The Early Years
The club was originally formed in 1951 by James Greener of Glenside. The club used his layout until a larger place was found in Oreland. Over time, they reached a consensus that their goals would be better met with a club owned layout. They located space in the basement of a garden center building in Oreland, PA. Design and construction kept the members very busy. The first layout was nearly completed by the mid 1960’s.
The garden center moved out to be replaced by a sporting goods store and eventually a pizza parlor. The club designed and started a second layout. The ever changing nature of the businesses above caused the club to start looking for new space.
Moving to Fort Washington
Space was located in the basement of the former Fort Washington Elementary School on Madison Ave. The club’s members made major improvements to the space and began construction of the railroad in 1976. While walk around design was becoming more popular, the club stayed with the stationary cab design.It provided for the most space during the annual open houses. Over the years, the club’s members have designed and installed many special effects to surprise and entertain our guests. Sharing the railroad during the annual open house is a highlight for the Gatsme membership.
In the early years, Gatsme was a representation of central Pennsylvania with no effort to model specific locations. As prototype operations became more popular, the town names were changed and the railroad evolved to more closely match the Renovo and Middle Divisions of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Digital Command Control (DCC) was tested on the branch line in 1997. It was a great success and expanded to the entire layout. The DC capability continued for awhile, but it was eventually removed and Gatsme is now 100% DCC.
The 21st Century
In 2001, the decision was made to scrap the engine terminal. The design had not worked out and the desire to add more switching areas sealed the decision. The new engine terminal and the town of Transfer are nearing completion in 2012. Building from scratch to a custom design is a slow but very satisfying journey.
When Gatsme moved in, part of the basement was left incomplete. A big project was started in 2004 to dig out the rest of the space, pour a new floor and build a false station front to cover up the storage area. We now have a large meeting space to complement the work shop and utility room.
Monthly operations of the railroad simulating the prototype was becoming more important. All cars on the railroad have waybills and a complex schedule of over 70 trains has been written. Once a year, we invite fellow model railroaders to our invitational to share in the operations of Gatsme.
Building Up For Sale
Our gracious landlord Upper Dublin Township decided to sell the Old Fort Washington School. The club attempted to find a buyer in 2012, but was unsuccessful. A local home builder Evans Homes was the successful bidder. They demolished the school and built four homes on the property. In Spring of 2013, we began the sad task of demolishing the railroad, saving some parts for reuse. Thanks to our friend Richard Robertson, we stored our property in his building for over two years. On May 31, we locked the door the final time and pondered our future. Here are some photos from Gatsme 3.
For almost a year the club searched for space to rent. Everything we looked at was expensive or not suitable.Real estate experts told us to find a property to buy. The search was on and we looked at many buildings. Then an old textile mill came on the market in Rockledge, PA. It was a large open space with high ceilings and only two columns. That was perfect for a future railroad.
Summer of 2013 we signed the papers. Next we began the legal process of hearings to receive permission to use the property. With many thanks to the council in Rockledge, we secured this in the fall of 2013. Winter of the 2014, the owner cleaned out the building and April 10, 2014 we finished the property transfer.
Club members went right to work on our permanent home. We had a long Usage and Occupancy list to complete. By September we had cleaned up the building, fixed the masonry, repaired the flat roof, fixed the workshop building, put on a new roof and started much electrical work. We submitted plans for two ADA bathrooms and had that approval by December.
We removed an internal wall and garage door, so we could begin bathroom construction. All of the materials for the bathrooms were donated by friends and members. By early fall we had two working bathrooms. Other members started replacing the windows. We upgraded all of the safety systems. A brand new HVAC system was installed and Lor-Mar donated & installed the ductwork. Thanks to cleaning and painting, everything was looking better all around.
Final details on the bathrooms were completed including two water fountains. Much more electrical work was finished. Every surface was cleaned and painted. By late spring, construction on the railroad exhibit was started. Over the summer, we replaced 14 windows. As of year end, the window project is almost done. Large sections of benchwork (tables) for the railroad have been built. Our last major construction project is building a vestibule.
Rockledge Model Railroad Museum and Gatsme Model Railroad Club, Inc. are both recognized by the IRS as 501(c)(3) organizations.