Inaugural Mississippi Railfest shares model train nostalgia with new generation

Inaugural Mississippi Railfest shares model train nostalgia with new generation

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The inaugural Mississippi Railfest took place this weekend.

In what organizers called “the ComicCon of trains,” train clubs from Louisiana to Florida participated in the first-of-a-kind event in South Mississippi.

Trains, trains and more trains. That is what you saw if you went to the first-ever Mississippi Railfest held this weekend at the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum. For train enthusiasts, these events allow them to introduce trains to younger generations.

“It shows them what’s possible," said Ed Dice, a volunteer with the West Florida Railroad Museum. "That, oh there are other people that like trains, or that’s like the train that my grandfather had running around the Christmas tree oh so many years ago. It sparks a new interest and it says hey there are other people in the area. So, get out there and find them and have an enjoyable hobby.”

Dice works on the electrical elements of the display. However, Keith Rapley, a past president of the West Florida Railroad Museum, started with the model train group in a more unconventional way than most.

“For a hobby, I like building things. I’ve been a train kid all along," Rapley said. "So, when I found this scale, and they don’t make stuff, I said hmmm I can build it. So, I’ve taken buildings I’ve seen growing up as a kid or buildings that I’ve found in different magazines and I’ve made copies of them, taking artistic license, and I’ve made all these buildings that you’ve seen here.”

The buildings and electrical work aren’t enough to sway the younger generations from their device-driven worlds. According to Paul Weston, it’s the nostalgia that mesmerizes the kids as they meander through the exhibit.

“It brings a sense of community back. There’s a lot of nostalgia, as you can see with the buildings we have on display here," said Paul Weston, a volunteer with the West Florida Railroad Museum. "It’s like the 1950s era. People come in and say, ‘I remember that, I remember this.' You know, ‘I was there, I grew up with this.’ The parents and grandparents show it to their children and grandchildren. ‘This is what it was like when I was a kid.’”

Weston enjoys nothing more than making the trains do what they do best.

“I’m a train runner. Just to run the trains. I love to listen to the train go clickety-click over the rail joints, just to run the trains," Weston said.

The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum will also host their annual Christmas Light show starting the day after Thanksgiving. It will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

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