PENDLETON — Some fathers coach a son’s baseball team. Some go fishing. Marty Gilbert’s childhood bonding time with his son Robert came in the form of collecting model trains.

“We always had them up around the Christmas tree at home,” the younger Gilbert said.

And the two liked it so much that decades later, they still do it. And for the last 9 years, they’ve put the hobby to good use.

The Gilbert boys and their trains will be on display for the next three weekends and proceeds go to benefit the Pendleton Historical Society, of which the elder Gilbert, 73, serves as president. Their 1,000-foot-long setup have been a big hit, too.

“We have a lot of fun meeting the people and trying to answer their questions,” the elder Gilbert said.

It’s taken the duo six weeks to set up the intricate system, he said. It’s complete with hunters chasing foxes, dogs chasing mailmen and other winter village scenes.

Last year, the setup drew about 1,500 people in the three-week showing. The father-son team hopes to duplicate the attendance of past years, and the interest those who came demonstrated.

The younger Gilbert said in recent years, the number of repeat customers has risen, and they’re spreading their hobby to others. And to keep things interesting for the regulars, the display is never the same twice.

“Every year its different. There’s not enough room to put everything up,” the younger Gilbert said.

He tells the story of a young couple with a little boy for whom Santa was planning to give a train set. When Gilbert found that out, he gave the boy some advice.

“I asked, ‘if Santa was going to bring you a train for Christmas, who’s going to run it?’ I poked him in the shoulder and said ‘you are the engineer,’ ” he recalls.

The youngster took the advice to heart the next year.

“The following year, they came back,” he said. “The mother said ‘You wouldn’t believe that little talk you cave him. He wouldn’t even let his father run it.’ We got the biggest charge out of that.”

The train display is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for the next three weeks. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children ages six to 12 and children five and under are free. Also, children can visit with Santa Claus Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Contact Eric DuVall at (716) 439-9222, Ext. 6251.

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