The whistle blows as the massive locomotive slowly rounds the bend into town. As it chugs away through towns and countryside, everyone can feel the great force a train carries, as the ground rumbles just slightly at the incoming giant manmade machine. Considering the force it carries and the technology built within, it’s no wonder some people are fascinated by trains. It's fascinating how they work, the different models, and how trains have progressed over time. To celebrate the history of the train and get communities excited about the mechanical marvel, the Elkader Depot Project hosts their Annual Elkader Model Train Show and Swap Meet in Johnson’s Reception Hall.
I’m not a train aficionado myself, though I visited the show to see why people are so interested in trains. When I walked in, Johnson’s Reception Hall was full of vendors with model trains, cars, and art. Some model trains were even set up to run and entertain guests. It was like nothing I had seen before. I'd never realized how complex train models and collecting are! As I visited, I overheard vendors and guests alike talking about their train sets, cars they included, and where they found them. For one vendor, train model collecting had been a family tradition that started with their grandfather. This particular collector was in the process of getting his grandson involved with model trains. It was very touching to hear. Just as other family traditions were passed down, train models were very important to some folks, and remind them of their loved ones.
Another vendor had a large, older railroad book set out for people to leaf through. The pages were just starting to curl at the edges, and I could tell this book had been studied many times. As I read through the historical documentation of trains, I came across a photo of the first Standard Gauge Train, which once stopped in Elkader. It was really neat to see a visual record of Clayton County, and to see how important trains were as passenger carriers.
I went to the Model Train Show and Swap on a whim, and walked out of Johnson’s Reception Hall having learned how model train collectors get into their hobby, as well as more facts about trains than I thought I’d ever get the opportunity to know. It was a wonderful experience to hear the stories of families coming together through tradition. It was wonderful to see the glimmer in someone’s eye when they found the last car to complete their model set. Whether you’re trying to complete a model set of your own, or you’re curious about trains yourself, the Model Train Show and Swap will be held on August 20th in Johnson’s Reception Hall in Elkader this year, and is always open to more folks pulling into the station.
Written by Jayna Felder | Photo Credit to Elkader Depot Project