UNION-Eyes light up and mouths turn into smiles as the train comes in sight around a curve. The reaction is the same regardless of a person's age. For more than 100 years, trains have been a traditional holiday gift. Toddlers receive toy trains, older youngsters frequently get tinplate sets, and adults often receive the latest steam or diesel scale model locomotive they've aspired to during preceding months. It's no coincidence then that model railroad clubs, including some of the largest and oldest in the nation, and based in various parts of New Jersey, host their annual shows in the last month of the year. The shows draw thousands of visitors from throughout the tri-state region. One of the largest club layouts is that of The Model Railroad Club of Union, located off Route 22, about two miles from the Garden State Parkway. The club is located on Jefferson Avenue behind Home Depot. The main layout has taken some 30 years to construct and measures 40 feet by 40 feet and is an HO-scale layout reproducing rail operations in Western New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. The club also has a smaller, double decked 27-feet by 30-feet N-scale layout. Broad sweeping curves, handlaid track and trains of 100-plus freight cars are typical on the layout. These contrast sharply with interurban self-propelled rail cars that provided passenger service in sparsely populated areas. The club was founded as the Summit-New Providence HO Railroad Club on Feb. 17, 1949, by four men who shared a common interest in model railroading: Paul Mallery, Paul Draper, Walter Kalin & Ken Robinson. Paul Mallery is considered one of the pioneers of the hobby, according to Robert Narbone, club vice president. Mallery authored over three hundred articles and numerous books, several of which are still in print, covering many aspects of model railroading particularly in the area of wiring and electronics. The club's construction of its first phase began in 1971 and upon completion was donated to the Union County Park System which provided the site. Construction on the expansion began in 1992 and was completed in 2002. Further expansions of the facility also are planned. Widely regarded as one of the most accurate and detailed layouts in the region, it grasps and hold the attention of visitors from adult modelers to toddlers with their noses pressed against the plexiglas for a better look at each miniature freight or passenger car. The club's railroad light show' continues Dec. 10-12. For more information on times, and further details, visit the club's website at http://www.tmrci.com/ or call (908) 964-8808 for a recorded message. Other major clubs with shows this season are the Ramapo Valley Railroad Club's annual holiday open house on Dec. 11-12 and 18-19. The club is in the HoHoKus VFW Hall at 620 Cliff St. For further information visit its Website at http://www.members.aol.com/rvrrclub/ or call (201) 444-4546 for a recording. The Garden State Model Railway Club, 575 High Mountain Road, North Haledon, finishes up its holiday model railroad show Dec. 10-12. For further information visit its Website at http://www.gsmrrclub.org. The O-scale New York Society of Model Engineers holds its exhibition of model trains on Dec. 10-12 at the society's headquarters at 341 Hoboken Road, Carlstadt. For further information visit the club's Website at http://www.modelengineers.org.