Choo-choo-choose the Dayton Train Show!

Model trains invade Hara Arena

By Leo DeLuca


Photo: All aboard! The 38th Annual Dayton Train Show brings model trains and railroad memorabilia at Hara Arena Nov. 2 and 3

The Miami Valley Division of the National Model Railroad Association presents the 39th Annual Dayton Train Show (DTR) at Hara Arena the weekend of Nov. 2-3. Last year’s event brought more than 5,000 attendees to the Gem City. The DTR boasts one of the largest model railroad displays in the entire Midwest and more than 400 dealer tables – all sold-out.

Each year, the DTR takes place at the onset of National Model Railroad Month. This year, the event will have more than 20 operating layouts (in G, O, S, HO, N and Z gauges), trains for kids to ride, hourly door prizes, “how to” clinics and more. Children can also look forward to a “Thomas the Tank Engine” display and multiple chances to win their own “Thomas the Tank Engine” train set.

Dealers can expect new, antique and collectible trains, parts and accessories. Participating vendors travel from all over the United States and offer a wide array of wares. Certain vendors also provide custom modeling services: painting, decals, structures, custom layout design and more. Railroad historical societies will be present to provide information on railroads of past and present. On both days, Boy Scouts will have the opportunity to earn the Railroading merit badge.

Dayton City Paper had the opportunity to speak with Dayton Train Show Chairman Nick Folger.

Tell us about the history of the Dayton Train Show. How many years has it been running? 

The Dayton Train Show is sponsored by Division 3, Mid-Central Region of the National Model Railroad Association (the Miami Valley Division), a 503-C non-profit organization. The DTR is celebrating its 38th year. The first time the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) held a convention in Dayton was 1975. Train shows in smaller venues were held before then, but that is the year we started counting. Since then, because of our venue at Hara Arena and the support of Division 3 members, we have become one of the largest and best-attended shows east of the Mississippi River. We have been sold out of tables since March and I still have more than 50 tables waiting for someone to cancel. – Nick Folger

What types of train collectibles, antiques and models will be featured? 

All type of railroad memorabilia will be featured – save for the real 1:1 trains themselves. We also include dinnerware from passenger trains of the past, time tables, photos, locks, lanterns, signal lights, etc. On one of the more than 400 vendor tables, one will also find almost all scale-model and toy trains and accessories from past to present. New and pre-owned Lionel O scale trains will be available, as well as the now popular G, S, HO and N gauge scales. There will be shirts and hats, “Thomas the Train” sets, model train cars and buildings – in kit form or ready-to-run. That is just the vendor area! There is an exhibit area with more than 35 displays of operational club and private model railroads, historical groups and other related displays, including clinics on how to build. -NF

What are the various reasons collectors continue to support train collectibles and events such as this?

At one time, not too long ago, railroads were the largest employer in the United States, aside from farming. There are still a large number of people whose father or grandfather worked for the railroads and they like to have the keepsakes of their family history. There are also a large number that lived near a railroad and the huge steam and diesel locomotives loomed big in their eyes. Personally, I even used to play on boxcars as a kid in downtown Dayton near Wayne Avenue and Fifth Street. -NF

What sort of responses are you receiving from various age groups? Are young kids getting involved? 

Every age group from eight months to 80 years attends the event. When they leave, they are already looking forward to next year! -NF

What should event attendees expect? 

The Saturday of the show [Nov. 3] brings the largest numbers of modelers, as they want to get the train they want before someone else gets to it. We have a waiting line that lasts over one hour to get into the show. On Sunday, more families arrive to see the model trains. The numbers add up to about 5,000 guests each year. -NF

What does the future look like for model trains and train collectibles?

It does not look like model railroading or “Railroadiana” is losing any of its popularity. Each year there are new people discovering the hobby, so I expect it to live longer than my children. -NF


The Division 3, Mid-Central Region of the National Model Railroad Association presents  the 39th Annual Dayton Train Show on Saturday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 3 at Hara Arena, 1001 Shiloh Springs Road. The show is open Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $6, free for children under 12. Free parking. For more information, please visit or


Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at


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