Locomotive by locomotive coupled to special-edition boxcars, the hobby of collecting model trains can add up to real-life big money.
Just ask Jake Galloway, 63, a retired high school teacher and son of a railroad telegraph operator, who after decades of collecting, figures he has $15,000 worth of model trains at home in Elmore.
That may seem an unbelievable sum to those who grew up to a single Lionel set circling their family Christmas tree.
But for the more devoted hobbyists yesterday at day two of the Toledo Model Train Show, plunking down a few thousand dollars over time is nothing to whistle about.
"I was just talking to a guy a couple minutes ago and he has $30,000 of trains," said Mr. Galloway, who sold some of his spare train cars from a booth inside the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee.
Sponsored by Friends of Toledo Model Railroaders, the thrice-annual show has gone on for more than 30 years.
The two-day winter show is the most well-attended of the series, typically drawing between 4,000 to 5,000 paying visitors, organizer Alan Mitchell said.
Some exhibitors said that while fewer vendors appeared to be in attendance than in the past, the crowds still seemed strong. The show was at its busiest early Saturday morning, when hard-core hobbyists are usually the first to arrive.
"First thing in the morning, they're lined up outside that door, slobber just running down their face," Mr. Galloway joked.
The show offered opportunities to buy new equipment as well as to watch model trains in action.
"The merchandise is not moving," said Jim McNamara, 56, a hobbyist from Manchester, Mich., who had four tables of cars and locomotives for sale.
Yet for all the early excitement, some vendors said the weekend's sales were slower than past years.
A half-dozen displays were up and running, complete with miniature villages, tunnels, and foliage.
Not everyone was a veteran collector; plenty of casual train admirers were in the crowd, along with a few budding devotees.
As one locomotive roared and blew artificial smoke, it drew the attention of three young children belonging to Aaron and Kristy Dieter of Maumee.
Mr. Dieter explained how their youngest, 2-year-old Jack Dieter, is already a big train fan, and received a train set for Christmas.
The train show turned out to be a real treat for him, Mr. Dieter said: "He really wanted to come."
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