Toy trains appeal to young and old

Two years ago, the Wichita Toy Train Club lost its lease at the Twin Lakes Shopping Center.

Since then, club members have put their collections in storage and have been looking for a permanent home so displays could be available year-round for the public to see.

They have yet to find anything.

On Sunday, some of those tiny trains were on display during the club's annual fundraiser train show and swap meet.

What is needed is a building with 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, said Jason Ingels, the club's president.

Some of the club's members are willing to buy or rent a building space, Ingels said, but the right building has yet to present itself.

"Right now, we are open to a lot of suggestions," Ingels said.

In the meantime, shows such as the one on Sunday help keep trains in the public eye.

James Jones kept his eyes on the trains Sunday.

The 8-year-old sported a train engineer's hat, a Wichita Toy Train Club T-shirt and sat cross-legged on the floor watching every miniature train as it chugged, whistled and belched smoke on tiny tracks past his eyes.

"They are pretty cool," the third-generation train enthusiast said. "We have a whole bunch of trains at home."

It's all about the details and the special effects of toy trains, James said.

There are scented fuel oils that can make some trains emit smoke that smells like Christmas trees, Grandpa's pipe and coal.

The Coors Light "Bullet" train has tiny doors that open showing off Lilliputian beer boxes.

And there are some sound effects, James said, that sound exactly like train wrecks.

"My dad has layouts in our basement and we go down there at night and play with them," he said.

That may be the biggest appeal about the toy train club — it's a family thing that often spans generations and genders, said Javen Schmucker of Newton, one of the club's most enthusiastic members and a board member.

For more than half a century, Schmucker has collected toy trains. He does it, in part, because his fascination with trains started at age 6 when his grandmother was a Santa Fe depot agent in Sylvia and his mother the agent in Abbyville.

That's when he got his first model train, and now, he said, he has lots of trains in his basement.

"I don't know how many I have," he said.

Schmucker collects, he said, mostly to watch children's faces light up at seeing small trains. He takes his trains on the road to shows.

"It takes a lot of work to haul these around but to see kids just fascinated by these trains is worth it," he said.

Sunday's show, held at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, served as a fundraiser for the local club, Ingels said.

The show attracted more than 40 vendors and had more than 105 tables at which people could buy, sell or trade trains and accessories.