The Columbus Model Railroad Club is 82 years old this year. For almost 50 years, the club has met in a building at Columbus Castings. Now that the foundry has been sold the club will probably have to move; forcing them to leave their beloved model railroad behind.
When the club gets together in the elegant, old, two-story red brick building on Parsons Avenue, there’s not a lot of discussion. Members are too busy maneuvering model trains along an incredibly sophisticated rail system.
For the time being, model trains will continue to roll through miniature cities, towns and tunnels. Club members began assembling their massive railroad layout when they moved into their Columbus Castings location in 1968. They’ve been adding to the layout ever since. Dubbed the Scioto Valley Railroad, the fictional rail line stretches from the Ohio River north to Lake Erie. Club member Matt Goodman:
“The layout traces a route that doesn’t really exist in real life but it starts in Portsmouth, Ohio and terminates in Sandusky. It goes through Lancaster and Newark on the way up there. You can see the name plates as you walk around the layout, Chillicothe for example,” Goodman says.
The layout is so big that there’s not much space left in the room…
“I started a project at one point to measure the distance but I didn’t finish it. I think I got up to 150 feet and I wasn’t even a third of the way through the layout so I guess it’s probably a 500-foot run. If you’re traveling at normal track speed, depending on how many times you stop to let passenger trains get by, it’ll take 20, 25 minutes to get from end to end,” Goodman says.
Soon it will be the end of the line for the fictional Scioto Valley Railroad. The new owners of Columbus Castings have told the club they want to use the building for offices. Club President John Howard says they’ll have to move, but they don't have any prospects for new homes.
“We’d like to set up a wish list of what we’d wish for and the bare minimum of what we’d go for and take it from there,” Howard said.
Club member Matt Goodman says Columbus Castings and before that Buckeye Steel were gracious hosts, charging unbelievably low rent. Finding a similar venue, Goodman says, will be tough.
“If we end up leaving this building I think everybody in here would like to rebuild somewhere else. But that’s tough, you know, finding a place that’s affordable and is long-term enough that you can actually build something in,” Goodman says.
The layout’s sheer size means it cannot be moved. Smaller pieces can be reused, Goodman says, but the wooden structure on which the tracks are attached cannot.
“Some stuff obviously would be easy to move; you take the rolling stock off and the buildings and that sort of thing. But the structure, this thing’s been up here for almost fifty years so is it worth saving any of it? That’s the question we’re going to have within the club,” Goodman says.
Club president John Howard is more resolute. He’s ready to start over.
“We wouldn’t move this layout, we’d take it apart and build a new layout. Parts are pretty antiquated and we’d want to rebuild to newer standards,” Howard says.
Still the Columbus Model Railroad Club’s leader is undeterred.
“Right now, the future is still a little murky but we’ll take it as it comes,” Howard says.
There’s still time to see the display in its current south-side location. Meetings are open to the public every Tuesday evening at 2211 Parsons Avenue.