I'll state up front that I don't have a business plan, and since I am still working for a living I don't have the time or resources to build an exhibit, nevertheless I cannot help myself dreaming of one day buying a decent building on a nice tract of land and creating a fantastic O-gauge exhibit that would be open to the public, and ideally, would be accessible for handicapped children (and adults - which is actually a requirement per the ADA I believe). The real estate and building alone, permitting, insurance, etc., would likely require a good amount of funds...so this is more of a dream job than anything real, but one can dream. And, I was curious if there's anyone else who has ever contemplated such an endeavor...and by the way, this is not an idea for a club that would be open to the public x number of days per year, nor would it be like the former Roadside America or Choo-Choo Barn, both fine exhibits in their own right.
The details of the layout exhibit would likely involve professional layout builders, which don't come cheap these days, yet one of my criterion would be to build an exceptional interactive layout, such that there would be two methods of viewing. The first would be general audience, whom would walk through a winding and generously wide aisle, with the layout portrayed via professional spot lights, and the display itself ostensibly would range between 3 and 6 feet deep, with lower foreground rising to a higher background. Operating trains would be but one of the attractions, moving vehicles and figures would be key to making it interesting. The sinuous shape would create scenes such that no more than 10-15 feet of layout would be seen at any one time, causing people to walk around like in a fun house. There'd be exceptions to this, with some scenes opening up to grand vistas, such as large urban scenes, mountain scenes, North Pole, etc. Overall size would be 8,000 to 10,000 sq. ft. at least, larger would be better.
The 2nd type of viewing would be interactive, whereby remote controls would be handed to operators, along with a headset such that they'd follow orders from a central dispatcher, whom would watch and manage via CCT.
Unless I found a pot of gold and became a philanthropist it would be necessary to charge admission, something that will turn-away some folks. The maintenance alone would be daunting. Frankly though, even if the exhibit was museum quality, I don't see such a venture becoming profitable, and more than likely would need to have a supplemental store or eatery to bring make it financially viable, and that involves yet more complexity and business acumen.
Now that I've spelled out the dream exhibit I realize what a delusion of grandeur such a project would be. Nonetheless, it would be an awesome project to undertake, and if it was located in a good location in Pennsylvania (where people of all ages seem to still enjoy both real and model trains), I could see it becoming very popular, especially around the winter holidays.
If anyone has ever thought along these lines, feel free to share your experiences or thoughts, or send me an e-mail, which is in my profile.