Making Tracks

1940s NS No.5381940s NS No.538

August 2023


Welcome to Making Tracks, the official newsletter of the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads. Thank you for subscribing. This will provide you with the newest updates, offers, discounts, lots of information about model railroading, railroad history, stories, and educational articles.

President's Column

Museum President’s Monthly Article:


As President of the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads (Museum), I have created a series of articles to explain how the museum will achieve its original objectives and goals. This article, number five, provides an understanding on how the museum plans to raise funds and maintain the facility in the future.

Importance of Admission, Membership, Donation, and Advertisement cash flow?

It’s important to understand the requirement for positive membership and cash flow to maintain the Museum today and tomorrow.  These two initiatives go hand in hand to support each other as the Museum moves forward in promoting its Business Plan.  First, funding is necessary to establish and stand-up a facility to house the Museum.  With a Museum in place it becomes easier to gain membership and improve cash flow.  The following paragraphs illustrate one possible method or plan to achieve our objective.

Revenue Sources:  The Museum will request grants and donations from manufacturers on a recurring basis, pursue federal, state and local applications for tourism grants or funds, seek out model railroad friends, railroad manufactures and other vendors for donations on an annual, monthly or one-time basis, establish membership drives of various amounts, advertise in our newsletter and place manufacturer logos within the facility for a small fee on either a monthly or annual basis. Admission fees will be determined later and will be continually updated based on what fees and estimated expenses this organization will be required to pay and also based on average admission fees of similar organizations across the nation.

Market Analysis: Our market analysis provides a prospective estimate of the number of yearly visitors to the Museum based on the statistics obtained from the one of the eight model railroad groups in the area. These numbers were compiled and then extrapolated to represent an ultraconservative approximation of the attendance and the potential revenue that could be obtained from just the admission fees. This analysis will not include the potential revenue that could be obtained by other means such as donations, grants, sponsorships, etc.   This information was then compared to other museums across the country and includes local leasing information as projection within the Planning & Estimate Spreadsheet.

The yearly historical patronage information is based on one layout located in the Fairfield Shopping Center for ten years. Train show data from the past 10 years has been infused with the Planning & Estimated Spreadsheet to illustrate our proposed expenditures.

These projections may change depending on the statistics we get from other clubs in the area as they join the organization. As we receive more information from those clubs, the spreadsheet will be updated.

Keep in mind that public access to the Museum will be much greater than any of these clubs have had in the past, so these are very conservative numbers. Again, this does not count any of the donations, or other revenue that the proposed museum would receive.

Location is paramount to our success and we have been reviewing commercial properties throughout Hampton Roads.  Our search has narrowed to a single location at Fort Monroe.  The only reason we haven’t move forward is the lack of capital.  Our Construction Fund Drive was launched as of 1 March 2023 and we have become members of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce of Hampton Roads, National Retail Hobby Stores Association (NRHSA), Hobby Manufacture Association (HMA) and created a partnership New Track Scholarship Program to increase our visibility.  In one month we have received Community Service Grant from CSX Class 1 Railroad Company.  Additionally, the museum has gained momentum by receiving model railroad rolling stock type donations as our web site gains more and more views each month.

Strategic Plan: The strategic plan outlines the “what”, “why”, “how” and “when” the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads intends to accomplish.  This Plan has been created by the Founding Committee and will be presented to the Board of Directors for approval at their first official meeting. The Strategic Plan collectively shall identify objectives that will achieve the overall goal of the museum and identify keys to long-term sustainability.  The Plan must state a realistic strategy for identifying and acquiring existing and future resources.  In addition to outlining goals, the Plan will assign Board members to committees and set a timeline of benchmarks for achieving specific objectives.  The notional committees would be (1) Administration; (2) Building and Grounds; (3) Education using Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM); (4) Collections; Library of historical material and (5) Development.  The operating exhibits, clinics, and tours would be assigned to Education.  Fund raising, publicity, and marketing would be assigned to Development.  The Strategic Plan must be approved by the Board of Directors to ensure a collaborative active effort to achieve success.

Competitive Edge Locally: The Hampton Roads area is home to at least 28 museums (as noted below). There are several that are dedicated to military history including military aviation. Others are dedicated to over 200 years of Hampton Roads history. None focus on hobbies, or specifically on model railroads in all scales, nor on the railroad history of Hampton Roads or Virginia. There are two local museums that have layouts were supported by our pool of volunteers in building the following two model railroad displays.  The Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth does have an O scale train layout on display along with other items in glass cases. In addition, The Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum in Suffolk, VA has an HO scale layout that depicts only the history of the surrounding area on public display.  Both museums are listed as tourist attractions for each city.  This limited competition provides a unique opportunity for the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads to establish itself in a niche market. No other museum of its kind currently exists in the Hampton Roads area that would display at least seven different scaled layouts along with STEAM educational layouts, youth in model railroading layout, hands-on clinics, historical railroad information, videos, library, artifacts, gift store, meeting rooms, and actual public interaction with the trains on at least one, or more, of the layouts. Though the museum will be in a category of its own, it will need the interest and support of the Hampton Roads communities and tourism industry to achieve success as a sustainable attraction. We reviewed these museums to help determine what would be the proper admission fee.

Number of Museums by Locale and Focus with Hampton Roads:

Virginia Beach: 8

Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum

The Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum

Adam Thorough Good House

Lynnhaven House

Francis Land House

Ferry Plantation House

Princess Anne County Training School/ Union Kempsville High School Museum

Upper Wolfsnare House


Norfolk: 6

Chrysler Museum

Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Hermitage Foundation

MacArthur Memorial

Hunter House

Norfolk Southern Museum


Portsmouth: 6

The Railroad Museum of Virginia (City Property)

Children’s Museum of Virginia (City Property)

Lightship Museum

Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum


Hampton: 5

Casemate Museum (Ft. Monroe)

Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center

Hampton History Museum

Hampton University Museum

Virginia Air & Space Museum


Newport News: 4

Virginia Living Museum

Mariners Museum

Lee Hall Train Station and Museum (City Property)

U.S. Army Transportation Museum


Suffolk: 3

Riddick’s Folly

Seaboard Station Railroad Museum (City Property)

Suffolk Fire Department Museum


Chesapeake: 1

The Great Bridge Battle Museum


Competitive Edge Nationally:  Across the nation there are approximately 18 model railroad museums (see below listing). Comparison of these organizations revealed that seven of them charge admission fees while nine are free. Admission fees range from $15.00 down to $7.50 for adults.  Each museum has other admission fee levels for seniors, military, student and children at lower rates.  Children three years of age (2-4 years) and under are admitted free. 

All organizations have some level of membership fees and donation efforts to support their programs.  Three have outside displays of prototypical railroad equipment and artifacts for public viewing.  Most have a single layout on display while two have four different layouts of different scales and one has six different scales on the same layout. 

Most museums with model railroading are displayed in buildings averaging 7000 sq. ft.  The San Diego Model Railroad Museum has three layouts in 27,000 sq. ft. while the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum has two layouts covering 32,000 sq. ft. 

Of the 18 museums reviewed, only four are dedicated strictly to model railroading. As mentioned above, the Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth and the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum each have one layout, which limits the experience of children and adults to just one scale of model railroading per location, with limited educational information and doesn’t offer hand-on running of trains. 

The proposed Museum would provide a much more expansive demonstration of model railroading in all scales and will include educational clinics, videos and lectures about the history of railroads, about how railroads operate and how we use that information for building replicas.  We will include layouts build by youth members and hold hands-on clinics using the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM plus exposure to electronics used in model railroading, carpentry required to build bench work, landscape painting for backdrops, 3-dimensional landscaping, civil engineering education used in building bridges and other structures, just to mention a few.

This is a unique opportunity for the museum to establish itself in a niche market as the largest model railroad museum in the nation with seven or more separate layouts on display, dedicated to the education of its patrons and providing more service to the community than any other.  We will have the capability of not only demonstrating layouts, but also showing how they were built, providing limited practical instruction on civil engineering, electrical engineering, carpentry, landscaping, three-dimensional artistry, structure-building, bridge building, woodworking, authoring articles and books on these subjects. We can be a resource for those hobbyists who wish to improve their skills in the craft. We can become a place where train shows and conventions meet. Although the museum will be in a category of its own, as previously mentioned, it will need the interest and support of the Hampton Roads communities and tourism to achieve sustainable success.

Model Railroad Museums across the nation:


San Diego Model Railroad Museum (City Property)

O, HO and N Scale Layouts

Mega Model Train Gallery – Morris Museum

O Scale Layout

Colorado Model Railroad Museum

O Scale Layout

Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

G Scale, LEGO, and 71/2 Scale (Guest-Can-Ride) Layouts

Twin City Model Railroad Museum

O Scale and LEGO

Rensselaer Model Railroad Society – RPI Union

HO Scale

George L. Carter Railroad Museum – East Tennessee State University

G, HO, and N Scale


Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum

O Scale

Randall Model Railroad Museum

HO Scale

Apple Valley Model Railroad Museum

HO Scale

National Toy Train Museum (County Property)

G, S, HO, and LEGO on the same layout

Wilmington Railroad Museum

O Scale and Gift Shop

Treasure Coast Model Railroad Club

O and HO Scale

Rockledge Model Railroad Museum

HO Scale

Pasadena Model Railroad Museum

HO Scale

Suffolk Station Railroad Museum (City Property)

HO Scale

The Children’s Museum of Virginia (City Property)

O Scale

Miniature World of Trains

G, O, HO, N, Wooden Scale

PROPOSED Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads

G, O, S, HO, N, Z, Kids Run Trains (O Scale),and LEGO (O scale) and any scale by Women in Model Railroading, Youth in Model Railroading/Teens Association of Model Railroaders and 4 STEAM layouts.

We conducted a review of 18 museums across the United States to compare their layout displays to our proposed Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads.  Results from this review obtained the following results.

·       The most popular model railroad scale to display is HO scale found at 11 museums.

·       The next most model railroad on display is O scale at 9 museums.

·       G scale and LEGO were displayed at 3 museums.

·       S and 7 1/2 scales were available at 2 museums.

·       No museum displayed Z scale or Kids Run Trains in O Scale.

·       City property was donated to support 3 museums while one museum is on county property.

·       Five of 18 museums conduct some level of model railroad training from school tours, videos, training aids or clinics

·       There’s no indication that any of the three LEGO layouts located in any museum hold any contest or training sessions.

A summary of results indicates the Museum would be a unique venue in the United States by displaying 8 to 15 independent layouts.  We would hold at least one training clinic and/or contest every weekend.

The Hobby Manufacturers Association (Model Railroad Industry Division) public interest survey has shown that model railroading was listed as the number one hobby across the nation in 2020.

Implementation Strategy: The following are the different alternatives that have been researched to determine the feasibility of this project.

Review of business plans of other similar non-profit organizations: We researched and utilized the template of the business plan of the “Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum”, since their plan was very well-organized, comprehensive and was spelled out in significant detail. We also extensively reviewed the startup of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, with which one of our board members has had personal experience. We were also influenced by the South Hill Model Railroad Museum, the Texas City Museum, and North Texas Museum and by the Colorado Model Railroad Strategic Plan.

Location: Our search criteria and considerations for finding the proper location for the Museum to cover all prospective objectives are as follows:

·       Preferably a central location in HR

·       Avoid industrial areas.

·       Avoid heavy residential areas.

·       Adequate parking

·       68,000 square feet or more to allow room to grow and to prevent having to move later. 

·       The ideal situation would be to locate a building or space provided by one of the seven Hampton Road’s cities in return for the community service, specifically, as a tourist attraction, educational and charitable benefit.

The floor plan would need to allow as a minimum a lobby, and registration area, a minimum of 7 rooms for layout displays, 2 rooms for clinics, one room for continuous videos on railroad history, a library, 2 restrooms, 2 offices, a meeting room, a garage to house the traveling exhibit truck and supplies.

Traveling Exhibit: One option to consider is that while we continue our search for a location, we could at least begin with the traveling exhibit which will increase awareness and allow for collection of donations, sponsorships, etc. that can be used later to develop a more permanent establishment. We are working hard to launch this option within the community to achieve those objectives and gain public support and visibility.

Recommendations for Initiation and Implementation:

·       Continue search for a permanent location. Establish our nonprofit legal entity. Once we initiate this process, it will take 30 days to become registered with the state and 90 days to become registered with the federal govt. Set up a checking account to manage cash flow and pay expenses.

·       Set up an interest-bearing trust fund to store donations and any other revenue received that is not immediately required to pay expenses.

·       Proceed with Traveling Exhibit.

·       Give a presentation to all of the seven cities in the Hampton Roads area to let them know of the services we can provide to the community, both for the local people and also as a tourist attraction, the receipts from which could help the city as well as keep our organization solvent.

Funding: Adequate funding and revenue will be imperative for the Museum to become a reality and to survive in the long run. Here is a list of several funding options to be implemented after obtaining our non-profit legal entity status.

Donations – Advertise that this is an all-volunteer organization and that tax-deductible donations will be accepted.

City Partnership: Contract with the city to potentially provide us a location (utilities, repairs and upgrades included) in return for the benefits of hosting the museum (tourism, taxes, community service, advertise the museum as an attraction to the city, etc.)

Memberships: Once we have a location established and are open to the public, we will establish short and long-term single and family memberships, allowing for 3-month, 6-month, yearly or lifetime memberships, each of which will have a different name and price attached to be determined later when we have a better idea of what our expenses will be.

Admission Fees: These will be determined at the time the establishment is opened to the public and will again depend on our expenses and budget expectations but will be in line with what similar organizations are charging at the time. Children under a certain age will be free. Single adults will have a separate charge. Discounts will be given for groups, tours, military members and veterans. Elementary school children tours and field trips will always be free. Admission for museum members, groups, volunteers and their immediate families will be free.

Investments: Any cash-holding accounts that we have will need to be interest-bearing.  At this time we are with-holding issuing bonds as a means for investment into the museum.

Grants: We are not currently eligible for any grants at this time but will keep this option open and apply for one as soon as we become eligible.

Associations: Develop association or join with local, state, federal and national organizations that support non-profit organizations.  Example: This may include an association with the Portsmouth Museum organization that supports local museums in the surrounding areas and with the Virginia Museum organization that helps to support museums throughout the Commonwealth.

Loans: We are hoping to avoid this option, but we may have to consider it in the beginning until the organization becomes solvent. If we do require this, it should be at the lowest interest we can find and will need to be with a reputable lending institution and should preferably be set up as a credit-line, where we can have the money available if needed and pay it back quickly when we can.

Advertising from manufacturers: We will contact model railroad manufacturers and retailers to request income for advertising. One example is that for a yearly fee of $365 to display their business card as a billboard on one our layouts, we will place a nice plaque or poster of their choosing in a visible location within the establishment or even set up a poster at our traveling exhibits.

Sponsorships from celebrities and others: We will contact any and all celebrities, friends, companies, manufacturers, retailers and others that might have an interest in the museum to request sponsorships in our organization, which again would be put on public display within the establishment.

Increased Funding and Sponsorship: As awareness of the organization and its project grows so will the amount of funding and sponsorship.  The bottom line is that companies are not going to put money towards something they do not know much about.  By showing people what they can expect when visiting the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads, it will not only pique their interest enough to want to travel and pay the admission fee, but it may also inspire them to sponsor the project and become part of its history.

No Dues for participating groups or individuals: Admission will be free to all members, groups, officers, managers, and volunteers who participate in the building, maintenance, and operation of train displays, including maintenance of the facility, cleanup and any other voluntary activities required for operation of the Museum.

Marketing Strategy: Marketing will play a vital role in the implementation of this project.  The recommendation to have a traveling exhibit will require putting money toward marketing the exhibit, which will need to be extensive.  There are many avenues available for free marketing through social media, websites, regional media, and of course the hosting facility.  Since funding is limited, marketing will need to be creative, a marketing volunteer has agreed to support and provide guidance in museum marketing and advertisement objectives.  Marketing and operational managers will be necessary in the future when resources support such requirements.  An additional resource that is available for marketing funding is a program offered by Portsmouth Museum Association in Portsmouth, VA.  It is geared toward collaborating with organizations looking to contribute to support various museums in the Hampton Roads area.  This is a great opportunity to not only get help with funding but to also contribute to the tourism industry for the city that hosts this project.

Increase Awareness: This goes hand-in-hand with funding and marketing. As the awareness increases, so will the donations and sponsorships. All items in this section will be supported by the Marketing Manager.

Web Plan: The Museum website will provide a virtual brochure that serves primarily as a resource for children, students, veterans, tourists and the community.  The website will have a very simple design but classy and easy to use by members and interested visitors.  It will contain a brief description, mission statement and the background of the museum on the front page, as well as all the current traveling exhibitions from the various clubs within the museum and from around the area.  It will be a show place for upcoming events occurring in our area and provide links to each of their corresponding websites.  Online ticket sales, donations, membership and special events booking will be accessed through the website.

Social Media: Along with the website, the Museum will have a page on Facebook at least and other social media sites as appropriate.

Newsletter: After we get the website and social media set up, we need to start the monthly newsletter, however small or meager it might be, to get the word out regarding what we are doing and the progress we are making and send it out for free to all interested parties. It will contain promotional information about our organization, upcoming train shows, articles about how to get started in model railroading, or at least links to such articles, etc. All content will be family oriented and attractively designed. (No spamming – people will have to subscribe to the newsletter from the website.)

Group Support: The website and newsletter will also support the entire model railroading groups in the area who wish to be part of this organization. They may submit promotional articles about their own groups to publish in these venues, subject to approval and editing as required by the webmaster.

Promotional Materials: We will create business cards, brochures and other promotional materials that can be handed out to anyone who might be interested, set up tables at train shows, etc. We will contact the local newspaper at some point to see if they would consider running a feature article on our plans.

Train Doctor Program: This is a service we could provide soon in the name of our new organization and will provide an opportunity to increase awareness, hand out cards and brochures and stimulate interest. Hobby Town retail stores have already expressed an interest in this.

Communication with other museums and organizations: We will contact local and state museum organizations to establish an association or affiliate membership with them so that we can provide support to each other.

Free and/or paid advertising: If we have the budget for it, we will put ads in the local newspaper or Sunday “flyers” to let people know we are coming. We need to always be on the lookout for any way we can get the word out.

Traveling Exhibit: The Traveling Exhibit itself will increase awareness wherever it goes.

Branding: This is important for any business to become successful. We need to become a household name in the Hampton Roads area, so that when locals want to go somewhere on a Saturday afternoon, we will automatically become one of the options.

Logo: This is one of the best ways to establish a brand. One of our more artistic members may be able to voluntarily create one for us. There are logo-producing websites, like Vistaprint or where you can create a logo and then use it to create T-shirts, mugs, labels, etc.

Contact Tourist Agencies: When we have an establishment, contact tourist agencies and let them know we are available as an attraction.

As you can see there are many aspects to our effort in creating a Museum. It will take time to achieve all of these initiatives and gain community support.  Stay tuned for more information on our progress in the next newsletter.

One important note is that we can’t do this without community support.  If you are interested and wish to provide support for a new Model Railroad Museum in the Hampton Roads, a place where you and your family could visit regularly to view and run trains and marvel the craftsmanship and art of the 3-D landscaping, to learn about model railroading and the history of trains in this area, please consider a tax deductible donation.  Every dollar helps the Museum’s achieve its goal to locate a facility to rent or purchase!

Fred Humphrey, President

Birth of Virginia Beach
By Warren Leister

Hygeia Hotel 1861

 Birth of Virginia Beach Part 1: A Goddess of Southern Hospitality overlooking Hampton Roads

In an edition of the Virginia Beach Beacon, a subsidiary publication of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, published in 1983 an article acclaimed Marshall Parks Jr. (Marshall Jr.) as the founder of Virginia Beach. This pertained to Marshall Jr. having been the President of the “Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company” which was incorporated in 1882 with the railroad being constructed the next year, long before Virginia Beach was incorporated as a town in 1906. Not just a railroad, the company bought a group of farms at the oceanfront and was a major real estate development firm as well. By this time, Marshall Jr. had long been an investor in real estate in what would become Virginia Beach and proprietor of a large hotel there called “The Hollies,” modeled after a previous Hygeia Hotel that he and his father Marshall Parks Sr. (Marshall Sr.)  at Old Point Comfort.

The Hygeia Hotel, with Hygeia being the Greek goddess of health and cleanliness, was built in 1820 at Old Point Comfort with Marshall Jr. being born there later that year on November 8, 1820. It was managed originally by Marshall Parks Sr. for many years and then later by the son Marshall Jr. and this was not the only time that the father and son worked together with the son later following in the father’s footsteps.  Many famous and accomplished people stayed at the Hygeia over the years as it was quite well known and popular. Two people known to have stayed there as example were President Andrew Jackson, while he was President and Edgar Allen Poe, the famous poet and author not long before he passed away.

An ad for the hotel in 1822 declared:

“Here lov’d Hygeia holds her blissful seat,

And smiles on all who seek her blessed retreat.”

In another ad in 1827, Marshall Parks Sr. states that the Hotel Hygeia has the following amenities: an extensive collection of apartments of every description, a private dwelling, ice-house, stables, and bath houses for sea and warm bathing. The hotel was easily accessible via steam boats going to and from Norfolk, Hampton, James River destinations, Washington D. C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. It was considered a quite healthy and comfortable destination in summer, in part due to a pleasant sea breeze, and thus became well established as quite a popular and fashionable resort.

A few years later on March 8, 1832, the Portsmouth and Roanoke railroad was incorporated as the first Hampton Roads railroad. This railroad was envisioned to connect the port of Portsmouth, Va. in Norfolk county Virginia to some point on the Roanoke River along with a related regional canal system in northeast North Carolina. The goal was to connect that area with greater Hampton Roads and it’s water borne access to major rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. This project was also in reaction by the people and industries of Hampton Roads to a competing railroad the Petersburg Railroad Company, incorporated in 1830, which was by 1832 under construction from Petersburg, Va. to Weldon, Nc. on the Roanoke river and it opened the next year in 1833. Both railroads were sponsored in part by the commonwealth of Virginia. The Portsmouth and Roanoke was completed in 1835 when it also become known as the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad until a number of years later when the Portsmouth and Roanoke name gradually disappeared.

During the 1830’s, Marshall Sr. was a Director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Company and Marshall Jr., as a teenager, was also working there along side his father. They both were also involved in saw mill and other lumbering activities in that same time frame until 1840 when Marshall Sr. died with Marshall Jr. being only 19 years of age. Marshall Jr. then took on more mature role than his tender years and continued to be involved in those same activities in some ways filling in and replacing his father.

Marshall Jr. always took an active interest in Norfolk, the city of his later adoption as an adult, and transportation issues in general. He had become quite involved in steam boats working his way up to being an able Captain. During the time when the freight handled by the new Seaboard and Roanoke railroad was first being brought to Portsmouth after the completion of the railroad, Marshall Jr. was sent North to secure a vessel by which the freight stored in the railroad cars could be brought over to Norfolk from Portsmouth. This was accomplished, but this was so early on in the evolution of railroading that it soon developed that there was a better method by employing a barge to carry the railroad cars on rails towed by a tug boat, so the original vessel was given up. This tug and barge method established between Portsmouth and Norfolk of moving freight cars over water continued locally with the Eastern Shore Railroad from Little Creek, Va. to Cape Charles, Va. until that railroad's ultimate demise just a very few years ago. 

Back at the Hygeia Hotel, Edgar Allen Poe read poetry on the veranda there on Sept. 9, 1849 only about a month before he died in Baltimore, see the illustration.

Edgar Allen Poe

The following letter is from the Baltimore Sun published July 22, 1851, author identified only by an upper case “M”,  titled “Letter from Old Point” with this author’s notes in {brackets and italicized}

“Old Point Comfort, July 18, 1851 Delightful Trip – Large Company – The Hotel {Hygeia} and its Management – The Bathing – Splendid Fortress {Ft. Monroe}, and more.”

“Gentlemen: - A very delightful trip of twelve hours in the Herald {a ship of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company which transited between Baltimore and Norfolk in less than 12 hours,}, Captain Russell, brought us safely to Old Point Comfort last Wednesday morning, where we found a large and fashionable company enjoying the varied amusements of the place. I notice a wonderful improvement in the entire reorganization of the hotel, which has passed, as you know, into new hands, since the summer of 1850. Although the house has hitherto been crowded, the obliging proprietors, and the accomplished manager, Mr. Marshall Parks {Jr born about 30 years earlier in the same hotel as previously noted}, have spared no effort to make every body comfortable; and I hear but few complaints except among the crabbed bachelors, whose quarters are sometimes not as cool as they expected to find immediately ready for them upon arrival. With the rushing wave of visitors that almost overwhelmed the hotel in the earlier part of the season, this was not to be fairly expected. But the manager has always been careful to sustain the right of priority among his guests, and to accommodate them with the best rooms, according to a scheme of promotion as others departed. Those who came to tarry only for a day or two may therefore have gone away dissatisfied when five or six hundred had to be accommodated,  and many more were forced to lie on mattresses on the floors. Yet all who have lingered, gradually obtained excellent rooms, and are now forming a large and more agreeable company.”

“Old Point has not failed in the attractions which you have so well appreciated in former years. - The splendid fortress- that military gem of our country – is garrisoned by some choice companies of our gallant troops, whose accomplished officers contribute in no small degree to enhance the amenities of the station. Their morning parade, enlivened by the delicious music of an excellent band attracts a bevy of belles and beaux, beneath the shade of the noble grove of sturdy white oaks, within the walls of the fortress. After this, an hour or two are spent in agreeable intercourse, in the spacious ballroom, or on the broad and shady porches, which are almost constantly refreshed by the sea breeze.

This concludes Birth of Virginia Beach Part 1: “A Goddess of Southern Hospitality overlooking Hampton Roads” the next installment, Part 2, will be published in the MTMHR’s September newsletter.


1972 N&W 2-8-8-2 Petroleum Train1972 N&W 2-8-8-2 Petroleum Train

Traveling Exhibit

We are currently making plans to provide a traveling exhibit as one of our first services to the community. This exhibit will contain displays of various scales (O, HO, N, Z) including modules that can be connected together to form a large layout wherever it is requested. We can set this up at a church, a country club, library, museum, nursing facility, or school - anywhere that has the space and the desire for it. These will be fully functioning model railroads, some of which will be available for operation by visitors.

In addition, we will be offering another service around the Holidays consisting of setting up Christmas train displays, including trains around trees, trains for parties, conventions, or for any other venue.

Prices are very reasonable and negotiable depending on the situation.

Please send an email for more details...

Local Railroad History
By Pat Mahoney, Vice President

Most people don't realize the extent of our rich railroad history in this area. Here is a brief summary by one of our Museum founders. [-Ed.]

The Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad was established January 20, 1870, and in 1881 the line opened, running south from Berkley, Virginia, across the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River from Norfolk, via Elizabeth City to Edenton, North Carolina. On February 1, 1883, the name was changed to the Norfolk Southern Railroad ("NSRR"), reflecting the company's ambitions to build further. It entered receivership for the first time in 1889, and was purchased April 29 and reorganized May 1891 as the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. By that time, it had acquired trackage rights over the Norfolk and Western Railroad over the Elizabeth River into Norfolk. With the reorganization also came the acquisition of the Albemarle and Pantego Railroad in North Carolina from the John L. Roper Lumber Company, extending the line from Mackeys on the other side of the Albemarle Sound from Edenton south to Belhaven on the Pungo River, a branch of the Pamlico River.

On November 1, 1899, the N&S bought the Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Southern Railroad, running east from Norfolk to Virginia Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. An extension parallel to the oceanfront took the line north from Virginia Beach to Cape Henry in 1902, but two years later the N&S bought the competing Chesapeake Transit Company which had a line from Norfolk to Cape Henry via the Lynnhaven Inlet area and hence to Virginia Beach, and abandoned its duplicative trackage between Cape Henry and Virginia Beach. The importance of passenger rail service to the Oceanfront area to Virginia Beach's resort growth in the late 19th and early 20th century was eclipsed only in 1922 by the construction of the paved Virginia Beach Boulevard roadway between the Oceanfront area and Norfolk.

Also in 1902, the N&S acquired the Roanoke Railroad and Lumber Company's Washington and Plymouth Railroad, running from Plymouth, North Carolina, south to Washington, built a line from Mackeys to Plymouth, and began a car ferry operation across the Albemarle Sound between Edenton and Mackeys (replaced by a 5 mile bridge in 1910). The W&P had been built by the lumber company in 1889 to 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge, became a common carrier in 1901, and was converted to 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge by the N&S in 1904.

The Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina Railroad was organized in 1903 and renamed the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad in 1905. In 1906, it built a line from the end of the N&S at Washington south to Bridgeton, as well as a completely separated line from Raleigh east to Zebulon.

On November 24, 1906, the Norfolk and Southern Railway was formed as a consolidation of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad with the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad and several other companies:

·       Virginia and Carolina Coast Railroad: built 1885 to 1902 from Suffolk, Virginia south to Edenton and from Beckford Junction (on the Suffolk-Edenton section) to Elizabeth City; originally built as the Suffolk and Carolina Railway and renamed in 1906).

·       Pamlico, Oriental and Western Railway: built 1906 from New Bern (across the Neuse River from Bridgeton) east to Bayboro, including a bridge over the Neuse River that became part of the main line.

·       Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad (leased September 1, 1904): built 1858 from Goldsboro southeast to Morehead City, intersecting the main line at New Bern.

·       Beaufort and Western Railroad: built 1905 from Morehead City east to Beaufort.

The company again entered receivership in 1908, and in a 1910 reorganization returned to the 1883 name: Norfolk Southern Railroad. That same year it built a long branch from Chocowinity (also known as Marsden) on the main line south of Washington west to the isolated section to Raleigh at Zebulon (that became the main line to Charlotte via Raleigh, while the old line to New Bern became a branch). Several shorter branches also opened that year - from Bayboro south to Oriental, from Pinetown on the main line east to Bishops Cross on the line to Belhaven, and from Mackeys east to Columbia (as well as a trestle across the Albemarle Sound between Mackeys and Edenton).

The Egypt Railroad was chartered June 14, 1890, and opened October 15, 1891, running a short distance from Colon on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad main line west to Cumnock. It was leased to the Raleigh and Western Railway, another short line continuing west from Cumnock to Harpers Crossroads, on September 6, 1893. The company entered receivership in 1907 and operations west of Cumnock were suspended in 1908. The Egypt Railroad was reorganized April 1, 1910, as the Sanford and Troy Railroad.

The Durham and Charlotte Railroad was chartered March 2, 1893, and planned to connect the two cities named with the railroad. On July 15, 1896, it bought the Glendon and Gulf Railroad, running from Gulf (west of Cumnock) southwest to Glendon. After reaching Elise (Robbins) in 1899, the Durham and Charlotte Railroad was building towards Star. The company endured several years of litigation over the right-of-way with a Wright Tramway, which was built in 1896. The tramway was removed in 1901 and the Durham and Charlotte Railroad was then built to Star by 1902. Some time after 1900 it bought the former Raleigh and Western Railway right-of-way and rebuilt the line from Cumnock to Gulf, and built an extension from Star southwest to Troy.

In November 1911, the NSRR formed the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern Railway (RC&S) as a consolidation of several smaller companies; the RC&S was merged into the NSR in fall 1912. The RC&S was made up of the Sanford and Troy Railroad, Durham and Charlotte Railroad, and the following lines:

·       Raleigh and Southport Railway: Raleigh south to Fayetteville.

·       Aberdeen and Asheboro RailroadAberdeen northwest to Asheboro, with a branch from Biscoe west via Troy to Mount Gilead, and several other short branches.

At the time, only the Raleigh and Southport Railway connected to the other NSRR lines. In 1914 the NSRR built a line from Varina on the former R&S southwest to Colon and from Mount Gilead west to Charlotte, giving it a continuous line, using the former S&T, D&C and branch of the A&A from Colon to Mount Gilead.

On May 27, 1920, the NSRR leased the Durham and South Carolina Railroad, giving it access to Durham. The D&SC ran from Durham south to Bonsal on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and had been extended to Duncan on the NSRR around the time the Norfolk Southern Railroad leased it.

A Norfolk Southern work train west of Mackeys, North Carolina in 1968.

Another receivership came in 1932, and in 1935 it defaulted on its lease of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, which was reincorporated November 16 of that year. Many branch lines were abandoned or sold during that period, such as the local lines in Suffolk, Virginia, which were sold to the Virginian Railway in 1940. On January 21, 1942, the company was reorganized for the last time as the Norfolk Southern Railway. In 1954, the railroad retired its last steam locomotive from revenue service.

On January 1, 1974, the Southern Railway bought the Norfolk Southern Railroad and merged it into the Carolina and Northwestern Railway, but kept the Norfolk Southern Railway name. In 1982 the Carolina and Northwestern name was brought back to free up the Norfolk Southern name for the planned merger of the Southern Railway with the Norfolk and Western Railway. The new Norfolk Southern Railway was formed in 1982. While the name had once represented simply the Virginia and North Carolina based railroad which ran south from Norfolk to Charlotte, it was now a combination of the names of the two merged Class I railroads.

Norfolk Southern still owns the main line from Gulf (near Cumnock) northeast to Raleigh. The part from Gulf west to Charlotte (as well as the branch to Aberdeen) is now the Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railway, the part from Edenton north to Norfolk is now the Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad, and the Belhaven-Pinetown branch as well as the Plymouth-Raleigh segment is now operated by the Carolina Coastal Railway. The line between Plymouth and Edenton has been removed,[1] with the famous Albemarle Sound Trestle having been demolished in the late 1980s.

[As you can see from the two articles written above, there is quite an extensive railroad history that has evolved right here in the Hampton Roads area over the past 200+ years. Indeed there may be more railroad history here than anywhere else in the world.-Ed.]

How to Build Your Own Model Railroad

There are lots of resources out there that can provide information about model railroading. One of the most comprehensive websites that explains all the basics and more about getting started in the hobby is at The information presented there is entirely free, and is arguably one of the most complete step-by-step tutorials you can find on how to build your own model railroad. 



We gratefully welcome our newest Board members:

  • Greg Leiphart - Director of Education
  • Warren Leister - Railroad Historian

With their help, we can expand our services, sharpen our educational goals, and continue to move forward in our progress to provide a unique service to the community through model railroading.

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Thank you so much for reading our newsletter! We truly appreciate your interest and support. Please let us know if you would like more information.

Greg Warth,


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The Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads will be a fantastic community center based on running, operating and even building your own model railroads! There's something for every age here.

Learn about the real history of this area and how important it was in the building of America. Watch how railroads were built, the people involved, where America's roots were formed. 

As they build their own railroads, students will be learning about science, electronics,  architecture, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the art of 3 dimensional model landscaping. They can earn rewards for completing projects and winning contests.

Try to solve yardmaster problems on a switching layout like getting the lumber from the forest to the furniture store, by way of the saw mill and the lumber yard.

Run your train around blockades and other trains to get to the station on time without speeding or crashing.

Play railroad monopoly using model railroads. Winner is the one who can collect the most cars into his yard within an hour.

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School tours. Holiday Shows. Library and video rooms. Scouts are welcome. Even youngsters will have their own wooden models to enjoy. Classrooms and hands-on clinics for adults. Learn how to get started in the hobby. Or just enjoy the fun.

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