Northeast Florida Model Railroaders


Northeast Florida Model Railroaders

In September 1980, several modelers met to organize an HO model railroad society in Orange Park, FL. Our first official meeting was held at Hobby World in January 1981.

On May 4, 1981 the membership voted to incorporate with the State of Florida and be known as Northeast Florida Model Railroad Club, Inc. Immediately the search began for a permanent home to build an HO model railroad. In July 1981, the Orange Park Library requested we set up a model train display to assist in their safety education program. The overwhelming turnout stirred great interest in the community. Soon thereafter we were contacted by Moosehaven, a retirement community in Orange Park, to build a layout for their residents to operate. The Calneva, Pacific & Eastern Railroad was born. CP & E honored the Moose Lodges in California and Nevada. By Christmastime 1981 we ran a Christmas train on a loop in Bishop Yard.

The layout grew rapidly over the years with the mainline running between San Fernando, CA and Reno, NV. The branch line extended from the interchange at Reno to Bishop, interchanging at Tonopah with the narrow gauge Lone Pine Lumber Railroad and at Rhyolite with the Bullfrog Mine. The layout offered numerous operations, from switching at the citrus packing plant at San Fernando to delivering logs to the sawmill on the narrow gauge. The layout encompassed an area of 19 feet by 22 feet.

In April 1984, we were chosen to sponsor the Sunshine Region Model Railroad Convention in Orange Park. It was a huge success. In the spring of 1985 Moose International held its national convention in Jacksonville and we celebrated CP & E's golden spike ceremony with representatives from the California and Nevada lodges. One of the inaugural events at the Moose convention was the first public running of one of the founding member's blue and gold PA powered streamlined passenger train with a custom built sound system. It was quite a hit for some time until newer, more advanced motive power came along. During the next few years the layout continued to grow with added scenery and track.

Then in 1993 we were fortunate to find a warehouse on the Jacksonville southside for several members to expand their modeling skills. They began constructing layout modules in accordance with NMRA standards. When all the modules were connected the layout covered an area of 22 feet by 99 feet. Module construction continued in the warehouse for a couple years. After that good deal came to an end the club didn't have a home to set up the module layout, so members kept their individual modules at their residence.

Our modules have delighted countless thousands of model railroading enthusiasts at various shows in the Southeast, including the National Model Railroad Association Convention held in Atlanta in 1995. The layout was the largest model railroad exhibit at the convention.

In 1995 we were contacted by the Coastal Rail Buffs in Savannah, Ga. to arrange displaying our modules during their annual train show held each January at the Georgia State Armory. That first train show was the beginning of a long and enjoyable 19 year sponsorship with fellow modelers.

We exhibited the modules in three different locations in Savannah from 1996 to 2014, with perhaps the 2014 show being our last. That is subject to change, of course, in the coming years.

Also in 1995 we constructed an interactive 'G' gauge layout at Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville for the enjoyment of children with medical disabilities. The children interact with the layout by pushing buttons which activate animated panoramas. The panoramas and train are changed out at the beginning of each season of the year.
Additionally, our members assisted in building an extensive layout, Wonderland Express, for Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville. Two club members operated this highly successful fundraiser in Regency Square Mall storefronts during the Christmas season from 1996 to 2001.

On Oct 1, 2007 we changed our organization's name to Northeast Florida Model Railroaders, Inc.

The CALNAV, Pacific and Eastern Railroad became a fallen flag on January 31, 2008 as our stay at Moosehaven came to an end and the layout was dismantled. Under Moosehaven's current construction program, the building which housed the layout was scheduled for demolition. Also, the CSX caboose that was on display for over 20 years beside the Moosehaven activities building was moved over the road to St. Marys Railroad for refurbishment and will be returned to railroad service.

2006 and 2007 found our modules in two temporary homes in Orange Park. First was an empty room furnished by an electrical engineering contractor for CSX, the second an abandoned Ace Hardware.

After returning from our annual module exhibit in Savannah in January 2008 we found a new home for the module layout, a huge warehouse in Reynolds Industrial Park located south of Green Cove Springs. Following the January 2009 Savannah train show we moved to a smaller warehouse more suited to our needs.

We began holding public 'open house' events in November 2012, and have held several since then in the spring and fall months. Those events have garnered many new members. In fact, our membership has more than doubled in the past couple years. We are blessed that several of the new members have contributed their expertise in a variety of kindred subjects of the hobby. Many of those members have either built their own modules or have purchased existing modules from older members to suit their own aspirations.

As a result of the additional modules, and no doubt more in the future, we considered several configurations to expand the layout to maximize the available space in the Reynolds Industrial Park warehouse.

In December 2013 our modules were on display for the delight of the congregation of Hibernia Baptist as part of their Christmas celebration. It was another huge success and may well be an annual event for the church.

In September 2015, once again, the module layout was forced to move. The Port Authority has other plans for the warehouse we've occupied since 2009. Nearly all module owners chose to store their modules at home. The remainder, along with all club modules and supplies, is packed in cargo trailers and a semi-trailer van. Members are actively seeking a new home for the module layout.

Starting September 23, 2019, and after four years of searching, we finally landed a temporary home in a strip mall in Orange Park. The space is well lit and airconditioned. The module layout is 45ft x 45ft with nearly all modules in play. Our landlord says we're safe to operate until July 2021. Hopefully we can stay longer. We'll see...