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Trains still roll for some
Local model hobbyists glad to be withstanding onslaught of video games

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) November 26, 2012

For model train lovers like Gord Sylvester it was encouraging to see so many youngsters gathered around the railway displays at this past weekend's Red Deer Model Train and Hobby Show.

Thanks to the onslaught of video games, the number of youngsters who set up tracks and run trains in their basements is dwindling.

Sylvester, show organizer and owner of Fun Times Hobby and Cycle in Red Deer, has been selling model trains since 1991.

When he started in the business the average age of model railroaders was 43. It's now 64, and that's simply because there are too few newcomers to the hobby.

The number of youngsters building plastic models is also dropping, and slot car race tracks, which were once part of almost every boy's toy collection, have virtually disappeared.

Manufacturers have predicted that hobby shops will be gone within 20 years, he said.

"We're happy to break that trend."

The two-day show, in its third year, was begun to show the public, especially its younger members, what model railroading and plastic model building is all about.

"Without the show, it's out of sight, out of mind. They don't see the potential. They don't see the fun in it," said Sylvester.

Judging by the enthusiasm youngsters were showing for the elaborate model train display set up at the show at Westerner Park's Harvest Centre, there might have been a few converts by the end of the weekend.

"It's always cool to see kids get into it and families get into it," he said.

"Once you get started, it generally becomes a lifetime interest."

Patrick McCauley was at the show with his four boys and they walked out with their first train set.

"It's going to be fun to set up," said McCauley, who also has two daughters.

His boys have always been thrilled by trains, which they get to see a lot of on the tracks near their Ryley home.

"They're so excited. We've been preparing for this (show) all week. They even made a five-foot train out of Lego.

Vitaliy Chernenko loved to build plastic and wood models as a boy but he didn't come to trains as a hobby until he moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2004. Once he had a basement, he started building his tracks.

"Since I was a kid I was attracted to little details. I like to recreate things."

With HO-scale trains he can create models that move, he said.

Among the railway-related displays was a booth for the Forth Junction Heritage Society, which wants to create a transportation-themed tourist attraction in the Red Deer area.

President Paul Pettypiece said the group is working on lining up grants and matching funding for a feasibility study.

The show also featured a number of model builders, who were showcasing everything from Star Trek's USS Enterprise to Second World War tanks and fighter planes.

Another booth featured die-cast metal cranes and other heavy equipment.

       News article: Relic caboose gets new home (Red Deer Advocate May 2013)
       News article: Back yard model railway track okayed
(Red Deer Advocate Aug.2012)
       News article: Stay busy, stay young: Fred Freschette (Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       Feature article: 6060 turns 66 (Red Deer Express Sept.2010)
       News article: A work in two golden ages: Ernie Beskowiney (Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: New exhibits call Historical Village home (Innisfail Province May 2010)
       News article: 'Sleeper' village grand opening set
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)

Proposed Historical Miniature Rail Museum

 News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
World-class destination centre still in the works 11/13       Praise today's big dream 01/12       Forth Junction targets county 12/11 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
12/11        A volunteer on the right track 12/10        Tourism board supports rail project 10/10
Forth Junction rail project seeking charitable status
10/10        Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling 07/10        Railway heritage 06/10
New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer 02/10       Happy to hear more talk on large-scale attractions 02/10
One-time opportunity 02/10       Tourism proposal facing obstacles 02/10       World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands 02/10

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