On Saturday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club (CAMRC) will present its fall Train Open House event at McGee Center, 3800 W. College Ave., in west Conway. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted at the door to help keep the trains running.

This event will have an educational theme with "Trains 101" informational clinics intended for newcomers to the hobby. The guest layout will be the large, HO-scale modular layout designed and built by members of the Crooked Rail Model Railroad Club based in the Little Rock area. They will present an informal walk-around tour of the layout and provide commentary on "How We Built It," followed by Q&A from visitors.

Two modules of this layout will be especially intriguing to kids and families. One contains a model of the Bates Motel featured in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, "Psycho," and another includes a crash-landed UFO with tiny silver-skinned aliens surrounded by a "not very welcoming party" of Earthlings with military hardware and police gear.

Free appraisals of pre-1970 Lionel, Marx, and American Flyer trains will be provided based on published price guides widely accepted as standards for the hobby. Free assessments of older Lionel trains in need of repair will be provided by a certified Lionel repair technician. Parts are available for most vintage Lionel trains, and the models can be restored to like-new operating condition.

Another operating train layout will present O-gauge Lionel trains on a two-platform array with a main line, two reversing loops, and two trolley lines. Youngsters can become "Whistleblowers" for a train using a hand-held wireless controller that enables them to sound the horn, ring the bell, and make the trains "talk" with conversations between the engineer and dispatcher.

Most young children know and love the railroad-based stories about Thomas and his Friends. Sir Topham Hatt, the director of the fictional railroad on the imaginary Isle of Sodor, is always pleased with the work of the "very useful engines" on the line: Thomas, Percy, James, and Emily. HO-scale models of those locomotives will be available to kids for hands-on fun as operators of these trains. Youngsters that demonstrate proficiency as an operator will receive a Junior Engineer certificate.

Every CAMRC Train Open House event offers hobby-related door prizes that are well suited for kids and families interested in the hobby. Club President Mike Mottler said, "We invite train hobbyists and wannabees to visit the site, ‘talk trains,’ and consider joining the club."