Titletown Train Show gears up for 21st event
Giving hobbyists a chance to show off their skills
By Janelle Fisher
The 21st annual Titletown Train Show is rolling into town, and show director Todd Bushmaker, who has been a part of the show since it began, said he can’t help but reflect on how far the show has come and what it has to offer to the public.
“I was part of a local club that took our portable model layout to a number of local-, regional- and even national-level shows every year, and (we) wondered why Green Bay didn’t have a show,” Bushmaker said.
He said when the National Model Railroad Association was set to host a regional convention in Green Bay in 2003, it seemed like a good idea to add in a public train show component.
“That gave me an excuse to try organizing an annual event,” Bushmaker said. “This started back in late 2000. I tried contacting businesses for help and possible free or cheap venues like the old Port Plaza Mall without success.”
Eventually, Bushmaker said things began to fall into place.
The first Titletown Train Show was held in April 2002 at the Brown County Area and he said it “exceeded our expectations.”
Bushmaker said the show has undergone multiple venue changes since the first show.
“After our first show in 2002, PMI realized we’d be much better suited to Shopko Hall, so we moved there and stayed until that building was demolished,” he said. “Now we’re downtown in the KI Convention Center.”
Bushmaker said he hopes the show’s current location will help show attendance continue to grow.
“I would like to grow the show again,” he said. “The KI is a great venue and we’d like to leverage this location to bring people downtown.”
More than an event
Bushmaker said, for him, the show is more than just an event – it’s an extension of his long involvement with model railroading and an opportunity for modelers, like himself, to display their skills.
“I’ve been involved with model railroading since I was a teen and made many great friends over the years,” he said. “Organizing the show is a satisfying extension to that. There aren’t a lot of ways for modelers to show off their skills to the general public, so this really helps with that.”
Though venues have changed over the years, Bushmaker said the desire to educate the public about the hobby has remained constant.
“It’s one of the few ways to educate the public about this great hobby and what it has to offer,” he said. “A show like this is partly designed to interest the next generation of modelers and participants. Get them started early with things like Thomas the Tank, and as they get older, entice them with computers and programming, videography and presentation on social media and other links to modern interests, in addition to the typical hands-on skills like carpentry, electricity, model-making, painting, etc.”
Bushmaker said shows like the Titletown Train Show are valuable tools in breaking down some misconceptions about model railroading, and letting people know there really is something in it for everyone.
“There is an industry campaign out there that promotes model railroading as the ‘World’s Greatest Hobby,’ but I think most of the general public still thinks it’s all about toys and the track under the Christmas tree,” he said. “There are so many aspects to the hobby, and so many different skills you can apply that anyone should be able to get something out of it.”
Bushmaker says attending the show and seeing what existing hobbyists have created is a great way for people to see just how many exciting opportunities exist within the world of model railroading.
“Nowadays we have to compete for time with video games and smartphones more so than other ‘traditional’ hobbies like R/C cars or airplanes,” he said. “There are so many possibilities, and it’s easy to grasp that when you see the results of what our hobbyist friends are more than happy to show off at the show!”
For people looking to get into model railroading and aren’t sure where to begin, Bushmaker said the show is a great place to get started.
“We have vendors and hobby shops who will be able to get you started without a gigantic outlay,” he said. “You can start with something small and work your way up as your comfort level and skills increase. That’s how it usually works for most of us anyway. When I was a teen, I didn’t have much to spend, so my skills involved a lot of improvising, and that served me well, even as I was able to afford to do much more later.”
Bushmaker said many show vendors also purchase used model trains.
“If you have an old train set or stuff you inherited and don’t know what to do with, feel free to bring photos or examples, and you’ll be able to find a potential buyer,” he said. “On the other hand, you may be inspired to keep it and see what you can do with it yourself.”
Whether an experienced hobbyist or someone who has a recently sparked interest in model railroading, Bushmaker said the Titletown Train Show has something for everyone.
The show is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 9 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 10.
More information can be found at titletowntrainshow.com.
Janelle Fisher is an intern from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. She writes for The Press Times and Green Bay City Pages.