Vermont museum's model trains draw a crowd

The Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vt. recently held its annual holiday open house. Hundreds came out to see one main attraction.

Larry Maier is a retired aerospace engineer. He says his successful career is all thanks to the time he spent working on model trains as a child. "I learned about mechanics, electronics -- went on from there. I had a career in aerospace. I worked on the space shuttle, and now I'm back doing model trains, because it's kind of a full circle," Maier said.

Once a year he works with a group of volunteers putting together an electrical train set at the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury. This weekend was the 25th anniversary of the train display at the museum's holiday open house.

"I liked the helicopter that was going around and around, and I also liked this big giant train. It probably was the biggest that would go in the tunnel, and then you would have to wait for a while, but then it would come out again, and it was cool," said Hazel Stoddard, age 9.

The entire museum comes alive for the event. One volunteer played classical tunes on an 1830s piano, while upstairs kids learned to play with old wooden toys. But for many, the train was the highlight. "There were these one red buttons that switch the sign. Another red button made this guy climb and made the lights turn on,"  said Milo Stoddard, age 6.

Maier says for kids who play with model trains, it's not only a fun hobby, but it can help them hone in on a number of skills. For him, the best part about building the display is bringing joy to every visitor. "Everybody that walks through the door gets a big smile on their face. From the littlest kids to the oldest adults. It's really nice, because when you're running them, you stand behind so you can see everybody come in," Maier said.

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