- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

OCALA, Fla. (AP) - Train sets and Christmas go hand in hand and for the last 19 years, members of the Ocala Model Railroaders’ Historic Preservation Society have put on their model train exhibit at the College of Central Florida each December.

“Almost all of the members probably got their first train sets at Christmas. I was probably 8 or 9. You wake up in the morning and the train is set up under the tree. That’s the first time you see it,” said Carmen Sebastiano, a member of the group.

It was the same story for Jim Delawter, president of the group, except he came from a train family. His father and grandfather were train engineers. Delawter followed in the tradition and was a train engineer for 42 years.

“I got out of (model trains) for a time but then got back into it with my grandchildren,” Delawter said.

The exhibit is housed in the Webber Center Gallery at the college and features several large-scale displays called layouts.

The trains are at the center of the layouts, but meticulous attention is paid to the details of the background scenes. Everything from miniature trees and realistic looking landscape to people and animals are included.

“We have just as many people who come in and love the detail work of the layouts as they do the trains,” said Delawter.

Most of the layouts were done by club members, some who have since passed away. Their layouts, however, continue to be displayed at exhibits throughout the year.

The current exhibit runs through Dec. 30 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Some of the layouts are of Ocala scenes, including the historic Ocala Union Station near downtown. Another depicts a long-gone railroad stop in Anthony, which was recreated using old photographs.

A layout in development is one of the former Six Gun Territory theme park, which included a train that took visitors through certain parts of the park that included western themes including gunfights, saloons and an Native American village.

The layout of the front entrance and parking lot of Six Gun is complete as are some of the buildings.

Among the recent visitors to the exhibit were Nancy Burke and her 6-year-old son T.J.

“He has a train set and he’d like to have many more train sets,” said Burke. “He got his train set when he was about 3 years old. He’s liked trains ever since. He had a career day in kindergarten and he wanted to be a train engineer.”

Brian Williams’ son, Devin Anderson, 4, is also a train enthusiast.

“He loves his trains. When we went to Tuscawilla Park for the Easter egg hunt, all he wanted to see was the trains, forget the Easter bunny and all that,” said Williams, who built his own train layout when he was younger.

“I’ll probably get back into it with him when he gets a little older,” he said.

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