Article From the Fall 2002 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
HO MODEL RAILROAD ROOM
By Vern Squire and Dick Luchterhand
The breadth and variety of the museum’s public offering often evokes praise from our visitors. We have trolley cars, a steam locomotive, highway and horse-drawn vehicles, a shiny red fire truck, numerous displays and small artifacts, and a large operating model railroad. Regarding that HO layout, a small but dedicated group of volunteers operates and maintains this major attraction. We recently asked the people in charge for a review of the layout activity, and they came up with the following article. If this sounds like fun, call the museum at 533-1113 and express your interest. You’d be a welcome addition on the team.
Always a popular exhibit at the museum, the model railroad is forever in a state of flux. For those unfamiliar with the history of the model railroad, a short review might be in order. It began as a project of the Employees Activities program at the Gleason Works [Gleason Corporation, on University Avenue in Rochester] over thirty years ago. In 1990, the building in which the layout was housed was sold, and the model railroad was donated to Monroe Community Hospital. There, Vern Squire and Dick Luchterhand commandeered a cadre of helpers, and the 11 ft. by 21 ft. layout was upgraded and changed for the benefit of patients in the hospital.
Some eighteen patients came on a weekly basis to run the trains, which were maintained by Dick and Vern, plus a few other volunteers. The hospital built a ramp and accompanying stages for easier wheelchair access. Those ramps and stages are still with the layout today at NYMT, and improve viewing by children and handicapped visitors. About seven years ago, the hospital needed the layout space to provide more room for patient care, and it was necessary to again move the layout. Space was negotiated at NYMT and arrangements were made between the museum and the hospital for the layout to take up residence in its third home. A large room was built around the layout, with good lighting and gas heat.
Since then, Dick and Vern have been assisted by Jack Allen and lately by Bob Nesbitt in maintaining and running the HO pike. They meet every Thursday at the model railroad room to work on the layout, do maintenance and make improvements.
Some of the upgrades made during this past year have been hardly noticeable to the visiting public. Indicator lights have been installed on the Yard Panel as well as the Tower Panel that controls the three main lines. These indicator lights make it possible for operators to determine which way switches have been set on many of the tracks. This is important on Sundays when we often operate more than one train over the same stretch of track, and many of these switches are not able to be seen. We have been especially grateful to Doug Anderson for the creation of many wiring harnesses that are necessary for the electrical currents to flow properly to the green and red indicator light bulbs. More obvious to visitors is the installation of two main line crossovers, one in front of the main station and the other near the city downtown area. These crossovers permit trains to switch between the "red" and "blue" main lines. Other switches have been replaced, including a double crossover in front of the main station that allows operation of the Autotrain into and out of the main station, and also provides flexibility in operating the "Doodlebug".
Early on, public operation of the layout was limited to the three continuous-loop main lines. Visitors enjoy seeing the trains go round and round, and it gives the operators the freedom to talk with visitors, answer questions, or remedy a temporary problem without interrupting the action. Soon, the trolley line was activated, so that a city car could wend its way from the amusement park through the streets of the city and to a point where it meets an interurban trolley. The latter heads out on its cross-country trip while the city car returns to the park with a new load of fun-seekers.
More recently, several previously unused and unelectrified blocks of track have been reactivated, and manual switches have been installed to access those blocks. This now gives the operators the ability to run things at greater capacity. The protocol is to be able to operate all three main line trains on any of the three lines so that, for example, the freight train normally operated on the outermost loop can navigate all the way into the freight yard and back again. This provides more realistic operating opportunities and variety for our visitors, but also eliminates the need to remove a train by hand and put it back down when the need arises.
Visiting kids are fascinated at the layout’s miniature world.
What’s next on the timetable? There are still several indicator lights to install, and some switch machines to install and activate on the double crossover, as well as considerable deferred maintenance on locomotives and rolling stock to take care of. A major new addition now underway is construction of an N-scale model of the Rochester Subway system. A project of the Young Modelers, the Subway layout will be a nice addition to the model railroad room.
Then too, the layout has much more operating potential than can be handled by the current crew. Full operation would entail at least six operators, one or two roving ground personnel to pick up trains when they "go on the ground", and a Division Superintendent to coordinate things. The crew assembles every Thursday, and works together from 9:30 in the morning until mid-to-late afternoon (depending on what mischief they get into). They brown bag their lunches and invite anyone with an interest in building or operating model railroads to join them. Leave a message at the museum (533-1113) or call Dick Luchterhand at 334-9228 to get involved.
"B.Y.O. Train" will once again be a popular feature at the museum, Sundays January through April.