The Bay Ridge Model Railroad Club has been saved from near-death by a miniature-locomotive enthusiast, who has kindly laid the necessary track to move the tiny trains from its current home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to the Trolley Museum in Kingston, New York.
Since 1949, three years after two local clubs merged to make the Bay Ridge Model Railroad Club, the cars have lived at 28 Marine Avenue. On February 15th, however, club members received a letter from their landlords saying they needed to "access tenants space to make certain repairs to the heat system for the property," and the club would need to vacate in order to clear a path for pipe work.
"It's been around over 70 years and just because it's not in a museum in Manhattan somewhere doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve the same fate," Mark Wolodarsky, a former club member who currently sits on the Trolley Museum's board, and who architected the trains' move to Kingston, told the Brooklyn Reporter. It's a rare set-up, he explained, noting that the system—which fills a 30-by-60-foot room—runs on a subway-like third rail, the last known system in the U.S. that operates this way.
Because of the model's hulking scale, transporting it roughly 118 miles presents logistical hurdles: The need to dismantle 100,000 miles of wiring that underpin the model and make it run; the need to chop it into pieces and move it out the door, something its makers never intended. "It's a very slow process because it was never meant to be taken apart," Wolodarsky told the Brooklyn Reporter. A GoFundMe page he launched in March has raised over $4,000 toward the effort (almost half of its $10,000 goal), on top of a $5,000 donation from the National Train Collector's Association.
Gothamist co-founder Jake Dobkin visited the club in late March, and called the space "amazing, in a Being John Malkovich kind of way." It's currently housed in an unassuming residential building, he said; to reach it, you go down a back alley and a garbage ramp, traverse a trash area, pass through some unmarked basement doors, and:
Finally, you're in this enormous room with an 8' ceiling, just absolutely packed to the gills with tracks. Everything was clearly assembled with loving care by generations of model train fanatics, but had sort of fallen into dust and ruin. I crawled around under the tracks, and there were miles of wires, dozens of these decades-old control stations, and about two inches of dust and grime—people were staring at me when I got back on the train, because I was absolutely covered in it. Anyway, it was a great set in a really strange place and I'm glad they found a new home for it!
You can eventually visit this shrunken train universe at its new home upstate, but in the meantime, watch them locomote below: