Paul Gagemeier remembers days when he was a child watching steam engines being switched at the turntable near the 24th Street Bridge.
"That got me hooked on trains. To see the real working steam engines you grew up with, you never grew out of it" said Gagemeier, 75, of Ebensburg, a model railroader since the age of ten.
"Over the years I have had several model railroads in my home. Then we built a building beside our home that houses a model railroad," Gagemeier said. "We have an open house there every Monday night."
Gagemeier was one of about 400 people who spent part of Sunday afternoon at Scalefest at the Blair County Convention Center.
Sponsored by the Alto Model Train Museum of Altoona, Scalefest is "like a model train meet where people buy, sell and trade model trains," said David Seidel, a member of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, who does publicity work for the organization.
"This is for people who have models and set up their toy trains around the holidays and have large layouts," Seidel said. "These are just not new trains, there are a lot of old and vintage trains as well. Some of the old stuff is worth more."
Like Gagemeier, Dick Luther of Duncansville is a life-long model railroader.
"I just have a love for the hobby. I have been doing this all of my life and I am 51. I am with my dad [William, 76]. We are working on an S gauge layout. We are looking for bits and pieces," Luther said.
Ron Novak of Tyrone is a Scalefest regular.
"I've been collecting for 25 years or so. I started by accident. My brother was interested and I looked for things for him on the computer then I started buying them. I have 40 some trains or more, you lose track of them," Novak said. "I am a Marks tin train collector. I bought a couple of engines and a light tower. It is a very good show, the biggest one so far."
Bonnie Summers of Hollidaysburg was Christmas shopping at Scalefest.
"I am looking for Christmas presents for my husband [Daniel]. He is an American Flyer collector. He has been collecting them forever," Summers said. "We've been married for 38 years and he has had trains all of those years."
Karen Diebold of Altoona brought her son Corey, 7, to Scalefest.
"We are looking to see what they have and are getting some ideas. We are just getting started," Diebold said. "He wants everything in the room."
Alto Model Train Museum vice president and show organizer Ron Kennedy, said the nice weather may have hurt attendance.
"People are out raking leaves and doing things outdoors. The good weather probably hurt us. This is the biggest show we've ever had. If the weather wasn't so nice, we would have more people," Kennedy said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.