The Housatonic Model Railway Club's annual train show pulled into town again Sunday, giving children and adults the chance to discover -- and rediscover -- the magic of model trains.
"This is our 26th year doing the show," said Jeff Dean, president of the Fairfield-based club.
"This is basically a show to promote model railroading as a hobby -- for children, for teens ... for adults and for seniors," said John Valakas of Bridgeport, the club's membership chairman.
Two gymnasiums at Fairfield Ludlowe High School were filled with about 35 vendors and four separate model train layouts. Close to 1,000 visitors were expected throughout the day, invited to share in the fun, learn about the hobby and witness the marvel of scale-model collecting.
"I think it's amazing, when you think of all the time and creativity that goes into making this," said Susan Durham of Fairfield, who came with her two sons, Henry and Ethan.
"It's amazing how they did this," Henry said. "I just like the detail put into them."
"We're trying to keep it alive," he said. "It's getting challenging today. The kids have so many electronic distractions."
He said model trains make for an ideal hands-on hobby because it involves diverse fields like electronics, art, architecture and mathematical skills. "It encompasses so many different skills and so many different areas of learning," he said.
"You can be an engineer," said Valakas. "You can be an architect ... It's a great hobby.
He said everyone is invited, by appointment, to visit the club and see the new HO-scale layout in progress. "People are always welcome," he said, and can contact the club through its website, http://www.housatonicmr.org
Sunday's show was staged in conjunction with the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Starting around Thanksgiving, the club will set up a model RR layout for public viewing at the museum through the holiday season.
"My son, Julian, loves trains," said Alex Alcaraz of Fairfield. "He started with the Thomas trains, and we've started getting into more things."
"I like them a lot," Julian, 7, said. "They go so fast, or so slow. I enjoy it a lot."
For train shows, club members generally bring sections of track that they've designed and built. Then, at the event, all the sections are joined to create one giant layout.
"It makes a change from the layout at home," said John Kent of Westport, a member of the Valley N-Trak club, who attends many model train shows.
"It's an exchange of ideas and a little bit of socializing and relaxing," he said of the show.
"My favorite part of the hobby is the camaraderie," said Dean, who's been a member of the Housatonic Model Railway Club for 37 years. "I like model building. I like to run the trains. But the best part is ... the long-term friendships."