Club History

GSMRRC Incorporated April 22, 1957

Original Certificate of Incorporation signed by 10 Charter members dated April 22, 1957.

The Garden State Model Railroad Club was formed in December 1952 as an outcropping of the Fair Lawn Model Railroad Club, which at the time was located in the basement of Hobby Haven on Route 4 in Fair Lawn. In January 1953, the Club held its first meeting in a dirty, greasy, two car garage at 124 East Eighteenth Street in Paterson. Largely responsible for establishing the new organization were Rene Flory and Frank Thorwester, both former members of the late Fair Lawn Club. It was through their efforts that seven members were brought together into this dark, grimy place at the very beginning. They included Mitchell Altis, Robert Diaz, Sr., John (Jake) Oberer, and through advertising and word of mouth, Frank Cigek, Robert Conklin, and Tom Geissler. The initiation fee was $10.00 and dues were $3.50 per month. The rent was $20.00 per month and the members supplied their own heat and electricity. The Club was off to a grand start with the construction of what was then considered the largest HO scale railroad in New Jersey.

From the outset, the members all agreed that the GSMRRC would be a social organization in addition to their model railroading hobby. Their goal was to tie the bonds of friendship between members through enjoyment, understanding, and espirit de corps. At that time, social activities included picnics and dinner dances. Without achieving this friendship, the Club surely would not have survived long.

Before any painting could be done, the entire interior of the building had to be scrubbed with dry cleaning solvent from floor to ceiling to remove the encrusted one half inch of grease. In the early days, a pot-bellied stove was used for heat, but by the second winter, the Club had a hot air furnace thanks to Mitch Altis. Unfortunately, additional funds were needed for the furnace, so a brand new coal bin was installed. When one of the member's relative's homes was sold, their coal was shoveled into Bob Diaz's truck and carted to the Club. The Club also did some horse trading with the landlord. In exchange for three month's rent, the Club supplied the materials and manpower to build a brand new roof that did not leak.

After three prosperous years, including one of the most successful shows at the time, the Club was forced to move in April of 1956. By this time, the membership had swelled to seventeen and the old garage was just too small. After considerable head scratching and searching, the Club found their new location, our present home in a then brand new building next door to the Model Engineers Railroad Club of North Jersey, an O gauge club with a long history of success, on High Mountain Road in North Haledon. Overhead costs went up, requiring an initiation fee of $25.00 and dues of $6.00 per month. There was much discussion and dissention as to interior decorating, plumbing, and the type of layout to build. After three years and the coming and going of at least ten members, a loop was established with limited operations. Once again, the Club had seven active full members but with three junior members. Finally settled in our new home, the Garden State Model Railroad Club was incorporated in the state of New Jersey in April of 1957.

In November of 1982, the Club celebrated its 25th Anniversary at this location and noted the 30th birthday of the organization the following year. The year 1981 saw a surge of ‘new blood’ and enthusiasm. The Club undertook a major reconstruction project in 1982, which included replacing and rearranging much of the trackwork and upgrading our old wiring to ’state of the art‘ electronics. Essentially one of the two peninsulas was entirely rebuilt. Portions of the layout were dedicated to deceased members of the Club. These were Blum Memorial Yard, named for senior member Herb Blum, the town of Geissler, named for the last charter member Tom Geissler, and McGhee Park, named for the late John McGhee, the first junior member to become a full member at the young age of eighteen. In addition, Flory Yard was dedicated to Club founder and honorary member Rene Flory. In December of 1983, during the Open House, the Club was featured on WOR-TV News. The Club was also featured on UA Columbia Cable in 1983 and again in 1985. By 1986, the Club grew to twenty members. Dues at that time were $9.00 per month. Strangely for the prospering Club, the next few years would be devastating to the organization.

The late 1980s saw major conflict of interest within the membership, and the number of members began to decline. As time went on, maintenance dropped to an all time low, and the railroad became almost inoperable. As a result, most of the remaining members left. During this time, the Club lost its original incorporation because the paperwork was not maintained. By 1991, the Club was down to just five active members. These members, Tom Callan, Doug Earls, Tim Moses, Gary Pfiel, and Blake Tatar, realized that the Garden State Northern model railroad itself was the cause of these terrible times, and so to save the Club from extinction, they would build a whole new railroad. Thus after the 1991 Open House, these members came back from their Christmas break with plans for a new railroad to bring in the new year, the Club's 35th Anniversary.

In January of 1992, demolition of the old layout began. This process took four months and new construction began in the closing weeks of April. As the benchwork for this new walkaround style layout was quickly completed, Bob Savino carefully drew every single pencil line for the alignment of the mainline and used his camera's tripod and a joined pair of yard sticks to lay out every single curve, including easements. While he held the track and drilled pilot holes, his nine-year old son Rob drove many of the track spikes, and both mainlines were completed in August. As word of this new layout spread, six members joined that year, including Pete Kieran, arguably the best backdrop painter in the hobby. The Club, no pun intended, was back on track. Basic wiring, some of Pete's gorgeous backdrops, and some real quick scenery were completed just in time for Thanksgiving. Though much was to be desired, nothing would stop these members from holding the Club's 35th Annual Open House.

In 1993, Jim Harr and Tim Moses completed modifications to a straight Micro Engineering bridge that made it curve to a thirty-four inch radius. Five more members joined that year. The throats for the Club's main yard were designed and constructed. It was named Albatross Yard for the many man hours put into its construction. Pete Kieran made another mark by stressing that the organization should focus on the community, not just fellow hobbyists. He introduced his Santa Claus Express at the 1993 Open House, and the children loved it. Pete continues to add new cars every few years.

The Club continued to grow throughout the mid 1990s, however conflict again began to rise. Four of the original five members left, leaving only Doug Earls. Before these problems got out of control, he along with Jack Oliver refocused the organization toward those same goals of friendship the Club had in the very beginning. Unfortunately it turns out several members left because of one or two bad apples. With this new focus, it became easy to see that these people's attitudes did not belong in this group of considerate, mutually respecting members that are great friends with one another.

The end of the 1990s saw resurgence in ‘new blood’ and enthusiasm, very similar to that of 1981. A diesel facility was scratchbuilt. A lot of scenery was completed. Operating sessions were held regularly. Installation of lights in structures began. House lighting problems were corrected. In 1999, Secretary Pete Kieran completed filing paperwork with the state to incorporate the Club once again. Due to legalities, the Club could not reclaim its original name, the Garden State Model Railroad Club, so the membership chose the Garden State Model Railway Club instead. Also that year, Vice President elect Rob Savino, the first junior member granted full membership at the age of seventeen, decided to put the GSMRRC on the internet and designed a website. The domain name was purchased and the website was born. Then junior member Anthony R. Tofani greatly assisted with photographs and designed the Railroad History and Virtual Tour portions of the site.

As 1999 drew to a close, a Life membership category was established to recognize those members who have put forth outstanding efforts for the benefit of the Club. Jack Oliver received the honor at the very same meeting! Bob Savino was honored with Life member status in March 2002. In June 2003, Pete Kieran would be the third to receive this honor.

As the millennium drew to a close in late 2000, another significant event in Club history took place. With the surge in Digital Command Control (DCC), the Club considered this technology. Vast majority of model railroad clubs either were too afraid to abandon their old Direct Current (DC) system in favor of this new DCC technology, or they totally scrapped their DC system to permanently convert to DCC. Bob Savino, however, presented a third option to the Club. With the incorporation of a simple relay circuit he designed, the Club could safely operate both systems and change from one to the other with the flick of a switch! DCC Bob"s pioneering of this idea was featured in the December 2003 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Sadly in 2004, Honorary Member Raymond Allen passed away. Raystown Lake was created and named in his honor.

The Club began 2005 with 30 members, an all time record. Scenery projects continued along the entire railroad. Two electrical panels were installed to control the west end of the railroad. The branchline was extended and construction of a large coal mine began. The Club is looking forward to its 50th Annual Open House in 2007.

See Pictures of the Old Layout

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