Making Tracks
January 2024

President's Column

The Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads has officially become a non-profit 501(c)(3) and 509(1) organization in 2023 and came together following three years of hard work.  I would like to take this opportunity to offer a WELL DONE to Greg Warth, Pat Mahoney and Gary Brown.  AND we have been able to add two more committee members, e.g. Greg Leiphart (STEM Education Program Manager) and Warren Leister (Railroad Historian).

This past year has seen major challenges for the committee in several areas to bring the museum to life.

1. It has necessary to gain the trust of local model railroad clubs to believe in our project and determine whether or not they would support the museum.

2. We have been working with the Tidewater Division, Mid-Eastern Region, National Model Railroad Association to being the various model railroad scales together to illustrate the museum.  Fortunately, the Tidewater Division has been very supportive in accommodating all model railroad scales within the local area.  The first of many meetings in the future occurred at the Virginia Beach Public Library this past November 21, 2023. Several of the local model railroad clubs supported this event and we hope it will set the tone for future events.

3. We began a process to market the museum at various train shows and events to inform future patrons what our objectives are for the future of Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads.

Since these three efforts have been a success, it’s time to move on to the next major level to bring the museum to life.  Calendar year 2024 will consist of three main objectives:

First, marketing the museum is our number one priority to obtain funds from various sources to support and maintain the Museum.

Second, working with a local commercial broker and local government economic development centers to locate a facility in which to establish the Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads. Our old facility in the Fairfield Shopping Center was 4,000 sq. ft. We hope to locate a facility of 4,000 sq. ft. or greater to get the museum up and running.

Third, our long term objective is to have a facility to house 7 layouts of various scales (T, Z, N, HO, O, S, G), 4 STEM layouts (Phase 1 - 4), 1 layout created by women only (scale of choice), 1 layout by created Teen for Model Railroading (scale of choice), 1 layout by LEGO (HARLUG), 1 layout by Kids Run Trains (O scale) and 1 wooden layout for our very young model railroaders.

The following years will encompass the creation of a library and video room within the Museum related to the very rich history of railroads that served the cities of Hampton Roads.  We will also establish educational hands-on clinics to teach model railroad techniques, tips and tricks to all ages. And we will offer historic seminars related to local railroads and how they affected our area.

I welcome all to visit our web site to obtain additional information and learn how to donate railroad-related material to the museum (railroad artifacts (any railroad), model railroad equipment (DC or DCC), books, videos, display cases (all sizes), etc. ) or cash donations to help us acquire a facility within the Hampton Roads area. Thank you.

Fredrick Humphrey


Model Railroad Museum of Hampton Roads


Birth of Virginia Beach
Part 6 in a Series by Warren Leister, Historian

Collis P. HuntingtonCollis P. Huntington (Courtesy of the C&O Historical Society)

Excerpt from the Chesapeake and Historical Society located in Clifton Forge, Va.:

 “Following the Civil War, Virginia Central railroad {the Virginia Central railroad was originally chartered in 1836 as the Louisa Railroad, then renamed as the Virginia Central railroad in 1850 and by 1857 construction was completed from Richmond to Clifton Forge, then it was heavily damaged during the Civil War and quickly repaired and up and running by July, 1865} officials realized that they would have to get capital to rebuild from outside the economically devastated South and attempted to attract British interests, without success. Finally, they succeeded in getting Collis P. Huntington of New York interested in the line.”

“He is, of course, the same Huntington that was one of the ‘big Four’ involved in investing in and building the Central Pacific portion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, which was at this time just reaching completion. Huntington had a vision of a true transcontinental that would go from sea to sea under one operating management, and decided that the Virginia Central might be the eastern link to this system.” 

“Huntington supplied the Virginians with the money needed to complete the line to the Ohio River, through what was now the new state of West Virginia. The old Covington & Ohio’s railroad properties were conveyed to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in keeping with its new mission of linking the Tidewater coast of Virginia with the ‘Western Waters’ of the Ohio River. This was the old dream of the “Great Connection” which had been current in Virginia since Colonial times.”

 “During 1869-1873 the hard work of building through West Virginia was done with large crews working from the new city of Huntington on the Ohio River and White Sulphur Springs. Collis Huntington intended to connect the C&O with his Western and Mid-Western holdings, but had much other railroad construction to finance and he stopped the line at the Ohio River. Over the next few years he did little to improve its rough construction or develop traffic. The only connection to the West was by packet boats operating on the Ohio River. With the great mineral resources of the region having not been fully realized yet, the C&O suffered through bad times brought on by the financial panic Depression of 1873, from which it would take years to recover following a bankruptcy and a re-organization.”

From the Richmond Dispatch dated March, 27, 1871 titled “House of Delegates,” “… to incorporate the Norfolk and Princess Anne Railroad Company.” {This bill was scheduled, but not passed}

From the Richmond Dispatch dated February 17, 1872 titled “House of Delegates,” “… to incorporate the Norfolk and Princess Anne Railroad Company.” {Presumably the bill is rescheduled and probably passed}

As reported in the Norfolk Virginian on May 29, 1872; Marshall Jr. is offered a job building a canal between the Mississippi river through one of its tributaries to central Texas, but he turns it down.

From the Norfolk Virginian dated November 07, 1871 titled “Grand Mass Meeting, Large Turnout of the Conservatives! {Conservatives was the name of a political party it was formed in 1867 as a coalition of individuals from existing parties who were united in opposition to certain Reconstruction related policies, it was short lived and eventually collapsed by the end of the 1870’s} Great Enthusiasm!! Distinguished Speakers!!!,”

“There was a tremendous congregation of the Conservative voters of Norfolk at the courthouse last night, to meet and hear the issues of the day discussed once more before the close of the canvass, which will end today, we are confident, in a glorious Conservative victory.”

“The meeting was called to order by Colonel W. L. Oswald, city superintendent, who, in a few words, introduced the first speaker, one of our candidates who addressed the assemblage …”

“Marshall Parks, was next to speak and said in substance that after the eloquent speech of his colleague, he would not tire the patience of the audience with any remarks he might offer. It was his first, and perhaps, last appearance on the political stage. He was a working man, and believed in the labor; that every man to be rich, must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. It had been his good fortune to visit the Northern and Middle States, and in none had he discovered the spoil and climate equal to that of the old Commonwealth. Why was it, that having so many advantages, our city {Norfolk, Va.}, the seaport of the old state, had made such slow progress. Was it because we are all consumers, having but few producers. We have relied too much on our splendid harbor. He had, however, bright prospects for it’s future welfare. While, with the Dismal Swamp Canal, the Seaboard road {Marshall refers to the Seaboard and Roanoke railroad from Portsmouth to Weldon Nc with ferry freight service between Portsmouth and Norfolk, note that he fails to mention the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal which was literally his own invention, maybe because that would seem to appear to be too self serving since he was President of it}, which enabled us to command the trade of a large portion of the old North State {nickname for North Carolina}, and the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad {predecessor to the Norfolk and Western Railroad and today’s Norfolk Southern Railway}, happily consolidated with the other southside roads, could we not expect a glittering future.”

“In this connection he said: In the olden time, when the white winged messenger of commerce spread its canvas to the breeze and conveyed the products of distant lands, a convenient seaport near the coast was very desirable, but now that mighty agent steam has clipped the wings of our sailing ships, and harbors far from the briny ocean are now reached with little effort. Our harbor, once filled with ships, is now deserted; and yet, my friends, this was at a time when we had none of those great avenues of trade leading to our city.”

“Railroads were then unknown, and the Dismal Swamp Canal was the only improvement leading to the old borough.”

“The construction of the Seaboard and Roanoke road enabled us to command the trade of a large portion of the Old North State {North Carolina}.”

“Since then, the Norfolk and Petersburg road has been built and happily consolidated with the other southside roads. This was a masterly policy, and though it has been said I was opposed to consolidation, I claim to have written the first article that appeared in any of our city papers in favor of the object.”

“There may have been differences of opinion of the manner in which it was effected {implemented}, and I am free to confess I was a little disappointed in the share assigned to Norfolk for her interest. Yet, I may have claimed more for her than she was entitled to, and if so, I hope to be forgiven for my over zealous interest in my native city.”

{Marshall Jr, went on to win a seat as a delegate from Norfolk in the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Marshall Jr. was also a City of Norfolk Councilman at one point.}

Part 7, will be published in February, 2024.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, Making Tracks, and for your interest in the development of the historical Model Railroad Museum to be established here in Hampton Roads in the near future. Please consider a donation or sponsorship of this future attraction to help us acquire a proper location.

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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.

There will be programs for autistic and special needs kids, disabled adults and veterans.

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.

Everybody loves trains and this will prove it!  Just click on the either the blue or the yellow DONATE button below to make it happen... 

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