Cabin Fever 2005

Big Things Happen With Little Engines at Pennsylvania Model Engine Show

| April 2005

"It all started because of him," says Gary Schoenly when asked about the origins of Cabin Fever, the scale and model engine show he and his family have been running for nine years. "Him," in case you're wondering, is Gary's 22-year-old son, Jared, who, as Gary tells it, "was always interested in toy trains. At about 8 or 9, we had gone to Rough & Tumble, and it was either Dick Shelley or Jack Rosman who had quite a display of engines, and Jared said, 'Dad, we need one of those engines.' I told him you can't just buy one, you have to build one."

The following year, Jared became friends with scale-engine builder George Luhrs, who took Jared under his wing and mentored him in the ways of scale engines. Jared was hooked, and he and Gary started attending scale-engine shows around the country.

Ten years ago, while heading home from the North American Model Engineering Exposition in Michigan, the pair got to thinking. "Driving home, we realized we were going to Michigan to see our Pennsylvania friends, so why not do a model show in Pennsylvania? I remember telling Jared, 'I think I can talk Mom into it, and if we can pay the bills I think we'll be able to do it,'" Gary recalls. That conversation was the impetus for the first Cabin Fever Model Engineering Exposition, which the Schoenly's held at the Leesport Farmers Market in Leesport, Pa., in 1997. Eleven vendors showed up for that first show, along with about 50 exhibitors and close to 1,000 attendees. They paid the bills, and they've been moving forward ever since.

Growing Up

The show stayed in Leesport for the next three years, but in 2001, with attendance rising, and more and more vendors and exhibitors showing interest, the growing show moved to the Lebanon County Exposition Center in Lebanon, Pa. Two years later, and still growing, the show moved to its current home at the York Fairgrounds Convention & Expo Center in York, Pa.

Gary says about 5,000 people showed up for the 2005 show, touring the Expo Center's cavernous floor space and inspecting the displays set up by the 105 vendors and close to 250 exhibitors on hand for this year's event. Vendors supply everything from computer-aided milling machines to rough casting kits to finished, running engines. Vendors sell used lathes, milling machines, bar stock and tools, and a few, like blacksmith Pete Renzetti, pedal their art.

The truth, of course, is just about everything on display could be termed art. What else can you call a perfect 1/16-scale 300 HP Snow double-acting tandem - an engine design Doug Kelley adapted from nothing more than an old textbook drawing and then lovingly crafted to a perfect running display.


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