Neuse River Valley Model Railroad Club

“There are so many facets of model railroading:
There’s scenery and color and paint and electronics and computers…”
–John Ragan, president, Neuse River Valley Model Railroad Club


by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Christer Berg

Many mornings of the week find Mebane resident John Ragan driving about an hour to downtown Raleigh. It’s not work that beckons, it’s play: The president of the Neuse River Valley Model Railroad Club (NRVMRC) has weekly breakfasts with fellow club members; he has six model railroad layouts in the clubhouse on Old Louisburg Road to maintain; he has an extensive library to keep organized. “I remember getting a train set at age 12, but that’s just my first recollection. My love of trains has definitely been longer than that. There were always trains in the house.”

In the Raleigh model railroad club, Ragan has found comrades. The community, along with the club’s other perks, make the drive more than worth it, Ragan says. “We are the only model railroad club in Wake County that has a clubhouse,” he says. It’s open to the public three days a week and open to club members daily. There, they have the space to put together layouts using donated or member-loaned model railroad pieces and trains: “Layouts are never finished. You’re always working on them.”

There are many different scales of model railroads, each assigned a letter. Z-scale, for instance, is what Ragan calls a “suitcase scale,” because it can be laid out within or atop a suitcase or coffee table. O-scale “is what you would envision around the Christmas tree,” and the list goes on. NRVMRC has models in three scales (O, H-O, and N), which Ragan says sets it apart in this area. So does its library of most model railroader magazines “from inception to the current issue. And we have over 200 volumes of hardback model railroad books.”

Regular outings to other model train clubs in the state and the transportation museums in Spencer, N.C. and Roanoke, Va., plus an annual club-organized model railroad show and sale at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in November round out the NRVMRC’s busy schedule. It’s all “great fun for train lovers,” Ragan says, whether they’re longtime modelers like he is, or curious novices. “The club would never grow if we didn’t have us in all skill levels. We’re always learning.”