Making Tracks

May 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:

In my previous article I discussed “How Project Endeavor came about”.  This time I’ll discuss “Why Project Endeavor moved from one to multiple layouts”.  I write this to provide insight as to why the museum came about and give you information on what to expect when the museum opens for business in the near future.

Why Project Endeavor moved from one to multiple layouts?

Following the loss of our HO scale layout in the Fairfield Shopping Center in Virginia Beach, VA in October 2019 and following the Covid-19 pandemic, the model railroad club at the time was unable to locate a new facility.  That unsuccessful effort brought our new group together to help out.  Four model railroader volunteers started meeting to begin the research necessary to determine our next course of action.  A founding committee was formally organized to start the project and determine who would take on which areas of responsibility and research.  The committee was comprised of Fred Humphrey, current Superintendent of the Tidewater Division (TWD) at the time under the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) in the Mid-Eastern Region (MER), Pat Mahoney previous Tidewater Division Superintendent, Gary Brown past Tidewater Division official and Greg Warth knowledgeable in newsletter publication and web site design.  Fred Humphrey became committee chairman to guide these volunteers.  Our goal was, and still is, to locate a facility to house a layout we could all enjoy, similar to what was at Fairfield Shopping Center with free rent and utilities, while we had the responsibility to maintain the interior store front that we would occupy. We began by creating committee assignments that would determine which type of organization we would create and what guidance should be put in place to support this unknown organization. At this point after some research an idea came together we may have better success forming a museum.  Lack of financing, but with  organization formally in place, caused us to begin research into what our competition was across the United States and within 500 mile radius of Hampton Roads. The following information illustrates the museums across the USA used for comparison to our long term objective and goal.  Please note we included Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) as one of our objectives.  Analysis of local and national competition follows:

Competitive Edge Locally: The Hampton Roads area is home to at least 28 museums. 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 nor 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 that were supported by our pool of volunteers. The Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth does have an O scale train layout on display along with other items displayed 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 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.

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 the others 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 3 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.  More detailed analysis is provided after the PROPOSED MODEL RAILROAD MUSEM OF HAMPTON ROADS paragraph.

The proposed MRMHR 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 clinics on the 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 (Should you be interested in visiting other Model Railroad Museums):

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 7-1/2 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   

The PROPOSED Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads' long range mission and objective is to have G, O, S, HO, N, Z and STEAM layouts (up to 4).  Additionally, we have talked with representatives from Kids Run Trains (O Scale) and LEGO (O scale) and are hopeful they will join the museum. We also envision any scale layout by Women in Model Railroading, Youth in Model Railroading and Teens Association of Model Railroaders will be located in museum as well.  All layouts and memberships to the museum and clubs within the museum are open to all people regardless of age, sex, religion or origins.

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 these results in the following table indicates that the MRMHR 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.


On 20 July 2022 the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads received IRS approval as a 501(c)3 and 509(a) Non-Profit organization. We have joined various local and national organizations and began our $250,000 Construction Fund Drive on 1 March 2023. Visit for more information.  A CSX Community Service Grant was just awarded to the museum for which we are extremely grateful.

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 area, a place where you and your family could visit regularly to view and run trains and marvel the craftsmanship and art of 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!

Mission Statement

Our mission is to develop a learning space for children and adults of all ages for the purpose of providing a fun and entertaining environment in which people can see and operate model railroads, and learn about the science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics that all go into the building and functioning of these layout displays while having fun at the same time. This will be a family oriented, community service, open to people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. We will enhance school STEM programs by providing hands-on clinics, classes, videos, model train operations, architectural and engineering concepts. New technology and electronics will be presented that demonstrate automation of train movements, signals, signs, indicator lights, sound effects, controlling trains wirelessly with radiofrequency and infrared waves, using virtual reality and augmented reality to build and control scenery and operations, computer control of train layouts, and touch controls, including classes on how everything works. We intend to provide scholarships to students who excel in the STEM concepts and support other institutions who do the same. In addition, we will teach the history of railroads in Virginia and specifically in Hampton Roads, how they operated and stimulated the economy, how they transported goods, services, and people, and how they served industries from logging camps to furniture companies, from coal mines to power facilities, from farms to grocery stores, etc.

The science and art involved in building, operating, and understanding model railroading is much more expansive than most people realize. There is so much to be learned here while being entertained at the same time, which tends to make the information stick. These are concepts that can be carried long into the future and may stimulate interest in future careers in science and technology. We believe there is a general public need to understand science better which would improve our daily lives and help us in making better decisions.

Even more than learning about STEM concepts, model railroading improves many other skills required in daily life, like teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, troubleshooting, problem-solving, failing and then succeeding, dedication, reliability, perseverance, socialization, and developing “people skills.”

These general concepts, as well as all the knowledge encompassed by STEM, are what we want to bring to our community of Hampton Roads, inside a fun and exciting environment that families and children of all ages can enjoy.

Our Progress

We are actively applying for grants and sponsorships now. Several donation requests from hobby manufacturers have gone out this week and a grant application to a local STEM hub has been sent out this week.. I have high hopes for this one. We have received a $1000 grant from CXS, $1000 from Richard Kessler, GJW is donating $125/mo and has already given $1300. We have received pledges from others who indicate they wish to donate and I'm sure we will here from them soon. Every little bit helps. Thanks to all who have donated. We truly appreciate it. I am sure that once we have our location established and start building layouts, the donations will increase greatly. Most folks like to see what they are donating for. The ones who have donated so far have not actually seen anything yet, and are doing so on faith, which is truly commendable. We are greatly encouraged by the faith and the trust people have shown us. This is very compelling and makes us want to work on this even harder and more diligently than we have been if that's possible.

What Is STEM?

We keep talking about STEM concepts in education. What is this and why is it important?

STEM learning refers to the education and learning of the subjects related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that combines these four subjects to solve real-world problems.

STEM education aims to develop students' critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. It encourages students to think creatively and use their imagination to explore different ideas and solutions.

STEM learning can take place in various settings, including classrooms, laboratories, and other hands-on learning environments. It can also involve a combination of lectures, experiments, and projects.

STEM education is becoming increasingly important in today's world as technology continues to advance, and the demand for workers with STEM-related skills continues to grow. By providing students with a strong foundation in these subjects, STEM education helps prepare them for a wide range of career opportunities and for solving the challenges of the future.

STEM and model railroading go together like ice cream and apple pie. Model railroad can demonstrate to students the actual hands-on application of what they are learning in school about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All of these disciplines are used in the designing and planning of a model railroad. It shows students some of the real world applications of these concepts and increases their chance of remembering about them. It also may help influence future career decisions. We definitely need more scientists, and engineers in the workforce. And we need more people in general to understand science and to use basic scientific evidence to help make better decisions in their lives.

That's why we are so interested in promoting STEM learning and why not have fun learning it while building a model railroad?

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.


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