Four big buildings at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield will resemble Grand Central Terminal at rush hour the weekend of Jan. 27 and 28 as thousands of train enthusiasts crowd in for the Amherst Railway Society’s 50th Anniversary Railroad Hobby Show.
The show features more than 60 operating train layouts in every model train scale there is, and hundreds of vendors selling everything from the latest in model trains to old Lionel and American Flyer to books, photos, artwork and parts and supplies people use to complete train layouts, all spread out over more than nine acres.
There will even be a real steam locomotive on 150-feet of track that will be laid down on site.
“There are 426 exhibitors, and this is now the largest train show in North America,” says John Sacerdote of Bloomfield, the president of the nonprofit Amherst Railway Society and the man who has run the show for than a decade. “We expect about 25,000 people total.”
The hardcore train people tend to show up on Saturday. The Sunday crowd is a little thinner, making it easier for families to get around. Sacerdote says part of the Amherst Society’s goal is to get people interested in model trains, especially children.
“There are train rides, Maggie the Railroad Clown who lived on the Ringling Brothers train for three years, a 1,500-square-foot Lego layout and several layouts with more than five scale miles of track,” Sacerdote says.
The show attracts model train enthusiasts from across North America and Europe. There are also dozens of manufacturers of model train items, historical societies that focus on specific railroads, and how-to clinics. It fills four big buildings at the Eastern States: the Mallary complex, the Young building, the Stroh building and the Better Living Center.
The show began in a single room at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1968. It grew and grew until the society decided in 1982 to move the show to the New England building at the Eastern States Exposition grounds. In 1986, as a result of continued growth, the show was moved to the much-larger Better Living Center and has continued to expand.
Proceeds from the show are used to support railroad-related historical preservation efforts.
THE RAILROAD HOBBY SHOW is at the Eastern States Exposition, 1305 Memorial Ave. in West Springfield, Mass. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28. Tickets are $15 for adults, free for children 15 and younger accompanied by an adult. $5 parking. railroadhobbyshow.com