Take a ride to Christmas past with a stop at the Christmas with Trains holiday open house in Worthington.
Each weekend through December, the Central Ohio Model Railroad Club will welcome visitors to its intricate layouts of trains and villages at its facility, 6471 Proprietors Road. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and admission is free.
Several sizes and types of trains are set up, including a Thomas & Friends train that can be operated by children.
The club's large, three-track oval is around miniature towns and cities in the center of the vast room and includes many vignettes with fine details.
The show stopper this year is the recently acquired "Fleck's Family Circus." The trains circling the circus become secondary to the intricate, seemingly endless 1940s-style circus in the center of the tracks.
The big top is filled with nearly 3,000 individually made people watching the three-ring circus. The display features lions, tigers and elephants, as well as acrobats swinging through the air.
Outside the big top are the smaller tents, including a freak show with two-headed animals and dancing women. There are a kitchen tent and a wardrobe tent, a Wild West shop and many, many more attractions, animals and people.
Each of the hundreds of handmade and painted pieces was made by Bernard Fleck, a machinist who lived in northern Ohio and worked on his folk-art masterpiece from the late 1940s into the late 1960s.
"It is phenomenal the amount of work he put into it," model railroad club president Don Sell said. "It was a lifelong hobby of his."
Visitors also could watch other trains, including the holiday trolley, which actually picks up and delivers riders to the Middletown Station, and models ranging from the Z-scale (the smallest) to the O-scale (the largest).
The Thomas & Friends section includes child-friendly controls, whistles and horns.
The model railroad club was formed to cultivate interest in railroading in this country. The club has about 60 members, with ages ranging from 6 to 80.
Attracting children to trains is becoming more challenging with the competition from technology, Sell said. These days, it is easier to find adults who love model railroading. He received his first train at age 10 or 11 and then lost interest.
When his own son was young, he built a layout in their basement. He has been railroading ever since.
"He lost interest, but I never did," Sell said.