Model Railroad Personal Review - Great Train Expo: Part 1 - Experiences
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin
This is a review of the Great Train Expo held on July 23 and 24, 2011 at the Pomona Fairplex near Los Angeles, California. While some of the information applies to all Great Train Expo shows, some is useful only for the Pomona Fairplex venue.
I’d been burned by traveling model railroad shows before, especially when they promise hundreds of exhibitors and deliver only a dozen. Initial web reports seemed favorable for the Great Train Expo, and they were only charging $7 for admission. (Though parking was another story as I explain in Part 2 of this series.) I decided to take a chance.
The venue was the Pomona Fairplex, a sprawling complex that’s known in the Southland as the location of the annual Los Angeles County Fair. It occupied building 9, which was a walk from any parking lots. My initial impression was not good. The entry area seemed unprofessional, with two or three staff behind folding tables. A few flyers littered one of the tables but there was no sign of a map or plastic shopping bags to hold purchases. However, the staff was upbeat and friendly.
The ceiling of the building is at least two stories high, and the floor space sprawls over 45,300 square feet. Every empty space was packed with dealer tables and visitors. I could easily walk through the crowded aisles, which seemed wide enough to accommodate even wheelchair visitors. Near the entrance was a train table where kids could play with wooden trains for free. It complemented the free kiddie train ride outside.
I headed to the layout area where about a dozen clubs had set up their modular pikes. All scales were represented.
- The smallest belonged to ZoCal, the Southern California Z-Scale Model Railroading Group. Their modules were only two feet wide. And yet the multiple-car consists, such as the passenger cars of the orange Southern Pacific Daylight, moved elegantly around the 11-inch radius curves.
- Larger scales were also represented by such groups as the Del Oro Pacific in G-Scale. Their lighted oil refinery attracted attention with its silver tanks and smokestacks.
- My favorite layout belonged to the Southern California Traction Club, where HO scale trolleys, powered by live overhead, traveled over intricate street track. Those who bothered to look under one table could spy a working New York subway station, while above, skyscrapers towered into the sky. Many of their building also featured lighting and interiors.
I think you could’ve bought almost any model railroading item at the show. Booths were devoted to locomotives, freight and passenger cars, books and magazines, tools, scenery, structures, tools, vehicles, figures, train sets and track in every scale, and even a complete N-scale layout. Though some items were clearly priced, others were not. In either case, haggling was the rule of the day. I ended up with some street turnouts for my HO trolley layout. (Check out Part 2 of this series for some advice on buying.)
I easily spent two hours at the show and could have probably spent more time if hunger and exhaustion didn’t get the best of me. I very much enjoyed the modular layouts and the chance to browse through dealers I don’t normally see. Everyone exhibited the camaraderie you find among model railroaders, and were willing to patiently answer any questions I had about the hobby. I recommend catching the show if it appears in your area.
For some tips on viewing the show, see Model Railroad Personal Review - Great Train Expo: Part 2 – Tips.
- Model Railroad Personal Review - Great Train Expo: Part 2 - Tips
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