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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
George L. Carter Railroad Museum – East Tennessee State
G, HO, and N Scale
Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum
Randall Model Railroad Museum
Apple Valley Model Railroad Museum
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
Pasadena Model Railroad Museum HO Scale
Suffolk Station Railroad Museum (City Property)
The Children’s Museum of Virginia (City Property)
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
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.
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 mrmhr.org 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!
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
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.