For many years we had a tradition that took us to Holly, Michigan the day after Thanksgiving. We met with other family members from the Detroit area to visit all the shops along Main Street and Battle Alley. I was always especially excited to visit the Detroit Model Railroad Club in the old Holly Theater. The club owns an incredible O-gauge layout of unbelievable size.
The Detroit Model Railroad Club, or DMRRC, as it is commonly referred to, was organized in 1935. After dismantling and moving layouts several times, the club finally landed in the old theater in 1974. Club members have been working on the layout ever since. As everyone in model railroading knows, a layout is never finished. The DMRRC layout is a great example.
I remember when we first visited the club over thirty years ago, the dispatcher, who ultimately controls where and when the trains are allowed to move, sat in the middle of the layout on a raised platform. The layout control area is now in the balcony, overseeing the entire layout.
The railroad is called The Detroit Union Railroad and includes many towns and villages through which the trains move. The mountainous terrain provides an amazing variation of views as the trains wind along the more the 6,000 feet of track. All of the track has been hand-laid by club members. Each tie is glued in place, each rail is spiked to the ties by hand. Below the layout, in the basement there are miles of wire carrying power to the track and fully operational signals above.
The individual trains are operated remotely by “engineers” carrying radio transmitters. Decoders in the locomotives allow the engineers to control the trains as they move along the rails. The dispatcher speaks to the engineers by radio and the engineers follow orders from the control center to move their trains. Visitors are able to walk along the side of the layout and watch as several trains of varying lengths roll along.
The Detroit Model Railroad Club is an amazing source of inspiration for those of us who have model railroads of our own. Club members patiently working on this beautiful layout for nearly fifty years have provided enjoyment to thousands of people, young and old.
When visitors first enter the club, they are greeted warmly by a member who offers information about the layout and its operations. The first view of the layout is a fascinating view of the city of Dorrance. Trains regularly roll through the city, so it is a great place to get a close-up view of the locomotives and rolling stock.
Many years have passed since our first visit to the Detroit Model Railroad Club. It will continue to be a favorite spot for this old model railroader.