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Toy train show delivers Christmas spirit today & Sunday in Turlock

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Toy train show delivers Christmas spirit today & Sunday in Turlock

San Joaquin Valley Toy Train Operators, Inc. members Dave Exline and Chris Majors work on a HO-scale toy train display.

ALEX CANTATORE/The Bulletin


POSTED December 1, 2012 1:04 a.m.

TURLOCK - After the tree is trimmed, the lights strewn, and the ornaments hung, a Christmas tree just isn’t complete.

At least, not if you ask Bill McLimands, a member of the non-profit San Joaquin Valley Toy Train Operators.

“A train around a Christmas tree, that’s what says Christmas,” McLimands said.

For many SJVTTO members, childhood Christmases were marked by ogling the intricate toy train displays at department stores.

That intimate connection between Christmas and trains led the 37-year old toy train club to plan their annual train show around the holiday. Since 1987, that show – always held the first weekend of December at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock – has been the club’s marquee event.

“It gives you and your family a chance to get in the spirit of Christmas and enjoy the present and past of toy trains,” McLimands said.

The SJVTTO annual train show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 for individuals, or $10 for a family. Children under 12 are free with an adult. Parking is free, and food is available.

The train show features six train layouts – the hobbyist’s term for track exhibits, which run through model towns – ranging in scale. A real, steam-engine model train is even on display.

A vendor area features more than 150 tables of toy trains, both new and vintage. The goods for sale aren’t watered down with generic arts and crafts – it’s all trains, all the time.

“We’re a train-related show,” McLimands said. “We don’t want to dilute that.”

When SJVTTO members aren’t working the show, they’ll often be found browsing the tables. A common joke is that members often have “a few trains” – in just two years of club membership, McLimands has accumulated more than 600 train pieces.

The club’s membership is a mix of young and old alike, those new to the hobby of toy trains and those who have been members in the SJVTTO since they were two years old.

New members are joining all the time. The SJVTTO’s permanent display in the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds’ garden area attracted four new club members this summer alone.

And some toy train enthusiasts of tomorrow might get their start this weekend, McLimands mused, as parents pick up a Christmas gift at the train show.

“By the end of the weekend, I’m ready for Christmas,” McLimands said.

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