The East Texas and Gulf Rail Modelers Association was formed in 2001 as a group to promote rail modeling in all scales and to disseminate prototype information on area railroads.
In the years prior to 2001, the local model railroad group was known as the Southeast Texas Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society which steadily lost members, but seven members decided to reorganize under the name of the East Texas & Gulf Rail Modelers Association to make the group more hobby-oriented while still maintaining an interest in prototype railroads. Also at stake was the continued maintenance and operation of the predecessor group’s modular layout.
The Association maintains a 16’x24’ or 16’x32’ modular HO scale layout which is set up at various hobby shows during the year, including the Longview Train Show, the DeQuincy, LA Railroad Days Festival, TrainFest at the Texas State Railroad, and the Great Texas Train Show in Houston. Model railroad club members from the Golden Triangle area of Texas (Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange, and surrounds) have been bringing their modular train layout to the DeQuincy Railroad Days Festival for 26 out of the 27 years the festival has been held. The Longview show is the next most-attended show for the group. In mid-2010, four members of the group built a permanent 4’x8’ layout for the DeQuincy Railroad Museum to operate all year long.
The current modular layout is the result of continuous improvement of the original layout over the years with different track arrangements, buildings and scenery. The group’s original modular layout consisted of individual 2’x4’ modules built to adopted standards for main line track placement only, and were owned by the individual members. Each member added track, features and scenery that gave the layout a patchwork appearance, but over time some standardization was achieved. With membership increasing and the original layout becoming shopworn and travel-weary, the group embarked on a redesign and rebuild of the layout about 15 years ago. New modules were built to maintain the layout size at 16’x24’ so it could continue to be displayed at the DeQuincy depot. With opportunities to go to other shows that have more display area, the group made some track work changes to the layout about five years ago and added modules on each long side to expand the dimensions of the layout to 16’x32’.
The original layout and the first rebuild of it operated with DC control on all tracks, but with the advent of Digital Command Control, operations on the layout have been converted to primarily DCC on the two outer main line tracks and yard and primarily DC on the inside main line track. However, all three tracks can be set up for either DCC or DC.
The ET&G maintains a fleet of “club locomotives and cars” of various types, mostly from donations by members or through acquisition, but all members are free to bring their own locomotives and rolling stock to run on the layout anytime it is on display. The club cars are used at the various industries and sidings, as well as in the small yard – Depwe Yard – on the DC main line, whereas members primarily stage their personal equipment for operation out of the large yard – Beaumont Yard – on the DCC main lines. The club locomotives are all DC operation, and pull lesser trains or switch Depwe Yard.
The layout is not era-specific or area-specific, and the latest diesel locomotives can be seen running side-by-side with steam locomotives. Cars are always a mixture of what looks best for the locomotive pulling them, and solid trains of coal hoppers and grain hoppers with multiple locomotives can be seen running on the layout. Industries are a variety of types and age that are served by a variety of freight car types. All of the buildings on the original layout have been replaced with new buildings, new industrial areas added, many details have been added and some scenery has been changed.
There are two passenger depots on the layout (recently added), Ruliff – named for a community in East Texas on the KCS and Pairodice – a fictitious town that has a port when the full layout is displayed. Buildings for the town of Ruliff are currently under construction, as is an additional industry. One novel feature on the layout is the “right angle track” on which a “right angle car” resides next to a dilapidated warehouse, the premise being that the company went out of business because they never could get the car around the corner for shipment of their goods!
The ET&G currently consists of 25 senior members (including the seven original charter members of the ET&G) and 2 junior members. There is a broad base of abilities in the group that includes operations, layout and building construction, electrical, and building of cars and locomotives. Dues for membership are $40/year for senior and junior members, and junior members must have a senior member as a sponsor. The group usually meets every Tuesday night at the Grace Lutheran Church, 2300 Eddleman Road, Orange, Texas, and sets up the large modular layout up there for part of July and for most of November for Model Railroad Month (with several weekends open to the public).