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GMRS & MCMR History

As of Tuesday, November 9th, 2004 The Gaithersburg Model Railroad Society (GMRS) will be renamed to the Rockville Model Railroad Society, Inc (RMRS) in December 2004. This change is in conjunction with the absorbsion of the Maryland Central Model Railroad Club (MCMRR) and the obtaining of their Rockville layout location at the King Farm. This property is under lease from the City of Rockville and requires extensive structural improvements before it will be suitable to house a train layout.

The Gaithersburg Model Railroad Society, Inc (GMRS) was incorporated in 1994 by the members of the Silver Spring Model Railroad Society (SSMRS).

Since its founding in 1974 the SSMRS has been in continuous operation. The members built and operated the Chesapeake and Western Railroad (C&WRR) which was the largest scale model railroad in the Washington Metropolitan Area. This layout was approximately 60 feet by 40 feet and was modeled in HO scale.

The C&WRR layout contained about 22 scale miles of double track mainline similar to the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O which runs through Gaithersburg. There was also a single track branch which is similar to the Western Maryland operation. The third part of the layout contained a narrow gauge railroad similar to that found in many mining areas.

The Society held Open House events for many years, in our location in Silver Spring, on weekends during the Christmas Holiday Season. On one weekend in 1981 more than 5000 people, adults and children, attended the Open House. These Open House events were featured on local television and in local newspapers.

The C&WRR was located in the basement of a commercial building in Silver Spring. In 1982 changes in the occupancy of the building on the ground level required changes to our access to the basement area and we could no longer meet the fire safety requirements for public access. Therefore the Society had to cease these Open House events.

When the Nation Model Railroad Association (NMRA) held its annual convention in Washington, the C&WRR was one of the featured layouts on the tour of scale model layouts in the area. There was a constant flow of buses over two days with model railroad enthusiasts from around the country touring the C&WRR layout.

In late 1986 it was necessary to remove the layout from our Silver Spring location. This layout had been in storage untill mid 1996 at which point the Society salvaged what was usable and disposed of the rest. In spite of this setback the Society has remained active both looking for a new site for the layout and helping various members of the Society with there private model railroad layouts.

In addition to building and operating the C&WRR, the Society has, as one of its main functions, promoted the hobby of scale model railroading. In pursuit of this goal, the Society has held many demonstrations on the various aspects of building a scale model railroad and provided films and speakers to the Montgomery County School System.

In 1988, the society was approached by the National Geographic Society to provide an HO scale model railroad for the exhibit they had planned for the Holiday Season in 1989. The society built a 10' by 10' "plus-shaped" layout for the exibit. This exhibit, "All Aboard - The Romance of Model Railroading," ran from October 1989 through January 1990 and was viewed by 216,647 visitors to the Explorers Hall. This layout currently on long term loan to the City of Gaithersburg in the B&O Freight House. It has been viewed by the public every second and fourth Saturday of the month since Olde Towne Day 1991.

In 1994, following the incorporation of the GMRS, we were granted use of the Mills House (owned by the City of Gaithersburg) in the historic Old Town section of Gaithersburg. We operated this layout from 1995 until 2004, at which time the City of Gaithersburg decided not to renew our lease for financial reasons.

Following the loss of our lease in 2004, we contacted the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, which was interested in obtaining an HO scale layout. During the late spring of 2004 the layout was moved to Hagerstown.

MCMR History
The Maryland Central Model Railroad Club traces its antecedents back to the 1950’s. A modeler in the Rockville area decided to give away his partially completed model railroad. A group of local men got together to acquire the layout and formed the Rockville Society of Model Engineers. They were able to rent the second story of the historic B&O Rockville station, which had originally been the agent’s quarters, and installed the railroad.

The RSME made its home in the depot for over 10 years, eventually expanding the original layout into 3 rooms. A blizzard in 1966 resulted in the freezing of the heating system. There was also the prospect that the station might be demolished to make way for the new Metro subway line. The club entered into a partnership with the National Capital Trolley Museum to assist in the construction of the trolley museum’s original car barn and visitor’s center in Northwest Branch Regional Park. In return, the RSME had use of a portion of the visitor’s center, where a new model railroad would be built.

As an aside, the 1873 Rockville station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station and the adjoining freight house were moved off the future right-of-way and turned to face the street instead of the railroad. The buildings now contain offices.

Since we had the architectural plans for the visitor’s center, we were able to design the model railroad even before the building was begun. Most of the new layout was actually built in the garage of one of our members in sectional form, so it could be transported to the new site and be up and running in a short time. The installation was essentially completed by the fall of 1967. A unique feature of this arrangement was that the layout had to be open and operating for the public every Sunday when the museum was open.

Unfortunately, after about 10 years disagreements arose between the trolley museum and model railroad club, which resulted in the club having to relocate. It took 3 years before the club was able to rent space in the basement of the Marvin Memorial Methodist Church in Silver Spring. By this time also, the club’s old name, Rockville Society of Model Engineers, was no longer relevant. The club therefore incorporated itself as the Maryland Central Model Railroad Club.

The room that the club used was small, as model railroad club spaces go. However, since we could utilize other space in the church for meetings, it was adequate. The new layout was begun in 1980, and was far enough along that it was on the layout tours for the 1982 NMRA national convention. A number of club members also served on the convention committee.

The church recently decided to expand its community service outreach program. They needed the space occupied by the club, and as a result the club had to vacate its space in May, 2002. New club space was secured from the City of Rockville, MD, at the King Farm Homestead site in February 2004. Renovations to the facility will being in Spring of 2004 with layout construction to begin shortly thereafter.