By Frank Lewis
To some people, the Christmas season doesn’t really kick off until they see the colorful model train displays at the annual Winter Wonderland Train Show at the Friends Community Center in Portsmouth. That show is this weekend, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, and from 12 noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday. On Wednesday morning, participants were busy attempting to set up their train sets which include the complete train landscape and, in some cases, entire scaled communities including people, buildings, trees and more.
Some of those who display their trains are permanent fixtures at the event. One of those is octogenerian James West.
“I’ve been doing this since 1948,” West said. “I worked for the Norfolk and Western Railway. I started out as a messenger and I ended up as a supervisor and a yardmaster on the coal hump in the west yard in Portsmouth.”
West said assembling model train sets comes natural to him. Helped by his daughter, Jone Payton and son James West, Jr., West was flanked by two separate sets.
“This set I just started earlier this year and the one back here is about two or three years old,” West said. “It takes a full year and a lot of work to get one done. And the thing about model railroaders is, when you get one done, you tear it up and start over again.”
One of the organizers, Mark Harris, said the public is invited to enjoy the train displays, booths and accessories.
David James was another participant who was busy setting up his model train display. He began setting up when the event used to be held in the old McKinley Middle School building. He began with an H-O set.
“My son was probably 8 or so at that time and he’s 25 now,” James said. “He has helped out off and on.”
James wasn’t sure of the number of years he has been back displaying his trains, since he took several years off. Now he displays an O-scale set.
“I haven’t kept track, but I have been doing this for several years now. Since they moved over hear most recently, I have come down and set up with the rest of the guys,” James said. “I enjoy the people as they come through and watching the kids seeing the trains every year.”
Admission to the Train Show is $2 per person and free to children three years of age or younger.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.