Heritage Model Trains Article

Toy Model Train Show Delights Kids


This story is about Ken Sargeant, and like most enthusiasts of model trains, America’s fascination with train hobbies was dying. The national pastime needed fresh, younger faces. Therefore, Sargeant founded the Florida Citrus Model Train Society in 1999 and started hosting shows in middle and high schools, hoping children and teens would eventually replace the legions of middle-aged and older fans.


He believes the children are the lifeline of this hobby, and even his door prizes have to be won by 12 year olds or less. He also believes that the Train Shows are the best influence for young children to take up this hobby.


Typical Model Train Show


Referring to his toy train show inside Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School’s cafeteria, the event corralled more than 500 locomotive lovers, history buffs, toy collectors and their children to tables crammed with Lionel and Mike’s Train House models, spare parts and train sets included.


Copper sulfate electrically powered early telegraph machines. Telegraphs  also patched up train station arrival and departure problems by standardizing time. A conductor’s pocket watch was worthless because it couldn’t account for time zone shifts aboard West to East Coast trains, so Western Union transmitted telegraph messages to conductors with time updates.


Can you imagine how those dots and dashes replaced a conductor’s watch entirely? These small history lessons are part of the shows that Ken puts on.


As vendors along 12 tables sold passenger trains, decals, rusted metal spikes, and magazines there were displays from Operation Lifesaver, a train safety group, 35x15 foot toy train village. The whistle-stop mini-town featured tiny scale model cars, and pocket-sized gas stations, courthouses and malt shops.


Then George Baire does his thing… he toggles a switch on the village’s walk-around and the “Rio Grande” grinds to a halt; sound effects and all. He squirts a few drops of smoke fluid inside the model’s heater and sends it packing. He knows the next time it comes around, it will be hissing smoke. He has been running model trains since he got one under the Christmas tree at age 12.


This occasion also gave Peter Warrick, Plantation Hobby Train Store owner, reason to donate 2 Pennsylvania Flyer freight trains, worth $150 each, during the show as drawing prizes.


“This is a good, lifelong hobby and a great way to get kids started on metal train sets,” said Warrick. “These transformer tracks are what you’d call a starter set, perfect for beginners.”


When 2-year-old Scot McCoy won one of the sets, his grandfather  whooped and cheered, carrying his grandson onstage to collect his winnings. Scot hugged the train box with a mile-wide grin.


A new model train hobbyist was born.


All Aboard…….



Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains