TEMPLE — Train hobbyists and collectors climbed aboard an exhibit last week at the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum to share the history of the area on a miniature scale.
A special train show opened Tuesday after the Central Texas Area Model Railroaders spent hours setting up multiple train layouts in the Grand Lobby of the Santa Fe Depot.
“The history of Temple is the history of the railroad,” said Stephanie Long, museum director. “Model train layouts are a fun way to bring a bygone era to life.”
Five major train scales and a few minor scales are used with model trains. The Temple exhibit featured two different layouts, including the “O,” which is a 4-by-8-foot scale layout with eight push buttons where children can make the trains run, turn lights on in the cities, and work the accessories.
The “HO” layout with 40 feet of track also is in the exhibit.
“Thomas The Tank Engine,” a steam locomotive in children’s books and a television show, has brought popularity of trains back with kids, said Ron Miller of CentraMod. Thomas arrived in the Village of Sodor in 1915 and Miller said children will enjoy seeing some pieces of Thomas’ familiar hometown in the exhibit.
“There’s a good bit of scenery with the modules which includes some countryside with some buildings. It looks like most of Texas running through hills and small communities where something is happening,” Miller said.
“Trains still run on iron rails today just like they did in the 1800s and there are lots of similarities to then and now. The hobby of trains is something that you can pass down to kids and grandkids.”
Miller started his hobby of trains when he was in the sixth grade in 1967. Today, he has lost count of how many trains he has amassed.
“I’m over my head in trains. There’s no telling (how many have been collected),” Miller said.
Leo Mora of Fort Hood has been interested in trains since he was in Cub Scouts and saw an article in a 1971 issue of Boys Life magazine.
“The article was on HO railroading and I took it on myself to research the scale levels for a couple of years. But, it was really in 1997 when I saw a Lionel Train feature that what was sown in my life 20 years earlier was reawakened,” Mora said. “Now, everywhere we move, I set up a train in some way.”
Train modelers are often interested in specific aspects of the hobby like track planning, wood work, track laying, purchasing trains, creating scenery, and actually running the trains.
Mora said he likes to run the trains more than anything else.
“I am more of an operator than a collector. I like to bring it into the railroad yard with several tracks and assemble it as you would in a real world such as delivering goods. My trains have to have a purpose,” Mora said. “I got my first train set in the ’60s when I was 6 or 7. I do have an emotional attachment as do most guys my age still playing with trains. We have a tendency to reproduce in adulthood what was imprinted on our souls and pass it on as a legacy.”