Tables piled high with model train cars, scenic figurines and conductor hats filled the Battle Ground High School gym Saturday for the Southwest Washington Model Railroaders’ annual swap meet.
Enthusiasts worked their way down the rows of tables, looking for their next treasure.
However, some vendors like David Dansky, 83, were looking to part ways with pieces of their amassed collections. He showed buyers some of the metal trains he was selling that dated back to World War II, one going for over $700.
He had things for beginners or bargain hunters, too, with some newer plastic cars that he offered for $5.
“Train collectors are a real cross section of the community,” Dansky said. “Just ordinary, working guys to very wealthy people. But you can have as much fun with a $2 gondola as you can with a $700 car.”
Dansky has been collecting for his private museum in Ridgefield for decades. He said his property is even next to train tracks.
“The most important thing is to have a wife of 55 years who never once has said to me, ‘How much did the train cost?’ or ‘Why did you buy that train?’” Dansky said.
Zach Black, 14, has also been a train enthusiast for as long as he can remember. It runs in his family: His parents met when they both worked for the railroad.
Black recalled the way his grandfather bought him his first model train sets, including the one that he brought with him Saturday to sell.
John Brown said he decided he’d start selling some of his trains after his collection reached 2,000 cars. As a buyer admired one of his tin cars for sale, Brown noted that those were the types of cars he’d had as a young boy.
His wife, Penny, got into the hobby because of him. The pair said they enjoy the way the craft requires creativity.
“It’s a hobby that kind of takes you away from the everyday hustle and bustle and gives you different difficulties to problem solve,” Penny Brown said.
John Brown pointed out the trains he painstaking built — having painted them, detailed them and engineered the pieces together.
“It’s a bottomless pit,” he said with a laugh.
Bill Wheeler, president of the Southwest Washington Model Railroaders, said the swap meets are a great place to see the variety of specialties within the hobby — from people who enjoy the mechanical aspect, the electrical aspect or the scenic aspect — and, of course, to share knowledge.
After canceling last year’s swap meet because of COVID-19, Wheeler was relieved to see the turnout Saturday.
“It’s like a reunion,” he said. “Seeing lots of old friends, it’s amazing how many people you recognize behind the masks.”
It’s the type of hobby that brings people back year after year for new treasures.
“The nice thing about a model railroad is it’s never done,” Wheeler said. “There’s always a little bit more that you can do to it.”
Becca Robbins: 360-735-4522; email@example.com; @brobbinsuo