Yair Oppenheim thinks the trains chugging around the West Island Model Railroad Club are cool enough to videotape with his camera.
But the noises they make impress the 9-year-old even more.
"They all have different whistles," Yair marvels as the HO scale model railroad trains move along the serpentine indoor track. The big ones in his Woodmere neighborhood all sound alike, the budding train enthusiast says.
Yair, says his father, Michael, 42, "has been coming to train shows as long as he's known what a train is."
On a recent afternoon, almost 240 people visited the West Island Model Railroad Club's open house in Hicksville. Its space houses close to 700 feet of track (11 scale miles), where six trains were running simultaneously on the double-track railroad, which snakes seven times around the 87-by-64-foot space.
Founded in 1947, West Island was formerly headquartered in Westbury and Farmingdale. The club moved two years ago into the building near real railroad tracks in Hicksville. Since then, its 67 members have been working on the new train layout, which, although unfinished, made its public debut late last month.
Club members control the trains with an electronic system, and answer questions about the layout and miniature railway building in general from visitors.
"Right now, I'm controlling a coal train with 26 cars," says Richard Peterkin, 67, of Atlantic Beach, who recently started his own miniature train layout at home.
NOT THE LIRR
If you're hoping to see a replica of the Long Island Rail Road, you will be disappointed. The club's layout depicts the Allegheny & Western Railway in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as it would have looked more than 50 years ago.
"It shows the mix of steam and diesel trains that was a 1950s phenomenon," says club member Rob Biamonte, 60, of Levittown.
The trains make realistic sounds and are equipped with authentic lights. Surrounding the tracks are handmade buildings, farm scenes and a miniature viaduct assembled with pieces of Styrofoam. The buildings are scale models of actual structures seen along the railroad route in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
David Harel, 37, of Merrick, was holding his son, Steven, 3, so he could see the action on the track. Up to this point, Steven had been familiar only with Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
"There's another one coming, Daddy," he says, smiling.
West Island Model Railroad Club Open House
WHEN | WHERE 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Broadway Business Center (just off Route 107), 485 S. Broadway, Unit 22A, Hicksville; 516-433-6600, westislandmodelrailroadclub.com
ADMISSION By donation
Other model train shows
Train Masters of Babylon
WHEN | WHERE Noon-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 11-12, 1110A Rte. 109, Lindenhurst, 516-660-8099, tmbmodeltrainclub.com
Features 2,000 feet of track and 10 O-gauge trains.
The Central Operating Lines
WHEN | WHERE Noon-5 p.m. Jan. 8-9 and Feb. 5, 90 Raynor Ave., Ronkonkoma; 631-737-4634, centraloperatinglines.com
Seven scale miles of O-gauge track includes a train yard, elevated subway and trolley lines.