Model train collectors keep hobby on track
By DIANA NORTH
A love of trains large and small continues to draw residents of all ages to a local chapter of the Train Collectors Association.
Sometimes that love lasts a lifetime.
Clear Lake resident and Lone Star Division-Gulf Coast Chapter member Mike Lewis, 57, has been collecting model trains since he was 4.
Every Christmas, we had trains running around the tree or in our bedroom," remembered Lewis, who is U.S. operations manager for DPC Industries. I still have and operate the Lionel trains that I had in my childhood."
Lewis' collection includes O-gauge Lionel trains from before and after World War II.
I am very fond of the steam engines, as I like the action of the driving rods," he said. This is a fascination that goes back to my early experience with toy trains."
Lewis said he's been hunting for a Lionel 700E a rare, true-to-scale steam engine sold in the late 1930s to add to his collection.
Lionel Train Co. has been making the model trains ever since Joshua Lionel Cowen made the first electric trains in 1900.
Chapter president Carl Olson, 72, said his interest in model trains also began in childhood when Santa brought him his first Lionel O gauge passenger train. He still has it in its original box as well as collection of about 1,000 pieces.
He said playing and working with model trains when he was young helped him understand the nature of electricity and chemistry, as well as aspects of carpentry and painting.
Because of this, when I entered science classes in high school, I already had an understanding of much of what was being taught," said Olson, who retired after 30 years with Shell Oil Co. as a senior supplies specialist.
The local chapter has scheduled an open house on June 12 at the St. Paul's Episcopal Church parish hall, 7843 Park Place Blvd, Houston. The event will run from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include train layouts, refreshments, door prizes and a train raffle. Visitors will have the chance to buy, sell and trade trains.
Admission is $6 for adults and $9 for families. Children under 16 will be admitted free if accompanied by an adult and will get free goodies such as train-related buttons and hats.
Another event is scheduled for July 21 at the Hitchcock Public Library, 8005 Barry Ave., Hitchcock.
The free event will be 2-3 p.m. and is part of the library's "Catch the Reading Express" program. The collectors will bring their kid-oriented hands-on train layout.
Community outreach is a focus of the association, which is intent on introducing people to model trains, Olson said.
The national association was founded more than 50 years ago and is based in Strasburg, Pa.
The Gulf Coast Chapter, like other local chapters, host monthly meetings, which gives collectors a place to run and trade trains.
Membership requires sponsorship by two members, a $60 application fee and $35 in annual dues, which includes a subscription to National Headquarters News, a members-only publication.
Olson said the hobby of collecting trains helps people build bonds with each other.
The rarity of a piece will vary depending on the number of pieces made and the condition," Olson said. Putting this all together involves meeting and interacting with other collectors, which often results in lasting relationships with those people."
For more information, contact Olson at 281-277-7630 or Michelle Bradford at 713-269-8360.
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