The old GGMRC page is no longer updated, however I keep the archives available for reference.

⇒⇒ Please visit the new Randall Museum Train Layout to get the latest news and updates on the layout and its automation.

An Update on the GGMRC Association

The secretary/treasurer of the GGMRC, Jim Willcox, has taken the action of "officially" ending the GGMRC assotiation, and suggested all the moneys left in the club treasury should alledgedly be donated to the CMRS, of which he and a majority of the ex-GGMRC voting members already belong.

A call to support the existing layout at Randall Museum Model Railroad was shortly dismissed.

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Museum Reopening, with Train Automation

The Randall Museum’s Grand Reopening happened on February 11, 2018.

The train layout is now a fully dedicated "exhibit" of the museum.

A lot has happened in the past few months: The museum direction erected a glass barrier around the layout, we had to full clean the layout a second time as it got covered by a thick layer of dust during renovation, the automation got more polished with new trains as some equipment proved unreliable, etc.
In the end, the Grand Reopening day arived, trains ran well under automation, and all parties involved were satisfied.
I continue maintaining the layout, supporting the Saturday operators, and evolving the automation at my own pace.

All of this and more is described in the new blog.
As usual I will not focus on the personal aspect of things, only the technical ones. As with any group, there's a lot of variation in personalities, and the personal reasons that made most ex-GGMRC members give up are still present. nihil novi sub sole as I usually say... It's all about compromises and reaching a commong goal.

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Time for an update on the progress on the layout.

Last time our group of volunteers and I got access to the layout was in May and June 2017. Claudette spent a lot of time carefully dusting all the buildings and the scenery. Greg, Mike, Robert and Jim all helped refresh the scenery, which looks much greener and less dusty.

A lot of time was also spent in cleaning the track and make sure trains could go around properly. There are some areas that need more work, e.g. at least 2 spots were trains hesitate on a turnout (probably frogs that need to be rewired) and I'll need to come back to them. Here are two videos of a train going around the track -- there's nothing like a good cab ride to identify all the problems on the track. I'll spare you the earlier camera recordings with the trains stopping at the most hard to reach location and instead let's focus on the last working version:

We haven't had access to the layout since July 2017. The staff in charge indicated main power was off starting mid-July as PG&E was doing some major work. This work was apparently scheduled to end in August yet carried well into September.

In August, we were told by the staff that a layer of dust had settled on the layout during their work. We haven't seen what it looks like. Reports were fairly vague and a request to get a picture to estimate the work was derided with a laconic "hard to photograph in dark" (I almost wanted to retork modern camera technology invented the flash, but that did not seem appropriate). We were also told after the fact that one of the staff members did manage to repaint the fascia panels of the layout during that period.

We attempted to get a status update on October and that was met with a reply that indicated lights were still not back on but would be soon and we should just wait to be contacted. The last laconic email had all the undertones of "don't call us, we'll call you" and as volunteers we decided maybe we should just get the hint and do that.

Meanwhile... in July during vacation I started working on the second part of my automation project, namely remote tablet display. The goal is to equip the layout with two tablets displaying the state of the automation as clearly and as simply as possible. The tablets act as remote displays for the main automation computer (which will eventually be located under the layout next to the DCC, out of reach) and provide a way for the staff to do an emergency stop of all automatied trains. Here's the final version of the system, and it's almost ready to be used:

As far as work left to do on the layout before it's open for public, there's still quite a bit.
  • First there's that issue of the "layer of dust" to take care of. Lack of details make it impossible to predict the amount of work involved, not to mention the fact that it will all depends on the volunteers' availability and motivation. Track-wise, we'll need to carefully clean the track again, that can be done at the same time.
  • On the automation side, I still have to finalize the work on the Linux box (the computer should auto-start when the layout power is on, shutdown when power is off, start JMRI and the Conductor apps automatically), and finalize some work on the tablets sides. There's probably 2 or 3 week-ends of work here.
  • The last part, which I originally intented to do in August, was train the staff for the automation. It should be as easy as turn the power on and off on the layout. The issue is dealing with the unexpected conditions, trains derailing or whatnot. Time estimate would be anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the people involved.
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Progress on train automation at the layout

Work as started a few months ago on the layout and scenery is being refreshed.

In parallel, automated train runs are being installed. On two different routes, two trains are waiting to be activated at the push of a button. The trains go around a selected part of the layout, reverse and come back. While there's still work to do, here are two short videos demonstrating the early results.

The first route is a short passenger train composed of two Amtrak F40PH engines and Amfleet coaches that starts at the main passenger station:

The second route features a single-unit Budd RDC (Rail Diesel Car) operating on the Branchline:

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An update on the GGMRC Layout

About a year ago, on December 2015, the Club formally turned over the layout to Randall Museum Friends – the non-profit Friends organization of Randall Museum.

Randall Museum is currently closed for renovation; as it is a construction site, access to the museum is limited to the renovation team. The train room is thus currently not accessible.

Randall Museum will open early 2017. The railroad layout is remaining and is to be one of the featured exhibits. It is being partially automated to offer some activity whenever the museum is open to the public. A higher glass barrier is being installed to make it safe to have the layout on display whenever the museum is open.

From a model railroading perspective, no significant change is being made to the layout. It retains its original track plan, as listed on this site, and the automation will not affect operations.

After it reopens, Randall Museum looks forward figuring out how to continue participation to run trains and provide an educational and operational value. Nothing specific has been decided yet, except there is a strong desire to coordinate and figure the best way to make this happen.

For further questions, please contact Nathan Robinson from Randall Museum Friends.

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GGMRC Turnover to Randall Museum

To follow up and conclude the ongoing negotiations with the Randall Museum, the GGMRC President and the Chairman of the Negotiating Committee met on December 17th, 2015 with the Randall Museum to deliver the following letter:

December 17, 2015

Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.
P O Box 14933
San Francisco, CA 94114

Cassandra Costello
Chris Boettcher
Nathan Robinson

Re: The Randall Museum/Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.

Dear Cassandra, Chris and Nathan,

This letter is directed to the three of you in your respective capacities of authorized representative of the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks, The Randall Museum and the Randall Friends respectively.

After almost two years of negotiations we have been unable to reach an agreement with you regarding our Club, the Museum and continued operation of the existing model train layout that is acceptable to our Membership. It appears that we have come to an end of our 54 year relationship.

Nonetheless, all of us have repeatedly expressed a strong desire that the model train operation remain in the Randall and be open and operating for the public’s enjoyment. To accomplish this goal Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. hereby gives the layout together with the tools, supplies and materials needed to maintain and repair the layout , all of which are in the train room, to the Randall Museum for the enjoyment of the public. Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. hereby disavows any and all responsibility for maintenance, repairs, and operations as well as any changes or improvements to the layout. From this point forward any and all repairs, maintenance, changes, alterations, improvements and operations that the The Museum desires to undertake shall be in its sole discretion and solely at its own expense.

We request two things from the Museum:

  1. That those Club Members who desire to assist the Museum in operations, maintenance, repairs or improvements be allowed to do so and to operate their private trains on the layout; and
  2. That if the Museum for any reason decides not to continue operation of the layout, that Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. be permitted to salvage any usable items from the layout and train room for donation to other model railroad clubs.

As we believe you are aware, all engines, rolling stock, vehicles, power supplies and throttles have been removed from the layout for safekeeping during the Museum’s renovation. Once the Museum re-opens and the layout is up and running Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc. will donate the stored engines, rolling stock, vehicles, power supplies and throttles to the Museum to the extent it desires to accept the items.

Please note that we are closing our Post Office Box and all written communications should be addressed to James R. Willcox, P O Box 1382, Ross, CA 94957. You have the email addresses for the Negiotiating Committee.

Very Truly Yours,

Golden Gate Model Railroaders, Inc.
By James R Willcox
Secretary/Treasurer and Chairman of the Negotiating Committee

[PDF Version: GGMRC Turnover to Randall Museum 2015-12-17.]

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Negotiations with the Randall Museum

Thanks to those who signed our petition to save the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club layout.  There are over 1,000 of you!  We very much appreciate your support.

Our negotiations with the Randall Museum and the Dept. of Rec & Parks to keep the trains running are approaching a critical point and we may shortly be looking to you to communicate directly with the Dept. of Rec & Parks, the Museum and your appropriate elected officials to voice your support.

Please give us your email using the form in the sidebar to the right so that we can keep you informed of the latest developments.

Thank you again for your support.

Golden Gate Model Railroaders

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Museum Closed

As announced previously, the Randall Museum closed for renovations on June 1st, 2015. This means that that you are no longer able to visit the GGMRC’s train layout until the Museum reopens some time in 2017.

For updated information on the Randall Museum, please visit their web site at

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Southern Pacific 4-8-8-2 Cab Forwards

This video features a pair of SP Cab-Forwards pulling Southern Pacific Daylight cars up the Golden Gate Model Railroad’s mountain part of the layout. Featured engines are Southern Pacific 4-8-8-2 AC-4 #4108 & AC-5 #4123:

You can find more videos on the club’s YouTube channel.

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4-8-4 Niagara NYC #6019

In this video, the club’s engine #6019, a 4-8-4 Niagara steam engine from New York Central travels around the Golden Gate Model Railroad’s layout after picking up passengers at the main train station:

You can find more videos on the club’s YouTube channel.

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Museum Closing

The Randall Museum closed for renovations on June 1, 2015.  This means that that you will no longer be able to visit the GGMRC’s train layout until the Museum reopens some time in 2017.

Our last Junior Engineer Day was on May 16, and many children came and had a last chance to run a train with us.

We are planning to reopen in 2017 with the layout updated and improved.  We are working with the Museum to provide access the layout any time that the Museum is open and not just on Saturdays.

Keep watch on this web site for further news.

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GGMRC YouTube Channel

Click here to access the new YouTube channel the we have created to feature videos of our layout.

Click here to see the club’s Google+ page.

You can also find these links in the sidebar to the right.

This play list has all the club’s videos:

and here are some more videos posted by the club members:

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Video mix: SD70ACe, GEVO, NYC EMD E8

Here’s a video showing various engines running during members’ hours. This one features an EMD SD70ACe, a GEVO consist and a New York Central EMD E8.

You can find more videos of the GGMRC track here.

Follow us on Google+!

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Control Panels and Cab Ride

I got nice feedback on the previous layout map video so I decided to reuse the same track footage but this time I overlaid the control panels from the GGMRC layout. The club has many control panels around the layout — some for the mountain part, some for the various yards. They are great old fashioned wood panels. In the video I tried to highlight the turnout switches and the track blocks to match the cab ride on the main line.

You can find more videos of the GGMRC track here.

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