How to find train shows

The weather will be cooling off soon, and that means it will be time for more train shows. But how do you go about finding train shows? Here are some of my favorite tips.

Ask at your local hobby shop

how to find train shows
Model railroad clubs frequently set up layouts at train shows to promote themselves and the hobby. Since shows and clubs rely on each other, both of them are interested in helping you find one another.  Photo credit: Kurt Haubrich 

If you still have a local hobby shop that deals in trains, that’s always a good place to ask about upcoming shows. There’s a reasonable chance the owner will have a table there, or at least was approached about having a table there. Sometimes the dealers know about shows that don’t get tons of publicity, for whatever reason.

Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. If there are shows coming up soon, the dealer may very well have fliers hanging on the wall or sitting by the checkout.

Get on traveling shows’ mailing lists

The traveling shows like Great American Train Shows, World’s Greatest Hobby, and the Greenberg shows tend to send out postcards when they’re going to have a show in the area. When you go to one of their shows, they always give you the option to sign up to get on their mailing lists. That way you’ll know when they have a show near you next.

Although train shows tend to be more plentiful in the fall and winter, the traveling shows are less seasonal. Even though the last of my local shows tend to come just before I have to start getting the lawnmower ready for spring, the traveling shows often have one in the late spring or sometime during the summer. If you want to get a train fix during the summer, you may be able to.

Talk to your local club about train shows

A lot of model railroading clubs exhibit at shows, or even co-sponsor them. So a model railroading club is an excellent source of information. You may even be able to get discounted admission if you’re a member of a club. Joining a club, therefore, gives you at least those two benefits, at the very least.

If you don’t know if your area has a local club, ask at your hobby shop. If there is one, your dealer will know about it. Failing that, a web search on the phrase “train club” and the area you live in tends to be productive.

Check the back pages of magazines

The back pages of model railroad magazines contain a wealth of information about dealers, clubs, and upcoming shows, often listed by state. Everyone has an opinion about the magazines and how useful the articles are. But even when the articles are lousy, the information in the back can be gold, especially if you’re trying to find resources near you.

Even if you don’t have a hobby shop near you, check the newsstand. My nearest grocery store, believe it or not, carries a good assortment of train magazines. Yours may as well. Subscribe to the magazine that serves your niche of the hobby if it suits you. The magazine definitely needs your support. But even if you reside in a niche the magazines don’t serve very often, it pays to pick up a copy once or twice a year from the newsstand.

Look online to find train shows

Last but not least, look online. A web search for “train shows” and your area frequently will turn up lots of information. In my case, it seems like the local N scale club has the best list of shows. You may get lucky and find a nice list like me, or you may find several shows’ calendar of events. Either way, web pages are an inexpensive and effective way to advertise, so web searches increasingly turn up shows. Shows may be more scarce than they were 20 years ago, but more of them turn up online today than they did 20 years ago.

More train show tips

I also have some tips for how I navigate train shows that you may find helpful, especially if you’re on a budget. I also have tips for how to use price guides, which will help you keep from overpaying. As much as I preferred to spend that $20 on a train item instead of a book, I found once I finally broke down and bought a price guide, the money I saved at just one train show more than paid for the guide.

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