Toy train show steams into Suffolk

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Collectors will bask in nostalgia and showcase their favorites at a toy train extravaganza this Sunday.

Virginia Train Collectors will hold its annual Tidewater show at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, 3373 Pruden Blvd. Hobby collectors will cover more than 60 tables with model trains at a show that averages more than 200 people annually, according to VTC Program Director George Hoffer.

Hoffer said toy trains draws three different kinds of people: young boys and men that enjoy the various makes and models, artisans that use the trains as focal points for lavish handmade scenery and photographers that capture those scenes through a lens.

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“The common denominator is the train,” he said.

Collectors will display antique American Flyer and Lionel models alongside detailed, electric varieties produced today. Fathers and grandfathers often bring their children and grandchildren, Hoffer said, with the boys still holding onto their enthusiasm and the men remembering their own childhood playsets, Hoffer said.

“It’s kind of a bridge between the youngest child and the great-grandfather,” he said. “It’s a bond between men of all ages.”

The typical collector grew up enjoying his train obsession before he became a teenager focused on electronics and girls, Hoffer joked. But these toys cost parents hundreds of dollars in the mid-20th century, and even a modern train engine can cost up to $2,000.

“While the mother threw away the baseball card, she didn’t throw away the train set because it was a very significant purchase, so the train survived,” he said.

They survived to build a vibrant collector’s market with countless events across the country.

Since 1976, the VTC has counted more than 400 members, and its Suffolk meet is one of its biggest, Hoffer said. People are encouraged to stop by, take a look and bring their own childhood mementos.

“If somebody has a train and wants it appraised or wants to sell it, bring it and shop it around there,” he said.

The show runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for individuals and families, and tables are available for $25. Children ages 12 and younger get in free. Call event chairman Russell Youens at 804-368-7898 for more information.