Drilling stops for train elevator.

Transferring track plan to module.

The Early Years

The Citrus Model Railroad Club had its beginnings in May of 1989, when Dick King placed a notice in the Citrus County Chronicle inviting any one interested in forming a railroad club to meet at his house.   Eight or nine people responded, and during that gathering, the framework for the new club was established.

Initially, the club met at members’ homes.  Before long, arrangements were made to meet at the Disabled American Veterans building in Inverness, and the Club began holding regular meetings there on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month, starting in late September 1989.  About a year later, meetings were moved to the Community Room of the Lakes Region Library (sometime during 1990), and meeting time was changed to Saturday morning.

A modular N scale railroad was planned during 1989 with each member to build a module; numerous modules were built during the first few years, and they were set up occasionally in a member’s driveway.  First photo below shows the modular N scale layout in Bob Wanser’s drive way in 1990.  Later on, this N scale modular railroad became the first permanent N scale layout.  








​​A portable N scale layout designed by Doug Smith was also built early on (second photo above) so that the Club could set up temporary displays for the public at various locations throughout the area when desired.   There was a second operating display built that contained trains of four to six different scales.  During the first 5 or 6 years, the Club was very active in displaying their trains and explaining their hobby at public events.  A few of the many locations where the Club held public showings include: Inverness and Crystal River Libraries, Crystal River Mall, Silver Springs Park, Key Training Center, Crystal River Heritage Museum, and the Brooksville RR Station.

In November of 1990, the Club obtained rent-free space in a vacant store in the Inverness Regional Shopping Center on Route 41 north of Inverness.  This provided the first home where club layouts could be built. The N scale modular layout was set up and additional modules built (third photo above). Construction was also begun on an HO scale layout (fourth photo above).  Business meetings continued to be held in the Lakes Region Library once a month during this time.  But in late 1991, after only 14 months in the store, the Club was evicted; the layouts were dismantled and stored in a shed owned by Beverly Hills developer (Ron Collins) until another home could be found.

In April 1992, the Club reached an agreement for the use of two large rooms rent-free in the unused second floor of the Eden Christian School at Lake Lindsey, courtesy of Pastor Larry Strickland, who was himself a model railroader, and who had his personal layout in another room in the same building.  Bob Krebs was instrumental in making these arrangements.

The N scale modular layout was set up in one room, and plans were again made to expand it with the construction of additional modules.   There were modules representing Florida (one included the Bok Tower), and others from other parts of the country, as determined by the interest of the member who had originally built the module. 

Although the partially built HO layout from the store was moved to the new location, it was decided to dismantle it and design a new layout to take advantage of the larger space available in the second room in the school building.   Doug Smith suggested the plan of a U-shaped, 2-peninsula club layout he had visited in Texas.   After much discussion, it was decided to adopt Doug’s general layout plan, but to make major modifications to the track at many of the town locations.   Dave Marquis drew the proposed track to scale using a model railroad computer CAD program, and once approved, work was begun in earnest on the new layout.   A contest was held to name the new HO layout and thus provide a geographic area that would narrow the scope of its prototype.  Of about a half-dozen entries, the winner was “Withlachochee Central”.   





​​Although the Club had traditional officers such as President, Vice President, Secretary, & Treasurer at this time, there was no one in charge of layout design and construction.   Members built and worked on whatever they wanted without regard to any theme or standard of quality.   During 1992, the members working on the HO layout decided to appoint a “Coordinator” to provide more structure and control.  The N scale members followed suit shortly after.   The Coordinators were not officially officers of the Club until years later when significant changes were made to the By-Laws.   The first co-coordinators for HO were Dave Marquis and Bob Krebs, and the first coordinator for N scale was Lynwood Todd.

Work sessions on both the N scale and HO layouts were held every Wednesday and Friday morning at Lake Lindsey, and members often worked on whichever layout needed help on any particular morning.   Much progress was being made on both layouts until a severe thunderstorm with associated high winds blew the roof and some upper wall portions off the Eden school building on June 28, 1993.    This was just a couple of months after Florida’s famed “No Name Storm”.   Club members spent much of a week helping Church members clean up the mess.   Although the Club layouts were not damaged, the building required extensive repairs, and the church decided to renovate the second floor and again offer a Christian school for primary students of the area.   This, of course, meant that the Club had to move once again.

After searching all over Citrus County for a free or low-cost space, and fantasizing briefly about buying or building our own structure, the Club entered into an agreement with the Citrus County Fairgrounds to use the Fair Ground’s Otto Allen building for its model railroads.  In return, the Club would be open to the public every Saturday during their Flea Market, and all week during the annual County Fair.  The Club would pay for its own utilities and other expenses, but there would be no rent.  

In November of 1993, both the N scale and HO scale layouts were removed from the Lake Lindsey School and moved into the Otto Allen building






​​

The Growth Years

After 4+ years of frequent moves, the Club finally found a permanent home at the Citrus County Fairgrounds.     By January 1994, the modular N scale layout was up and running, and the HO layout had been fully re-assembled and work was again underway to complete track and make it operational.  Our layouts have now been in the Otto Allen Building for over 2 decades and counting.  This stability has allowed the club to grow and improve in many ways.

The N scale layout was completed, gradually converted from a modular layout to a permanent layout, then modified further to provide for the independent running of numerous trains.  It has been a crowd pleaser for many years, providing lots of action for open house visitors on Saturday mornings and during the annual county fairs.











In 2013, the N scale group began a complete rebuild, replacing the original modular bench work and building a completely re-designed layout.  All new track and scenery has produced a smooth running layout with all the action of the old one in a more detailed and realistic setting.  Although a model railroad is never really completed, the N scale rebuild was essentially finished by 2016.

Soon after the move to the Fairgrounds, the theme and era of the HO railroad being modeled was changed as the group’s primary emphasis shifted toward preparing the railroad for prototypical operations.  The Withlacoochee RR name and Florida setting was dropped in favor of a western Pennsylvania setting, and an era in the mid-1950s.    Operating sessions started as soon as the track was completed, providing regular monthly breaks from work sessions, beginning about 1998.











About 2002, a third peninsula was added to the original HO layout, increasing operational possibilities via a large steel mill, a staging yard below, and a helix connecting staging to the rest of the layout.   Both the helix and hidden staging were the source of frequent troubles.  This, and a general lack of distance between towns on the old layout, eventually led to the complete rebuilding of the HO layout.

But before any layout re-building was started, some improvements were needed in the Otto Allen Building.  At that time, the building had no heating or air conditioning equipment.  Working there was very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and the constantly changing temperature and humidity in the building resulted in track expansion and contraction, derailment issues, and constant maintenance.  In addition, the building’s sidewalls were dominated by very large windows.  Sunlight streaming through those windows faded scenery and backdrops in short order.  Several window air conditioners were installed about 2004.  These provided better working conditions in the summer, but they were only operated when the building was in use, and did nothing to stabilize track and roadbed.

As a result, it was decided to install central heating and air conditioning, insulate the walls and ceiling of the building, close up all the windows, install new vinyl siding on the outside walls, and cover the inside walls with 3/4 inch furniture-grade plywood at the top, and paneling on the bottom.    New high intensity fluorescent lighting was installed by the Fairgrounds, providing even illumination of the layouts.  Except for the HVAC and lighting, all work was done by club members.  The Fairgrounds provided us with a 10-year lease on completion of these renovations.











This project was completed in June 2006, and a grand re-opening party was held to celebrate.    All members and their wives, representatives from the Fairgrounds and our commercial sponsors were invited to an open house with refreshments.

The front of the building had originally had a garage door and that had been removed earlier.  As a result no further changes were made to the front of the building during the extensive renovations described above.  But a few years later, it was decided to do some cosmetic changes there to make it obvious that this was truly a building devoted to railroads.   A Caboose façade was designed and added to the front of the building, so that one could imagine they were entering a caboose when they entered the building.  This project was funded by a contribution from one of our club members - Paul Herr.








Once the building renovations were completed, the HO group turned their attention to designing a new layout and developing a set of standards to guide the methods and quality of workmanship desired.  A full year was spent in this planning process.  The HO Coordinator appointed a committee to assist him in planning and supervising the work, which was to occur in three phases -- one peninsula would be removed, new temporary track connections would allow the remaining peninsulas to continue running while the new third peninsula was built.  This process was to be repeated for each of the other two peninsulas, so that some part of the layout was always operable to fulfill our obligation to be open to the public on Saturdays.   The Standards were approved and work began on the new layout in November of 1998, with the removal of the old third peninsula (the steel mill, staging and helix) and continued as planned for 4 1/2 years.





















On April 5, 2013, a golden spike ceremony marked the completion of all track on the new HO layout. 








Shortly after the Golden Spike, operating sessions were resumed and continue to this day, usually on the first Friday of each month following the club’s monthly program meeting, which is on the first Tuesday.   Although track was essentially complete by April of 2013, only a few areas had been sceniced at that time.  Scenery and detail work continues, with hopes that it will be completed by July of 2017 when the National Model Railroad Convention will be held in Orlando, and our club layout will be featured on layout tours.

Club administration was also streamlined and improved after the club moved into the Fairgrounds, via a completely new set of By-Laws adopted in January of 1999.  Budgets were allocated annually to each of the officers, eliminating the need for membership votes on routine purchases, and a Board of Directors was created to handle routine administrative and planning matters, freeing the monthly meetings from business and providing instead for programs on railroading.  At this time, the duties and titles of the Club Officers were also revised:  the Vice President was assigned responsibility for membership and building maintenance, the Program Director position was added, and the N scale and HO scale Coordinators were officially recognized as officers.

In 2015, the club was awarded 501(c)(3) non-profit status, freeing us from sales tax on purchases and providing federal tax exemption for contributions made to the club.

History

Moving the old middle peninsula to make room for the new one. 

The sections were loaded into a rental truck for the trip to the Fairgrounds.

Citrus Model Railroad Club On-Line

Second portable N scale layout.

Two photos from the Gold Spike Ceremony, April 5, 2013.  Each member of the Coordinating Committee had a chance to hit the gold spike a couple of times.

Original track plan for the HO layout as planned for Lake Lindsey.  Note that town names were from Citrus County.

Millvale on the HO layout.  The helix is in the far right corner and the staging yard is below the steel mill.

Members: Frank Sospenzi, Bob Krebs, Lynwood Todd, Dave Marquis, Bob Wanser, Nelson Williams, Russ Dorsey, Bill Zarbock, Everette Diedericks, Unknown, Tom Williams, Carl Altio, Hal Shepherd, John ?.

2006 party celebrating completion of the renovations to Otto Allen Building.

Caboose façade added to the front main entrance in 2010.

HO layout in the Inverness Regional Shopping Center

Air conditioning ducts have already been installed as two club members prepare to install newly painted ceiling tiles.

Coal Hill on the HO layout, with the helix in the far corner under the city.

Forming terrain around structures prior to installing ground cover.

Making uncoupling rod mechanisms

The N scale portable layout was up and running quickly after the move to the Otto Allen Building in 1994.

First portable N scale layout set up in a driveway.

Over the next 12 years it was expanded, covered with scenery, and no longer portable, as seen in these photos taken in 2006.

Here are two views of the interior of the Otto Allen Building after the renovations.

Moving the layouts out of the 2nd floor at Lake Lindsey was no easy task, but it was accomplished!

Woodbine on the HO layout.  (The G scale layout is visible in several photos running up near the ceiling.)

N scale portable layout in the Inverness Regional Shopping Center.

Wiring Tortoises with module turned on its side for easy access.

Laying track and installing feeders.

Insulation and vinyl siding has been installed on the outside walls.  Paneling on Inside walls will complete the job of covering the large windows.

Lynwood Todd, working on the N scale layout at Lake Lindsey.

New middle peninsula, including Foxburg module and backdrop support.

The HO scale layout right after the move into the Otto Allen Building in 1994, bench work cut into movable parts, tracks separated, and a lot of work ahead.