Our membership includes approximately 50 members.

We operate a 16 by 70 foot HO scale model railroad in a room in the basement of the Good Samaritan Home in Quincy IL.

The railroad is known as the Chesapeake and Lake Erie and is designed to connect the Susquehanna river and Philadelphia area with the Great Lakes.

Quincy is in the western portion of the state on the banks of the Mississippi river. A judge in our city once said if the map of the state of Illinois was a person standing and facing left, Quincy would be the belly-button. That gives you an idea where we are.

Our members are basically drawn from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, but we have members who live as far away as Arizona, California and South Carolina.

club layout in first year of construction
QSME Club Layout In The First Year of Construction (Click for larger image)

The sub-structure is basic I-girder with triple spline sub-road bed and Homasote™ under the ties. At one point the club members lowered the entire layout 6 inches after finding the narrow gauge section known as Kelly Pines (top center of picture) was simply too high to be scenicked or to operate.

A 59 Year History

The history of the Quincy Society of Model Engineers dates back to a group of model railroaders that began monthly get-togethers in the homes of members who had layouts. This round robin group met for a couple of decades beginning in the 1950s, until some members began thinking about developing a club layout.

In late 1973 club members became aware of the room we now occupy and in a few months negotiated an agreement to use it. The Good Samaritan Home has allowed us to use the room for over three decades without any charge.

Over the years we have undertaken a number of projects for the home including the construction of an in-house broadcasting studio and our annual open house brings people into the home that would never see what it offers.

Four of the original members of the round-robin club remain in the group today. One of them said, “The advantage of the club is that it gives members the opportunity to work and operate on a large layout, without the sizeable investment of money or space needed in an individual’s home”.

The Layout

The original plan was to model the Quincy area which was served then by the BN and the Norfolk and Western. However the club later agreed on what they felt was a better choice from an operating stand point. They selected locations in northern Pennsylvania, from Harrisburg PA to Ashtabula OH. Its main source of revenue would be from hauling coal plus allied and other industries.

Construction got underway in the spring of 1974. The first loop of track was completed on May 23, 1975, and it has grown ever since.

It Took Some Study

One of the larger decisions facing the QSME was what time period to model. Since there was an interest in both steam and diesel motive power they finally agreed on the fall of 1958.

One thing we discovered almost immediately was the need to research the time period. For example, how many of the now fallen flags were still running then, and what were the correct markings for that time?  What style of buildings was correct and what style of clothing was worn? What road surfaces were proper even what traffic signs were used then? We tried to be as accurate as possible.

If you look closely at the layout you will find a gas station selling fuel for the correct price in Pennsylvania for 1958, an Elvis movie playing in a theatre is correct for that time period, even TV antennas on top of buildings were the style of the late 50s.

Automobiles are also of the design familiar to the time or earlier. The only exception is two 1959 Chevrolets, advertised as a preview showing.

Every town on the layout is named for actual locations in Northern PA except one site named for a deceased member. In the towns you will find stores named for members. Some members have even made trips to Pennsylvania to visit those towns.

We did take some liberty with our main city, Keating. The real Keating is aptly described as a burg, but for us it is the biggest one on the layout and headquarters for our railroad.

Each year the club holds an open house in November. Check out our web site for the details for each year.

We do most certainly welcome visitors during the regular operating sessions. The times are available in this website under Scheduled Events. Occasionally we will have weekend operating sessions and those will also be posted there.

Chesapeake and Lake Erie Railroad in March 2005
Chesapeake and Lake Erie Railroad in March 2005

In the left foreground is the engine facility at Keating, the main city of the layout and main office of the C&LE. The track in the lower center leads from other industrial locations at Keating. The turnout leads up to the “Olde Depot Brewery” one of the busier plants on the layout. The main line curves around just below the picture then crosses up-right center past the passenger station and uphill in the far right to the Town of Driftwood.

There is an aisle just beyond the Keating Yard and across the aisle is the town of Johnsonburg. The top of the hill is Kelly Pines the area that caused the club to lower everything. There are several sections that are under re-construction, making changes decided on by the scenery committee.

We are currently changing one industrial area into a very large steel mill complex. It will mean several changes in the traffic on the railroad which is also being planned.

Several other smaller projects are underway at the same time and several more changes are planned. As most modelers know a layout is never finished but is what’s often known as “a work in progress”.

Not Just Steel, Plaster and Wood

One of the best things about the club is its homogenous nature. A survey shows they feel the common interest and the friendship among the members is the thing that keeps them involved. They also sight the chance to learn new modeling procedures and how real railroads operate.

Member’s interests vary from electrical to scenery. One member was responsible for hand laying the track for almost the entire railroad. Still others worked on the actual operation of the railroad and one of those designed a computer program that generates a traffic program which determines the destination of each freight car.

Still another paints and decals all the motive power, and installs electronic controls and sound chips inside them. Other members have created highly detailed buildings. A retired Quincy Architect scratch-built large water towers and a three section tenement house which stands behind the railroad yard.

One of our female members discovered that using a plant, sedum spectabile, commonly known as “live forevers” make excellent HO scale trees. While there has never been an actual count, the estimate is that there are over 3,000 trees on the layout.

Yet another member spent weeks under the layout installing a detection system that lets the dispatcher watch a computer screen and know where each train is operating.

The club has several members who actually worked on full size railroads. They add their expertise to the operation.

We have committees that supervise scenery, electrical, traffic, car maintenance, narrow gauge, and new projects.

Top of page