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Model Train Show in Muncie

By: Jill Clark

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in to the Delaware County Model Train Show in late February. I imagined a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine, train sets that are usually displayed at the mall, and overalls. What I found instead were people that were passionate about trains (playfully called ‘foamers’), unique collections in pristine condition, and stories about any aspect of rail you could imagine.

As I weaved throughout the tables lined to the edge with model train parts, books, and other memorabilia, I encountered some folks who were happy enough to share their stories with me.

One of my favorite people at the event was an older woman and her husband who collected the fine china served in the meal cars on various train lines. She had complete sets of beautiful, hand painted china that you couldn’t help but stare at. She told me how every year, she and her husband travel by train to their vacation spot. They always went somewhere new, and the train was the best way to get there. She piped in how trains nowadays serve all their food on paper plates, or throw it in a microwave in a styrofoam container.  She was proud of the china collection she had acquired, and it was truly a marvel to see.

Further along down the line, a man named Frank showed me his extensive collection of lapel pins, wax stamps, and Monon lanterns. All of the pins and wax seals were behind glass, all unique in their own way. He explained the process of creating a wax seal, as well as provided me with a brief history of some of the lapel pins in his collection. But what Frank was most proud of was his lantern collection. He pointed out the subtle differences they each had, as well as informed me of where he acquired the lanterns. He grinned from ear to ear during the entirety of our conversation.

In the next room, there were approximately 4 large model trains set up, all of them run by a crew in matching polo shirts. As I snapped pictures, one of the crew members tapped me on the shoulder to give me a rundown about the trains that were running on the track. He then proudly pointed to a little bridge construction scene that he happily informed me he had put together himself.

The Train Show was unlike anything I had ever experienced. There was the sense of community everywhere you looked in the room. People spoke to strangers as if they were old friends. These people have a passion, These are the kinds of people you would want to run into on the train.