Who We Are
The Amherst Railway Society exists to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience and learn from the railroad and model railroad hobbies. Because – we believe that enthusiasm for railroads and model railroads makes a positive difference in people’s lives.
- it builds community
- it excites learning
- it unleashes creativity
- it teaches important technical skills
This fundamental belief motivates us, guides us.
The Amherst Railway Society began in the mid-1950s with a small group of University of Massachusetts students and faculty members who shared a common interest in railroads. The group met regularly to share railroad knowledge, photographs, and stories.
The group grew, attracting railroad hobbyists of all stripes – modelers, photographers, train riders, and historians. And that mix of railroad interests established a cultural foundation that exists to this day. The Amherst Railway Society values diversity, equality, and a willingness to work together to promote knowledge and awareness of all aspects of the railroad hobbies.
Railroad Hobby Show
Amherst’s annual Railroad Hobby Show is America’s largest railroad-themed trade show. The event occupies four buildings on the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds, and draws 25,000 visitors. Twice, the show has received the Walther’s Showmanship Award in recognition of Amherst’s efforts to promote interest in the railroad and model railroad hobbies.
But the show had a much smaller beginning.
In the 1960s, the group started a railroad themed “bring & buy” swap meet on the University of Massachusetts 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.
However, in 1982, the university space the group normally used for the event was unavailable because of building renovations. So the fledgling group decided to take a big risk and move the swap meet to Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
The show was a huge success – and that was the start of the Railroad Hobby Show as we know it today.
The Railroad Hobby Show has also served as the foundation for additional shows and events.
The Northeast Large Scale Train Show is held each April and showcases the larger model railroad scales, particularly G-scale which is often used for outdoor garden railroads.
The Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet focuses on highly detailed replicas of railroad locomotives, cars, and structures. The event is held in June each year.
Kids ON TRACK is a series of events that give children an opportunity to run model trains, and get involved in the model railroad hobby.
Amherst Belt Lines
And that small modular model railroad from the 1960s swap meets? – 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 train shows each year.
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 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 country.