Club History

More Club history from Vincent Haneman.

A group interested in model railroading formed the Tanana Valley Model Railroad Club in October 1983. At that time it was felt that such a group would serve the member’s interests best by having meetings in member’s homes on a rotational basis. This way, all members would provide manpower needed to finish projects that were delaying completion of the host’s layout. This worked very well for almost a year. A suggestion was made to construct a complete display for the University of Alaska Museum over the 1984 Christmas holiday. This put a permanent kink in the track of the Club. The Museum’s Director was a member of the group and made a large display area available. The show had a “round the Christmas tree” Lionel operating layout, as well as a 12 by 16 foot scale HO and HOn3 gauge operating display. Showcases displayed the different scales popular in the world today; The many kinds and types of motive power; and dioramas of historic railroad events The show was a huge success; providing the Museum with ten times the number of visitors for that time of year, a record which still hasn’t been broken. The theme was “model railroading, a little history, a lot of fun”.

From the exhibit grew the idea and support for a Club Layout. As a result of the opening being televised, the President of the ARR contacted the club and offered the garage in the depot for a home. The TVRR further investigated the possibility of obtaining trackage rights and a contract was negotiated in February 1986 and work began on a layout.

The Club was incorporated on July 15, 1986 as a nonprofit corporation. The slogan “Route of the Baby Moose Gooser”, was officially adopted in July 1988 as a closer tie to the Alaska Railroad, whose undeserved and unofficial title is the “Route of the Moose Gooser”. The TVRR logo, adopted at the same time, is a 0-4-0 steam engine with a surprised moose on the front.

Membership in this Club is open to anyone interested in the work of the club. Members come from all segments of the community and have a wide variety of railroad interests. The Club layout has been torn down and rebuilt at least three times. The mountain division on the south side of the room, was completed with bridges on the east and west ends connecting it to the northern division. The bridges become a literal headache to visitors and members alike due to collisions with the structures. That rebuilding began in January 1992. In February 1995 the north side was razed to delete another bridge and to permit the construction of a helix to connect the two portions of the layout. This became operational in May 1995. In 1998 it was decided that the grades were too steep in the south side and it was razed and rebuilt. The Club has been honored for the public display of the hobby by the Wm. K. Walthers Co., “Showmanship Award Car” for the years from 1984 to 1997 except for 1987 when the layout was down for rebuilding. The Walthers Co. discontinued the Award in 1997.

Since 1989 the Club has been open for the outbound passengers every morning during the summer from 7 to 8 AM. In addition the club has been a part of Railroad Day in the spring. The TVRR has also joined the ARR for Santa’s Express just before Christmas. This began in 1988 with an engine and a caboose giving rides into the yards. The event grew to the point where a coach was needed to meet the demand of over 600 riders. Santa was normally either the engineer or the conductor and his elves decorated the waiting room, dispatched the tickets, fruit, and candy. Our best estimate is that well over 150,000 visitors have viewed the Club layout.

The Club has been active in public affairs over the years. Notable are the demonstrations and presentations to grade school classes; Boy Scouts; Cub Scouts; civic organizations; church groups; and other groups requesting our support.

In 2000, the club was notified by the railroad of their intent to build a new depot at the Corner of Danby Street and Johansen Expressway. At this time the club was offered a room specifically built for their use within the depot. Obviously the creative juices started flowing as to the type of layout to replace the one that had served so well for the better part of 20 years. The group threw together ideas that lead to the current configuration. Embracing both DCC and DC, linear, point-to-point, yard operations, local service operations, and continuous run operations the club is moving forward with the construction effort of the new layout. After the plan was finalized one thing became very evident; with all of the turnouts needed purchasing them could possibly “bankrupt” the club. Several members toyed with the idea of hand laying all turnouts, and from that agreement for handlaid turnouts the club never looked back. It is estimated that somewhere in the range of over 100 turnouts will be used throughout the layout, all handlaid using Code 83 and Code 70 rail. As we are “affiliated” with the railroad we have even laid track in accordance to the Alaska Railroad, to include “concrete ties and welded rail”.

We invite you to click the links above and look around. If you live in the Fairbanks area we invite you to come down and visit. During the winter months we meet on Tuesday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from noonish until whenever. However since several members are retired it’s entirely possible to find them at the club most every day. During summer months we operate the layout for the tourists; as a diversion to just sitting and waiting for the train; from 645 a.m. to 8 a.m. We also keep the same hours listed for the winter time, so come down and take a look.