Tonawanda News

January 15, 2014

Model Railroad Club unveils updated layouts in town

Model Railroad Club unveils updated layouts, rebuilt operation during open house

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A new display is set to entice model railroad enthusiasts of all ages at the Boys and Girls Club of the Tonawandas beginning this weekend.

Two large and updated model railroad layouts in “O” and “HO” scale will be showcased at the open house of the Model Railroad Club of Buffalo from noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 18, 19, 25 and 26 at the Boys and Girls Club of the Tonawandas, 54 Riverdale Ave., Town of Tonawanda.

Club members have been continually evolving the model train layouts with new industries and scenery work. The O scale layout has gone through a rebuilding project and will be operational for the first time in two years.

“Returning and new visitors will find much to see on the club’s layouts,” member Brian Carlson, said.

“Our club is constantly working to improve the layouts. Some of the scenery on the HO layout looked a little too ‘1990s’ for me. We really needed to try some new scenery techniques,” Carlson added, pointing to a new meadow scene by one of the train yards.

Carlson recently completed this scene with a newer method of modeling tall grasses. 

The Club, started in 1936, is believed to be one of the oldest in the country.

Originally, the club was all O-scale and remained so after moving to its present location in the Boys and Girls Club in the 1960s.

Over time, the smaller HO scale became more popular but about one-third of the space is still dedicated to O-scale. 

Jared Allison, one of the O-scale modelers noted that some of the original benchwork from the ‘60s was still present just a few years ago and was showing its age.

“Underneath, it was really a patchwork layout that had been updated many times over the years,” Allison said.

Ken Leaver Jr. is the primary designer of the new O scale layout.

“The older O scale was a beautiful layout but didn’t run very well,” Leaver said, recalling operational problems from the past.

“It really needed to be re-wired and updated to work properly with modern model trains. It’s easier to rebuild than try to retrofit that kind of thing,” he explained. “Plus, the new design creates more space for a lot of the great scratch-built structures that were previously stored out of sight.”

The new layout does not yet have any scenery, however has a significantly longer main line. 

“A longer main line allows us to run more trains at once. It also takes longer for the trains to travel between stops, which is more prototypical,” Leaver explained.

Visitors to the club are encouraged to take time to examine all the details and ask questions of club members. 

Admission is $5 for immediate family or $2 per adult. Children under age 6 are free.

For more information visit the club’s website at