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Presented, in part, from a report to be published in the December issue of the NMRA magazine:


Re-examination of Programs and Functions.  We have looked critically at what we do and how we do it.  As earlier reported, the Kalmbach Library is in the process of being moved to the California State Railroad Library to be administered there at the same or less cost than we have spent.  With this our members gain access to the largest railroad library west of the Mississippi and one of the largest in the world.  We are taking steps to insure a dedicated partial position to serve our members' research needs...and all of this at no additional cost to you.  I will continue to report progress as we finalize arrangements.

Sometimes, changes in focus and priorities over time align with new opportunities in very favorable ways.  We have entered such a time with our plans for the Gallery Exhibit and possible Library consolidation at the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) as those decisions affect our Headquarters building in Chattanooga.

Thirty years ago, NMRA leadership had a vision to create a monument to model railroading.  At the time, the vision was that a central headquarters building would be a strong signal to the membership.  It would provide a location for the Howell Day Model Railroading Museum and the A.C. Kalmbach Library.  The plan also included space for the day-to-day operations of the organization to provide member support for planned growth of a much larger world-wide organization.

Several alternatives were explored before the current location in Chattanooga, TN was chosen, primarily because of an attractively priced land parcel offered by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM).  A successful member fund-raising campaign allowed the NMRA to construct our headquarters and soon, NMRA had a headquarters building.

Fast-forward thirty years. The founding visions have not become a reality in the way that was planned, but have evolved with even better options.  Over the period 2010-2012, NMRA and the CSRM jointly explored the exciting possibility of creating a Gallery and/or Museum of Scale Model Railroading.  We now have an agreement to establish the Magic of Scale Model Railroading exhibit on the gallery level of the country's largest and most visited railroad museum, the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California.  It attracts over six hundred thousand (600,000) visitors each year while our HQ building typically has fewer than 100 visitors each year.  CSRM has also expressed a serious interest in administering the NMRA library collections with the CSRM collection as a co-operative venture and to establish a joint researcher position to answer member research questions as we do today.  This new and better plan will provide additional benefits for our members as they will all also become members of the CSRM Library and have full access to it.

In 2011, we developed a plan and started a fundraising drive for the gallery exhibit as a first step.  The fundraising has been very successful and we have raised more than $500,000 in cash and pledges thus far.  We have signed a contract for construction of the initial exhibits and the opening is planned for late 2014.  One day, we can expand this exhibit into a permanent museum in different dedicated space as resources become available.

As a result of these positive developments, we now have a building that is underutilized and will become even more so after the Museum and Library are moved to CSRM.  Our core operations will need significantly less space than we have today.  We have been looking at options to address this reality.

In January 2013, the TVRM, our neighbor, approached us and asked if we might consider selling them the building.  We did not solicit their request.  They were aware of our developing plans with the CSRM.  They are severely cramped for space as they expand their commercial operations and were looking to construct significant additional office and classroom space at their Cromwell Road location, adjacent to the NMRA.  Acquiring an existing building would be of great benefit to TVRM.  Their operations personnel are spread across the region and they want to consolidate into fewer and centralized locations.  And as Jenny can tell you, nearly every day, someone wanders in to buy tickets for the TVRM!

The NMRA BOD discussed this exciting and unsolicited opportunity at the Winter 2013 BOD meeting and authorized the CFO to determine whether a mutually agreeable sale might be possible.  After several months of negotiations, we arrived at a mutually agreeable price and set terms and conditions.  In July 2013, TVRM presented a formal offer to the NMRA.  The NMRA BOD accepted the offer, and the NMRA CFO was authorized to complete the transaction.  TVRM is ready to complete the sale in a timely fashion.  At press time we do not have a firm closing date, so watch for future announcements here or via the NMRA eBulletin or Infoblast.

NMRA still needs a central location to manage the organization's business, merchandise sales, membership records, the online archives, and some elements of the Library and Museum collections.  We had previously investigated other options (lease part of the building to others or sell and lease back), but found none that were as attractive or met our needs to support the NMRA and its members as well as selling the building and leasing a variety of spaces that would meet our various needs.

But because of the quickness of the sale and our desire to not interrupt service, a new location was found in the Soddy-Daisy area of Chattanooga for our staff. We have opened this rented facility (at an annual cost less than operating the old building) and moved our staff there.  Note the new address listed here and on our website; our phones remain the same.  Staff is pleased with the new location, which is nearer other facilities, and is operating without interruption. We have a lot of transition work left to do at the old site but thanks to CFO Frank Koch and CAO Jenny Hendricks, all is running smoothly. 

All HQ office functions (membership and Company Store, online archives, and Library surplus sales) and the Library and Museum collections will be handled at the new location.  We can do this at a cost that is no higher than we currently pay to operate the building.  There will be no change in our support of member research requests.  The Company Store and on-line surplus book sales will continue uninterrupted.  We will invest the sale proceeds to generate income for the NMRA in the future.  This principal and income will help to strengthen our overall position, provide funds for future projects, and potentially delay the need for a future dues increase.

For TVRM, this offers an effective and efficient way to expand their office and operations capability without the headaches and delays of construction.  It also gives them a more visible presence along Cromwell Road. You may read or hear of their fund raising campaign as they are expanding on several fronts.  They have also purchased the parcel of property on the other side of our shared drive for additional expansion.

For NMRA, it offers significant flexibility as we change in the future.  We can increase or decrease our leased space as our needs change.  It gives NMRA greater fiscal flexibility as we will have liquid assets rather than a non-liquid asset. This flexibility will be important as we increase our marketing and communication to members and non-members alike.

For some of you, this news will come as welcomed.  For years, members have asked, "when are you going to sell Headquarters?"  For years, it has been the BOD policy that we do so when it seemed appropriate.  In 1982, the world was different.  Brick and mortar offices were the norm.  The Internet and home computers were unknown or limited.  Today, where you are is less important that how you function.  Remember, for many years, we operated out of office manager Bob Bast's basement!  We are not leaving Chattanooga.  We are not moving the NMRA to California.  The NMRA is not in financial trouble.  So ignore those who tell you differently.

But for those disappointed by the news, I fully understand.  The NMRA expended much effort and member donations in building and operating our Headquarters building.  For over thirty years, we operated there.  Yet, how many of you reading this have ever visited?  And if you did, what did you see?  The simple truth is that Headquarters never lived up to its promise or potential.  It has become an expensive anachronism to operate but a valuable asset that appreciated over time.  In fact, it was a wise investment.  So whether disappointed, pleased or neutral, let me hear from you.  But if disappointed, please tell me how many times you visited and why you feel we need stay.  I hope you will all understand what we are doing and why. 
In closing, much has been accomplished but much remains.  We have a great crew in place working very hard for you and for our hobby.  With your support, we will only grow stronger and better.  Those are my thoughts; what are yours?  


December Issue of the NMRA Magazine:


Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Originally Posted by C W Burfle:

If the TCA cannot find a corporate sponsor for the museum, it should be looking at following a similar course. Membership will continue to decline, and operating costs for the museum can only rise. The museum cannot continue to be supported by member dues.



I agree. It seems that a joint sponsorship of Lionel, MTH, and others, at a nominal entry fee, would do a lot to futher the hobby (and train sales). As it is, the TCA Museum showcases both old and NEW trains, while providing hands-on layouts in a number of gauges. What the museum really seems to need is advertising to draw in more of the many people who visit this tourist (train and non-train) area.

I have different thoughts on TCA.  I have long thought the facility at Strasburg too auditorium for mfrs' presentation (having to stand through them.  plus

their fetish for elecronics is why I have not attended those for a while), and no

parking for those attendees.  I think their real estate parcel is too small.  I do NOT

want it moved to the west coast.  NMRA, when I have looked at their application forms

over time have always seemed to emphasize HO and N, and weren't attractive to me

even when I was in HO.  I have visited the Tennessee Valley Museum and did not

notice/realize the NMRA HQ was next to it.  I have visited Sacramento's museum

several times when my job sent me there, but that is not a nationally central location.

Originally Posted by baltimoretrainworks:

I read it that the museum is moving there too:
" and will become even more so after the Museum and Library are moved to CSRM.  "

And watching it online isn't the same thing as being there, I've been to the Grand Canyon and Denali National Park and it looks a whole lot cooler in person.



The reason I've gone to the Grand Canyon myself....If it's something you really want to see....go!

They are moving the library to CA......whats to see in person that not available online today???

And living in WV and having just returned from a visit to California.....I have proven ANYONE can go there and come back alive!!!

See the log of my trip below in the link Amtrak





Thanks for the humorously accurate remarks.  The California Stare Railroad Museum is located near the junction in Interstate 5 and Interstate 80 as well as the station serving the Coast Starlight and California Zephyr.  I have nothing against Chattanooga but I have never been there, am unlikely to visit on my way to anywhere else and I am likely not alone in that.  I have been to Sacramento and the CSRM on my way to other destinations and I know that I am not alone in that.  This should be a win win for the NMRA Library collection and the CRSM. 


Hopefully the Library material becomes available on line.  While I have a fair collection of railroad books and periodicals most of my research is now done on line thanks to some outstanding museum, university and public library and historical society digital collections.


It is encouraging to see that the NMRA is talking positively about changes that they are making to deal with changing economic, technical and market realities.  I hope that they take a similar approach to continue to adapt as the model railroading world continues to change.


A few areas where the NMRA might need to address change come to mind.


How does an organization like the NMRA respond to changing demographics and the trend among younger adults to be less inclined to joining all sorts of social, civic and hobby organizations?


How might the criteria for the MMR program be updated to deal with emerging trends in modeling like the increased presence of sound and command control and 3D printing? 


How do DCC standards remain relevant over time as technology continues to move faster than the speed of a committee?


How do other standards get revised and remain relevant in light of changing developments and trends in the hobby like popular couplers and alternate wheel profiles (Lo-D, Proto 48 and Proto 87)?


The statement from the NMRA has a tone that I find encouraging.  I hope the TCA, and especially the Eastern Division can find a similar attitude toward changes that they can made to better serve the hobby.  Atlas sent an open letter two years ago.  So far one of their three requests has been met.  I hope we see the other two soon, plus a few more or York and the TCA will continue to decline in popularity and relevance.

Permit me to offer a bit of personal perspective.


I'm a Life Member of the NMRA, and have been for more years than I care to remember.


Way back when they were raising funds for a headquarters building, I donated heavily to the effort and it eventually came to fruition thanks to a supportive and active NMRA membership.  At the time I was, as I recall, living in Hawaii.


At that point in time, the NMRA had around 30,000 members.  Today the membership is around 19,000 (puts the TCA in relatively good shape, all things considered, especially when one takes into account the significantly smaller niche that constitutes the "toy train" community).


I visited the new (at the time) NMRA headquarters on one occasion.  I was in Alabama for an NMRA National Convention, and staying with relatives who lived there.  After the convention, we drove to Tennessee to visit several spots, including the NMRA Headquarters and the nearby Tennessee Valley Railroad.  I was proud to have been a part of seeing the NMRA's building become a reality, and am still proud today.


However, the facility is really quite some drive from Chattanooga proper, and certainly (unlike the TCA HQ and Museum) not an easy destination for most tourists to seek out.  I recall thinking that at the time, but still delighted in seeing it in brick-and-mortar form.


I'm also a big fan of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, and have visited there several times.  It is a growing and thriving enterprise, and I have also donated heavily (for me, at least) to the exhibit mentioned in that NMRA letter.  Hopefully, the Good Lord willing, I'll be able to visit there again once the new exhibit is permanently established.


I posted that NMRA announcement for several reasons, not the least of which was to again demonstrate that, as I have said many times, the demographics of the hobby are catching up with us.  That change, as well as the influences of a digital society, has significantly altered the dynamics, not only of the model railroading hobby, but of many other leisure activities as well.  It doesn't concern me to any great degree because I've been around a long time; have thoroughly enjoy the many blessings the hobby has brought me; and have found that fretting much about the future is likely to yield no positive result.  I will be in the hobby, and fully enjoying it, regardless of what happens to any of the organizations or manufacturers that support the hobby.  I've taken steps over the years to assure that will be the case.


All that said, I still firmly believe that organizations like the NMRA and TCA are vital forces in preserving and perpetuating the hobby, no matter how large or small their membership numbers.  I remain hopeful that both of these national organizations will not only survive, but that they will continue to be repositories for all that is good about this hobby today, and all that made it great in the past.

I belonged to the NMRA for about 10 years when I was in my late teens, early 20s, and then took a break.  I rejoined about 10 years ago strictly because I was so incredibly impressed with the work the DCC committee did in standardizing on a control system format.  Add on top of that the ability to participate in the National Conventions, which I have done twice, and intend on doing for the next two conventions.   


Because of the efforts of the NMRA, I can take my DCC equipped locomotives over to any of my friends railroads operating with ANY DCC manufacturer's product, and it powers up, does what I tell it to do, and doesn't provide me any "Locomotive not on track" or other nonsense. 


JMRI provides for a plethora of additional features that I have yet to delve into. 


Is the evolution slow for features like 2 way communication.  Sure it is.  Do I care?  Not one bit.  The system, as it presently exists, more than meets my needs. 


This from a perspective of an individual that scrapped a preceding command control system (Dynatrol) just so I could avail myself of the features, and compatibility of DCC. 


As far as the headquarters move, and activities with the CSRM, it all sounds good to me. 



Jerry Zeman

Originally Posted by electroliner:

All I can say is that I had to live in LA for two years and you could not pay me enough money to go back to overpriced \ over hyped California for anything..and Sacramento isn't exactly a tourist hot spot my wife and I would visit for what it would cost us anyway..I would go to the Grand Canyon and the an "easier sell". 

As much as I might not like this state, it's what I call home, and I wouldn't want any other way. Plus it's the only state I've ever lived in too! 

Originally Posted by gnnpnut:

...Add on top of that the ability to participate in the National Conventions, which I have done twice, and intend on doing for the next two conventions.   


Jerry Zeman


I've attended more than a few NMRA national conventions all over the country and in Canada, and each one was a memorable, educational, and fun experience.  By far the best and most diverse hobby conventions I have ever attended.  So many layout tours that you can't possibly hit them all; clinics conducted by the best hobbyists in selected areas; a fine National Train Show where one can meet with the manufacturers; and a great chance to meet with thousands of like-minded hobbyists--all scales--from all over the world.

Originally Posted by Allan Miller:
Originally Posted by gnnpnut:

...Add on top of that the ability to participate in the National Conventions, which I have done twice, and intend on doing for the next two conventions.   


Jerry Zeman


I've attended more than a few NMRA national conventions all over the country and in Canada, and each one was a memorable, educational, and fun experience.  By far the best and most diverse hobby conventions I have ever attended.  So many layout tours that you can't possibly hit them all; clinics conducted by the best hobbyists in selected areas; a fine National Train Show where one can meet with the manufacturers; and a great chance to meet with thousands of like-minded hobbyists--all scales--from all over the world.

And on top of that, a few nights of operation at op-sig layouts. 



Jerry Zeman

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
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