By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
Nine-year-old Alexander Holmes of Grove City stole the show at Buhl Model Train Society’s sixth annual display.
The crowd around Alex’s enormous Thomas the Tank Engine set-up in the middle of the Buhl Community Recreation Center gymnasium proved to be a popular attraction.
The Rev. David Davis, organizer and past president of the train society, said most of the people showing off their sets at the 30-exhibit show learned electrical skills setting up their train sets as kids, like Alex.
“He knows as much about trains as we do,” said Davis, of Mercer. “He’s passionate about it.”
Alex sat by his collection wearing his conductor hat bought at the Oil Creek-Titusville Railroad in Titusville.
He could be seen at times darting around his tables sharing his know-how of trains with passersby.
He talked about his trains with the confidence of a seasoned collector. He said with equal confidence that he would like to be a train conductor or airplane pilot when he grows up.
It was Alex’s second year in the model train show.
“The way I started in this show is a long story,” Alex said, explaining that he met Davis at the elementary school he attends with Davis’ granddaughter.
“He saw my extravagant display at our hobby show and sent me a letter to come to this show last year,” Alex said. “Then he invited me again this year.”
Alex got interested in model train sets way back at the age of 2. “I used to call them chug-a-chugs,” he said.
Alex’s dad Michael said his son “got hooked” on collecting trains the first time the family went to the live steam engine show with Thomas the Tank Engine in Stroudsburg, Pa.
“He gets them for birthdays and Christmas,” Holmes said. “And when he’s good.”
Alex went into the intricacies of his collection and talked about the Thomas the Tank Engine line of trains and the television shows.
“I like the show from the 1990s and the old train sets,” he said.
When asked if he had every car in the set, he came back with an immediate “no,” but said he has big plans for his continuing collection.
“I want to get the real Thomas engines next,” Alex said.
The “real” Thomas engines are O-gauge models, each with a price tag of $700 or more.
The O-scale model trains are about three times the size of the children’s Thomas the Tank Engine cars.
The larger models were the most popular featured in a lot of the other displays at the weekend show.
Davis said the Buhl Train Society formed after his wife asked him to take his trains to show to preschoolers at Buhl Recreation Center.
The first year saw about 750 people pass through the displays. In years following, about 1,100 people come in to see the intricate train sets.
In addition to the train sets people have collected over the years, most are running their original train sets that are 50-to-60 years old, Davis said.
“We’re here mainly to provide nice, family fun for the area,” Davis said. “I think it sparks a lot of interest in the community.”