Ken Stouffer helps to dismantle a bridge that was part of the Bridge Man hobbyists display at the Great Train Show in Novi Jan. 22.

Ken Stouffer helps to dismantle a bridge that was part of the Bridge Man hobbyists display at the Great Train Show in Novi Jan. 22.

Photo by Charity Meier

Kids, parents enjoy model railroads at Great Train Show in Novi

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published January 25, 2023

 Leo Audette, 6, of Lake Orion, dresses as an engineer while attending the Great Train Show at the Suburban Collection Showplace Jan. 22.

Leo Audette, 6, of Lake Orion, dresses as an engineer while attending the Great Train Show at the Suburban Collection Showplace Jan. 22.

Photo by Charity Meier


NOVI — The Great Train Show provided local model railroad enthusiasts with a chance to purchase a vast variety of train paraphernalia and to see extremely talented hobbyists in action when it pulled into Novi Jan. 21-22 at the Suburban Collection Showplace.

The event featured five local hobbyists including the Bridge Man, Harold Woods Jr., of Rockford, who welds extreme bridges and even created a Ferris wheel for an impressive model train display; Michigan Lego User Group, known as MichLUG, and its huge Lego train display; and the Detroit Historical Society’s train enthusiasts.   

Harold Woods III said that the Bridge Man has become a family affair. He said it took seven hours to set up the family’s display with 10 people. He said many people ask how they can get involved with their group, but it is simply a family affair, which was started with his father’s passion for bridges.

Because of the time it takes to set up a model railroad, Woods III said they usually only do a couple of shows a year. In that way, they don’t have to take too much time off work. During the off season, he said that each of the 14 Woods siblings has a bridge as a tribute to their dad. He said his bridge hangs on his wall in Commerce Township in the offseason.

Woods Jr. was a construction builder for 38 years and started building bridges as static displays until 2017, when they brought a bridge to a town in Ohio for a company’s 100th anniversary. Now, they have three train tables and show off the multiple bridges that Woods Jr. has made. The bridge that hangs at Woods III’s home weighs in at 450 pounds and has 55,000 welds on one end. Woods Jr. said the bridge took him 2 1/2 years to build.

“Everybody needs a hobby. When you get ready to retire, you want to be not necessarily productive, but you don’t want to be unproductive either,” said Woods Jr. “So, I was fascinated by structural things — bridges being the most structural.”

Woods Jr. said the materials don’t cost that much for the builds. However, each bridge takes a long time to construct.

“The time is what it costs if you put any value on your time, but when you are a hobbyist, your time is free. Whatever you do as a hobby, that is what it is for, is the time. You can’t put a number. If you do, then it’s not a hobby anymore,” said Woods Jr.

The Great Train Show was especially attractive to many local parents whose children love trains.

“Leo has been obsessed with trains since he was like 2,” said Raelle Audette, of Lake Orion. “So, we bought tickets immediately. He loves anything trains. That’s all he wanted for Christmas. That’s all he talks about. He just went to Universal Studios. That’s all he wanted to do was ride the Hogwarts Express train. He said that was his favorite ride. He is just obsessed. He says he wants to be a train engineer when he grows up. He’s, like, over the top obsessed. It’s really cute though.”

Leo Audette, 6, who came to the show dressed as an engineer, said he liked that there were trains at the show and he wanted to play with all of them.

Nancy Baydoun, of Dearborn, said her son, Mahdi Hadous, 5, is “obsessed” with trains. She said she saw the event posted on Facebook and knew she had to bring him.

She said her son really liked being able to buy things and to watch the model trains go.  However, she said she felt the show needed to provide more interactive activities for the children.

According to event attendee Amanda Carravallah, of Livonia, one of the train hobbyists brought an engine specifically for the kids to touch. Her son, Gus, said that was his favorite part of the show.

“It was a good train show. It was good so far,” said 3-year-old Gus Carravallah, of Livonia, as he sorted through a pile of Legos with his mom. “I liked when the guy let me touch the engine.”

Amanda, described her son as a “train fanatic.” She said that she has taken her son many times to Greenfield Village in Dearborn to see the steam engines, so they came to see all the model trains and layouts. She said he had been excited to come to the show all week.

Jim Morrin, of MichLUG, said the show provided the group with an opportunity to show off its work and let the kids enjoy it.

“I have a huge layout in my basement, but maybe 50 people a year get to see it, if that,” said Morrin. “Here I get 50 people in the first 10 minutes we are open. So, we can let our builds be enjoyed by everybody.”

He said there are many hidden elements they like to call “Easter eggs,” in their Lego displays, such as graffiti on the back of one of the buildings, that many people tend to overlook. He said they held an “I spy” game for the kids during the show where the kids were able to look over the displays and find all the Easter eggs. According to Morrin, most people only catch about 20% of what is actually there.

“It just gets to be a lot of fun,” said Morrin.

Hadous summed up his favorite part of the show with one word, “Trains.”