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A red and white train on a track.

The Railroad Hobby Show largest railroad-themed trade show in America – Jeff Gross

by Jeff Gross, contributing writer

With the world returning to normal and 2023 is showing signs of optimism, the model train hobby is improving as well. This coming weekend the Amherst Railway Society will host their annual Model Railroad extravaganza at the Big E Expo Center in West Springfield Massachusetts. 

The Big E show is considered by thousands to be the Queen Mum of all train shows in the Northeast. There are four large buildings housing dealers and operating layouts by the hundreds. All the model trains scales are covered – from live steam to G Scale used in outdoor model railroads, Standard Gauge, which was Lionel, and Ives premium scale pre-WWII, O scale which has been popular since the 1910’s and is still growing today as a result of numerous improvements in digital control and various realistic design improvements in rail cars. HO scale is another popular scale due to the fact one can gets many trains in a small space. Then there is N scale which is currently the fastest growing scale due to its small size.  Many folks who live in apartments find this size very appealing. Last, but not least, is Z scale often referred to as micro trains.  These trains are very popular in Europe and found a niche in the American market as well. 

Looking to get into the hobby there are hundreds of ready to run sets in all scales available to purchase. Parents looking for some quality hobby/bonding time with your youngsters, this is the place to start. Getting into the hobby has no gender nor age limits. I encountered a few women in their 50s and 60s getting into the hobby as of late. Looks like book clubs or Marjong clubs may become a thing of the past. Model Railroading does indeed bring out the artist in all of us.

What is great about attending a model train show aside from all the sights and sounds is the fact that when one makes a purchase, they take the trains, scenery, and everything they need home with them on the spot. Many of the Internet buying issues are avoided.

Issues like “I’m sorry your item is out of stock”, receiving an item damaged or lost, (one can thoroughly inspect an item before purchase), and the risk of your credit card information being stolen is eliminated. Also important to many buyers is that what you purchased can be operated that very same night.

Model Train operators take note. Deluxe Materials sells a tracking cleaning solvent that is second to none. This cleaner removes all dirt and oils from track with just a pair of swipes. I have never in my 55 years of Model Railroading seen a cleaner work this well. Your track is now clean, but I bet your engine wheels are not. This cleaner also cleans the engine drive wheels easily. No more days of using a Dremel wire wheel to clean the wheels. Just a little track cleaner on a Q-tip and the grease and grime comes right off (sounds like a Mr. Clean commercial). Often times an engine that shows no sign of life when even the headlight doesn’t work, will power right up and take off using this cleaner. This is by no means an exaggeration. Don’t forget to clean the wheels on your rail cars as well. Deluxe Materials has a collection of products to assist those folks who enjoy crafting their own model railroad scenery, and DIY-ers.

Blackstone Valley DVD’s sells an excellent collection of DVDs entailing numerous railroads from around the country. Many Class 1 Railroads are videoed on DVD and Blu Ray. Many short line and tourist line are on film as well.  If you have young ones that are interested in trains, this is a great way to expand upon their interest. Give them a snack and fire up the DVD player and they can enjoy the sights and sounds of real railroading. It will give Mom and Dad a little quiet time as well.

Also, in the Young Building is a good friend, Bill Leminen. Bill has a large selection of Menard’s Specialty Trains. Menard’s offers unique buildings such as operating fire stations, operating Power Plants UFO scenes.  Menard’s also has a large grouping of nicely decorated rolling stock in a variety of colors. This writer bought 2 Tide detergents’ advertising cars from Bill last year and they are extremely colorful.  Bill will also have a variety of Lionel trains, Lionel Ready to Runs Sets and HO trains as well.

Crow River Products is a Rhode Island based company that has a vast array of detail parts and accessories in a variety of scales. This writer bought a pair of O scale detail parts from them last year and was very impressed with the precision that goes into the manufacturing of these pieces.  Want to have a very realistic Model Railroad? These highly detailed pieces from Crow River are just what you need. Crow River’s unique pieces make a model railroad come to life.

Lerro Productions has an excellent variety of prints of fine art he has painted. The prints come in either framed or unframed.  The framed prints are extremely fine crafted with high quality matting, an extra bonus that only Peter Lerro adds to his fine art.  This writer has one excellent framed Maine Central piece that is adorning his living room since the Amherst show of 2022.  If you are a wood working artist, he has unframed prints that are numbered and ready for framing. If one really wants to splurge, one can hire Peter to paint a landscape portrait of their favorite railroad scene. For details on that you will need to see Peter himself.

Another Peter owns New England Railroad and like all of the above, is in the Young building. Peter has quite the assortment of Mike’s Train House, Lionel, and Ready Made Trains for sale. For the Veterans out there, New England RR has a variety of military themed rolling stock. This writer acquired some fine USCG freight cars from Peter.  Yes, there is a little military bias there. Peter also has other advertising cars like this colorful Necco Wafer car.

Precious Escapes Photography has a beautiful collection of scenic Railroad photography. Various photos from around New England and also around the USA can be found in the owner “Bill’s” display.  Also, on display and for sale are a collection of various railroad drinking glasses and other railroadania to be had. Have a special Railroad place you would like photographed? Ask Bill I am sure he can accommodate you. This is just a small sampling of vendors in the Young building at the Big E expo center. 

Amherst has three other buildings filled with vendors and operating layouts and a children’s center in the Mallory building. Plan on a full day there. Hours are 9-5 pm Saturday and 10-5 pm Sunday. A full day will allow you to see most of the show. If you can swing the time, 2 days will allow you to see the entire show at a leisurely pace. Advice: If you see something you like, buy it as it may not be there if you wait to come back. Attendance ranges from 18,000-23,000. With so many internet companies laying off tens of thousands of employees, (there are allegations that now even eBay is in financial trouble) this is a great time to experience going to a train show or picking up where you left off. 

Discount Tickets using options 4 or 5 can be purchased at this link:   https://www.railroadhobbyshow.com/purchase-advance-tickets.php 

When you are in the Young building stop by the Blackstone video tables and say hello. We hope to see you there.

The Railroad Hobby Show is the largest railroad-themed trade show in America. The event occupies 400,000 square feet in four buildings on the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds.

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Jeffrey “Jeff” Gross spent 21 years as an Analytical Chemist at the USCG R&D Center in Groton, Connecticut, Woods Hole Laboratories, and Helix Technologies. Changing careers is a “great learning experience for everyone”, Jeff says, and I’m an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, a student of the sciences, and the world. The US holds too many wonders not to take a chance and explore them”.

Jeff is the Model Train and Railroad entrepreneur. Proud Golden Retriever owner. Ultra strong Second Amendment Advocate and Constitutionalist. “Determined seeker of the truth”.  Jeff is a RIFGPA Legislative and Legal Officer, Freshwater Chairman, NRA Liaison.

His subjects include Outdoors, Second Amendment, Model Railroading, and Whimsical.

He can be reached at: [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. John Bristow Deluxe Materials ltd Engalnd on January 26, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    Spot on Geoff ! We are on our way .