It's a Southwest Florida Holiday tradition. For almost 30 years, local model train and railroading enthusiasts and master craftsmen of the art present a Holiday Train Show over Thanksgiving weekend.
Scale Rails of Southwest Florida will host its 27th Annual Holiday Train Show at the Araba Shrine Temple in Fort Myers, to draw enthusiasts from several local areas.
It is an event, organizers said, that allows for a fun, inexpensive outing and a Christmas shopping extravaganza, especially for those who remember how trains were an important part of their holiday memories.
The kids layout orgainzers will operate at The Depot as part of the Thanksgiving Weekend Train Show.
"The train show is fun for kids of all ages. It's an opportunity to see six operating layouts in multiple scales and do some Christmas shopping at the same time," said Peter Gross, president of the local organization.
"In this economy, it is not only something to do that is enjoyable at a reasonable price, but there are also dealers selling at reasonable prices compared to MSRP."
Vendor interest was big this year, officials report. Spaces sold out a week ago with over 100 tables. Specialty train vendors will sell a variety of items, including everything from model trains to stocking stuffers.
"The economy may be slower but I hear from e-Bay dealers that there is still a strong interest in trains," said Scale Rails member Alex Halberda.
There is always a raffle for one of the premiere layouts. The raffle layout this year is a 4-foot by 8-foot HO Scale, that Gross himself has been working on. Besides the trains, which are spectacular, it has little model people, cows, an operating turntable and more.
Another raffle prize will be a train gift basket, something Jim Edmier, who has been organizing the Thanksgiving weekend event for the last 10 years, said was incredibly popular last year.
"There will be numerous stocking stuffers that people can buy and make to their own train-themed basket," he said.
The items are not only electric, but wood and plastic items that fit handily into Christmas stockings.
This year he wants to stress bringing children to the event.
Since kids are free, he's inviting crafters and parents who just want an unique stocking stuffer to come on down.
"There will be many things for little kids this year," he said.
Little kids, by the way, can get to actually run a train as part of the show.
The event always includes a free pass to the Scale Rails Clubhouse, which is located in North Fort Myers. Directions are provided at the show, and kids delight in being able to actually run a train set there.
The officials provide a map to the clubhouse - which is named The Depot - which is open year-round to visitors.
The free pass to the Scale Rails Depot is to see the multi-level, HO scale model railroad depicting the trains of California and Colorado with multiple trains operating simultaneously. Children can operate the Thomas the Train HO scale model railroad.
During the year, The Depot is open Tuesday and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Araba Shrine Temple is located at 2010 Hanson St., one half block east of U.S. 41 in Fort Myers.
The cost of this Holiday Show is $6 for adults, $2 for teens and children under 12 and active duty military personnel free. It includes free admission to the Scale Rails Clubhouse.
Scale Rails of Southwest Florida is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging the art and craft of model railroading by preserving the history, science and technology of rail transportation.
For information on the show, call 731-0520.
For information on the organization, view ScaleRails.org. For membership information, call Gross 731-3645 or e-mail him at Peter@thepetergross.net.