Tiny trains, big fun at Great Train Expo in Santa Rosa

  • Bill Kohse of McKinleyville works on a model train at The Great Train Expo at Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Sunday Feb. 17, 2013.

The Great Train Expo, an exhibit to delight youngsters and bring out the child in the man, stopped in Santa Rosa over the weekend.

The sound of miniature train whistles and chugging steam engines from operating model railroads echoed throughout Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The show included exquisitely tiny railroads, larger "HO" and "O" models, and even a battery-operated trackless train to ride on.

"It's a boy thing. Look at all the little boys around," said Chris Daniels, whose sons, Willy, 7, and Correy, 2, reacted in wide-eyed wonder Sunday at the model trains.

"It's that power and speed thing," he said of the appeal. "They love fast, powerful things. Trucks too. They're typical boys."

Daniels said his father used to bring him to model train shows.

"I'm carrying on the tradition," he said.

But adults also were entranced by the little trains, complete with shrunken towns, miniature bridges and trestles.

"It's fun," said Steve Lewis about why grown men like himself play with model trains.

The retired economics professor and member of the Coastal Valley Lines club explained that "there's all kinds of little sub-hobbies: doing the scenery, taking the engines apart and making them run better."

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