WALLINGFORD — Scented steam from an electric train chugging its way around the track greeted visitors to the Classic Shows Model Railroad Show at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn on Sunday.
Dressed in the striped overalls of a train conductor, Riley Webb, 17, used a wireless controller to change the locomotive’s speed, detach the railcars and set off the horn.
“I just love the operation part ... you can build it yourself, not on a computer,” said Webb, who plans to study railroad engineering after he graduates from Bunnell High School in Stratford.
Ludwig Spinelli, show organizer, said many collectors are former railroad workers who worked at New Haven’s Union Station. Others are looking for a model similar to their own childhood train sets.
“It’s nostalgic childhood memories,” he said.
Spinelli, who has been organizing the show since 1980, estimated it usually attracts between 200 and 300 collectors and around 35 vendors. The next show is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Mark Tobias has a preference for the type of train he appreciates, evidenced by the bright colors splashed across his tables.
Many of his trains date back to before World War II, when manufacturers Lionel and American Flyer tended to create more flamboyant designs. After the war, the sets tended to be more realistic.
The occasional imperfection, a streak beneath a letter caused by a cracked paint stamp, can add value, as can rare designs.
“That’s the fun of the hobby ... looking for oddball things,” Tobias said. “There’s a million stories in this hobby.”
Wallingford resident Kevin Gerace was one of those men reliving childhood memories at the show. He’s hoping to get his own son, Jackson Gerace, 2, interested in the hobby.
“I used to have a whole setup with a town,” Gerace said.
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