PDT Staff Writer
The 31st annual Train Show is on track this weekend at the Southern Ohio Medical Center Life Center in Portsmouth.
The original show, many years ago, was hosted Dick Bonzo and Joe Knapp several years ago.
"They started this. I know they had it at McKinley School for years. I'm not sure if that was their first place or not," said Mark Harris, of Toy Town on Market Street, who acquired the show from Bonzo and Knapp several years ago.
Harris remembers his interest in trains was born with his grandfather, who had a complete replica of the Village of New Boston in the 1940s. His grandfather's set still rides through Harris' shop on Market Street.
Each year the show has grown and features 15 displays this year. This is also, sadly, the first year without Bonzo, who died on June 10, 2008.
Looking across the crowded showroom, people of all ages were enjoying the trains; some with tunnels, many with tiny buildings modeling a city, and others with toy rockets, merry-go-rounds and other fanciful displays. One setup had a camera on the train letting visitors watch a train's-eye view of the track on a nearby television, and a bright red button for eager children to blow the train's whistle.
Vendors also were at the show, and collectors were showing their railroad memorabilia.
"It's just a real good hobby. Kids, no matter what age, if you can get them started in it at 5 or 6 years old when they can start playing attention to what's going on, or start out with Thomas (the Tank Engine). It's just a good hobby that kids and their parents can do together. It's not all father and son. There's a lot of father and daughters in here too," Harris said.
There was also at least one brother and sister.
Jay and Breanna Stewart, of South Webster, each had a display at the show on Saturday. This is Jay's second year setting up for the show, and this year his display has grown to add a large expansion.
"I've add the extension. Just a simple oval with bigger curves for bigger engines," Jay said. "I don't like diesels too much; it's mainly the steam locomotives with all the moving parts."
Harris said part of the fun that train hobbyists have is watching their train set get bigger and bigger.
"I've always said, the most fun with it is building the layout. Once you get it built, you start thinking 'What can I do again?' and you tear it down and start over to make it bigger," Harris said.
Jay's sister, Breanna Stewart, had a train set also, but said her display was all about a different kind of horsepower.
"Whenever I was little, my brother wanted to come and I was dragged here and I was bored because it's just trains. Well, I didn't want so many kids to be like I was, so I built mine to be not just trains, but also about horses," Breanna said, as her train set circled the many horse fields and miniature figurines on her display.
Her entire display has a story, from the fisherman in the river to the abandoned shack next to the waterfall, and a tiny grave where she said one unfortunate driver was hit by the train.
Breanna said horses are her favorite animal, and said she enjoys riding her seven horses, but leaves the cleaning and care to her brother and their father.
The Train Show opened on Saturday, thrilling people from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The show will continue today (Sunday) at the Life Center in Portsmouth, from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $2 per person, and Harris said all of the money raised goes back to SOMC to help the hospital purchase heart monitors.