Hundreds of model train collectors and enthusiasts converged at the historic Zephyrhills Depot Museum, 39110 South Ave., over the weekend to attend the Zephyrhills Model Train Show & Swap Meet.
The restored 1927 Atlantic Coast Line railroad depot has been hosting the event every other year (on odd years) for the past decade.
The show, known as the ‘Biggest Little Train Show in Florida,’ attracted numerous vendors dealing in predominately HO scale and N scale trains.
The Zephyrhills Trainmen Association — a volunteer, five-member group of train buffs — has organized the show since its inception.
The centerpiece of the show is a 8-foot by 17-foot interactive HO scale layout, built and maintained by the Trainmen, which is on permanent display at the museum.
One of the four train systems speeding along the tracks inside this impressive display is rigged with a tiny camera that broadcasts onto a television, allowing the user to enjoy the ride, as if they were the engineer.
All of the buildings in the display are to scale, and many represent actual buildings, landmarks and businesses in Zephyrhills.
Years ago, several of these businesses paid to have their replicas professionally made, but the most enduring are the ones that were constructed by members of a bygone era, who have since passed away.
Maintaining a large layout is a group effort.
Trainmen member Bill Craven, a snowbird from Albany who lives part-time in Zephyrhills, appreciates what each member has to offer.
“Different men in the group have different skills, each guy is good at something. We have an electrician, we have a guy that could put new paved roads down, another guy knows computer-driven design. I’m good at the landscaping, making sure that the trees are in top shape,” Craven said.
Operating on a shoe-string budget, the Trainmen, who belong to the nonprofit organization Main Street Zephyrhills Inc., rely heavily on donations from estates, and in exchange, the donors can receive a tax benefit.
Estates often will donate model train collections because the surviving family does not have any interest in the hobby, or the collection may take up too much space. Many people donate to keep the history alive and to give their trains new life, for another generation to appreciate.
The group spends the two years in-between the shows collecting donations, taking inventory, and doing any necessary repairs and cleaning to prep them for the next sale.
In addition to the Trainmen’s offerings, there were several local vendors on hand selling everything from antique pieces, individual cars and full sets, to starter sets for those that are just beginning their journey in the hobby of model trains.
By Christine Holtzman
Published March 20, 2019
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