Southern Alberta Model Railway Club History
Lethbridge had for many years been a hotbed for model railroading, as there was in existence the Lethbridge Model Railroad Club which was a visiting type of club of 8 to 10 members who met in each others' homes every second week.
It was felt by some that there was considerable interest in forming another club that would have their own permanent club-sized layout in a central location.
On June 15, 1971, a meeting was held at the Canadian Western Natural Gas Co. auditorium with 16 prospective members in attendance. Many alternatives were examined, but all had various shortcomings. Finally, one of our original members suggested Gyro Park as a possible location. At the north end of the park there were two 20' x 20' buildings separated by a 45' long concrete slab. One building had washrooms and the other building was a storage room. The good thing about this location was the fact that power, sewer, and water were already installed. The City of Lethbridge Parks Department was approached and we received their blessing to proceed provided all the necessary approvals could be obtained.
Preliminary building plans were drawn up by one of the members in October 1971, and the Gyro Club was approached for their approval, as they had been instrumental in establishing the park in 1960. Then it was time to get approval from the Planning Commission and Lethbridge City Council, which was readily forthcoming. Once final drawings were approved by the City, design of the layout started.
Official start of construction was in November 1971, with roof trusses going upon December 29 -January 2, 1972. Only model railroaders would put the roof on in near blizzard like conditions. The heating system was put into operation in late January of 1972.
May 1972 saw the start of actual layout construction. Work proceeded over the next few years laying track, and building scenery and structures for the layout. Others worked on building and painting rolling stock, wiring, and other assorted endeavors.
By 1981, there was a desire to start a prairie peninsula, however this would cause our only meeting room and work area to disappear, hence the need for an expansion. Fortunately, the original 12 charter members had seen fit to make provisions for a future expansion to the south of the original building. In 1983 and 1984, several grants were secured and work started on the expansion of a clubroom and workroom facility, all the while doing some improvements on the layout itself.
In 1995, the City of Lethbridge decided to close the washrooms in Gyro Park because of vandalism. However, we were advised we could keep them in operation for our own use if we were to construct a direct access from our clubroom to the washrooms, hence another smaller construction project was begun.
Over the years the club has been involved in many aspects of the community such as the Lethbridge Exhibition Hobby World, having various groups such as Cubs, Scouts, university classes and service clubs tour our facilities. The club also had a HO scale portable layout which was taken to several train shows in Western Canada. The club has since built a portable N scale layout that is approximately 3 feet x 12 feet in size. It features both modern and vintage diesels and a variety of rolling stock from the 1950s to present including passenger trains.
In 2014 the club pursued a further expansion of the clubhouse. As the number of club members had grown, there was a shortage of space for clinics and to support the expansion of the HO and N scale layouts. The grand opening of the new space was held in September 2017
Club members are also involved in hosting conventions in Lethbridge, as well as supporting conventions in other cities. Should you be interested in our organization, please drop by our facility in Gyro Park ( 15th Street and l0th Avenue A South ) any Tuesday evening between 7:30 and 9:30 PM.