By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Three-year-old Henry Shortridge flashed his mom Michelle a quick thumbs-up, then turned back to work.
He was busy -- driving a train.
Standing at the control switch, Henry made the train stop and go along the track on Saturday afternoon during the annual open house sponsored by the Quincy Society of Model Engineers.
It was plenty of fun for Henry and for his grandpa Patrick Denum.
"We brought him last year, and he loved it," Denum said.
So did 5-year-old Liam Kelty, who stood with his eye trained on a peephole to see the train coming straight at him.
Liam's an avid fan of trains, especially Thomas the Train, and "he's having a pretty good time," his dad Brian Kelty said.
"I like it to go fast," Liam said. "I like that train. I want to drive it again."
A love of trains just seems to run in the family because Kelty remembers coming to see the trains as a child with his grandfathers Don Bartelt and "Papa" Merle Marshall.
"It's tradition. It's Americana," Kelty said. "There's history. There's glamour. It represents a certain point in our history as well, connecting the West Coast and the East Coast."
History was on display at the open house, with vintage model trains to see and the QSME's own Chesapeake and Lake Erie model railroad, an HO scale layout set in northern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio in 1958, that fills a room at the Good Samaritan Home.
"It took over 40 years to develop this," QSME President Hank Murray said, and the display continues to evolve with club members working to put in a steel mill in place of a town.
With the open house, "nobody really remembers when it started, but it goes back into the 70s. There are pictures of open houses with this partway under construction with no scenery," Murray said.
But the goal always remains the same. "We want to recruit members, and secondly, we want to share with the community a hobby we enjoy and increase the appreciation of railroads," Murray said.
Club members ran the trains over tracks and through tunnels to the delight of spectators young and old.
Rick Proske held up his grandson Noah Gosnell for a closer look. "He loves trains. I heard about the open house and thought it might be a good place to stop," Proske said.
Keeping a close eye on all the trains, and the operators, was first-time dispatcher and club member John Roskamp, who took his first steps in the train room.
Headsets kept Roskamp in contact with operators across the room, helping to avoid any accidents on the tracks.
Running the trains may be easy, but the dispatching, similar to what an air traffic controller does, provides more challenge.
"Right now I have six trains out. Eight trains is max, and five is a good number," Roskamp said. "It's a little more stressful than fun at the moment (because) I'm new at it, but I am enjoying it."
Even his fiance Christy Miller has learned to like the trains.
"It's fun," she said. "The people you meet are neat. It's kind of like a family."
Watching the trains fascinated the youngest in Jennifer Cunningham's family, 3-year-old Noah.
"He remembered it from last year and has been asking for it every time we drive by. He likes this," Cunningham said.
But the rest of the family enjoyed it nearly as much.
"They're awesome," said 11-year-old Gwen, Noah's sister. "They just kind of are."
The Quincy Society of Model Engineers annual open house continues noon-4 p.m. Sunday at the Good Samaritan Home, 2130 Harrison.
The club's permanent HO scale layout will be in full operation with several trains running on the main line and others operating on the narrow gauge.
Also on display and operating will be two portable layouts and a static display of tinplate and toy trains.
More information about QSME is available online at qsme.org.