Fort Worth

Fans are all aboard effort to revive hobby

FORT WORTH -- The train roared across the countryside, chugging through tunnels and by an old general store and schoolhouse.

Sean Haastert, 5, of Justin tried to squirm out of his father's arms to get a better look at the elaborate model train.

"He loves trains. Always has," said his father, Justin Haastert. "He could play trains all day."

The Haastert family joined thousands of other model train enthusiasts Saturday at the Will Rogers Memorial Center for what organizers call the World's Greatest Hobby on Tour. The weekend show aims to introduce a new generation of children to model trains, while building interest in a hobby whose popularity has declined in recent decades.

Model train building was a popular pastime in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, but that changed as young people turned to video games, show spokesman Kurt Jablonski said.

"A lot of hobbies were forgotten when video games came around," Jablonski said. "We want to remind people why model train building is such a great hobby. We think we'll get a few converts."

Children took rides in a Thomas the Tank Engine, and families inspected detailed trains that light up, whistle and even blow smoke. Experts offered advice and assistance to novice builders and showed families how to start building.

Frank and Judy Gisiner of Keller recently pulled their son's old train out of the attic and set it up around the Christmas tree. They began tinkering with the train in 1976, when their son was 8.

The couple hopes to get the train running, which they said their three grandsons would love.

"It's nostalgic," Judy Gisiner said. "It reminds me of when my children were little."

Brothers Casey and Cody Akin, 30 and 32, of Fort Worth began playing with model trains as boys. They stopped building for a few years in high school but returned to the hobby as adults.

They now have a train room in the home they share.

"It's in some people's blood," Cody Akin said. "You never really quit."

Casey Akin added, "You basically start with nothing and then create something that is a work of art."

Larry Swigert, regional membership chairman for the National Model Railroad Association's local chapter, said building trains brings families together and forges long friendships.

"It's really about the tradition of the American family," Swigert said. "And you never really grow up when you're around trains," he said. "It keeps you young."

Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056

Twitter: @sarahbfw