Christmas rolls in on a train

By Frank Lewis

November 30, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Christopher Piccolo, II, is five years old, but he’s already a railroad veteran, model railroad that is. Christopher spent the day Friday between his Grandfather, Mike Evans, and friend Dave Bauer helping them set up their model train displays for the Winter Wonderland Train Show today and Sunday at the SOMC Friends Center on 18th Street in Portsmouth.

“He has been crawling under the tables and helping to hook up the wires,” Evans said.

Evans said he enjoys having his grandson with him during the annual event.

“It’s fun working with my grandson, because I have a setup at home, and he goes up there (to the attic) and he knows how to put them on. He just loves model trains like I do and the people here who are doing this,” Evans said. “He is just into it, and when I come home from work, I’ll find him in the attic playing with the trains.”

Chairman of the event, Mark Harris of True Value, said this year’s show is probably as big as the event has ever been.

“We’ve got about 14 or 15 here again,” Harris said. “It’s all local people. There’s a couple of father and son team, some grandpa and grandson teams, and it’s a great show for people to come and just watch things run.”

Harris said he does not have a lot of items for sale this year except for some items from people who are retiring from the hobby want to sell their loot.

“SOMC has their food booth here, and they’ll have food both days, Saturday and Sunday,” Harris said. “It’s 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday.”

Harris said some of the participants have expanded their layouts which will fill the space left by two of the people who are out sick this year.

At 84, Jim West is the oldest participant, with two setups on display.

“I had trains when I was a small child, then, I actually started in model railroading about 1946,” West said. “I’ve been going at it ever since also may be because I worked for the railroad for 40 years. But I have always been fascinated with model railroads since I was a kid.”

Nearly all sizes of trains can been seen at the event, including “S” scale that West has on display.

“‘S’ is sort of between ‘O’ gauge and ‘HO’ gauge,” West said. “I’ve got a new church this year, which is ‘O’ gauge and I’ve got ‘N’ gauge beside it here.”

Dave Bauer was doing the intricate work of wiring his trains to their control system.

“My wife and I have been doing it for 32 years,” Bauer said. “We’ve been married 32 years. We have ‘O’ gauge. There’s a little combination of Williams ‘O’ gauge, Lionel ‘O’ gauge and Mike’s Train House ‘O’ gauge.”

In each of the setups it is easy to get lost in the scenery, from rural communities to towns to big cities, one is instantly transformed to the settings, and with a little imagination, they can, for a few moments, feel like life is simple and leisurely.

There is a direct tie-in with trains and Christmas. With Harris it began in the 40s when his grandfather was featured in the Daily Times with his scaled lay-out of New Boston.

“I think, if you look back, anytime you see photographs or pictures of Christmas, there’s always someone playing with a train set under the Christmas tree,” Harris said. “It has always been a tradition. We sell as many trains now. The economy has held things back some I think, but we still sell as many of each different size as we always have. There’s still a lot of people into it as a true hobby.”

Those involved in the show kept busy the entire day, going through detail after detail - trees, cars, houses and even people, being placed in exactly the right place to lend a touch of reality to the display.

“I enjoy watching the kids,” West said. “This is really a lot of work to get this done, but when you see the kids come in the door and their eyes light up, that’s what makes it worth it all.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.