Emmett Andrews had been at the 2nd annual International Toy Train Expo for nearly three hours, and yet the five-year-old boy still wasn’t ready to leave. Andrews stopped to watch the motorized toy trains zip around a track on a permanent platform, stored on the back of a trailer, as they left the event.
Eric Andrews, 41, of Menomonie, said he routinely brings his son to a train store in Eau Claire, and they attended the train expo last year.
“He’s been a ‘trainiac’ since he was two,” Eric Andrews said. “He likes the different trains and he watches shows like Thomas the Train and The Choo Choo Bob Show.”
The train expo, held at the Chippewa Valley Expo Center, features more than 100 vendors, exhibitors, and railroad clubs. The event drew hundreds of spectators and train enthusiasts on Saturday. The expo continues today.
Ken Phillips of Eau Claire has a permanent train track built on the back of a flat trailer, with flowers and a running waterfall as center pieces for the trains to zip around.
“Some of these are custom built, and they work really well with the flowers,” Phillips said of his trains.
Phillips said he brought the trailer about five miles from his home, having to travel about 30 mph to not damage the display. He said it is worth it to see the reaction and excitement from people.
“It’s usually amazement; no one has seen anything like it,” Phillips said. “It’s pretty smooth running, and everyone seems to enjoy it.”
This is the second year the train expo has been at the Chippewa Valley Expo Center; Phillips said he’s attended similar expos at Phoenix Park in the past. He’s impressed with the growth and number of attendees.
“It brings everyone together from this hobby, and it keeps growing and growing,” Phillips said.
Rick Krenske, 72, of Cottage Grove, Minn., brought a variety of trains to display at his booth. Krenske is from the Minnesota Garden Railroad Society, and he fondly recalls growing up next to a 12-track station in south Minneapolis.
“My generation, the baby-boom generation, grew up with Lionel Trains,” he said. “Now we’re in our 70s, and we’re still playing with trains.”
Krenske also was impressed with how the expo has expanded in its second year.
“The kids are fascinated by the trains,” Krenske said. “This event is great. There are a lot of people here. It’s one of the better shows around in the summer.”
Along with the train displays, there is a petting zoo, inflatables, fire trucks, race cars, and Jack Link’s mascot “Sasquatch” will be there 11 a.m.-3 p.m. today.