Train buffs making tracks for Montana
April 27, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EDT (0000 GMT)
(CNN) -- In a part of the United States where almost everything is big, one of the biggest events this weekend celebrates something that made Montana's massive mountains and vast expanses a little smaller -- trains.
The Helena Civic Center is hosting the 17th annual Railroad Fair on Sunday. Of course, in prime Western style, the fair itself is big; it's advertised as the largest railroad hobby event in Montana and the Northern Rockies.
"The railroads were a big part of how this area of the country came to be settled," says Bob Solomon, who organizes the event. "And we still have fairly impressive railroad activity. Here in Helena, we are right at a pass, and you see trains that have 13 locomotives to get over the mountains."
In addition to toy, tin-plate and model trains -- some pre-dating World War II -- the fair features railroad memorabilia such as photographs, dining car china, silverware, old railroad schedules and stationery, and bells and whistles. Some items are for sale, others just for show. For those who like the real thing, there is train-watching at the Helena Depot.
Solomon says people of all ages and backgrounds turn out for the fair because trains are an impressive element of daily life.
"The interest in railroads is fascinating, in that 20 or 30 years ago, we were intrigued with rockets and space craft," says Solomon. "But the generation gap is closing. A 250-ton locomotive going in front of you is something that you notice. It's real. It's part of our world. Most of us don't have a chance to see a rocket or space ship everyday."
As many as 5,000 people are expected to attend the fair.
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