***The following is the information Ocala Model Railroaders Historic Preservation Society sent to the IRS in order to apply for and achieve the 501(c)3 charitible organization status.***
Ocala Model Railroaders
Railroads! Where would this nation be without them? Throughout the history of this country the railroads have played a vital role. From the building of the transcontinental railroad, the massive troop trains during the wars to the mega railroads of today that haul millions of tons of freight each year.
Our organization is dedicated to informing and educating the public on many aspects of railroading. We do this through open houses, train shows and other public events throughout Florida.
We have received enough donations to start a modest museum containing a growing number of railroad books, journals, historical documents and artifacts. Our two stationary and two modular lifelike layouts offer the public visual and hands-on experience of railroad operations spanning many decades.
We hope that the following document will demonstrate how our club continues to preserve some of this railroad history through our many educational displays.
It all started in the summer of 1996, a couple of model railroader’s decided to see if there was enough interest in the area to form a model railroad club. The Marion County Board of County Commissioners donated the use of one of their buildings to hold the first organizational meeting. On September 20, 1996 a group of individuals met with the goal of organizing a model railroad club. The interest was greater than anticipated when twenty- four local railroad enthusiasts were in attendance. During the next five months the group met on a weekly basis. The Fraternal Order of Police donated the use of their building for the club meetings. During that time the club name and officers were chosen. A committee was formed to locate a permanent home for the Ocala Model Railroaders’. The committee found a location in down-town Ocala and started remodeling the new clubhouse. About the same time the club was invited by the Ocala Junior Women’s Club to participate in their annual Brick City Days Festival, February of 1997, in Ocala’s town square. Brick City Days is a large arts and crafts festival, which celebrates the rebuilding of down-town Ocala after the 1889 Thanksgiving Day fire, which destroyed the business district. The club was able to put together a small layout, railroad artifacts and historical railroad maps for display. This became the clubs’ first public event.
The club started collecting railroad memorabilia and artifacts of the old railroads of Marion County. One of our first artifacts was a 1914 railroad map of Marion County that was donated to our club.
In the spring of 1997 the Silver Springs Lions Club began holding a bi-annual train show in Ocala and asked our club to participate by displaying a layout. The first show was held in June of 1997 and the club members designed and constructed an N scale modular layout in a very short eight weeks. This was the areas first modular layout that incorporated a continuous scene that could be easily moved. As a result of this effort our club now had an operating layout that could be used to show and educate the public. Of the three layouts at the show the club had the only true-to-scale layout that was capable of running four trains at one time. The public was very impressed and the members spent many hours explaining the various techniques to build a true scale operating modular model railroad layout. This two-day event was well attended by the public and they were very impressed with the clubs layout. As a result we have been invited back every year since. The following are some of the photos taken during the years of participation in the bi-annual Lions Club Train Shows.
The continuing relationship between the Silver Springs Lions Club and the Ocala Model Railroaders Historic Preservation Society has enhanced both organizations to further their mutual goals The Lions Club, through holding train shows, has promoted their charitable programs and the Ocala Model Railroaders Historic Preservation Society has been very successful in the promotion of the hobby and public awareness of local railroad history. This partnership continues to benefit both organizations.
In the spring of 1998 we were invited back to the second Brick City Days. The club has now had time to become better organized and we had more memorabilia to display along with our new N scale layout. There was a much larger turnout at this years display.
In September of 1997 the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs, Division of Emergency Management asked the club for the use of our N scale train layout for a Hazardous Materials Incident Training course at the Florida State Fire College. The club took the layout to the State Fire College, located north of Ocala, and set it up for a three-day training session. During this training they staged simulated hazardous materials spills on the layout. The trainees were then required to solve the numerous problems that these spills might create.
In the summer of 1997 the Central Florida Community College’s Foundation ask us to participate in their train display during the Christmas holidays. The display would be held in the new Webber Center Exhibit Gallery for a three-week period. The club members partnered up with the college staff and other individuals in the community to organize the display. Through the collective efforts we were able to pull together a display that included clinics, model railroad layouts, historical railroad artifacts and instructional videos. The display was so successful that it is now an annual event. The attendance has continued to increase with many of our visitors returning year after year.
In February of 1998 we were contacted by the organizer of the Eustis Train Show in Eustis, Fl and were asked to bring our traveling layout to their show. They wanted the public to see and for the club to explain how we had designed and built a layout that we could be easily transported and setup.
During the Eustis Train Show in “98” the club received a lot of attention from the crowd of people that gathered around our N-scale layout. Most of them were impressed with how well the trains ran and with the quality of the highly detailed scenery on the layout. The club members in attendance spent the day explaining the many techniques that we used to create the wide variety of different scenes (from High Mountains to river valleys and from rolling farmland to industrial cities).
The club was again invited back to the 1999 to the Eustis Train Show. This show was again full of visitors who enjoyed seeing our newly remodel and expanded traveling modular layout.
The club enjoyed participating in these shows so much that we are now looking into reviving & hosting a Train Show in the Eustis area.
As time passed the club gained more notoriety and we received more request to show our layouts to the public. In June 1998 the organizer of the “1890 Days Festival” in McIntosh, Florida contacted the club and invited us to display our layout, on the third Saturday of October, in the renovated historic Atlantic Coastline RR depot. This one-day craft festival draws more than 200,000 people.
The City of Ocala invited the club to participate in the rededication of the restored historic Ocala Union Station, which would be held on December 11, 1998. One of the members built a scale diorama of the Union Station that was displayed for the rededication and was put on permanent displayed inside the lobby. The members acted as good-will ambassadors and fielded questions from the public about the station and railroading.
The Ocala City Managers office contacted the club in early 1999 and asked if we could assist the U.S. Post Office and the City when the U.S. Postal Service’s “Celebrate the Century Express” stamp train came to Ocala. We were to act as good-will ambassadors, display our traveling layout in the train station and also furnished railroad memorabilia during the event. Our members attended a seminar at Ocala’s main post office so we would be able to better assist the public. Ocala had the honor of being one of two cities that the train stayed for three days during its nation wide tour. School children from all over the county were bussed in to view the display on the first day and the other two were for the general public. The event drew more that 5000 people.
As a result of our involvement with the Central Florida Community Colleges’ Foundation and “Trains at the Holidays” the club had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Dr. Chambers, a local surgeon. Dr. Chambers had been working on a model railroad, named after the Ocklawaha Valley Railroad, (which ran from Silver Spring, Florida to Palatka, Florida.) Dr. Chamber’s layout had been under construction for over 30 years, until he passed away in mid 1998. His family approached the club in January of 1999 and informed us that if we would agree to remove, restore, and preserve the layout in a place where it could be displayed to the public, they would donate to us, the layout and his entire railroad collection. The club accepted the family’s offer and approached the City of Ocala for a location to house and displays the layout. The Ocala Recreation and Parks Department offered the Tuscawilla Art Center building to the club. This gave the layout a permanent home to be displayed for the enjoyment of the community. It also created a partnership between the club and the Recreation and Parks Department. As a part of our agreement with the City, the club holds open houses, clinics on model railroading, displays railroad memorabilia and participates in numerous public events held in the park. By August of 1999 the layout was moved from Dr. Chambers home to the new club location.
Below are a few examples of how the club fulfills our agreement and interacts with the public.
In July of 1998 Herman Brewer, a retired executive with Seaboard Airline railroad and Seaboard Coastline railroad was a guest at the club. He talked at length about his experiences working on the railroad. He covered the years of steam to diesel transition, anecdotes and other historic events
The members of the Citrus County Model Railroad Club were invited to special open house and an instructional clinic on Digital Command Control, the latest in electronic controls for running model trains. This system uses computer chips to control the engines. The Citrus County Club was very impressed with the system and upgraded their layouts soon after their visit.
January 2000 the club hosted Operation Life Saver, a nation wide railroad grade crossing safety program, presented by Keith Marr, which was open to the public.
As a part of our partnership agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation the club holds open house every other month for the public. This started in March 2000 and we held a total of eight open houses, three of which were held for special events like the 8th Ave Senior Center Craft Show, Ocali Festival, Father and Son Fishing Derby and the annual “Eggstravaganza” Easter egg hunt etc….
The US Railroad Retirement Board in Jacksonville asked if they could use our clubhouse to interview retired or widowed railroad employees about their benefits. The club gladly assisted and they held their first meeting in October 17, 2001.
During 2001 the club held fourteen open houses. We were open for our six regular open houses and ten special events. Some of the special events were Father & Son Fishing Derby, sponsored by Ocala Recreation and Parks Dept. and Florida Fish and Game Commission. 8th Ave Senior Citizens Annual Yard Sale sponsored by Ocala Recreation and Parks Dept., and a special request from the family of the late Herman Bewer, the retired Seaboard Airline RR executive that was mentioned earlier, who were visiting from Miami and wanted to stop by and see the club and the layout. Just to name a few.
The club hosted a National Model Railroad Association Achievement Program ceremony for fourteen of our members in October 2001. The President of the Sunshine Region and the Chairman of the Sunshine Region Achievement Program were present-to-present the “Golden Spike” awards to the members. These awards are presented to members who complete the requirements established by the A.P. for the construction of a model railroad.
January 2003 the club donated an HO modular layout to West Port Middle School for a special mechanical engineering class the school had started. The school plans to start a model-railroading club for the students and will use the layout for the club.
In January 2000 Amtrak Railroad donated a 1950 Seaboard Airline RR baggage cart to the club. We restored the cart and returned it to the train station where it was put on permanent display in the lobby along with a diorama of the Ocala Union Station, which was built, by one of our members.
In February 2004 the Marion County Public Library contacted the club and requested that we put a display in the front lobby of the Forrest Library branch. We accepted their offer and created a display of various railroad related items. During the same time we put our diorama of a river valley on display at Southern RR Supply (a local hobby shop). This gave us three educational public displays.
In March 2001 the club started our first annual model railroading Expo. This event was held in the Ocala City Auditorium, which is next door to the clubhouse. This event included many different venders and educational clinics. During the show the clubhouse is open so the public can view our two layouts.
We hold these Expos each year in the Ocala City Auditorium, which is next door to the clubhouse. This event included many different venders and educational clinics. During the show the clubhouse is open so the public so they can view our two permanent operating layouts, as well as a wide variety of memorabilia. This annual event has grown to be one of our main fundraisers.
In April of 2001 the club was asked to co-host the Spring Convention for the Sunshine Region of the National Model Railroad Association. This three-day convention brought N.M.R.A. members from all over Florida to enjoy the clinics, displays, layouts, seminars, tours of CSX and Florida Northern railroads. As a host the club displayed both of our highly detailed modular layouts at the Hilton Hotel for two days. The third day the clubhouse was open so the conventioneers could enjoy the clubs Historical displays as well as our two operating stationary layouts.
The Atlantic Coastline/Seaboard Air line Railroad Historic Society commissioned a painting of the historic Ocala Union Station by nationally famous railroad artist Tony Howe. The Society asked the club to assist the artist with photo and historical information about the station. Mr. Howe sent sketches to the club to proof for accuracy. For assisting the Society, the club was given one of the prints. The club framed this limited numbered print and presented it to Ocala’s Mayor at the June 12, 2001 City Council meeting. The print now hangs proudly in the City Managers Office.
In November 2001 the club purchased a seconded Ocala Union Station print. We matted and framed this copy and donated it to the City of Ocala. It was put on permanent display over the fireplace in the lobby of Union Station.
In July 2002 the club traveled to the Villages of Lady Lake, Fl. This is a very large retirement community, encompassing 16,000 acres, which is spread out over parts of three counties, and home to 45,000 residences. We partnered with the Villages Recreation Department to co-host the Villages All American Hobby Show. The show brought a wide variety of hobbyist together with a large number of local residences. For most of the visitors it was their first opportunity to enjoy out traveling layouts. Many of them left with a new appreciation for the hobby.
The National Model Railroad Association Sunshine Region fall convention was held in Lakeland. Florida during October 2002. The Sunshine Region encompasses all but a few of Florida’s sixty-seven counties. Ours club was honored to be the only club ask to display their traveling layouts at this three day convention. The members were extremely flattered at the number of compliments we received from our piers.
In December 2002 Morris Scholl, club member and Ambassador for the World’s Greatest Hobby, was invited to Oakwood Nursing Home to give a talk on model railroading to the residents. He showed a video and talked about many facets of model railroading. The residents requested that Mr. Scholl, return as often as possible. The World’s Greatest Hobby is a national program designed to promote and help expand the hobby of model railroading in which the club is an active participant.
The World’s Greatest Hobby Ambassador, Morris Scholl was invited to talk to the juveniles incarcerated at the State of Florida, Department of Juvenile Justice, Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center. He started giving his seminars in April 2003 which were well received and he was asked to return and did so once a week until the middle of June when he moved out of state.
June of 2003 the club held a special open house for Hale Academy, a charter magnet school in Ocala, whose students were studying transportation. The members talked to the students about the history of railroading and used the layout to demonstrate how different aspects of railroading worked. This was one of the eight Open Houses the club held that year.
Mr. David Pleasant, Director of Administration and Management from the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch, Inc contacted the club in June of 2003. Mr. Pleasant advised that they had received a 20-year-old N scale model railroad that needed a lot of work. He wanted to know if the club could assist him in getting the layout working. The club had just received the HO layout that we had built and gave away during the TRAINS OF THE HOLIDAYS 2001. The family who received this layout was moving and could not take the layout with them. The club decided to donate this HO layout to the Boys Ranch. We then picked up the N scale layout and totally restored it in about three months. We donated about $170 of new track, cars, engines and scenery material. Once the layout was finished it was returned to the Ranch. Some of our members explained and demonstrated how to run and maintain the layouts. The boys and staff were excited and very appreciative for the clubs assistance. The club has formed a committee that returns often to perform routine maintenance. We continue to donate new parts and equipment to keep both layouts in good working condition.
Palatka Railroad Preservation Society called and requested the club bring both of our traveling layouts to their annual Railfest 2003 at the historic Palatka Union Station and Railroad Museum. The club transported and displayed both of our modular layouts during this two-day event where we educated the public about railroads in north central Florida. It also helped draw the local community to the David Browning Railroad Museum.
In September 2003 a monumental honor was bestowed upon our club. This honor came when the club accepted a donation of another local historical model train layout. This 14 x 36-foot model railroad layout was started in the late 1970’s by the Mr. Tom Gates, the owner of the Wayside Antiques in Irvine, FL. This antique store was located on Interstate 75 making it convent for thousands to enjoy each year for over thirty years. Mr. Gates’ Calapooya Pacific Railroad was featured in the May 1981 Model Railroader Magazine, an internationally distributed publication. It was kept on display to the public until his family retired and closed the business in January 2004. When the news went out about the closing, visitors from all over North America and Europe came back to view the layout one last time. When the store closed the Gates family wanted the layout preserved in the memory of their late father. The club volunteered to taken over the maintenance of the layout when the family could no longer keep it up. The Gates family was so impress by the dedication of these club members that they decided to donate the complete layout to the club. Upon accepting the layout the club inventoried, sketched and photographed the layout before dismantling and placing it in storage. We feel that the layout has great historical and sentimental value and our organization plans on reconstructing the layout to its original condition so the public can once again view and enjoy this magnificent work of art.
In June 2004 the City of Gainesville, Florida and the Alachua County Historical Commission offered us a chance to participate in the Yulee Railroad Days. This is an annual celebration, which was organized to commemorate The Florida Railroad, the first railroad to cross the state. The Ocala Model Railroaders Historic Preservation Society gladly accepted the offer to be a part of this historic event. We set up our display in the Matheson Historical Museum where we spent the next four days entertaining and informing our guests on the many important historical aspects that the railroads have played in the early development of our state.
From the formation of our clubs charter, preserving the history of railroad for Marion County has been paramount. Over the years we have collected maps, railroad heralds, locks, keys, signals, switch stands, passenger and employee timetables starting from the late eighteen hundreds. These are just a few of the artifacts we now have in our collection. In our search for historical artifacts we have received donations while other items have been purchased. This has brought us closer to our goal of opening a museum to display the whole collection to the public. At one point a venues caboose was offered to the club but because we could not offer the donor the proper tax incentives we were unable to acquire this valuable donation.
In keeping with the clubs mission statement and the desire to start a railroad museum the clubs name was changed from Ocala Model Railroaders’ to Ocala Model Railroaders’ Historic Preservation Society. The name change became effective October 15, 2003.
In August of 2006, a 4' x 8' HO scale layout was donated to TimberRidge Nursing & Rehab Facility, for the enjoyment of the residents and their guests. Members present at the installation of the layout were; Neal Frisbie, Tom Joyner, Ed Berkley, and Dick Kramer.
We the members of the Ocala Model Railroaders’ Historic Preservation Society sincerely hope that the preceding documentation is adequate enough proof that we are more than “a bunch of big boys playing with toy trains”.
While it is true that we do build and operate highly detailed scale model railroads, our club has grown into so much more. As we have documented our club has gladly volunteered to travel to many different venues to fulfill our mission statement, “to promote the hobby of model railroading, to build and operate various scale model railroads and to preserve the railroad history in the Ocala/Marion county area”. It is with this mission in mind that we as a club have actively participated with the staff of the Central Florida Community College on an annual basis. To help them organize, publicize and staff their annual “Trains at the Holidays” event. This model railroad display, during the Holidays, has become one of the most important activities that the club is involved in and is looked forward to every year by kids & adults of all ages, averaging over 5,000 visitors annually.
Another fine example of how we “promote the hobby of model railroading” is by our relationship with the Silver Springs Lions Club and their bi-annual train shows as well as the Palatka Railroad Preservation Society’s Annual Railfest and the Alachua County Historical Commission’s Yulee Railroad Days.
Ever since our club entered into “partnership” with the City of Ocala Recreation and Parks Department we have actively dedicated our agenda to fulfill this agreement. We accomplish this by having our club open to the public on a regular basis, where we answer a wide variety of questions on any and all railroad subjects.
These are just some of the activities that we have been, and plan to continue to be involved in for many years to come. We feel that the railroads played such an important part in our history that it should be preserved and taught to the community.
We have also managed to increase the volume of our large Reference Library and memorabilia collection through generous donations that we have received from both, club members and the visiting public.
We display as much of this ever-increasing historic memorabilia as possible in our current location. With the long-term goal of someday establishing a museum of railroads from this region. We feel by receiving recognition of exemption it will enhance our chances of procuring the necessary funds and memorabilia to achieve this goal. As well as enhancing our exempt purposes.