AUGUSTA — Hobbyists and enthralled families stopped by the Maine State Cultural Building to take in model train setups as part of the Maine State Museum’s Model Railroad Celebration.

The event, hosted by members of the Maine 3-Railers Model Railroad Club, was open Friday and Saturday. Art Shean, a member of the 3-Railers, said construction of the two large models took about five hours between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

Shean said a crew of a dozen people set up two large model displays, one on each side of the atrium. Each setup had a number of buildings, including those modeled after breweries and other shops. One of the models featured a wintery carnival scene, with skiers and ice skaters moving alongside rotating carnival rides. The trains and buildings also had ties to Maine, including signs that said “Cianbro” and “Maine Yankee.” Shean said each display has a detailed set of blueprints for where each track is placed and where the decorations are set.

The club does more than 20 shows each year, Shean said, from special trade shows to demonstrations at libraries and senior homes. He said the hobby plays to all ages because it harkens back to a time when trains were more common, an era that older generations would remember fondly, and includes enough “eye candy” or shining lights and moving parts to attract children.

“You do get the seniors (who are interested in the models),” Shean said, adding that the trains and their accompanying scenes are made to mimic real life. “They can think back to when they were kids.”

As the carnival rides whirred around and the trains did their loops, grandparents, parents and children pointed excitedly at the models. Adults were taking photos and videos of the children being enthralled with the trains and encouraging the little ones to keep their fingers off of the active tracks.

Karl Rasche, of Waldoboro, visited the show with his grandson Ian Bolduc, 7. Rasche said he has dabbled with model trains, but lost interest in doing it himself while maintaining an appreciation for the hobby.

“I’m sort of a rail fan,” he said. “It takes me back to when I was younger.”

Bolduc and Rasche were standing by a logging train setup that included loading and unloading mechanisms for logs that children could control.

Rasche said he takes his grandson to a couple of shows each year just to get him out of the house and show him different hobbies. Bolduc said he liked seeing the decorations on the setups and was interested in seeing how the trains moved on their tracks.

“He’s a pretty smart kid and he’s fascinated by the way (the trains) move,” Rasche said of the 7-year-old.

Most of the trains were in common sizes, between 1/25th and 1/64th the size of a conventional train. Model trains can come in much smaller packages, however, all the way down to a scale of 1/900th the size.

Ron Czaja, of Bath, was displaying smaller-scale setups that fit in suitcases. He said he collects the smaller trains and brings them to the events because they elicit a strong reaction from attendees.

“It’s just shock and awe,” he said.

These trains, unlike the larger models, run on belts and are battery-powered. Czaja, a member of the Great Falls Model Railroad Club, said the small-scale trains are available to be ordered from companies in multiple countries, but come with a high cost for assembly and shipping. He said the technology is likely available to make trains even smaller than the seemingly microscopic ones on display Saturday but it would come with a cost.

Czaja joked that soon enough there may be a train set that fits within the face of a watch.


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