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ETSU Big Train Show expects biggest weekend yet

Brandon Paykamian • May 30, 2018 at 11:57 PM

Organizers of this year’s annual Big Train Show say they’re full steam ahead for their biggest year yet.

Now in its third year, the Big Train Show, which will be held Friday and Saturday in the East Tennessee State University Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center during this year’s Blue Plum Festival, is becoming one of the largest train shows in the Southeast, said ETSU George L. Carter Railroad Museum Director Fred Alsop.

“We have had lots of support from the City of Johnson City and the organizers of the Blue Plum Festival this year, as we hope our event will highlight both the festival and Johnson City with its long history of being a railroad town,” Alsop said.

Since starting the train museum on campus a decade ago, Alsop, who is also a professor in the ETSU Department of Biological Sciences, said he has worked to promote the railroad museum with similar events. He said the museum and Big Train Show allow him to hone in on one of his personal childhood interests and passions — model trains.

“My love of trains comes from when I was big enough to know what a train was, and seeing the prototypes running behind my grandmother’s home when I was growing up,” he said. “It’s my other hat that I wear. I spent most of my career here trying to be known as an ornithologist, and I’m now known as the ‘train guy.’”

Alsop said he hopes this event will be able to raise funds for the Carter Railroad Museum to help expand its operating hours on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

He's expecting at least 3,000 visitors this year. 

“Johnson City is a train-oriented town, and we’ve become a nice outlet for people who are interested in model railroading,” Alsop said. “Last year, with almost no publicity, we raised about $8,000. With the additional vendors and marketing campaign, we hope to have three times as many people in the doors.

“We have entered into an unprecedented marketing campaign this year to let everyone in the region know about our show and the unique opportunity it offers to anyone at any age who is interested in model railroading or railroading in general,” Alsop added.

The event will feature more than 64,000 square feet of display space and will include more than 50 vendors from across the country displaying railroad and model railroad items on more than 200 tables. There will also be six model train layouts in multiple scales and live operating steam locomotives featured at the event.

Train Show hours are Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 per day and children under 12 are admitted free. Patrons may access free parking in the adjacent ETSU parking garage on the corner of State of Franklin Road and Jack Vest Drive. A shuttle service will also be available to take Blue Plum Festival attendees to the Big Train Show, according to ETSU officials. 

On both days of the event, the Carter Railroad Museum, located in the ETSU Campus Center Building on 176 Ross Drive, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring model railroad layouts in three scales and four gauges.

For additional train show and Carter Railroad Museum information visit www.memrr.org or www.etsu.edu.

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