By Frank Lewis
Mark Harris was beaming from ear to ear. The Winter Wonderland Train Show was only about half-an-hour long when the crowds showed up to see one of the Christmas season’s favorite events at the Friends Community Center in Portsmouth.
“People were outside before 10 (a.m.) o’clock waiting to come in,” Harris said. “That’s a pretty good indication and it could be because they want to get home to watch the game, but we’re going to pull the screen down so they can watch the game.”
Harris said the participation was perfect.
“There’s probably about 13 big layouts in here. There’s some smaller ones, so maybe 14-15 all together,” Harris said. “It’s about what we’ve had the last couple of years. There’s nobody new this year, we just don’t have the room. This kind of fills it up.”
Harris said the decision was made not to sell a lot of merchandise, because he wanted to focus on the children just being able to enjoy the displays.
No one was drawing more attention than Kyle Dunham, who had an enormous four-train display.
“My dad is a railroader on Norfolk Southern,” Dunham said. “He got me into this O-gauge and I started with it and away I went. Market Street Hardware is where I started too. I bought stuff from him. Then I went to train shows in Springfield, Dayton and that’s how it went.”
Harris had the history of the event down pat.
“They started this, Joe Knapp things the late 70s, which makes it almost 40 years,” Harris said. “The first show they had was up at the original Happy Hearts (now Vern Riffe School) school. Then they went to McKinley (Middle School), because Joe taught there. And they had it at McKinley until we started doing it here. It has been almost every year.”
Harris said there is a natural tie-in with Christmas and model trains.
“I think it is just the history of trains at Christmas,” Harris said. “It just seems like you go back and even in some of the old black and white movies you would see kids sitting under the Christmas tree playing with a train. That’s kind of what it was with me when I was a kid. There was always a train going under the tree.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.