Founded in January of 1997, Central New York Modelers (CNYMOD) is a non-profit group dedicated to the enjoyment of HO scale model trains. Members have built and maintain more than 25 modules for display and operation. Most modules are owned by individual members and have been constructed to group standards. Members reside in Central New York and Mohawk Valley areas, and many are experienced modelers who also operate home layouts. Originally, the modules were assembled into a layout only at shows. After several years of travel, many of the original modules were incorporated into a semi-permanent layout in a club "home" at the American Legion building in the Eastwood section of Syracuse. In order to still maintain a traveling layout, the group set out in the summer of 2002 to construct four new corner modules that, along with additional straight modules, allowed us to stay involved in road shows. In the spring of 2003, we moved into a much
larger room at the Legion. This allowed us to expand the layout, but members of the public were only able to view it once a year during the Syracuse Model Railroad Club show, or by special appointment. The club moved again in March of 2006, this time to a storefront location in Driver's Village in Cicero. This provided opportunity for more frequent interaction with the general public. However, In July of 2007, we were notified that we would have to leave our quarters in Driver's Village by the first of September.
Just before Christmas 2006, our traveling layout had been temporarily set up at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in downtown Syracuse. The museum management offered us the opportunity to make the museum our permanent home allowing us space for a permanent layout three times the size of our display at Driver's Village. We eagerly accepted the offer, and we anticipate that there will be many changes, both to the layout and the club as an organization, thanks to the opportunities this move has offered us.
The current display is a combination of standard kits, kit-bashes and scratch-built structures in addition to typical Northeastern scenery to represent a blend of both rural and urban heavy industrial scenes. Extruded polystyrene foam insulation is used for basic land contours in order to keep weight to a minimum. Some of the modules are carefully planned so that they will be used only with one another allowing for large industries and scenes to be tied together in a seamless scenic element. Other modules are used in a variety of contexts but are tied in with the whole layout by standards for scenery colors, materials, and end profiles. All modules are connected together electrically using standardized plug connections. A Digital Command Control (DCC) system from Digitrax is utilized for normal operations, allowing for complex operation of trains without complex wiring or blocks. Members operate and maintain their own equipment that must conform
to group standards to allow for reasonably trouble-free operation. Undoubtedly, there will be many changes required to make the layout suitable for sustained operation in a museum environment. Valuable experience in this regard has already been gained with the traveling layout at the MOST.
Module standards were adapted from the construction specifications used by the Mid-west Modular Club and featured in the May of 1994 issue of Model Railroader magazine. The standard straight module size is 72 inches long by 28 inches wide. The two mainline tracks are located 9.5 and 11.5 inches from the front of the module. The original corner modules (used for our permanent display)
have a footprint of 5 feet on a side. The outer track radius is 40 inches, while the inner track radius is 38 inches. The newer corner modules (used with the traveling layout) were constructed with a footprint of 4 feet on a side. The outer track radius is 34 inches, while the inner track radius is 31.5 inches. The distance from the floor to the tops of the rails is approximately 51 inches, allowing for a very convincing viewing perspective when watching trains travel through realistic scenes. This height also makes it a lot easier on the backs of the old geezers! Being at the MOST presents us with new opportunities to create scenes too large to fit into the previous size constraints. Plans are already being discussed for including a passenger station complex based on the facilities of the New York Central railroad in Syracuse, along with the engine service terminal in East Syracuse and the freight yard in Dewitt in order to demonstrate how a railroad actually functioned as a transportation system.
CNYMOD has participated in numerous shows not only in upstate New York but also in West Springfield, MA, Timonium, MD, Hartford, CT, and Philadelphia, PA. At the National Model Railroad Association annual convention for 2006, held in Philadelphia, the CNYMOD layout won the Best of Show award. Two club members also won individual awards for their modules, including first and third places and a special award from a model railroad manufacturer. At the 2009 National Convention in Hartford, Russ Grills took home the first and third place awards for his Cazenovia and Lebanon modules.