Terry Goddard and his wife Cindy watched as a scale model train circumnavigated its scenic track during the Westminster Train Show at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, daughters Maeve, 7, and Natalie, 3, all taken in by the scene.

Terry Goddard said he collected model trains for years, but over time his interest slipped. It wasn't until recently when his mother sent him his old trains that his love of the hobby picked up steam. Cindy said her father also collected trains when she was growing up and they used to set up a small track around the Christmas tree during the holiday season.


They brought their children to the Agriculture Center Sunday, they said, to teach them about the hobby and tradition that has been a part of their families.

"We thought the kids would like it," Cindy said. "There's just something about Christmas and trains."

The Goddard's were just four visitors of more than 1,000 that came out on Sunday. With four rooms filled to capacity with nearly 200 tables and 87 vendors selling a variety of train-related memorabilia, and multiple functioning model trains, the Agriculture Center was bustling with excited children, avid collectors and train enthusiasts.

Another participant was Alex Chizmar, 14, who is a member of the Baltimore Area American Flyer Club. The club has a nearly 200 members, all train enthusiasts, who participate in shows throughout the greater Baltimore - Washington metropolitan area.

The Frederick resident said his father was an electrical engineer and the hobby was his passion. Since he was a child, Chizmar said, he also has been fascinated by model trains.

Mike Madeja, president of the Deer Park Lions Club, which organizes the annual show, said this is the 11th or 12th year of the event. Unlike some model train shows, the Westminster Train Show has remained consistent.

"While other train shows' attendance fluctuates, going up and down, we've stayed pretty much the same level because we draw from a very wide area," Madeja said.

The first year, the organization only used three rooms and didn't have nearly the number of vendors, but had almost 1,000 people attend, said Richard Liebno, founder of the Deer Park Lions Club. Since then, the event's organizers have expanded into a fourth room at the center and been able to increase the number of vendors.

The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Lions Club chapter, Liebno said. All proceeds from entrance fees, food sales and vendor registration fees go to the Lions' many service programs.

"All the money goes back to the community," he said.

They loan hospital equipment, collect used eyeglasses and hearing aids for recycling in third-world countries, participate in the state Adopt-A-Highway program, and volunteer weekly for non-profit organizations. The Lions also make monetary donations to the American Diabetes Association and the Lions Vision Research Foundation, which is committed to supporting low vision research and rehabilitation.

Model trains come in multiple sizes and all were available at the show, Liebno said.

Commonly called scales or gauges, model trains come in different sizes to increase their versatility and uses, Liebno said. Regardless of the gauge, they are exactly to scale of a full-size train. The smallest is called Z gauge and is 1:220 scale, while the largest is known as G scale and is 1:24 scale.

Liebno said he mostly collects O gauge trains, which are 1:48 scale.


He said his passion for model trains began when he was very young, and his father gave him a set for Christmas. He opened the box and immediately set it up under the tree. Since then, his love of the hobby has led him to grow his collection and he even worked for a model train company selling trains, putting on shows and publishing books.

One of the aspects of the show he enjoys most is seeing younger generations getting interested in the hobby.

"Seeing different generations and children is what we want [at the event]," Liebno said. "As vendors get older we need to get younger people involved."

The history of model trains goes back more than 100 years, long before his time, he said. The first model trains were created in the 1840s and were actually powered by steam. Unlike today's trains, they didn't run along a track. Instead, they would roll across the floor, giving them the name carpet railways. Electric trains weren't invented until the early 20th century and bore a crude likeness to the real thing. Over time, they have become far more realistic, Liebno said.

The collection of and enthusiasm for model trains is more than just a fun way to pass the time during the holidays, Chizmar said. A deep-seated appreciation for their involvement in the evolution of the country resides in many people and this is a way of ensuring their importance isn't forgotten, he said.

"Trains can do a lot, like hauling [freight], carrying passengers and have changed the world," Chizmar said.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or