For a six-hour stretch this Saturday, the recreation hall at First Baptist Church of Collingswood was transformed into a train-lover's paradise.
South Jersey 'S' Gaugers' third-annual train show drew around 800 people between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. this past Saturday.
And First Baptist Church of Collingswood Pastor John Nannery said the 2011 show marked the largest turnout in show history.
"Last year, we had anywhere from 400 to 500 people show up. This year's train show, we had anywhere from 700 to 800 people turn up throughout the day," said Nannery.
Saturday's event coincided with Collingswood's Holiday Parade, which began at 10 a.m. and ended just a couple of hours later.
"We try to piggyback events like this off of Collingswood events, today's case being the holiday parade," said Nannery. "And this year was a bigger success than ever before."
Collingswood-born and -raised Matthew Messer and his 3-year-old son, Matthew Jr., were among the 800 who took in Saturday's train show.
"This is our first train show," said Messer of attending the event. "It's very interesting; we've seen a lot of lifelike scenes and train models."
Messer glanced down at his little boy, who hadn't once peeled his eyes from the set of railroad tracks that lay before him.
"He's loving it," said Messer with a chuckle, resting his hand on his son's head. "He just loves these trains."
Opposite from newcomer Messer, Paul Flynn, of Oaklyn, was among Saturday's attendees with extensive experience in model trains.
"I used to collect model trains when I was younger, and now I'm trying to do it with my son," said Flynn, who said his family still sets up a vintage Lionel train around their Christmas tree every year.
But despite efforts to introduce his own son into to the world of model trains, Flynn said other children haven't had such luck.
"It's a hobby that's sadly fading away," said Flynn, motioning to a steam engine whizzing past.
But the South Jersey 'S' Gaugers organization, which is based in Voorhees Township, brought back that fading spark on Saturday—if only for six hours—by displaying new and old models alike, and miniature scenery that looked more real than not.
During the event, South Jersey 'S' Gaugers members had three trains running at all times.
Including mobile models and stationary engines, Saturday's show featured eight train sets in total.
The gems of the day's exhibit? Two vintage models: a 312 engine from 1951, and a 290 engine from 1947.
Whether staking a preference for moderns or antiques, all were aboard at Saturday's train show, and the magic of model trains was ignited once again.