The Merits of Joining a Club/Historical Society.

Two brand new Canadian Pacific SD70ACus getting a break in run.
Two brand new Canadian Pacific SD70ACus getting a break in run.

Joining a model railroading club or association can be daunting and is not for everyone, though there are a few benefits to joining a club with a large layout. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but it is a few things to think about if you are on the fence. There are some obvious things like running trains but there a few less obvious benefits.

Being a member of a club allows you to have a smaller layout at home or no layout depending on your living situation. Another advantage is this gives you the ability to run a different prototype or era, you can buy that model that you fancy even if it doesn’t fit in your era and run it at your club. If you join a club that does operations will also be able to participate in operating sessions you otherwise may not be able to host.

When it comes to getting new locomotives they really benefit from being broken in. They run better at slower speeds and usually a bit quieter at higher speeds once broken in. This also gives you a chance to see if there are any issues while still in the warranty period. I personally have a small layout at home so it can take forever to get a locomotive broken in. At the club I am able to stick a new locomotive on our open house loop and leave the locomotive to run for an hour or so varying the speed while I work on a different part of the layout. You can leave the sound on to locate the locomotive and if it stops it hit a dead spot or it derailed.

The new units being broken in.
Those same units on my home layout, there is about 2ft to the left and 7 to the right, not much room.
CP 7021 on the SVL programming track being setup for the first time.

You also potentially get access to a bigger range of hardware for managing your rolling stock. If you have Loksound decoders another member may have the expensive LokProgrammer that you need to write new sound files, and do firmware updates. Some Digitrax decoders need this as well. They should also have access to the various NMRA measuring gauges you should be using to maintain your equipment.

And last on my list today but definitely not least is the knowledge of others. The knowledge of other members and their varying methods of modeling can teach you a few things if you take the time to listen. They may also learn a thing or two from you as collaboration betters everyone. It also helps you as not everyone needs to master every aspect of model railroading. This of course comes with great friendships and comradery which is worth it all.

As I step down from my admittedly biased soap box I will leave you with one last thing to consider as you are reading this post on a clubs website. Consider joining a club, come visit SVL, if you don’t feel we are a fit then check out some other clubs as every one is different. In the area there are about 5 clubs/historical societies that I know of including SBHRS and the Niles Depot Museum. Visit one, visit all, we would love to meet you.


PCR 2019, Sacramento

Report from the 2019 PCR convention. It was four days of model railroad activities in all scales. I attended a clinic (presentation) on the McCloud Railway (Mt. Shasta area) which closed for good in 2009. I also attended another clinic on the Quincy Railroad (now just transports lumber from a mill in Quincy 3.3 miles to the junction with the Union Pacific RR. These were interesting to understand the cycles – business, weather, competition – that a 100-year-old railroad goes through. It is a tough business – adapt or die.

I was also fortunate to be assigned to three operating sessions. The first (Phil Gulley) was in a purpose-built 30 x 50’ building with high ceilings. This provided for three levels with walk-unders. I was assigned to a switching job and to help in one of the yards. It was a lot of fun due in large part to perfectly operating track and equipment. The second layout was a Colorado narrow gauge model RR (Sacramento Model RR Historical club) and I was one of the yardmasters. The third layout (Sacramento modular club) was a large modular layout in the display hall. Although the switching puzzles were creative and complicated, the trackwork was poor and the train derailed constantly. It impressed upon me again the importance of great trackwork to the enjoyment of the hobby. I suppose modular railroads take a tough beating being transported frequently. It was tiring but a lot of fun. Here’s some photos.


The file name with each photo starts with “gulley” for Phil Gulley’s layout, “modular” for the Sacramento Valley modular club, and “ng” for the Sacto Narrow Gauge club. The last few photos are the model contest.