Hostler’s Annual Show A Model of Success

Loved the annual Hostler’s show at Union Station so much I had to go twice.

Story Trentelman


Of course, on Saturday I was shepherding grandchildren around. When you are busy watching grandkids you don’t see much of the show. I had to help carry, feed and help get them to the train ride out front. Model Trains? They’re in there somewhere.

So Sunday was mine. I wandered, I looked and wished. I bought a pocket watch.


And, wow, great show. Huge thanks to the Hostlers. This was their 25th year at Union Station and attendance on Friday and Saturday was just a 100 or so below last year, which set a record. More than 8,000 saw the amazing displays in our amazing Union Station.

But, hey, I’m not prejudiced.


I have several favorite displays. The Hostler’s massive setup in the grand lobby is a must-see, of course.  There’s tables full of train cars, engines and other gear I just love to wander by. Every time I see the Lionel stuff and wish mom hadn’t sold mine at that yard sale.

Max and Alice 2nd car back


Steve Moore

But not all displays are showy. In the grand lobby I met Steve Moore from West Jordan, sitting by himself at a table with a bunch of clear yellow sheets of plastic with holes cut in them.


I don’t do model train layouts myself, but anyone who does needs to know how to plan their system so trains can make the curves without running off the edge of the table. Those plastic circles are a system of templates that Steve designed. They work sort of like those protractors you used to have in grade school to draw curvy lines, allowing you to set precise curves on HO, N and O model railroad scales. You can do easements, tangent alignments and much else that Steve confused me with, but I’m stupid.


If you missed him at the show, his web site is here (click!)


This is Coldwater Gulch’s 14th year at the show, and theirs is always a huge winner in my book.


Ron Wilson at Coldwater Gulch

As Ron Wilson explained, Coldwater Gulch was the dream child of the late Dick Watson. The idea was to have not just a model railroad, but a whole community, complete with history and institutions.


The members of the group went one further. Most model railroad groups let members build module segments of the display as they want, the only rule being that rail connections and electronics had to link up.


Coldwater Gulch went one step more, requiring the whole display to have the same scenic theme, a mountain and cliff look not unlike the rocky mining districts of Utah and Colorado. This meant, said Ron, that module builders had incentive to finish their module first, since that meant the guy next to him was stuck matching his cliff, or river, or whatever.

Dr. Bill Hughes waiting for

a freight to go by


They’re always happy to teach. How do you make those tiny shingles on those tiny buildings? Ron said Dick Watson would collect business cards from folks, cut strips off the cards and then little cross-slits every 8th of an inch or so and voila! Instant strips of shingles, any color you want to make them.


It was more work, but makes for a really great display overall. Theme is the important part of any story, and the Coldwater Gulch story is told very well by these guys.