Caleb Buchanek has carefully studied the 400 feet of track that makes up the annual Loblolly Model Train Exhibit at the Gregg County Historical Museum.
On several occasions it has circled the 8ft by 42ft platform supporting seven individual tracks that meander in and out of small towns and countryside that depict various holiday and winter scenes.
Diagnosed with autism, Buchanek, 18, loves model trains and visits the exhibit every year, said his mother, Kelly Buchanek. Because of this, she made sure they attended the exhibition’s opening day on Tuesday.
“He has loved trains since he was 2 years old, and his love for them has only grown since then,” his mother said. “The guys here are very informative and taught him how to make his own track at home.”
Dozens and dozens of families attend the model train show every year, said Steve Gatlon, a model train driver with the Loblolly model train.
Gatlon said that a particularly common sight at the exhibit is that of grandparents with their grandchildren, as they remember model trains from their own childhood and want to share that with loved ones.
“Trains are one of the few toys that have transcended the decades,” he said. “If you look back to the 1950s, kids used to take trains, and if you go to the Hobby Lobby today, there are still trains for sale, just like the Barbie dolls.
Gatlon thinks there is a lot kids can learn from model trains. Caleb, for example, used them in conjunction with his apprenticeship, his mother said.
“They are a great motivator for his reading,” she said. “It’s amazing the things you can teach with math trains. … This has not only been a great hobby for him, but it has helped him propel him in his learning and foundation to be a more engaged and productive person in our community and in life in general.
The Loblolly Model Train Exhibit featuring the Polar Express is on display at the Gregg County Historical Museum through December 23. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The historical museum offers free entry every Saturday in December. Admission Tuesday through Friday is $ 5 for adults, $ 2 for seniors, and $ 1 for children. The museum is located at 214 N. Fredonia St. in downtown Longview.