About the Club

Founded in 1979, Silicon Valley Lines (SVL) is an HO Scale Model Railroad Club located in San Jose, California. In 1999, we moved to our current location on 148 E. Virginia Street in San Jose, where our 23′ x 72′ layout is in operation. As one of a few model railroad clubs in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley Lines is dedicated to be an educational resource and support the model railroading community.

SVL operates trains using digital command control (DCC), which allows engineers to control locomotives independently on the same track. Members are given switchlist and must coordinate via radio with the dispatcher to obtain authority to move on the mainline and complete their work in a timely fashion. Our layout is constructed using some unique benchwork building techniques, with much of the layout supported by structural steel components.

We meet Friday nights starting at 7:30pm. The first Friday of each month we hold a club business meeting. Usually, the last Friday is Operations Night. All other Fridays we work on scenery, maintenance of the track and electronics, or the trains. We remain open until the last member leaves! Visitors are always welcome; if you like what you see, please consider joining our club! Membership is open, and we’re always looking for new folks to help build, operate, and enjoy HO Scale Model Railroading.

If you are curious or considering joining the Silicon Valley Lines please see our pamphlet click here.

Following below is more information about the club and its history.

1979-1999: The Modular Years

SVL was formed in February 1979 as a modular club. In 1984, SVL acquired four commercial trailers and began to build a layout in the 1600 square foot space. In 1991, the club integrated the SVL modules into a two-level permanent layout.

Former Track Plan

We were really looking forward to hosting operating sessions and open houses for the 2000 NMRA Convention in San Jose, but that didn’t come to fruition. On May 31st, 1999 our previous layout was disassembled because we could not renew our ground lease for the trailers.

Here are some photos of the old layout:

1999-2000: Starting Over

Having to tear down a model railroad layout can be quite a harrowing experience, and this was no exception at SVL. At one point, membership dwindled to only eight active members— and we didn’t have much fun.

We had a couple of serious sit down meetings to decide what we were going to do, and finally agreed that we all enjoyed SVL so much, we couldn’t let become yet another fallen flag.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a few of the newer modules, and structures for a future endeavor.

Lucky for the club, we were able to obtain new layout space (from our existing landlord) in downtown San Jose. This allowed us to store the remains of the old layout, and gave us a place to meet and discuss the future.

By late 1999, we had a small modular layout, and a large amount of boxes in about 1,100 square feet of space— it was great to get back to running trains again, but the small loop we had didn’t seem to fill the needs for our operating desires.

The layout ca. 2000

Around that time, having turned the corner, a few of the former members returned to the club, and some new folks also stumbled upon our web site and got hooked.

2000-Present: Back on Track

In late 2000, we made the tough decision to throw and/or give away large parts of the old layout in order to give us some more space to operate. It turns out that this was a blessing, not a curse.

We had a small open house in the Fall, and then decided to partner with some members who were willing to chip in some extra dues to help expand our layout space. We also started experimenting with new construction techniques, including the use of steel c-channel to support the layout (described elsewhere on the site).

We created a brand new layout plan and have not looked back.

By 2002, we got the mainline in place and we had our first operating session. We’re having lots of fun again and expanded out mission.

Non-Profit Status

As one of a few model railroad clubs in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley Lines is dedicated to be an educational resource and supports the model railroading community. SVL is a not for profit corporation, 501 (c) (3). California FTB Exempt LetterIRS Public Charity and Form 1023 Check List.