Montana Museum of Railroad History

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Club History

The following CLUB HISTORY was compiled in 1981 from Business Meeting Notes dating from 1965.

1954 - This is the date of the first recorded organized meeting of a model railroad club in Great Falls Montana. This meeting was a group of O-gauge modelers, the late Carl Selzer amoung them, that went on to locate space for a layout in the (former) Great Northern Ry. passenger depot's old lunchroom (south wing of the building, located at the west end of 1st Ave. So. (now the Great Falls Gas Co. building).

1960 - The (former) Great Northern Ry. planned to re-open the closed lunchroom section of the passenger depot and requested the club vacate the premises. At about the same time there had been an influx of Malmstrom Air force Base personal into the organization that modeled in HO-scale, so it was decided that any future layout (when a suitable building was located for same) should utilize that scale.

1961 - The late Carl Seltzer, being a cascade County Commissioner at the time, persuaded the County Fair Board (Chairman at that time was Dan Thurber) to allow the club space in the back of the School Arts building (in an old auditorium/stage) for a layout. The first first layout built at that time was approximately ten feet by eight feet and was located in the south corner of the room. Also at this time, until about 1964, the club's name was the "Triangle Area Model Railroad Club" and was principally staffed by M.A.F.B. personnel. It was also during this time that the club's "rent" should be the sponsorship of the fair time "Hobby Show".

1966-1968 - The club, now formerly known as The Great Falls Model Railroad Club, reorganized with a formal club constitution and by-laws. Also the last of the small, poorly-built layouts in the south corner of the room was replaced with the present layout in 1966-1967. The old layouts were all built about the same way, there were at least four of them in the years 1961 through 1966. They used plywood "table top" construction with a minimal amount of framing, and as a result were not very sturdy unless attached to the walls. The track work was a variation of flex-track and pre-built switches on fiber tie strips, all of it was brass track and was seldom in gauge (due to the fiber or plastic ties warping in the temperature variations, no heat) and always corroded to the point that operating any locomotive over it was impossible. The roadbed/ballast-board for the track was cork, which quickly dried out in one season and shrank, warped, and cracked to the extent that the track age spiked to it was impassable. The wiring for the track blocks was best described as a rat's nest, and connected to dp-dt "toggle" switches - which were only practical when no more than two cabs were used to power the entire layout. Any additional cabs required either an "interphase panel" with a like amount of toggles for each block on the layout, or an "interphase block" to transfer from one cab-control area to another. What scenery existed on these old layouts can best be described as what one could expect to find along the bottom of any stream channel or lake-bed. As can be gathered from these descriptions, any operations on these layouts was limited and largely restricted to fair time "Hobby show" events.

1967-1981 - The present club layout was built, modified, and brought up to a reliable operational condition. From the beginning of construction it was established that all track would be hand-laid with switches built in place, using individual wood ties and code-100 nickel-silver rail throughout. The wiring, both the 120V-AC "primary" and the block feeders, switch machine circuits, and interconnecting lines was all extensively rebuilt in 1978-1979 to eliminate the "rats nest" situation that had inadvertently been carried over from previous layouts. The scenery as originally built was nothing more than a covering of bare framework, and bore a strong resemblance to that of the former layouts - the last of which was replaced in 1981. The present operational scheme using point-to-point systems was devised in 1972-1973, and while not implemented to a great extent, to date it does provide a sound basis for all future operational conditions. It should also be borne in mind that the present layout was not by any means built as it presently functions today, among the old schemes that have since passed into history are old station names first used on the layout when it was built. some of these names still exist among the framework under the layout, reminders of a time when the club president of that day was a New Jersey native. Upon his leaving the club (U.S.A.F. transfer), the names were replaced with Montana original places, but as these bore no relation to each other on a planned route they, too, were in turn replaced by the present ones which can be traced on any map of the state between Great Falls and Garrison (south of Butte).

2003 Pete Ellis passes leaving his layout to the railroad club.

2005 The Ellis layout is moved into the now expanded area at our present location. The Montana Museum of Railroad History is formed.

2006 Flashing railroadsignals installed in front of main doors.

2009 Museum acquires BN caboose.

2010 Layout filmed by Tracks Ahead film crew.

2012 Outside of MMRH building insulated foundation in preparation for inside insulation to follow.

2013 Anaconda locomotive 0-4-0T moved to the museum.

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