Model railroad trains aren't just for children -- Steve Meseraull can tell you that.
Meseraull, 57, is vice president of the Lawrence Model Railroad Club, which has about 45 members.
"We've got people (in the club) from 19 years old up to 76 or 78," says Meseraull, who has enjoyed model railroad trains since he was 7.
Club members think there are plenty of other people in Lawrence who might enjoy model railroading, too.
So today, the three-year-old club will hold its first Lawrence Model Railroaders Show and Swapmeet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 21st Street and Haskell Avenue.
The purpose of the show is really twofold. Club members want to encourage the hobby of model railroading, as well as educate people about the safety issues involving life-size, real trains.
Part of the reason the Lawrence club organized the show was out of rising concern over train accidents in this area in recent years, in which people on foot or in cars were killed.
The problem is that sometimes people don't fully realize the power of locomotives -- a fatal mistake.
"We're trying to educate them about these trains. It takes 2 miles to come to a complete halt with all that weight behind them," Meseraull says.
A representative from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka will attend the show, set up an informational booth and talk about railroad safety issues.
"If we can maybe save one or two lives out of all this, besides have a family-type atmosphere (at the show), we're going to be happy," Meseraull says.
The show will feature five, large model railroad layouts, four of them brought in by a Topeka railroader club. One of the layouts has a circus theme, complete with a miniature ferris wheel and roller coaster.
The Lawrence club's layout is a realistic logging scene with mountains, tunnels, lights and a town -- all created to 1/87th scale.
The scale of the cars and the engines at the show will be HO, N and O gauge, Meseraull said.
The trains on display all have digital chips in them that allow the controller to run two to four engines on the same track and operate them independently.
"They have horns, sound effects and lighting built into them," Meseraull says.
The show will feature 48 model railroad vendors selling different products, as well as a concession stand. There will be drawings for free prizes and clinics on how to build model train backdrops and layouts.
The cost is $3 for adults and children older than 12. Children under 12 will be admitted free.
There's much to like about model railroading, Meseraull says.
"No. 1, you get to recreate Mother Nature, making trees, mountains and water. When people see the layout we've done, they'll think it just looks real."
-- Staff writer Jim Baker can be reached at 832-7173.