Club History

The Glendale Model Railroad Club was founded on April 4, 1949, by a group of men gathered together at a local hobby shop. A few months later, they found and purchased an abandoned building and then moved it to the current location in Glendale, where the city fathers had generously donated space on a vacant lot opposite Fremont Park. A 15-foot by 40-foot layout with detailed scenery was built and became the subject of a 1956 motion picture by the University of Southern California fine arts students and a feature article to a nationwide audience in the December 1960 issue of The Model Railroader magazine.

Disaster struck on April 4, 1963, when a fire consumed the building and nearly everything was destroyed. All the effort that had gone into building the layout and creating realistic scenery went up in smoke, something that the insurance policy could never replace. However, coupled together with the resourcefulness and tenacity of the membership, the policy did help with a brand-new start. By 1968, members began work on the present 25 x 40-foot layout, including 3,000 feed of rail encompassing 400 feet of single-track mainline and three classification yards. The Verdugo Valley Lines, as the railway came to be known, represents the Southern Pacific line from Los Angeles to Bakersfield over the Tehachapi mountains during the time of transition from steam-powered locomotives to diesel-powered locomotives. Two more features representative of this time in the mid-1950s were then added: an interurban trolley branch line to represent the Pacific Electric Railway in the Los Angeles region, and a branch line was added from Mojave to the Owens Valley to represent both the standard and narrow gauge operations of Southern Pacific at that time in this geographical area.

The public was treated to an open house on December 11, 1971, in conjunction with a ceremony commemorating the reopening of Fremont Park. After more progress on the layout, especially in the area of scenery, a formal open house was held nearly three years later.

During the many years that the Verdugo Valley Lines has been in operation, many technological changes occurred in the world. The most impactful of these was the onset of the digital age, which manifested itself in the model railroading hobby as digital command control (DCC). Prior to DCC, train layouts were operated by using direct current (DC), which meant that only one train could be operated in a block, or electrical section, of a train layout. DCC also meant that lighting and sound features could be added to locomotives, bringing a further level of enjoyment for modelers. For three years, the membership debated replacing the current layout with a new one that incorporated the new DCC technology but could not come to an agreement on a new design for such a layout.  In 2012 the decision was made to simply update the current layout to DCC, and the final DC run of the layout was made in June of that year after over 40 years of operation. By September 2013, the narrow gauge and half of the mainline had been converted to DCC, allowing the club to open its doors to the public again for an open house in November. Work continued on the DCC conversion through the early part of 2016, when the branch line and the Owenyo narrow gauge transfer yard were finally updated to DCC.

Since then, the membership has continued to open its doors the first Monday of every month to visitors, to work on maintaining and upgrading the Verdugo Valley Lines layout, and to gather monthly to run the Verdugo Valley Lines as a real railroad with merchandise to pick up from various industries to be delivered to other industries on the railroad. Now known as the Glendale Model Railroad Society, the current group of intrepid model railroaders continues to enjoy their hobby together, grateful for the efforts of members who came before and mindful of their current efforts for those yet to come.