There will be plenty of choo-choo-ing in Nanaimo this weekend.
The 35th annual Nanaimo Model Railroad show takes place this Sunday, March 10, at Beban Park social centre. The event will feature more than 30 vendors, selling new and used model train-related items. Attendees will also be able to see fully operating and highly detailed model train sets and chat with experienced model train hobbyists.
Ken Rutherford, event founder and organizer, said there will be at least 30 vendors selling everything that model train hobbyists would expect to find at a model railroad show. He said the event is a great opportunity for people looking to get into the hobby and learn more about model trains.
“There are less and less hobby shops around that you can go to that deal with model railroading. So this event provides a venue for people who are interested in model railroading,” he said, adding that the event attracts vendors from all over the Island and Vancouver.
Although the first annual Nanaimo Model Railroad Show was held in 1984, the event’s roots trace a few years earlier. Rutherford, a member of a non-profit organization called the National Model Railroad Association, said the event first started out as a way for other members to meet each other.
“Myself and another fellow, decided that we would like to have an event to encourage other members of the association to get together and we had some clinics and display tables and the modellers could get together and meet each other and that kind of thing,” Rutherford said. “That was in 1982 in Beban Park. There was about 32 of us that attended that gathering, and the following year we did it again.”
Rutherford said in 1984 the event became public in an effort to attract more people to the hobby and join the National Model Railroad Association. He said model railroading offers something unique compared to other forms of models such as airplanes and ships.
“Somebody can build a ship model or an airplane model, but there is no animation to it,” Rutherford said. “Model railroads give you that animation.”
The model train hobby has changed a lot over the last three decades with more hobbyists focusing on modelling a specific era in history according to Rutherford, who said in the earlier days people were just as happy to watch a 1970s locomotive paired with a 1920s steam engine. He also said over the years of his event, he’s seen people come to his event as kids and return years later as adults, explaining that he doesn’t believe the hobby is dying.
“It’s definitely a continuing hobby,” he said. “I know some people have said they thought the hobby was dying, but around the world I think the internet has helped to a degree because you can go on YouTube and see lots of model railroading.”
However, after 35 years, this could be the last year the model railroad show takes place. Rutherford said this will be his final year organizing the event, adding that he’d like to see it continue, but with someone else at the helm.
“My health isn’t quite what it used to be,” he said. “If the modellers want to see this continue, someone needs to step up to the plate.”
The model train show runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Beban Park. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children. National Model Railroad Association members pay $3. For more information contact Rutherford at 250-724-4698.
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