FORT WORTH -- Augie Svatek has been searching for the light at the end of the tunnel for most of his life.He finds it regularly, too, as it greets him chugging around the bend -- usually pulling several cars.The 68-year-old model train enthusiast is a member of Lone Stars Flyers, one of more than two dozen model train clubs that form the North Texas Council of Railroad Clubs.The group will have its 27th annual Holiday Train Show today and Sunday at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. There will be 12 modular tables with multiple trains running at all times. More than 70 dealers and 200 vendor tables will be on hand for the train enthusiast.Svatek, a Wisconsin transplant, has worked in defense electronics for most of his life and fell in love with model trains as a child."I got my first train when I was 6 years old," he said.He recalls raising sheep and goats. When they were sold, it put a little money in his pocket. Later, when he was a young adult, it was dairy cattle that gave him extra income."With the extra money, I bought trains," he said. "Then, later in life, I had three boys and couldn't think of a better reason to buy trains."He said he started a tradition on Thanksgiving Day to get the boys out of the kitchen and out from underneath Mom's feet so she could finish the day's preparations."During the week, we would be having conversations of what our plans were going to be for the train table," Svatek said. "Then, that Thanksgiving morning, I would have the supplies -- including plywood and several two-by-fours -- and we would have it put together by the end of the day with the trains up and running."His sons also picked up his passion for trains, he said."Four years ago, we weren't able to get together for Christmas," Svatek said. "But every one of the boys had trains running around the Christmas tree."Some trains, he notes, are quite elaborate and cost up to $3,000 for the engines alone.A train set built by American Flyer in 1956, with three engines and five passenger cars, sold for about $59, he said. "If you had one of those today, in pristine condition and its original boxes, you're talking more than $6,000," he said.He said the neat thing about the older toy trains was their simplicity and ruggedness."Today there are a lot more electronics to it," Svatek said. "They are not quite as boy-resistant as they used to be, and they're more expensive."Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, ext. 102
If you go
The 27th annual Holiday Train Show is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. Admission is $8; children 12 and under are free. Railroad art and memorabilia and a Thomas play area are among the attractions.