Model trains with miniature towns, bridges and tunnels are among the exhibits at the annual show. - Jamie Lusch

Kick off the holidays at the Rogue Valley Railroad Show

Model railroading has been marketed as "the world's greatest hobby." For those unfamiliar with the pastime, it's about building something extraordinary in miniature scale. But mostly, it's about trains.

Whether you loved trains as a child, still love them to this day or just want to see what all the fuss is about, the 30th annual Rogue Valley Railroad Show takes place Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 24-25, at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

All proceeds from the show go to benefit Medford's Railroad Park.

"The park has been open since 1981 free of charge to patrons thanks to the railroad show," said Tony Johnson, head of public relations for the show committee.

At the Railroad Park this year, 28,000 people visited for free and miniature train rides were given to more than 21,000 people.

"That's pretty good for being open only 14 Sundays a year," Johnson said.

This year's train show and swap meet is designed to expose the public to railroad history and the fun of the model railroad hobby. Attendees will be able to see operating model train layouts in all scales, historical railroad artifacts, model railroading "how-to" clinics, railroad video presentations and more. Vendors will be offering railroad-related items for sale and there will be hourly door prizes and a raffle.

"If it's railroad related, chances are it's in the prizes," Johnson said.

Raffle and door prizes include complete train kits to set up around Christmas trees, books, T-shirts, hats and a certificate to rent a train at the railroad park for two hours.

It seems Southern Oregon is the perfect place for model railroad enthusiasts.

"The Medford Railroad Park is unique. It's the only railroad park in the United States that has five separate nonprofit railroad groups that together operate the railroad park free of charge for the public," he said.

Those groups are Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club, Southern Oregon Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, Southern Oregon Live Steamers, Southwest Oregon Large Scale Trains, and the Morse Telegraph Club.

Johnson said there are three world-class manufacturers of model trains in Southern Oregon that help put the show on: Micro-Trains Line Co. in Talent, Kadee Quality Products in White City and Campbell Scale Models in Central Point.

The founders of Kadee Quality Products, Keith and Dale Edwards started the idea of the Medford railroad park in the late 1970s.

If you don't know anything about trains and you'd like to know, Johnson said it's a prime time to come out and learn, and a great way to kick off the holiday season.

"It's just a fun event to be around. It isn't like a car show where you have to know every nut and bolt, you can just come out, stroll around and have a good time for a couple hours. It's inexpensive and for a good cause," he said.

Art McKee, a 78-year-old train enthusiast from Prospect says this year's train show will be the 29th show he's attended, and the third year he's contributed an exhibit: an interactive switching puzzle where people get to drive the trains.

"It's something for kids to move around, they really have a lot of fun with it," Mckee said.

Since he's attended almost every show, he's seen it evolve over the years.

The first shows were really just displays, but with each year there are more displays, trains and vendors, he said.

Model railroading has been a hobby of his for close to 50 years now. He said the versatility of the hobby is part of what makes it so interesting.

"It depends on what the individual wants to do. Put the track up on the living room floor, run it and put it away. Some make a permanent layout, with scenery and buildings. It depends on the person's interest and how much time and effort they want to put into it," he said.

He helps out at the Railroad Park when they're open on the second and fourth Sundays of every month from April to October.

The show will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Medford Armory. Tickets cost $5 and $4 for seniors. Children 14 and younger can attend free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Call 535-7952.

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