Balt. Society of Model Engineers Needs Locomotion!

Hi! We are the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers - the third oldest modeling society in the world and the oldest organization in the US focused exclusively on model railroads! We were founded on March 4th, 1932 and have been located on West Saratoga Street in Downtown Baltimore since 1952 - to save you the arithmetic - that’s 67 years! In that time, the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers have been running at full steam, building two of the largest permanent model railroad layouts in the entire Mid-Atlantic region.

While we’ve been fortunate over the past 6 decades to run along smooth rails, this past month has been full of signal delays, a tender emptied of its coal, and a pretty serious derailment of our operations. Now, more than ever, we need your help to get the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers back on the rails and running at full steam!

Buckled Rails and the Derailment
Normally a festive season for our organization — full of open houses where we welcome hundreds of visitors and raise money through donations — the month of December had been the most challenging of our storied history. During our open house in November we experienced a major electrical failure in our building that resulted in a total loss of power to not just our layouts but the entire third floor we are located on. To make matters worse, as we worked to make the repairs so we could open our doors again to visitors, we learned that the beloved building we’ve called home for the past 67 years, was edging closer towards a contract and we’ve been asked to find a new home and vacate the space by April 1st.

Filling the Empty Tender
Since we are funded almost entirely by member dues and donations received during the months of December and January we are struggling to scrape together enough money to fund this complicated journey. We need you to stoke our coals and make our firebox hot again!

Your donation will be used to help offset the costs associated with the many steps we need to take to move to an interim space by April 1st and begin the process of laying the tracks of the future generations:

■     The dismantling and salvaging of what we can from our two 12’ x 60’ model railroad layouts (unfortunately, we are unable to salvage the entire layout and just reassemble so we have to start from scratch!)
■     The packing, moving and storing of our artifact collection, archives, and extensive library.
■     Renting a new space that can accommodate our collection and workshop (the cost of rent alone per sqft for storage and space to rebuild our layouts is expected to balloon by 200 percent!!!)
■     The planning, design and benchwork for new HO and O scale sectional layouts.
■     The purchasing of new track, DCC control systems, switches, and scenic supplies.
■     The purchasing of new tools (our power tools are almost as old as the Society itself!)
■     The building of a new STEM focused maker space-type setup for our current and future junior members (who will no doubt help advance the digital fabrication skills of our senior members!)

$5 - The Passenger: You ride the rails for the views and the fun! - We send you our sincere gratitude for helping to support us!

$25 - The Switchman: You make sure we are heading down the right track! You will receive a thank you card featuring a photograph from our Archives.

$45 - The Brakeman: You help us get down the mountain safely! - You will receive a unique thank you card made from duplicate copies in our large model railroad magazine collection.

$95 - The Conductor: You keep us on schedule and our cars in order!- You will receive the Brakeman rewards plus a commemorative 3D printed HO scale (1:87) BSME Supporter Statue hand finished by one of our weathering experts. (Limited to the first 50 donations at this level)

$140 - The Fireman: You build up the steam in our boiler! - You will receive the Brakeman rewards plus a 3 “x 3”  HO scale landscape scene, hand sculpted and finished with a scale figure by one of our scenic experts. (Limited to the first 30 donations at this level)

$250 - The Engineer: You drive us forward! You will receive the Brakeman and the Conductor Rewards plus your very own box car on our donor train featuring your name, or a name of your choosing, hand applied on both sides of the car using wet slide decals. You will also be recognized as an Supporting Member. (Limited to the first 25 donations at this level)

$550 - The Yardmaster: You build our trains, organize our freight, and send us off in the right direction! - You will receive the Brakeman, Fireman, and the Engineer Rewards plus a commemorative 3D printed O scale (1:48) BSME Supporter Statue hand finished by one of our weathering experts. (Limited to the first 10 donations at this level)

$925 - The Railroad Entrepreneur: You lay the tracks and clear the way for our future! For paying one month of rent in our interim location. You will receive the Brakeman, Fireman, Engineer, and the Yardmaster Rewards plus your name, or a name of your choosing, creatively incorporated into our new layouts. As we develop the layouts, we will discuss options with you. (Limited to the first 5 donations at this level)

History of the Society
The Baltimore Society of Model Engineers was formed on March 4, 1932, at height of the Great Depression, by a small group of dedicated modelers answering an advertisement posted by George Nixon in the January 1932 issue of Model Maker magazine. The Modelers met in Nixon’s home in March to form the club with Nixon as the first president of the Society. Throughout his long life, George Nixon (1907-1995) was very active in the hobby and in railroading in general. In addition to the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers, he founded the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, the Baltimore Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, and the Friend’s of President Street Station, now the home of the Baltimore Civil War Museum.

After their initial meeting Nixon and fellow founding members of the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers took a bold step, they leased a space at 1613 N. Chester Street. They had their first operating layout by 1935, at this time it was O scale and outside third rail. Their first public open house was in December 1938 starting what was to become an annual holiday tradition. The club was incorporated in 1937 as non-profit corporation in the state of Maryland, and remains that today.

Chester Street O-Scale Layout

In March of 1944 the Society merged with an HO scale club and soon after the BSME decided to move to new headquarters at 3305 Greenmount Avenue to accommodate two layouts that were built up and running by December 1944, ahead of the busy holiday season. To celebrate, then Governor of Maryland, Herbert O’Conor presided over a "Golden Spike" ceremony celebrating the completion of the layouts and the opening of the open house season.

Greenmount Ave. HO-Scale Layout

The Society was forced to move after three short years on Greenmount when they lost the lease on the space. They found a new home in the basement of a Baltimore Post Office at 1217 W. North Ave. While in the Post Office the Society was unable to put on its annual Christmas shows due to fire marshal restrictions who said the space was too small for the number of visitors who usually attended the shows. Although two layouts were built in the post office space, only those modelers who attended the annual anniversary celebrations had a chance to see them. As the annual public holiday shows had become a Baltimore tradition and it was the main source of income for the club it was decided a new location should be sought, and in October of 1952 the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers left North Avenue for their next home.

HO-Scale Layout at 1217 North Ave

The current location at 225 W. Saratoga was leased in November 1952. Again two layouts were built, one for the HO modelers and another for the O scale modelers, each measuring 12’ wide by 60’ long. Even though the space was large (30x70 feet) there was talk, even then, that the space wasn't adequate for an O scale layout. The layouts have changed over the years, the most notably in the 1980s the O scale layout was totally rebuilt, going from outside third rail to standard two rail. The HO scale layout has undergone numerous scenic updates through the years including a full reworking of the urban scene featuring many Baltimore landmarks and a modernization of the operating layout to DCC (digital command control).

While it is tremendously difficult for the members of the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers to say goodbye to their home of 67 years, they take comfort in knowing this isn’t the first time the Society has been forced to move and see this as another challenging but exciting chapter in their storied history. The members are all very anxious to get this move behind them so that the real fun of planning and building their new layouts can begin. Your support is critical to the writing of the next chapter in our history and for getting the new layouts up and running by the 2019 Holiday Season!
  • Kevin Quinn 
    • 100 $ 
    • 28 mos
  • William Franz 
    • 100 $ 
    • 30 mos
  • Gabriel Young 
    • 250 $ 
    • 32 mos
  • Don Kline 
    • 15 $ 
    • 32 mos
  • Edward barrocas 
    • 111 $ 
    • 36 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Chad Tyler 
Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Society of Model Engineers