Posted Online: Oct. 06, 2012, 10:36 pm

All aboard! Model-train lovers turn out for expo in R.I.

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By Dawn Neuses,

Photo: Dawn Neuses
Tri-County N-Scale Model Train Club members Ben Gifford and Ken Roehrs work on the club's display at The Great Train Expo. The two-day event began Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, and will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, at the QCCA Expo Center, Rock Island. The club's display represents five years of work and took three hours to set up for the show.
Photo: Dawn Neuses
Brian Gifford, Rock Island, Tri-County N-Scale Model Train Club member, adds to the club's display at The Great Train Expo. The two-day event began Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, and will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, at the QCCA Expo Center, Rock Island.
Photo: Dawn Neuses
Madison Knutsen, 11, gets taunted by her brother, Lucas Knutsen, 5, as he catches up to her while riding an antique amusement ride Saturday at The Great Train Expo. The ride was built in the 1950s and is probably the last one left in the United States, said operator and owner Bruce Williams, of Ohio. The train expo includes model trains and collectibles.
ROCK ISLAND -- The event offers a walk in the past for some, and for others, a chance to jump into something new.

The Great Train Expo opened Saturday at the QCCA Expo Center. The event features operating model railroads in different sizes and scales, workshops and demonstrations and dealers selling everything new and collectible related to model trains.

"A lot of people ask, 'How do you do stuff like this?'" said Ron Rahn, a member of the Tri-County N-Scale Model Train Club.

The model railroad the club had on display included an Amtrak train as well as a 70-car freight train that went through a different town or landscape every four feet. It took the club members, who live in Rock Island, Whiteside and Scott counties, five years to create the display and three hours to set it up at the expo, said member Ken Roehrs.

"We want to show people what they can do and what is possible," Mr. Rahn said. "It is a good pastime, and shows like this bring back memories to those who had model trains when they were kids."

Erica Dambacher, of Waverly, Ill., was selling engines and rolling stock, along with model buildings, trees, people and animals of every scale. She said model trains are a good winter hobby, and one in which people of all walks of life are involved -- from those who had model trains as children to "first starters," who are just getting into the hobby.

Rick Naylor, of Bettendorf, had a G-scale model railroad on display that included an Amtrak engine and three cars. He said model trains can be expensive, "You need a grandpa," he said with a laugh. "Or you can buy one piece at a time."

Moody Street Trains, a shop in Columbus, Ohio, was offering for sale postwar collectibles, including engines, cars and accessories built between 1945 and 1969. Allan Fenstermaker, of Moody Street Trains, said the collectibles were built "in a different era. They are more substantial, robust."

Those who attend the expo can experience the feeling of riding a train, as siblings Madison and Lucas Knutsen did.

The brother and sister from Clinton, Iowa, chased each other on "cars" around the track of an antique amusement ride. "Kids love it," said the ride owner and operator Bruce Williams, of Athens, Ohio.

"Children love watching trains, but many times they cannot touch them. On this, they can feel the vibration of the track, hear the clicky-clack," he said.

The ride is from the 1950s and may be the last one left, Mr. Williams said.

The Great Train Expo continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. Admission is $7 for adults, free for children 12 and younger. The QCCA Expo Center is at 2621 4th Ave., Rock Island.