Waiting for the Train to Come

Five-year-olds Liam Stewart, left, and Brandon Fisher stand on tiptoes to wait for the train go by during a model train show at the Pacific Eagles March 3. The big layout displayed by the Amtrak Railroad Club featured half a dozen trains running in both directions.

Patrons and model railroaders by the hundreds poured into the Pacific Eagles big hall March 3 for the Route 66 Model Railroad Club and Pacific Partnership model train show.

“Many of the people here are serious model railroaders,” said Bob Bober, who co-chaired the show with Ron Sansone.

“Some are here because they’re simply curious, but most are model train collectors and operators,” he explained.

Marty Glass and his fiancée Beverly Shoen each has the American Flyer train set their received as toddlers. For most of the year, the locomotives and cars sit on the secretary in the living room, but each Christmas Marty sets up the track around the Christmas tree and they run both American Flyers.

At the model train show, Marty was showing his S gauge engines, the larger models he fell in love with when he visited the Big Bend Model Railroad Club in 1990.

“I walked in there and saw them running and I just fell in love,” Glass said. “They’re larger and they look more real.”

He could only afford the engine so he went once a week to the club where he could run it on the club’s track. The Challenger also sits on the family secretary and runs on its own track around the Christmas tree.

The S gauge is a quarter-inch scale, Marty explained.

“That means every one-fourth inch of the model engine equals a foot for a real engine,” Glass said. “So if you have 25 quarter-inch sections of the model, the real engine will be 25 feet long.”

Marty has since gone into business building custom train layouts. He has built approximately 300 across the United States. He displayed a scrapbook of his finished sets at the show.

Across the aisle Rich Veatch, whose day job is selling pesticides and lawn seed to golf courses and pest control operators, was offering the top-of-the-line trains at the Pacific show. His big G gauge New York Central train had a price tag of $2,350, while the never-run Orient Express locomotive, two cars, track and transformer could be had for $2,150.

Veatch said it was almost a fluke that he found out about the Pacific show.

“I was in town selling chemicals when I saw the model train club building. I ran into Ron Sansone and he told me about the show,” Veatch said. “I need to sell some of my trains because my wife (Melody) says I have too many around the house.”

Some 40 model railroad dealers operated 70 tables in the show, according to Bober.

The Amtrak Model Railroad Club ran half-a-dozen trains around a loop layout that included towns, trestles, wooded hills, tunnels and bridges.

Buyers and lookers, estimated at 1,000 at the end of the show, came from all over the St. Louis area. Bober said the club used the funds provided by the Pacific Tourism Commission to strategically place newspaper ads in area newspapers.

“When I went up and asked the city tourism commission for money to advertise this event, I told them I’d bring a crowd to Pacific,” Bober said. “I hope someone tells them that their money was well spent in bringing people from outside the area to Pacific.”

Bober admitted he was “blown away” by the number of visitors who came.

“We were thinking that we’d draw between 300 and 400,” Bober said. “By noon some 700 people had already filed into the room.”

From the earliest visitors who waited outside for the doors to open at 10 a.m. it was evident that serious model railroaders were there, according to Bob Flora, who took six tables near the entrance.

“From the first people who walked up to the table, we were selling goods,” Flora said. “We’re having a very good show.”

Flora, who operates Flora’s Electric Trains in High Ridge, estimated that he had brought 2,000 cars, mostly HO gauge to the show. It took him three hours to set up his display but it was worth it.

“We’re having a very good day,” he said.

For people who just like to look at trains, two large model railroad layouts were set up.

The Jefferson County & Southern Model Train Club set up a 20- by 32-foot HO gauge with three trains running in both directions and a panoramic backdrop.

Bob Miller, club president, helped Bober and Sansone put the Pacific event together.

On a children’s height table, the Amtrak Model Train Club set up an 8- by 20-foot looped display that had half a dozen trains traveling through small towns, country landscapes and through tunnels under mountains. It was not unusual for three trains to pass each other in one location.

“People love their trains,” said Ed Smith, standing in front of the St. Louis Museum of Transportation booth inviting people to volunteer at the museum as conductors, tour guides, restoration or in the museum library.

Smith, who has been a museum volunteer for four years, started out in restoration.

“I went in there and did for nothing what I would never have done for pay,” Smith said. “It’s too dirty.

“But let me show you what we did in restoration,” said Smith, turning to a panel of photographs of restored engines and cars.

“Everyone likes their trains shiny and pretty. When they come to the museum they’re usually rusty and dirty. The restoration volunteers clean, sand and repaint and the finished product is worth it,” he said.

Funds raised by the show will be used to build a model train display in the Route 66 Railfan building at 100 E. St. Louis St.