit.
This will be the 14th year for the display, designed to promote model railroading fun for all ages.
Club President Bob Bicknell was 6 or 7 when his grandmother gave him his first train set, which he still has in his possession. He said this was during post-war times in 1945 or 1946.
"I was offered $3,000 for that train set sight unseen, but I want to keep that in the family," Bicknell said during one of the club’s recent meetings. "I’ve got three boys, but only two of them are interested in the trains. The third son respects the hobby but is not interested in it."
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Bicknell pointed at one of the model train engines and explained they are high-priced toys. As for where to buy them, the trains and accessories can be found online, at train swap meets and also at some stores, like HobbyTown USA.
"There is a train show held in Indianapolis two or three times a year, and the big one is in December or January," Bicknell said. "It’s a big two-day show at the fairgrounds, and the dealers sell new and used merchandise there, too."
Bicknell said a majority of club members are in their 60s or 70s, so they are always looking for new members. They want to get the word out that model trains are a lot of fun and would like to get more kids interested in it.
The youngest member, Denver McQueen, 5, of Seymour, was at the recent meeting and proudly smiled as he held up the green Styrofoam scenery he and his father created together for the club.
Denver and his dad, Howie McQueen, attended one of the club’s open houses at the Jackson County Public Library last year, and Denver won a train set.
"We walked back around into the room when they were picking the winner, and they said Denver’s name," Howie said. "They invited us to one of the meetings, and so we started attending."
Howie accompanies Denver to the meetings to observe and also to be on hand in case his son needs assistance with his projects.
"We made some scenery out of this foam material and other items," Howie said. "We thought about getting some bears or something to go with it, just for fun."
Denver, who looked excited to be there, said he was happy to be in the club and likes the trains a lot.
Larry Simons, 14, of Seymour was working diligently on his choice of train set scenery.
"This is a kit I got at the club, and it’s all the things I need to build a community church for the display," Simons said. "I’ve been coming here for about eight months, and playing with the trains is what I like the best."
Across the table from Simons was Seymour resident Mike Burton, who was helping his 11-year-old grandson, Jeremiah Durham, build a water tower.
"I’ve been in the club for almost eight years now, and for Jeremiah, it has been about five," Burton said. "His favorite part is running the trains."
Dillon Cooper, 11, attends Graham Creek Elementary School in Jennings County. He travels to Seymour from North Vernon to attend the club meeting each week and has been attending for around nine months. His friend, Mercer Blubaugh, also is a member.
"Me and Mercer go to the same school, and one day, I saw him wearing a T-shirt, and so I asked if it was from his dad’s work or something. Then I saw the back," Cooper said. "I thought the train club sounded cool, so the next time he went to a meeting, I decided to go, too."
Blubaugh said he has been attending for a couple of years. He became interested in the model trains when he went to Kids Fest in Seymour about five years ago.
"I won a train set that day at Kids Fest and was given a card with the club information on it, but I didn’t go," Blubaugh said. "Then two years ago, we saw Bob in McDonald’s and stopped to talk to him, then realized he was the same guy I’d won the train set from."
Blubaugh said he and Cooper have their own area next to the model train track at the church where they can put their buildings.
Mercer’s sister, Caroline, 9, also was in attendance at the meeting along with their mother, Sara Blubaugh. The two of them were working on Caroline’s project together.
"I saw they were working on waterfall designs one time and saw my brother doing it and thought it might be nice if I could try to do that, too," Caroline said. "So far, it has been working out pretty good. We can either work on projects or we can just run the trains."
Caroline said she likes watching the trains go different speeds and has been working on building a horse and buggy with her mom. Her favorite part of being in the club is designing things.
The Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association is for anyone, male and female, and the current members range from ages 5 to 82.
Tom Niemeyer is the oldest member in the club at 82. He said he really enjoys being a part of the model train club.
"I’ve always been interested in trains, but I was working and didn’t have a lot of time for it until I retired," Niemeyer said. "I was at one of the first meetings they had, and they used to bring the wives to the meetings."
George Seip of North Vernon brings his wife, Dawn, to the meetings. The husband and wife team help with club activities and record the work sessions.
"I take the videos, and then Dawn will crop them. That way, we can use them for our open houses or to put on DVDs," Seip said. "We want to show portions of what we are doing in our classes, like they’re working on scenery today."
Before the meeting, Seip prepared the Styrofoam so everyone would start out with about the same size.
"We have the hot knives and small items for the scenery and are progressively going through a list of different projects, like laying tracks and wiring," Seip said. "One of the things they wanted to do next was buildings, and they’ve been doing quite well with it."
He said the members can take the scenery home when they’re finished if they want. For some of the kids, this is their first time using some of the materials, like cutting Styrofoam with hot knives.
"This is one reason we like to have parents attend the meetings with the kids," Seip said. "We bring everything they might need to work with and show them different avenues and materials and get creative."
The club’s annual Christmas show is Saturday and Sunday in the meeting room at the Jackson County Public Library, 303 W. Second St., Seymour.
The public is invited to come and see new model train modules and arrangements at no charge. There will be many operating model railroad layouts in different scales, including N, HO and Lego, during the show.
In addition, two train sets will be given away as door prizes, one each day at 3 p.m. Entrants must be ages 4 to 16 to be eligible and need to be present to win.
For the rest of the month, people can see a model railroad display in the library lobby. Library customers may check out railroading and model railroading books and movies, also available in the lobby.
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What: Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association’s holiday model train exhibit
When: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1:15 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jackson County Public Library, 303 W. Second St., Seymour
Who: All ages
Prizes: On both days, an HO model train will be given away at 3 p.m. You must be between the ages of 4 and 16 and be present to win.
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The Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association was founded in 2005 with the purpose of promoting model railroading fun in and around Seymour.
The group meets from 7 to 9 p.m. every Thursday for open work sessions in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour.
Bob Bicknell is president of the club.
For information, call 812-523-3173.