History of the Green Bay Area Model Railroaders Club (1956 - Present)
“Don’t Live In The Past” - Time Line – 1956 – 1987
The National Railroad Museum was founded in 1956. The Shortline Railroad Association donated money to construct an administration and exhibit building on the Museum grounds. The building was designed to look like a prototypical small town railroad depot, and it was christened Hood Junction Depot. The small wood frame structure housed offices, bathrooms, small exhibits, a full-scale reproduction of a telegraphers’ office, and the gift shop.
In the 1980’s the museum expanded and added several new buildings. The Lenfesty Reception Center opened in 1987. The new brick building housed a lobby, expanded offices, a large gift shop, new exhibit spaces and an 80 seat theater. Since Hood Junction Depot no longer held the Gift Shop the museum was looking for another use for the building.
Elsewhere on the grounds an old baggage car was being used as the home of a small group of model railroaders. The group had constructed a small layout in the car, along with a workshop and office. However, by the time the Lenfesty Center was completed the model railroaders group had dwindled to a couple of people.
“Stability? – Nothing Lasts Forever” - Timeline - 1987-2008
Warren Mott, General Museum Manager, asked Jim Prokash, the owner of a local hobby store about getting a few local railroad modelers together and build a model railroad layout in the now empty Hood Junction Depot. Jim managed to find a couple dozen HO Scale modelers who agreed that this was a great idea and a wonderful use of the space. This group started meeting as a group in the museums theater. Within a few months, formal incorporation documents were drawn up, voted on, and in 1987 the Green Bay Area Model Railroader’s Club (GBAMRC) became official, with Jim as its first president. Jim continued as the club president for a couple of 1 year terms. Jim was replaced by Dick Foreen, a recent transplant to the area who was sitting on the Museums board of directors
The design of the space inside the depot was to include a very large HO Scale model railroad. The design was completed after much discussion with the concurrence that the time frame would include both Steam and Diesel (1950 – 1980’s) motive power and would depict the Midwest railroads. The museum and the group also decided that this was to be an interactive layout. The public would be able to push a button to run the trains. The building interior was designed such that the public viewing area was to allow viewing the entire layout as a “walk through” and behind protective glass. The design was to include a model of the Green Bay Chicago & Northwestern Depot (now known as the Titletown Brewing Co.) in downtown Green Bay. The model depot was placed such that it was one of the first things the public would see upon entry. Near the exit of the layout was a model of the Escanaba Ore Docks and an Ore Boat.
Under Dicks watch, the majority of the layout structure was built and the scenes were largely mapped out and under construction. Soon after that, Tom Smith took his turn at the helm. Tom spent considerable energy not only building the grain elevator complex, but also putting together the paperwork to gain the clubs IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status. With that, the club could solicit tax-deductible donations, as well as avoid paying taxes on any income. Tom also was responsible for constructing display cases and a memorial for a recently departed member, Hal Hudson, whose family donated his extensive collection to the club.
The club continued to provide the museum with a very popular exhibit through a couple of lease agreements. Twenty years after getting started, the relationship between the Club and the Museum was ending. The National Railroad Museum decided to use the space for other purposes. The club vacated the grounds at the end of 2008.
“A NEW HOME” - Time line - 2008 – 2011
The club began looking for a new home.
About the middle of 2009 history repeated itself as Paul Pasowicz, the owner of a local hobby store (Engine House Services) made the club aware that an empty store front was available next to his hobby shop. Paul, a club member, had been providing the club and its members with their modeling supplies for several years.
The empty store front was part of the Packerland Storage complex on Packerland Drive. The owner made the club a very attractive offer to rent the space. The understanding was that the club would vacate the space upon request.
The club designed and began construction on a small 40’ x 48’ layout. The club laid down about 650 feet of track in three sections. Please click on “Trackside Photos” and then click on “See Layout Drawings”.
Probably because the club had no home our membership took a little nose dive. However, after hearing we had a temporary home and we were building a new layout the membership rebounded. Just goes to show the strength of the “World’s Greatest Hobby”. Also, it may have had something to do with “Engine House Services” being right next door.
Because we knew that this was only temporary we built the new layout in a modular form. The club developed standards that would make it possible to take the new layout apart and move it to storage or to a more permanent home.
Note: We publically thank the folks at the Packerland Storage complex for their timely use of the store front. It was truly a magnificent gesture.
“Trains, Library, Kids ….Wow!” – Time line 2011 – Present
History again repeats, only this time it was “Dick Foreen” who came to the rescue. Dick came to the membership with news that a space may be available that may make a good home for the club. That wide open empty space was the lower level of the Kress Family Library in De Pere, WI.
Dick contacted Dr Watermolen, Brown County Library Board President, to arrange for club officers to inspect the space and discuss lease options. The meeting was a success and as a result the club entered into a 5-year lease beginning October 15, 2011.
The space was literally an open 61’ x 78’ area with nothing in it. The library and the club worked together to create a usable space by adding electrical outlets, lighting and additional heating. Luckily the walls were drywall from floor to about 12’ high but no dropped ceiling so the club painted the walls off white. Soon after the space was ready the club members moved the modular layout from the Packerland location to the new location in the library.
While the new space was being prepared Larry Haworth, using CadRail, designed several track plans for the addition to the layout. Club members reviewed and subsequently approved one of the designs. Because the club was moving to a “Library” with lots of kids expected, we decided to use the design with a “Children’s Section” that would be used to challenge kids (old kids too) with switching cars at various industries located on the “Children’s Section”. The challenge is to bring a group of cars into the children’s section and then figure out how to switch out existing cars with incoming cars. Most of the time the kids are better at switching cars than the old guys.
The club currently has 55 – 60 members and is now operating with about 2000 feet of track. The layout is laid out with 5 distinct operating modes. They are - Continuous Run, North Loop, South Loop 1, South Loop 2, and Operating Session. The Continuous Run mode is by far the most popular method the members use. Mainly because this method allows several trains to run the entire layout which takes about 20 minutes to go around at HO scale track speed.
Our Operating Session is a “Point to Point” operation and is very challenging as we use a computerized system to generate “Switch Lists” for the Engineers. Members must figure out how to spot and pick up cars at various industries around the layout and then return their train to the yards. Yes, just like real railroads. We have operating session once a month September through May.
There have been additions to the layout for the convenience of club members such as adding a staging section along the south wall. Members use this area to set up trains to be used for library events.
Scheduled library events, mostly for the kids, are supported by the club. Anytime there is an event the club tries to be open at the same time. Between January 2013 through now the club has had about 5000 visitors and about 400 hours of operation for special library events alone.
The club is now operating in our second 5 year lease that began October 15, 2016.
Since the model railroading hobby is never really completed neither is our layout really ever completed. There is always something going on, always something changing…… You will find us open every Thursday evening from about 4:00 pm until about 7:30 pm. Come, join us!
New members are always welcome. If interested click on our “Contact the Club” button on this web site.