- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) - Max DeVisser is only 2 and can barely talk, but he knows what he likes.

“He loves trains. Loves them,” said his dad, Mike DeVisser, as the two explored an elaborate miniature railroad complex in the basement of Howard Miller Library and Community Center on a recent Wednesday evening. For more than a decade, Holland Modular Railroad Club members have set up and operated the Christmas-season train show, to the great joy of children and adults alike, The Holland Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1wzlTau ) reported.

“We started at an empty store in Zeeland,” said Glenn resident Phil Hanscom, 82, a small-train hobbyist since getting a Lionel set when he was 8-years-old. “We were in four different empty shops in Zeeland until we got into the library. We’ve had the show upstairs and in a smaller room downstairs.”

This year’s train show at the library is interactive, featuring anywhere from two to eight trains moving along tracks laid out on a 46-by-16-foot platform. The mini-landscape includes towns, tunnels, woods, some surprises and a variable soundtrack.

Hanscom didn’t bring any of his own collection to Zeeland - they are set up in a permanent working display at home, taking up about two-thirds of his basement.

Max DeVisser spent several minutes pressing buttons, operating lights and sirens of emergency vehicles at a small-town street.

Natalie Langeland, 9, spent most of her visit at a table set up so children can operate a simple train. She practiced making her train go forward, speed up, slow down and go backward. That was the most fun, she said.

Holland resident Ralph Corning has been a small-train hobbyist since he was a boy. Trains served as an important role when he served in Vietnam.

“My dad collected model airplanes, but while I was in Vietnam he collected trains. He’d send me photos of what he was doing. It was a way to say connected,” Corning said.

Corning doffed his striped engineer’s cap as he handed off controls to Zeeland resident Pete Buhay.

“I’ve always enjoyed trains,” Buhay said, though he didn’t grow up with a modular set. He stops by the show every year, though.

The Holland Modular Railroad Club, which has just under 20 members, produces several shows for the public each year.

“Other clubs have displays that you visit,” Corning said. “We bring trains to the public.”

Corning and Hanscom helped start the club in 1993. Public shows, they said, are fun, social and a great way for people curious about the club to meet members and learn more.

Zeeland resident Art Kole joined the club a few years after its founding, but said he’s well-known as a member.

“I drive one of the two food trucks for Zeeland Schools,” said Kole, 67, who got his first Lionel train at age 5, “The kids are always asking me in November, ‘When do we get to play with the trains?’”

Annual dues are $30 for adults, $14 for students ages 16 to 18 and free for those 15 and under. Members are expected to attend meetings and support train shows, but don’t need to own all the bells and whistles of model trains.

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Information from: The Holland Sentinel, https://www.thehollandsentinel.com


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