It's been about 20 years since First State Model Railroad Club participated in Dover Days.

It's been about 20 years since First State Model Railroad Club participated in Dover Days.

That absence comes to an end Thursday as FSMRC will give a tour of its display of model railroads and discuss the importance of the mainline in Delaware during the 1920s, in celebration of the 80th Dover Days Festival. The tour will be held at FSMRC's headquarters located at 1281 McKee Road in Dover.

The lowdown

FSMRC's model train display features HO trains (small trains between the sizes of three-and-a-half millimeters to one foot) on four railroad tracks surrounded by dioramas depicting railroad stations from throughout the state during the 1920s. The 1920s was a significant time in Delaware because it "became a major production area for [transporting] fruits and vegetables of all kinds," said FSMRC Secretary Jim Valle, 69, of Dover.

"Peaches, apples, berries, melons, tomatoes and all this stuff were transportable by train," he said.

One of the most essential places for transferring fruit was the Clayton Station in Clayton because it had one pretty "cool" resource.

"Clayton was once a rather important town on the railroad because the railroad had a lot of fruits and vegetables and Clayton had a big ice house," he said. "Clayton had the ice house to put ice into the cars to refrigerate the fruit."

Home sweet home

FSMRC, founded in 1985, decided to show off its model trains at the 80th Dover Days Festival because the crew finally secured a new place to call home. They're currently operating in a privately owned building that's been loaned to the club since 2009, Valle said. Prior to that, FSMRC bounced around from multiple locations, including the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village and Wyoming Railroad Station. For the most part, members were hosting meetings out of their homes. Now the group hosts weekly meetings on Thursday evenings at their new headquarters on McKee Road.

There are about 35 members in the group. The average age is 50, with the youngest members in their 40s and the eldest over 70, Valle said.

Same train of thought

Everyone has a soft spot for something, and the guys in FSMRC have one for model railroad cars. It's a hobby most of the guys in the club, like Valle, have enjoyed since they were kids, and they've never snapped out of it. While Valle admits collecting model trains is an old guy's hobby, he says it gives folks of all ages a reason to smile, especially those whose parents couldn't afford to buy them trains as kids.

"It's never too late to have a happy childhood," he said.

WHAT First State Model Railroad Club's Dover Days display
WHEN 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, May 2
WHERE First State Model Railroad Club headquarters, 1281 McKee Road, Dover