If we go all the way back to the mid-1950s, we find a small group of University of Massachusetts students and faculty members who realized that they shared a common interest in railroads. To build their common bond, the group started meeting regularly to share railroad knowledge, photographs, and stories.
The group grew, incorporated as a non-profit corporation, and started thinking about other ways to share their rail interests.
Railroad Hobby Show
In the early 1960s, the group started a railroad themed “bring & buy” swap meet on the university campus, and it was an instant success. Over the next few years, the group moved to increasingly larger floor space, added railroad and model railroad vendors to the meet, and built a small modular model railroad for display.
Then, fate intervened. In 1982, the university space the group normally used for the swap meet was unavailable because of building renovations. So the fledgling group decided to take a big risk and move the swap meet to the New England Building at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
The show ended up being a huge success – and that was the start of the Railroad Hobby Show as we know it today.
The annual Railroad Hobby Show now occupies four buildings at the Eastern States Exposition, draws 25,000 people, and is one of the most respected railroad shows in the country. Twice, the show has received the Walther’s Showmanship Award in recognition of our efforts to promote interest in railroads and model railroads in the United States.
Amherst Belt Lines
And that small modular model railroad? – that grew, too.
Today, the Amherst Belt Lines modular railroad is one of the most sought-after groups for model railroad shows in New England. Members learn the intricacies of modular model railroading, and display their handiwork at six or seven shows each year, including a large layout at the Railroad Hobby Show.
Through the Belt Lines, Amherst Railway Society members build and strengthen friendships, support other railroad groups, and promote model railroading to the general public.
As the Railroad Hobby Show grew, and the revenue with it, the now not-so-small group of rail enthusiasts realized that they could be supporting the efforts of other railroad-focused organizations. In 1991, the Amherst Railway Society put on a philanthropic hat and started the annual grants program.
In the years since, the Railway Society has donated $814,373 to railroad preservation and restoration projects all over the United States.
The Amherst Railway Society holds regular meetings at our clubhouse in Palmer, Massachusetts. Meetings feature slide shows, historical information, and presentations on a wide variety of railroad related and model railroad related topics.
Meetings are open to the public.