A quick search of the internet will show you that there are dozens of train shows throughout the United States each month. They are in every state in the country and the size of the show varies in accordance with the location and venue. Many clubs also have open houses and swap meets where the public is welcome.
So how do you select a show to attend? First, you can search for shows in your state or area. Next, decide if you are interested in just one scale or all model trains since some shows are dedicated to a specific model train scale. Indeed there are some clubs that are exclusively dedicated to O-scale trains, N-scale trains, or narrow gauge layouts. This is not technically snobbery, it is just a way of narrowing the focus of a hobby that is so diverse. Some purists would disagree I am sure, but each scale has its own advantages and disadvantages and none is better than the other.
Cost may be another consideration in going to a show. The shows themselves are usually pretty inexpensive i.e. less than $10 admission for adults and often free for children ($7 seems to be a popular price of admission), but travel costs must also be considered. If you live near a larger city, chances are there is a model train show in that city at some point during the year and most likely more than one.
What can you expect at a train show? While each one is different, there are some things that shows have in common. First and most importantly you will find enthusiasts that are eager to share their knowledge and experiences and show off their layouts. You will also usually find some sort of “swap meet” which is really a kind of model train flea market where you can purchase used trains and supplies, or possibly even negotiate a trade with another hobbyist. New trains and supplies from manufacturers are also usually available.
Another good reason to go to a show is to learn from others. Clinics are popular at these shows because you can learn from others who may have more experience with a particular aspect of model railroading than you have. While online forums provide some of the same benefits, there is no substitute for talking to someone in person and being able to see the subject matter close up and hands on.
You may also see contests between train enthusiasts for locomotives, layouts, photos, scenery, etc. Perhaps you want to enter your pride and joy in one of these. Model train shows can take some of the intimidation out of the hobby for those that are new to it. Getting up close and personal with these trains and talking to their proud owners will get your adrenaline going for the hobby and you will come away with a renewed appreciation for the hobby. So take in a show, you won’t be sorry you did, and you may just get hooked!
Article courtesy of “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”