SHARON – Gazing down at his late-father’s antique model train took George Gerhart back to a different era.
“It reminds me of when I was a boy,’’ Gerhart, a retired Sharon resident, said Saturday.
Gerhart's train was one of nearly two dozen displayed at the Buhl Model Train Society’s annual Holiday Train Show in Sharon.
He was among the hundreds who swarmed the free event at the Buhl Community Recreation Center. The train show also runs Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m.
Grown-folks made up most of the crowd, but many of them brought their children and grandchildren.
Among them were Conlin Songer, 7, of Hermitage, and his sister Aubrey, 9.
Conlin has been drawn to the hobby and has a model train layout beneath the family's Christmas tree.
"I like the way it sounds, and smokes its way around the tree,'' he said.
Aubrey helps him operate the train. "I like pushing the button to make the train go,'' she said.
Over the years, model trains have featured increasingly sophisticated computer technology. Real train sounds are recreated, such as the chug of a locomotive, along with a whistle or bell.
Society member Bob McFarland displayed his model train layout, based on the former Pennsylvania Railroad.
Visitors frequently asked McFarland about model locomotives that belch smoke, created by adding a tablet or liquid drops to the locomotive engine.
"They didn’t begin making smoking locomotives until after World War II,'' he said.
Today, roughly 75 percent of all model locomotives sold can pump out smoke by adding a tablet or liquid drops, McFarland said.
“You can get smoke that has a specific smell, like coal, diesel -- even frying bacon,’’ McFarland said with a laugh.
The Society has presented the Christmas show for more than 20 years. Like many other public events, it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
“I took a lot of flak for that,’’ Jonathan Wichter, the group’s president said. “But today there’s been so many people who have come up to us, thanking everyone for having the show this year.’’
Kateri Linn, of Hermitage, and her husband, Jeff, brought their children, Cascia, 11, and Donato, 6. All four family members were attracted to The Polar Express layout, partly based on the Christmas movie with the same name.
Kateri said the Holiday Train Show provides a relaxing family adventure. ”We come to it every year,’’ she said.