SOUTH SIOUX CITY | John Koskovich hears the train a comin'.
But it's not from the tracks that run through this Dakota County community -- the echo of some freight, grain or coal train.
It's in the lower level of his home.
The weekend of March 2-3, Koskovich and others will share their love of all things locomotive at the Cosmopolitan Model Railroad show at Emma's Event Center, a fundraiser for the Sioux City Cosmopolitan Club.
As with most nonprofit, philanthropic organizations, the Cosmopolitan Club -- known as the club that fights diabetes -- which has tried numerous ways of raising money, Koskovich explained.
"For 25 years, we sold Christmas trees," he said. "In its heyday, we would sell about 2,500 trees. When we stopped doing it, we had dwindled to 400. We needed to look at another fundraiser."
Koskovich recalled his love of model trains and his experience with attending shows.
"I got my first model train set when I was 1 year old," he said, with a grin. "Every year after that, until I was 10, my dad added to the train set."
When Koskovich and his wife Barb decided to build their home some 22 years ago, he didn't negotiate for a man cave.
"I wanted a train room," he said and Barb granted his wish. "I also made sure there were no posts in the room. That's a model train hobbyist's worst nightmare, because you have to work around them. A 14-inch steel i-beam holds up the ceiling in my train room.
Koskovich's love of model trains continued over the years, and he began attending trains shows as a visitor, vendor, and presenter.
"I knew the background of the shows and I knew the Cosmopolitan Club needed a new fundraiser," he said. "I suggested we try this approach."
There hadn't been a model railroad show in Sioux City for more than 20 years, Koskovich estimated.
"I did my research and estimated how much it would cost to put something like this together," he said. "I also talked to vendors about the best time to hold one in Sioux City."
Vendors told Koskovich the first Saturday in March would be perfect, since it didn't conflict with shows in Sioux Falls, Council Bluffs and Lincoln, and the weather would most likely cooperate at that time.
Koskovich was in search of at least 10,000 square feet for displays and reserved Emma's Event Center.
"As soon as I locked it in, we sold out all the tables about five weeks before the event," he said. "That told me vendors were anxious to get into Sioux City."
In addition to the opportunity to purchase everything associated with model trains, those in attendance will have the chance to see a 7- by 14-foot Lionel "O" gauge layout, a 60-foot Free Mo modular layout in "HO" scale of a Lionel engine, and a 4- by 8-foot Lego train. Modelers will have a chance to attend two how-to seminars a day, Koskovich noted.
"If you like trains, you get to see the craftsmanship associated with them at this show," he said. "Plus, there will be displays of scenery and examples of the bells and whistles one can add to a train display."
Because, as Koskovich can attest, it's not just about an engine, the cars and the caboose. It's about the friendship, camaraderie and sharing of ideas.
"There will be tons of stuff you can't find at a local hobby shop," said Koskovich, who has a substantial 40- by 40-foot train layout in his basement with tracks that wind around and around.
"I can run four trains at one time," he said, and demonstrated some of the sound effects that one associates with a train coming down the tracks through an electronic control device.
But the trains pale in comparison to the environment in which they're located and the accoutrements that enhance the presentation.
For example, people, the size of a fingernail are engaged in all types of activities. Small accessories, such as cars, lamp posts, and animals, make the scenarios worth staring at -- with all its attention to detail.
"I like creating scenes that remind me of Sioux City," Koskovich said. "However, they are not strategically correct. They're just the way I wanted to display them."
A large area is a replication of the L.G. Everist company, with cars loaded with small bits of sand and gravel and pigeons perching on elevators. Fourth Street is recreated, complete with historic buildings that are its signature. The presentation is surrounded by a mural, painted by Scott Tucker and Richard Gordon, which depicts other Sioux City landmarks.
Certainly, the piece de resistance is a 4-foot high craggy mountain with a lift and skiers. Koskovich will present a seminar on how to construct a similar presentation.
"It's really like a great big jigsaw puzzle," he said. "You keep working on it until all the pieces fit the way you want them to."