Railroad tracks and trains are coming to North County but it has nothing to do with plans for industry along the Chelatchie Prairie line — rather, model railroad enthusiasts and their collections will come to Battle Ground High School for an annual swap meet.

The Southwest Washington Model Railroaders 45th annual Great Train Swap Meet is set for Saturday, bringing in more than 100 different enthusiasts and their collections of models and memorabilia. 

This weekend marks the third year at the high school which Southwest Washington Model Railroaders member Larry Sprenkel said has been a good fit. 

The event typically attracts enthusiasts from along the Interstate 5 corridor going north to Chehalis and south to Salem. Sprenkel said the majority of setups featured models in the HO and N gauges which relate to the size relative to a full-size, real-world example. HO gauge featured models an eighty-seventh the size of the real thing, while N gauge was a one hundred and sixtieth as big. 

The primary focus of the swap meet was in its name — either trading, buying or selling for model railroad enthusiasts, Sprenkel said. Other memorabilia like old publications complement the trains, tracks and buildings.

The Southwest Washington Model Railroaders have been around since 1972, having recently moved their clubhouse to Memorial Lutheran Church in Vancouver. Sprenkel first encountered the club when looking for advice on his own home model constructions, stumbling upon the club and joining.

“There a very great group — helpful, eager to show you how to do things,” Sprenkel commented. 

Different members have different specialities, be it creating scenery, making track or working with the electronics to make the trains run smoothly.

Though the group has several members who are strictly model hobbyists, Sprenkel noted that a few members had experience on the full-size trains, mentioning one who was a dispatcher for Burlington Northern Santa Fe and another who currently works as an engineer.

Alongside the swap meet the Southwest Washington Model Railroaders also host an annual open house which they put on over the past weekend. Sprenkel encouraged those who might be interested in model railroads to come out, possibly to buy or trade but at the very least to browse.

“It’s a great opportunity to come out and see what we do,” Sprenkel said about the events.

If you can’t make the swap meet but are interested in joining the Southwest Washington Model Railroaders, call 360-737-6780.

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