T.R. Moscaritolo, 9, helps sets up his family’s Lego train display Friday at the Rogue Valley Railroad Show at the Medford Armory. The show runs through Sunday. - Jamie Lusch

Train show tracks down enthusiasts

For Tony Johnson, it's not the madness of Black Friday, but rather a room packed with buzzing model trains that kicks off the Christmas season.

Johnson is the show host for the 34th Rogue Valley Railroad Show, which brings model train enthusiasts from across the region to the Medford Armory each Thanksgiving weekend.

"Each year has been a little better than the one before," Johnson said. "Last year, we had 5,000 people here during the two days."

The armory's floor is converted to a showroom for elaborate model train layouts.

The Rogue Valley is a model train hotspot, a place several world-renowned companies call home.

"We have model railroad companies and groups from Merlin to Ashland represented here," Johnson said.

Among them is Southern Oregon Model Engineers, represented by Loren Snyder, who spent Friday setting up a detailed mountain landscape for his trains.

Snyder makes by hand all the minute pieces of his track, including each of the tiny trees lining the tracks.

"I've made thousands of trees for this," he said.

The trees are made of pipe cleaners and each one is unique, giving the model a realistic feel that hardcore model train enthusiasts demand.

Model train engineers are famous for the dedication to authenticity, Johnson said.

"It's a passion, that's for sure," he said. "But it's also fun, or it wouldn't be a hobby."

Nine-year-old T.R. Moscaritolo impressed the room with his knowledge of train models. He walked up to one layout and immediately began naming each train that zoomed by.

"That's a U-50 Burlington Northern," he said.

T.R.'s dad was among those setting up for the event. Vinnie Moscaritolo's passion is Lego train sets, which are a colorful variant on the model train hobby.

"There's actually a term for it," Moscaritolo said. "It's called AFOL: Adult Fans of Legos."

The Moscaritolo family lugged 14 plastic totes crammed with untold thousands of Legos into the armory for their display.

Moscaritolo said the hobby provides a healthy outlet for his kids, allowing them to work with their hands building something instead of sitting in front of a television for hours on end playing video games.

"These things are pretty involved," he said. "There's a lot of detail."

Moscaritolo said train shows need to reach out to young hobbyists.

"Most of the people who are into this are older, so they need to get the younger generation involved so it will continue," he said.

In all, the show includes railroad models, exhibits, presentations and about 30 vendors, who sell and trade their wares. There also are swap meets, door prizes and a raffle. The show opens today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. Sunday hours will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $5, $4 for seniors and free for children 14 and younger. Children must be accompanied by adults.

The show helps raise money for Medford's Railroad Park. Call 541-890-8145 for more information.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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