Two train events captivate community

Despite Saturday’s troublesome weather, the trains remained on schedule.

Well, the pair of local railroad-related gatherings, at least.

Rain showers didn’t appear to detour train lovers from the Clinchfield Railroad Museum’s grand reopening in Erwin or the Big Train Show at East Tennessee State University.

The Clinchfield Railroad Museum was celebrating the start of a new season after its annual winter hiatus with a big crowd and live entertainment.

Attendees gathered in the display room, which houses decades-old railroad memorabilia and is designed to look like an old-fashioned train depot, where awards were handed out and railroaders swapped tales from their days on the tracks.

Martha Erwin, the museum’s curator, said the event hadn’t exactly been an easy one to plan. “The event was rescheduled due to construction, but we are happy to be here today,” she said.

And neither that hurdle nor the rain dampened Erwin’s enthusiasm for the new year: “I know that this season will be a great one.”

The Royal Quartet, with Max Toney, Garland Green, Angie Wilson and Ray Poteat, entertained visitors while hotdogs and potato chips were served.

Also on Saturday, past the rolling hills of Erwin and right in the middle of one of the busiest places in Johnson City, ETSU hosted the third annual Big Train Show in the Mini-Dome.

The event is a convention for model train lovers to buy and sell all sorts of model train products. The 64,000-square-foot space was filled with a variety of things to check out, from the trains themselves to figurines and landscapes.

“There are over 60 vendors with us today,” said Fred Alsop, one of the Big Train Show’s planners. “These vendors are selling equipment, books, videos, trains, and everything in between. Anything that has to do with model trains can probably be found here.”

Roger Tinert, another event planner, was excited about plans for next year.

“This show really is becoming one of the biggest model train shows in the Southeast,” Tinert said. “If you didn’t come this year, you missed a great show. And next year will be bigger and better.”

Both men expressed gratitude to ETSU and Johnson City for their help marketing the event on social media, billboards, and more. They also expressed how grateful they were for the turnout — the event is a fundraiser for the Carter Railroad Museum.

Gary Emmert was at the event to represent the Carter Railroad Museum. He said the on-campus museum is home to around $2 million in memorabilia and model train equipment.

Emmert, a railroader since 1963, said men and women should both be open to taking an interest in the railroading field because it’s so expansive with many different areas of interest. From painting to wiring and everything in between, Emmert said anyone could find an area of interest in the field of model trains.

One newer model train enthusiast at the event was Barbara Matthews.

Matthews lost her husband, Dr. Chris Matthews, not long ago, and has since been selling pieces from his model train collection and keeping his love for model trains alive.

“Every vacation we took, we traveled by train. He was a doctor, but trains were his real love,” Matthews said.

Her table was one of the biggest at the event, with all sorts of items. She said she was very happy to be at the event with some of her husband’s friends, to keep his passion alive.