Kids of all ages – and adults of all ages, too – had a blast at last weekend’s Train Show at the Museum at Campbell River. In this area, remote controlled heavy equipment ‘mines’ rock and processes it to be loaded on a train, to later be unloaded at the end of the track. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Museum at Campbell River’s model train show keeps chugging along

‘I think there’s something about trains that’s just embedded in the Canadian identity’

Trains mean something to people in this country.

There’s just something about them, according to Museum at Campbell River coordinator of public programs Ken Blackburn, that says “Canada.”

“I think there’s something about trains that’s just embedded in the Canadian identity,” Blackburn says, watching the flow of people circulate around the displays at last weekend’s Train Show at the Museum, put on by the North Island Model Railroaders. “I think most people in Canada know the sound of a train at night, or there were trains somewhere in the vicinity where they grew up. Trains are iconic for people, even if it’s just subconsciously at the edge of their mind and they don’t really even know why.”

And while there maybe aren’t as many trains around as there use to be, Blackburn says, so they might not be as “everyday” and “iconic” for kids growing up these days, “there’s still an amazement in them when they see something like this. Every kid that comes in here just loves the little people and little buildings and little trees, and it’s fun to watch.”

The annual train show has been happening at the museum for over 20 years, and it never ceases to amaze him how many people flow through the doors to see it.

“I would say it’s probably our biggest draw over any two-day period in the year,” Blackburn says. “We see roughly 500 people each day. It’s been interesting to see the evolution of it. We had a bit of a sag a few years ago, where it dropped down to maybe 600 in total over the weekend, and we’re up over twice that now. We actually wondered it the show had run its course. At that time it had been on for just about 20 years, and the thinking was, well, maybe people just aren’t that into trains anymore. But over the last few years, it’s back up and more popular than ever before, it seems.”

He’s especially happy that it seems to bring generations of people together.

“If you watch the audience, you’ll see grandparents doing their videos and photos right alongside the little ones,” he says, looking around and pointing out a child on a grandpa’s shoulders. “From kids to parents to grandparents, it just does something for people.”

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The show was only $7 per person or $20 for the whole family to enjoy.

“We really work at keeping all of our programs at the museum affordable for people and encourage families to come out,” Blackburn says, and it certainly helps that groups like the North Island Model Railroaders Club won’t take their money to put on events like this.

“They see it as a way to give something to the community,” Blackburn says. “We tried to offer to pay them in the past, because they come in and set everything up and put on the whole thing, but they just said, ‘nope. This is part of what we do.’”

At the end of the weekend, Blackburn says they counted more than 1,100 people through the doors, which he says is their second highest attendance number ever.

“I guess there’s still something about trains.”

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