There are a group of men and a few boys who never outgrew their love of playing with trains. Some started with toy trains they were given as Christmas gifts, others started later in life.

Twenty five of these railroad loving guys are members of the East Texas and Gulf Rail Modelers Association.

The Orange chapter meet every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, located at 2300 Eddleman Rd. in Orange, to discuss and work on the layouts of model trains that belong to the club.

Their work is very detailed and covers all of the eras of railroading from steam engines to the high speed bullet trains. Along with the trains and track layout there is also a group of highly detailed scale models of towns, depots, industrial sites, grain elevators and even a port. In short, anywhere a train may go, the club has a scale model on a layout.

November is National Model Train Month and the club had four different exhibits of the trains and layouts that belong to both the club and individual members.

“The church has been really good to us, they give us a room to meet in and each year they have given us the space to put on our local show,” member Tomalee Drake said.

In addition to the Orange show, the club also attends and exhibits at Longview, Houston and Rusk, Texas and at the annual Railroad Days at DeQuincy, La.

Club members Mickey Taylor, Jeff Hamilton, Phillip Comeaux and Les McMahen built a layout for the DeQuincy Railroad Museum that is on permanent display. The layout is wired to run and is behind a glass protector, but has controllers so that it may be operated by museum visitors. Children in particular take great delight in running the trains and blowing the whistles.

Controlling the trains has entered the computer age. From the old controllers that were wired to the tracks and would only allow one train to run in one direction at a time, the new controllers are of the DCC type, Digital Command Control. A DCC control allows multiple trains to run on multiple tracks and in different directions, all at the same time.

It is remarkable to see five trains on five different tracks doing five different things and all being controlled by a controller the size of a small shoebox. There are also controllers that may be operated from a computer. There is also DC, or Direct Current controls. DC is an older system, but may be used alongside the newer DCC controls, just on a separate track on the layout.

“Model railroading is a ‘silent hobby,’” George Bohn, program director for the ET & GMRA, said. “A lot of people do this at home and are not aware of clubs like ours. It is a hobby that can be done with a kit from a box, or you can do like we do and build from component parts and do detailed scale model building. The hobby can be what you want it to be and you can also spend a lot of money if you want to go that far.”

One member whose expertise is scale model building is Mike Gulley.

“Our layouts are a work in progress,” Gulley said. “We are always adding to them and modifying them. I just added a scrap yard to the big layout and I’m working on a town to go on the opposite end. I used whatever I think will work for whatever I’m building at the time.”
Gulley proudly showed a grain elevator built out of paper towel roll centers and a fence made from small grilling skewers. A lot of Gulley’s buildings are made from recycled cardboard, some from political signs.

The layout used at the local show is 16 feet by 24 feet. The sections are built in 2 foot by 4 foot sections and labeled so that they can be stored in the club’s trailer in order and assembled easily and quickly. The layout can be set up in about two hours, due to the labeling of the sections and the modular wiring of each section. Controllers can be plugged in and several locations around the layout. Once the building and other accessories are in place then the trains are put in place.

Some of the engines and cars belong to individuals and some belong to the club. They may either be DCC or DC controlled, depending on which engine is used on which track for the show.

“After the show, when all the trains and buildings are stripped off of the layout, we can take it down in about 45 minutes. We are ready to go home and work faster,” Gulley said.

“We welcome new members,” Bohn said. “There is a Junior Member class, we have two in our club one is eight and one is 10 years old. Most of our members are from their 20’s to 60’s, but we have one member in his 80’s. Some are retired and some of us are still working.”

For more information on the ET&GMRA and details of the club’s operation and schedule of events, you may visit their website: