Shortly after WWII, ten model railroad enthusiasts decided to start their own club. Founded on February 7, 1946, the club was originally called the Germantown HO Engineers. Their meeting place was on the second floor of a paint store in Germantown, and their first layout was completed in June, 1946. A month later, the club moved to a bigger facility in the basement of the PRR signal tower in Chestnut Hill. They moved their original layout to this facility until 1952, when they started a new layout. The new trackwork was completed in 1955, but scenery and revisions continued until they moved the club to their present location in Elkins Park in 1962. By this time the club had 22 members and they needed more space. They also decided to change the name to the Chelten Hills Model Railroad Club and they named their layout the Penn Falls Railroad. The original layout was so good that it still exists today with a few minor changes and improvements. The old electrical operating system has been replaced with a new Digitrax DCC system, which has greatly enhanced operations.
The layout boasts some major highlights. The first thing you will encounter as you walk in the door, is an amazing, hand-built lift bridge, which connects both sides of the layout. Imagine the aisle as a river with cities, towns, and industries on both sides. The bridge not only connects the railroad, it is a means of crowd control during open houses. It has worked flawlessly for over fifty years with only minor adjustments. On the right hand side of the river is the Berkenstock freight yard, engine servicing facility and the waterfront pier. Look closely and you will find many detailed and fascinating scenes.
On the left hand side of the river there is a small town with an industrial area, bridges, a dam, and some beautiful, detailed scenery. Continuing on you will reach the “city” area with a large railroad terminal (modeled after the St. Louis Terminal), a trolley system, and a very large and detailed passenger yard.
After your eyes have traveled over the 1,750 feet (28 scale miles) of track, 150 plus turnouts, and all the amazing details, you will probably want to go back and gaze at it all over again!
The club always welcomes guests and new members. They meet every Thursday evening at 7:30pm (except holidays). Stop in, say hello, and talk “trains” with the members and get a closer tour of the layout. Who knows, you may decide that want to join them.
Cab View (10/05/2015)
Flyover (10/05/2015) GALLERY NAVIGATION: Click on thumbnail. Slideshow controls at bottom of screen. Click on X or photo to exit. Photos from 10/05/2015 by Bill Fagan