Christmas and trains go together as far as the Columbus Area "N" Scalers are concerned.
Mike Ippoliti, Fred Collins and John Woods are all members of the "N" Scalers, a group of model railroad enthusiasts. They agree that here's just something about trains and Christmas that bring back fond memories.
Ippoliti's most memorable Christmas gift was a American Flyer model train set in 1946.
"I got my first when I was a month old and I've just been fascinated with them ever since," he said.
"Trains make a boy feel like a man and man feel like a boy," he said, quoting a Lionel model train set slogan.
Collins said his first train was given to him in 1946 when he was about 5 years old.
"It brings back memories when there were Lionel train sets -- my goodness," he said. "Dad probably played with it more than I did."
Woods said he got his first train for Christmas in 1959 when he was 3 years old. He also wondered why trains and Christmas seem to go together.
"I don't really know," he said. "They just do."
Ippoliti, also president of the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society, said trains and Christmas met in the early 1900s, when model trains first arrived on the retail scene.
In the early part of the century, real trains were used as a "key mode of transportation," he said. They would bring family members home for the holidays and produced a sense of wonderment similar to that associated with computers today.
"Trains were a special and expensive gift, thus appropriate at Christmas as a gift," he added. "Always underneath a (Christmas) tree there's a train."
Woods and Ippoliti said trains were a great way for father and son to have fun together during the holidays.
"It was a family involvement -- bonding, as we call it today," Ippoliti said.
Woods said as he got older, he paid less attention to his hobby of model railroading, but he returned to it after his first son was born.
The Columbus Area "N" Scalers was an informal group started in the mid-1970s, Ipppoliti said. Now there are 14 members who meet once a week at the train depot in Canal Winchester at 10 W. Oak St.
Members of the "N" Scalers and the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society have worked together to create a layout of Canal Winchester during the 1860s. It is displayed at the train depot.
Woods said the "N" Scalers used to bring their model railroad layout to malls and a charity event held in Lancaster called the Festival of Trees during the 1980s and 1990s. The layout consists of about 20 modules, each about two square feet in size.
Most recently, the "N" Scalers brought their layout to Canal Winchester's Christmas in the Village. They set up their 14-foot by 38-foot model railroad in the Frances Steube Community Center at 22 S. Trine St.
"It's for the kids to get involved and promote model railroading," Ippoliti said.
Collins said the Christmas in the Village brings a lot of joy to him, especially watching a child see a model train set for the first time.
"There's nothing like seeing a kid watch a model train," he said. "It just makes their eyes so big, you'd think they were going to fall out."
Each member of the "N" Scalers has his own strength. Woods said he likes to do custom painting of model engines. Ippoliti likes to focus on minute details, for example, the oil spot under a car parked on the driveway of a model home.
"Everybody has their little thing," he added.
Each year, the "N" Scalers get together for a "disorganized" Christmas party.
"The reason it is disorganized is because everyone is supposed to bring something, but nobody knows what to bring," Ippoliti said.
Usually, the party is held at the train depot. In past years, real trains going through the village would stop and the conductor and engineer would break from riding the rails to enjoy some of the food and drink at the party, Ippoliti said.
Woods and Ipppoliti said the group is informal and anybody is welcome to join. The "N" Scalers meet each Thursday at 7 p.m. at the train depot.