OGDEN — If there’s anyone who doubts whether Ogden is on the map, they haven’t been to the Hostlers Model Railroad Festival at Union Station.
So many people were crowding into the event Saturday that some had to wait in three lines snaking through a parking lot on the north corner of the building before entering.
“We are putting them through as fast as we can,” said Mike Murphy, a Riverdale resident and president of the Hostlers Model Railroad Club that sponsors the show.
“We have people here from, I’ll bet, 15 states,” he said, noting that one man came to the show from Tennessee.
Popularity of the train show that fills the entire Union Station with vendors, collectors and displays has increased in the last few years.
Murphy said some of that has to do with Thomas the Train getting kids interested.
“You’d be surprised at the number of kids who will come and say, ‘Where’s Thomas?’ ” Murphy said.
But attendance at other train shows across the country has sagged with the economy, and organizers worried a bit this year, he said.
“We thought we might drop off because of the (federal budget standoff’s) impact on Hill Air Force Base,” Murphy said. “But it doesn’t seem like it today.”
Murphy doesn’t have a professional railroad background, but his love for trains sparked him to start the Hostlers Model Railroad club 26 years ago. His enthusiasm caught on, and the club never stopped growing.
Love of trains was evident in the faces of many at the event Saturday.
Nine-year-old Jeffery Backus, of Roy, was one of those who were especially excited to be there.
Jeffery hasn’t missed a show since he was 18 months old.
“We just got a train, and we’ve got wooden ones at home,” he said. “I’m going to pull it back, and it’s going to go.”
Jeffery’s great-grandmother, Jeanette Winn, of Hooper, hasn’t missed the festival since it began 24 years ago.
“I love trains,” she said. “I like to ride the Amtrak to Sacramento and see my brother.”
Winn said she loves the show because of the fond memories it brings.
“My grandparents used to take us down and watch the Denver Zephyr go through Holdrege, Neb.,” she said.
Marc Desobeau is a Riverdale vendor who has been at the train show for a dozen years.
“This is one of the greatest shows in the country,” he said. “Ogden has always been a railroad town.”
Desobeau sells prints of his train paintings at the show and said he always does very well there.
The artist also pointed to grandparents for sparking his interest in trains.
“My grandfather worked for the railroad,” he said. “I first started drawing his trains.”
Desobeau has enjoyed a 22-year career working on the Union Pacific railroad and worked at other railroads before that.
In his off time, he sells prints of his artwork around the world.
One puzzle with his art of the Heber Valley Railroad is sold all over Europe by a Polish company.
Bear River resident Ron Wilson, of The Coldwater Gulch Module Group, said he has been sitting next to the group’s display that shows a 1935-era railroad in the mountains at the show each year for 12 years.
Wilson said his part of the display, a corner, took him a full year to build, working every weekend.
But he said the work is worth all the efforts he put in.
“People smile, grin and are amazed at what we’ve done. I get my quota of smiles and questions.”
Wilson is another enthusiast who can’t get enough of trains.
When he’s not volunteering, Wilson is an engineer on a steam locomotive at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit.
The festival continues from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave.