About Us


In 1988 a group of like-minded men gathered at a suburban Perth WA house to run American outline HO scale model trains on a home layout built in a single car garage. Following the initial meet we decided to attend one evening a week to run trains and share ideas but, after a few months, the numbers attending grew and we decided that larger premises were needed if the meetings were to continue.

A search for a new home began and the City of Cockburn, a south-western local government area of Perth, indicated that they had an unoccupied building we could utilise. The old ambulance rooms at Coogee Beach (it is spelt the same as the beach in Sydney, but they pronounce it wrong!) became our home and talents were pooled to construct a layout.

It was an ideal location, right on the beach adjacent to a small shop with a large car park nearby and bathers at the nearby beach would come and have a look. The numbers of interested participants grew and a sectional exhibition layout called The Western Lines was built. In order to display the layout at the annual model railroad exhibition a club was formed and, on 19 July 1990, The City of Cockburn Model Railroad Club was incorporated.

The Western Lines, a 7.3 metres by 2.5 metres DC layout with a central operating area, was built and wired for four cab operation. Our first public outing was at a suburban shopping centre and the layout attracted a lot of attention. It was duly displayed at the annual State exhibition in 1992 and won several awards for operation and scenery – our fellow modellers voted it the best layout in the exhibition!

As with all model railroads we wanted it to be bigger and better and, in September 1997, we moved to an industrial unit in a southern coastal suburb. The larger premises, 15 metres by 9 metres, also came with a larger rent but not one member opposed the increase or the move. We set about building a new layout and the venerable Western Lines was sold to one of the club members.

Having moved out of the City of Cockburn we decided to change our name and, on 8 February 2012, the club became the US Model Railroad Club of WA, USMRCWA Inc.

The new layout meandered throughout the entire area of the unit and featured a large classification yard, numerous industries along the main line, rivers, mountains and a large passenger terminal. A control panel was built that allowed the Tortoise controlled switches to be remotely operated and running sessions were held on a regular basis. The layout was controlled by a Digitrax Super Chief Digital Command Control system.

Once again the need to expand eventuated and the small control room was demolished to make room for large port area complete with container ship. A mezzanine area was used to construct a 5 metres x 0.75 metre switching layout named Rockford and this became our exhibition layout. Over the next few years it won awards at the annual State exhibition and drew in several new members. Some video history of this layout can be viewed here.

The switching layout was expanded to include another 5 metres x 0.75 metre switching area built around a river port and called Hart’s Landing. This was joined to Rockford by a single section featuring a bridge over a creek and the combined layout again won awards at the exhibition.

In September 2011 our leased premises was sold and the new owner informed the club he would not renew our lease. Fortunately another similar size unit in the same block became available and we negotiated with the owner to lease the premises. Unfortunately, our large layout was not built to be dismantled and we decided to tear it down and build a new layout.

We appointed a sub-committee to establish some basic parameters for the new layout. Two metre long sections made of high grade plywood would be constructed to stand 1.2 metres high and be a minimum of 0.6 metre wide. All section pieces would be cut and assembled as a “flat pack” and secured with bolts to allow for easy disassembly if the need arose.

The layout itself would feature a double track mainline with a minimum mainline radius of 915-mm, code 75 Peco track laid on a 3-mm cork roadbed with Tortoise controlled electrofrog switches on the mainline and hand controlled switches in the yards. There would be a staging yard, a stub end passenger terminal, a large locomotive servicing area, a dedicated switching area, switchable trackside industries along the mainline and the two exhibition layouts, “Harts Landing” and “Rockford”, would be incorporated as a branchline.

In addition the aisles between the peninsulas would be wide enough to accommodate three people abreast, operators on either side and a spectator passing between them. Locoports would be sited around the layout for plug-in controllers and there were even small ledges constructed to hold our coffee cups as we switched an area!

There would also be several “wow” factors along the way, including a large trestle (seen on our homepage), several mountains with tunnels, a mining area and, of course, the locomotive terminal featuring a turntable, roundhouse and diesel facilities. Every item was listed down to the length and gauge of wire required, every section of track and number of points to be laid, every structure for industries along the way and even the number of screws needed.

Local hobby shops were approached to supply the required items and they came to the party and offered us generous terms to bulk purchase what we desired. Every member was asked what, if any, specific feature they would like to see on the layout and a track plan was drawn up in accordance with the requirements. When the final track plan was agreed upon it was drawn up full size on a CAD and taped on the floor so everyone could see what it would look like.

When all the required data was finalised the construction of the layout was costed. The big problem was cash, or the lack of it! We decided to approach the Lotteries Commission for a small community grant. Necessary forms, detailed costs and financial statements were presented to the commission and they agreed to approve a grant for the purchase of the items we needed.

It took only a few weeks to get the benchwork erected and sub roadbed laid – remember we were only in attendance for around four hours on a Saturday. Track was laid and wired and the power connected and then everything stopped. We had powered track and so trains were run for a couple of weeks before we then we made a start on the scenery.

Like all model railroad layouts it will never be “finished” - we will always find something else to do to improve it. Some of our latest projects include the construction, painting and installation of 3-D printed structures, the development and installation by one of the members of a system of light signals, upgrading the scenery and the development and application of a computer generated switching system (STS) – see our "Operations" page. We’ve also added JMRI control to the Digitrax system thatallows members to control trains via their digital devices and “Engine Driver” app – see our "Links"page.

On the first Saturday of each month the club holds a sausage sizzle and our monthly meeting – nothing too formal but a requirement of incorporation - and then a running session. The third Saturday is a switching session although those who wish to “railfan” can run a unit train or whatever they want as the switchers will work around them, just like the real railroads.

Of course not all members attend every Saturday so there is always room to run trains, conduct switching and host visitors. The members have a vast amount of knowledge with regard to both model and real railroads and are only too happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have.

If you like American trains then come along and have a look, we assure you it will be fun. Drop us a line @ info@usmrcwa.com with your contact details, or use this form, and a club member will contact you with an invitation.


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