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Rogue Valley Railroad Show 2009

Tony Johnson's fascination with trains started with "chugga-chugga choo-choo" and a wind-up toy train his mother gave him when he was 4 years old. More than 60 years later, his fascination has grown and so have his trains.

Johnson, president of the Southern Oregon Live Steamers, now owns a full-size, custom-made steam locomotive. The locomotive, known as "Tony the Tiger," now rides the rails of Medford's Railroad Park.

"It's a wholesome hobby," Johnson said.

Johnson is among the many volunteers who each Thanksgiving weekend share their hobby with the public in the annual Rogue Valley Railroad Show, now in its 32nd year. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. Cost is $5 general, $4 for seniors and free for children 14 and younger.

All proceeds from the show benefit the Railroad Park.

"It's a way we can thank the people coming to the park and they can thank us by coming to the show," said Johnson.

Local nonprofit groups operate the park and host the Railroad Show — the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club, the Southern Oregon Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the Southern Oregon Live Steamers, Southwest Oregon Large Scale Trains and the Morse Telegraph Club.

The show has been held at the armory on the weekend after Thanksgiving since the early 1980s.

"They actually used to run live steam trains right into the armory back then," Johnson said.

For some, the show marks the official beginning of the holiday season, he said. Last year, more than 4,000 people attended the show.

The show offers options for collectors, children and curious visitors. Activities will include model railroad layouts, exhibits, railroad presentations, a swap meet, door prizes, vendors, opportunities for the public to operate model trains and raffles for items such as train kits, models and more. The local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will have a historical exhibit including railroad artifacts, photographs and video footage from 1953 of the Medford Logging Railroad, which ran from Medford to Butte Falls.

Johnson said he was especially excited to see an 18-inch-gauge scale passenger car that will be featured at the show. He said the car is two-and-a-half times the size of the ones at the park.

"We're all curious to see what this thing looks like," he said.

The park, located off Berrydale Avenue, features all sizes and types of locomotives including HO scale trains, full-size cabooses and hopper cars, a handcar and motorcar, and diesel and gasoline reproductions of full-size steam trains. Last year was the park's busiest year since it opened in 1981. Volunteers gave rides to 25,993 visitors over its 14-Sunday season.

Last year, the park expanded to include seven new passenger cars and a four-track car barn that will hold a minimum of 20 cars. Johnson said next year the railroad organizations plan to add a railroad museum on the almost 12-acre property as well.

"We used to think that (the park) was big. We don't think that way anymore," he said.

The Railroad Park is open on the second and fourth Sundays of the month from April to October. Admission to the park is free.

Tickets to the show cost $5, $4 for seniors and are free for ages 14 and younger. Call 535-7952 or 821-5547.

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or by e-mail at intern1@mailtribune.com.

A model train crosses a realistic bridge at the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club's layout. - Jim Craven