2018 Amherst Train Show Report

Every year late in January or early in February, the Amherst Railway Society holds its Railroad Hobby Show at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds (The home of The Big E) in West Springfield, Massachusetts. More than 22,500 railfans and public attended the Show each of the past five years.

This year, the show was held on Saturday January 27th & Sunday 28th. The New England LEGO Users Group was there displaying their amazing Lego train/city layout, and I traveled up to see it, represent Brick Model Railroader, and experience the show.

Maine Central models from Patrick Strawbridge of NELUG

The “BIG” Show

For years I’ve been hearing about the Amherst show. I’ve heard it’s the biggest train show around and that any train fan/model railroader has to make the trip to see it at least once.  They are right. This show is huge, with just over 400,000 square feet of show space, or roughly 9 acres of trains! This year was the show’s 50th Anniversary and a record breaking 60+ operating train layouts in all shapes, scales, and sizes helped celebrate. And thanks to the folks at Boothbay and Edaville this year the show had a full size (2-ft gauge), live operating steam locomotive on the show grounds, rolling up and down 100 feet of track.

Boothbay’s locomotive, Edaville no.11

Until you’ve seen this show, it’s hard to grasp how big it really is. It takes over four buildings of the Eastern States Exposition. Nearly 9 acres of show space crammed with operating train layouts, model railroad manufacturers, vendors, railroad preservation groups, and any thing train related you can probably think of. If you’re looking for it, there is a good chance you’ll find it here.

The show itself is impossible to cover in just one day. You really need both days to take it all in and uncover all the neat stuff there is to see. The verity of the train layouts on display is amazing, every thing from Z scale to G gauge and above is there. The quality of the modeling on many of them is inspiring. You’ll come home with more new ideas for building than you can hope to be able to complete in a year.

On30 train layout on display at the show.

If you are looking to buy model trains, railroad books/magazines/DVDs, or railroad memorabilia, this is the show for you. If you walk away at the end of the weekend and haven’t purchased some treasure, you can’t be a train fan. Model trains in every scale, old and new, layout building supplies, how to resources, it’s all there. Bring plenty of money, you’ll find something you just have to take home.

Two of the 50th Anniversary commemorative HO scale rail cars followed me home from the show.

NELUG’s LEGO train Layout

The New England LEGO Users Group has displayed their LEGO train layout at the Amherst show for the past several years, and were back again this year in Mallary building. NELUG’s layout featured multiple levels, several loops of running track with plenty of trains, a detailed town area and plenty of landscaping details.

NELUG’s city section.

NELUG’s layout style is a bit different than PennLUG, which is my home club. NELUG doesn’t have ballasted track like us, and the do not run the wider curves that we do in PennLUG. This made running some of my trains a little more challenging, but I was able to still get some running in through the weekend. However, just because NELUG may not be as train-centric as my own club doesn’t mean their layout isn’t still impressive. A lot of creativity, artistry, and healthy dose of humor was on display, and the members were very welcoming of me for the weekend. So a big thank you goes out to all of the members of NELUG for the wonderful layout, and the great friendship.

The landscapers are hard at work.

Favorite Moment from the Show

This is probably my funniest, and most favorite moment form the weekend. So it turns out I’m a Hero.

The story starts with everyones favorite former LEGO employee, Kevin Hinkle, showing up to the NELUG layout Saturday. As he was talking with people, one of the NELUG members had asked him if he had met Cale yet. I was out running around the show at the time, so I wasn’t there at the layout. He said he didn’t remember, thinking they were talking about some one new from NELUG. So they continued, “oh yeah, he builds these really awesome trains”. Then it clicked with him, “Oh, you mean master train builder Cale Leiphart. He’s the only Cale I know.”

Kevin thinks I’m a Master Train Builder, add that to my train resume. Boom!

From left to right; NELUG member Mike Ripley, Myself, and “The Most Interesting AFOL in the World” Kevin Hinkle.

The story gets better though. As we’re standing outside the layout, while Kevin is telling me this, some one asks, “are you Cale Leiphart?” I said yes. It turns out it was a guy with one of the O-guage layouts, and who also happens to follow LEGO trains. He tells me how much he loves my work, and how he had seen my stuff in Brickjournal, and RAILBRICKS and online. He was pretty nice guy, and it was a pleasure to meet him. But as he’s saying how much loves my work, Kevin is just looking at me with a silly grin.

After I thank the guy and he moves on, Kevin turns to me and says, “You’re a Hero!”. The irony though is that Kevin is one of the most popular people in the AFOL community having been a former Community Manager for the LEGO company. And yet this guy I was talking to was oblivious to the legendary former LEGO employee standing in his midst, and was instead interested in me. We all had a pretty good laugh about that.

All shows must end, but there is always next year.

The 2018 Amherst train show did not disappoint. It was as big and as awesome as every one claims. It was a wonderland of model trains. And the members of NELUG were awesome to hang out with. This is a show I definitely want to return to again. In fact, I have the 2019 dates already marked in my calendar. Hopefully I can get a few of my fellow PennLUG train family and some of our BMR contributors to come out as well.

If you can make the trip, I highly recommend it. It’s an awesome show.

Photos from this year’s show can be found in my Flickr page bellow.

2018 Amherst Flickr Gallery

I created a video log of my journey to, during, and after the show. There are plenty of trains on display and running for you to watch. It can be found on my Youtube Channel bellow.


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