Fred Collins recognizes that at age 70, he will never outgrow trains. Instead, the Columbus resident would like to pass on his decades-old passion to others.

Fred Collins recognizes that at age 70, he will never outgrow trains. Instead, the Columbus resident would like to pass on his decades-old passion to others.

That's why he and other train enthusiasts participate in Model Railroad Days at COSI every November. The annual event, slated for Nov. 16-20, features elaborate displays in a variety of scales created by local volunteers, said COSI spokeswoman Jaclyn Reynolds.

"It usually spans about 10,000 square feet," she said. "We get some help from the central Ohio train clubs. They bring in their model railroad displays. Visitors of all ages enjoy the intricate designs of the displays. It's amazing the time and effort that they put into these sets."

Collins, who works in N scale (1:160 in real size), has created a camp scene complete with a fire that smokes. Fellow railroaders have incorporated gardens, festivals, horse farms and other scenes into their displays, he said. He attends the event every day so he can share information and answer questions about his hobby. The railroaders love the chance to talk trains, Collins said. "We really enjoy speaking to the public and answering questions."

That interaction between attendees and hobbyists really enhances the event, Reynolds said. Many train club members share interesting facts and information about railroading in the United States, she added. "Getting to hear the stories of the operators is wonderful," she said. "They put a lot of thought into their towns and their designs. They try to represent everyone in their club."

The setups require a fair amount of engineering in keeping with the science center's mission, Reynolds said. COSI officials enjoy hosting the event, which began in 2010, because of its intergenerational appeal. "We always say COSI is for all ages," she said. "These kinds of exhibits create new traditions for families. They can come back each year."

Collins appreciates that the event takes place the week before Thanksgiving. It serves as a way to kick-start the holidays, he said. "Hopefully it inspires a kid to say, 'I want a train set for Christmas.' "

-Melissa Kossler Dutton