Railroad Club celebrates 35 years

The Plymouth Model Railroad Club is marking its 35th anniversary in 2017.

The club is currently located in the lower level of 414 E. Mill St. in Plymouth.

The club began back in 1982 with a chance meeting of two like-minded model railroad fans.

Greg Heberlein had set a small HO model train display in the store window at the Heberlein Pharmacy, 215 E. Mill St. Another Plymouth resident, Emery Casper, walking past, saw the display and went inside to find out who was the one who liked trains.

Casper invited Heberlein to come along to a meeting of the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers (the Sheboygan model railroad club) that was being held in Plymouth that night. As time passed, a group of five residents decided to form a separate model train club in Plymouth.

The new Plymouth club began meeting in the basement of the Heberlein Pharmacy as well as occasionally meeting at the homes of members.

Some of the members had home layouts, some did not, but everyone had a love for trains and model trains.

Heberlein opened a hobby shop inside the pharmacy to sell train merchandise to local hobbyists. In 1983 he built a wooden caboose which he pulled behind a garden tractor which was in many of the Plymouth Cheese Day and holiday parades. In 1986, another club member, Mickey Schram of Crystal Lake, constructed a ‘parade train’ – a series of wagons which resembled train cars and a steam locomotive – which was added to the caboose in parades. Adorned with colorful Christmas lights this parade train was a hit with younger parade goers. Heberlein now owns and operates the train in holiday parades to this day.

In 1986 the club decided to build a ‘modular’ model train layout in HO scale. This layout was in six-foot long sections which could be disassembled and taken to model train shows and indoor mall displays around Wisconsin. When assembled, the layout measured 8 feet wide by 30 feet long. The club housed the layout in the basement at 313 E. Mill St. until it was officially dismantled in 2006.

In 1996 the club had the opportunity to consider construction of a permanent train layout in the lower level of the building owned by another club member, Gerard Thompson. The club decided to move forward with this idea, but construction of the actual layout began a few years later after the members helped remodel the basement space with a new concrete floor; new ceiling, walls and finishes; and better lighting and electrical.

The permanent layout was built with a ‘double-decked’ track design connected by a helix track hidden in a plaster mountain.

The layout was fully operational using the latest in digital command control (known as DCC). It was complete with trees, buildings and many fascinating and highly detailed scenes. One important scene was a curved wooden trestle bridge with thousands of individual wood pieces.

In 2014 the club voted to dismantle this layout to make room for a totally new one based on a new design concept. After a year of tearing the old layout apart, construction began on the current HO layout.

“The Milwaukee Road – Wisconsin Division” will highlight the rail operations of the Milwaukee Road Railroad in Plymouth.

Together with Plymouth as the focus, rail activities on the line to the north and south will include Elkhart Lake, Waldo, Adell and Random Lake. This is a point-to-point layout terminating at double-decked train yards representing Milwaukee (lower level) and Green Bay (upper level).

Also incorporated in the layout will be the Chicago & Northwestern rail line from Plymouth eastward to Sheboygan Falls and westward to Glenbeulah.

The Wisconsin Power & Light trolley line which serviced Plymouth will be represented as well. This layout is currently under construction by club members, with some tracks laid and operational in the upper Green Bay yard section.

The club raises money for hobby material through annual brat fries which started as far back as 1986 during the Plymouth Sidewalk Sale and currently happens during Mill Street Days, as well as various weekends at the Plymouth Piggly Wiggly. Monetary donations are also accepted.

The Plymouth Model Railroad Club is accepting new memberships for persons interested in trains and model trains – any scale/size of model trains.

The club has a formal written constitution, by-laws and operating principles which govern the operations and activities of the club and its members. Members are expected to participate in construction of the layout and in fund-raising events.

Education and tutoring is provided to new members in all aspects of the hobby so that new members can learn and improve their skills in the model train hobby. Currently, club dues for one year are $30 and new members must complete a six-month probation period.

The club plans occasional events for its members such as tours to railroad-related locations, visits to other clubs and operating home layouts, and participation in model railroad conventions. The club was the host for the three-day Winnebagoland Division/Midwest Region of the National Model Railroad Association Fall Meet in 1998, which brought the “Art Train” to Plymouth.

The club has layout work night every Monday night in the lower level of 414 E. Mill St. from about 6:15 to 9 p.m. The third Monday of each month is reserved for the club business meeting, where members discuss upcoming events and layout-related construction topics. Interested persons may come and visit the club on the first, second or fourth Monday of the month, except holiday weekends.

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Contact Information

113 E. Mill St., Plymouth WI 53073
Local: 920-893-6411 Toll Free: 1-877-467-6591
Fax: 920-893-5505