Our mission is to educate the people of Florida about the value and experience of Railroading, Past, Present and Future.
The Railroad Education and Learning Center of Florida, Inc, (RealRail) will be the educational and historical hub for teaching and illustrating the impact of railroading in Florida and the U.S. RealRail will achieve this through a Center that provides an entertaining , interactive learning experience to the community through models and exhibits. RealRail is committed to excellence of product, good management, and fiscal responsibility .
Most model railroaders share in the dream of having a layout that is bigger and better than their wallets and available home space will allow. In Florida where there are few basements and many people living on retirement incomes, a model railroad club where model railroaders can share the time, space and expense required to build and enjoy large layouts is a good idea. It was with that idea that a group of interested model railroaders got together in 1975 and created the Sarasota Model Railroad Club (SMRC).
SMRC was started by Herbert Goetschius and was chartered with the State of Florida in 1975 as a not-for-profit corporation and is a direct descendant of a club of the same name that was formed in the late 1950s. Members met in various places including a church, a firehouse, and a house before moving to the second floor of the old Brew Master’s Restaurant in downtown Sarasota at the corner of Main Street and Washington Boulevard (U.S. 301). Dues were $3.00 per month. Construction was started on HO and N scale layouts and continued there for approximately three years. Trains were running on both layouts when imminent demolition of the building forced the club to seek new quarters. In 1978, the club moved into our present 24’x100’clubhouse. The new building offered a large unobstructed space. It was decided to build the HO layout in the back half of the space and divide the front half into the N layout and the meeting space. A small group of members interested in O scale were given two feet along the west wall with a loop under the HO layout at the back of the building and a loop at the front which could be raised for meetings. The HO members brought sections of their old layout to get a head start on construction. The N scalers walled in their area. There was no air conditioning so the summer months were miserable. The doors had to be open with fans blowing to be able to work at all. On hot nights business meetings were held outside in the parking lot. Dues were $5.00 a month and additional funds were obtained through shows, swap meets, auctions, raffle layouts, and custom layouts construction. Sometimes the treasury was so low that the hat would be passed to collect money to pay the bills. Later a second floor was added which considerably increased the clubhouse’s square footage. Then air conditioning was added.
The club is probably unique in the variety of scale layouts available for member use. There is Z, N, N’TRAK, HO, HOn3, HO’TRAK, O 2-rail, On3, O 3-rail, G, and live steam of various scales. Each of these layouts will be described elsewhere in this handbook. The clubhouse has some 3600 square feet of air conditioned space which is available 24 hours a day for Engineer members’ use. We are affiliated with the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) and its Florida chapter the Sunshine Region. Our membership count varies from year to year but our ideal number would be about 50. The model railroading and prototype railroading knowledge and skill levels of our members range from novice to master. What ever you need to know about railroading we probably have someone with the answer. We are also very proud to have in our membership two NMRA Master Model Railroaders, Jim Beatty and Al Feinsod.
The purpose of the club is to provide a place and atmosphere for model railroaders to share the enjoyment of building and operating layouts of a size they could not have room for at home and to promote the hobby of model railroading to the community.
Over the years the club has put on numerous model train shows and displays. As our moneymaking show and sale events have grown larger and larger over the years, we have moved from the Bayshore Gardens Community Center, to the Manatee County Fairgrounds, to the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium, and finally to our present location at the Manatee Civic Center. We have also held shows in the Sarasota Armory, the Venice Civic Center, and the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa. Some of our other community outreach projects over the years are mall shows at Desoto Square, Gulfgate, and Sarasota Square, a Hobby Expo, the Selby Gardens Candlelight Walk Christmas display, Crosley Mansion Festival of Trees, GWIZ museum solar-powered children’s layout, Sarasota County Environmental Resources Department children’s layout which is now at the GWIZ museum, Children’s Hands-On Railroad, the Bradenton Church of the Nazarene’s Kids’ Fest, the Bradenton YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, the Boy Scouts of America merit badge program, and the South Florida Museum Christmas Display.
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Our values are the heart of our organization. They define who we are and what we want to bring to the community we serve:
- Museum Quality Exhibits.
- Preservation of Florida Railroad History.
- Educational resources to the community on the Historical, Cultural, and Economic impact of railroading in Florida.
- Educational programs and resources for elementary education professionals in our community.
We look forward to seeing you at the Center!