Our society started in 1987 as an informal group of model railroaders who gathered in Bob Lewis’ shop, Heritage Trains & Hobbies, on High Street in Morgantown, WV. We designed and built a small layout in a back room of Bob’s store, as well as portable layout we could set up at local festivals.
We soon outgrew the space and moved in 1992 to the basement of a commercial building on Pleasant Street, sharing space with a couple other tenants and expanding our space when one of the tenants left. We built a permanent, multilevel layout with several hundred feet of mainline track, staging yards, a large switching yard, and a half-dozen towns with railroad-served industries and businesses. Members scratchbuilt many structures representing actual buildings in West Virginia.
Outreach has been an important activity from the beginning. The small layout that could be moved in a pickup demonstrated the value in public display for educating the public and attracting new members. We built a set of modules and displayed them during the Forest Festival in Elkins, the annual Labor Day weekend in Rowlesburg, Mountaineer Week at West Virginia University, and other places in our region.
Almost from the beginning we had a board of directors and governing documents. Meanwhile we had moved beyond an informal club in our activities. Many of our members gave presentations to schools, retirement communities, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at WVU. In 2013 we obtained 501(c)(3) designation with the IRS, committing to a mission of preserving railroad history in the Mon Valley with detailed modeling, educational displays, and public outreach.
In 2021 we left the basement and moved to Mountaineer Mall. Sadly, we had to tear down the permanent layout, but happily this gives us an opportunity to learn and implement best practices in layout design and construction as we create an even better representation of West Virginia railroading. We will be displaying our modules on a regular basis as we rebuild the layout.