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In January, 1992, a group of interested model railroaders met above a hobby shop in Adrian, Michigan. From this first meeting came the formation of an active group of model railroaders interested in putting together a modular layout that could be moved around to various places, set up and entered in contests.

Within two years, the club was showing in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, and was constantly winning first place awards for the layout.

Soon, another layout was started. This was joined with the original layout, and shown by invitation for two years at the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village complex for their popular “Railroad days”.

Part of the goal of showing the layouts was to raise money to support the objective of eventually having the club’s own space to build a permanent layout. This goal was achieved in Blissfield, Michigan, where a permanent space measuring approximately 33′ by 70′ was available for rent.

The space was located on the second floor of an old feed mill building. When the club made arrangements to rent it there was only a 2×4 ladder leading to the second floor. Add to this the fact that the second floor hadn’t been used in years, and you have a picture of what we faced. After many months of building preparation, the layout was started and construction continued over the next 15 years. What resulted was a multi-level railroad with about 1500 feet of main line track, modeling the C&O and Clinchfield railroads in the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

The decision was made early to power the layout with digital command control (DCC). A Digitrax “Chief” system was selected and the club has continued with Digitrax DCC systems ever since.

There was steady progress on the layout since those early days. Scenery work did very well in keeping up with track laying. The electrical system was expanded, boosters added, and massive electronics added for signals, dispatcher control, etc. A new lighting system was installed which greatly enhanced the railroad scenery.  A new classification yard at Huntington, WV was added which became the hub of freight operations.  A major steel mill was built near Ashland, KY which became an important industry in the operation of the railroad.

The club itself has undergone some major organizational changes. In 2003 we became a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit corporation. Since that time, we have been able to greatly increase club income through fundraising and donations. In 2013, the club lost its lease and decided to buy its own building, tear down the railroad (salvaging about 2/3 for rebuilding) and move. The new facility at 109 E. US 223 (next door west of our old location) is much more convenient and accessible for our fans and visitors as it is all on the ground floor, has its own parking lot, and is handicapped accessible.  As of September 2017 the layout is essentially done, including scenery. There will, of course, be scenery work that will go on for years, adding detail, etc.  Signals, switch control, and dispatcher panel development is complete. Our operating railroad is now ready and we held our first club operating session on Aug. 26.

BMRC started a unique practice for a model railroad club back in its early days. Rather than existing solely for the entertainment of its members, the club makes a special effort to open the railroad free of charge to the public by scheduling Open House weekends at least once a month from September through May. As the railroad was being built it was decided to make wide aisles so our visitors could see the railroad without being crowded. As a result, we see from 200 to 400 people attending our open house events each month. Yes, we have a lot of fun operating our railroad, but a lot of people in Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio enjoy it as much as we do. And we have had visitors from all over the country and a few from Canada.

BMRC has always had a unique mix of talent among its members.  It seems like the right people were there at the right time to accomplish some very manpower-intensive projects.  The funding for layout building has come from donations from visitors and supporters and fund raising projects carried out by our members.  A conservative estimate of the man-hours invested in our layout by BMRC members since its beginning would be on the order of 80,000.  The dues paid by these members has done a good job of keeping most of the overhead paid. With a few more members,that would be easily achievable.

Written by jwatts on April 27th, 2006