The Model Railroad Open House has its roots in the Philadelphia area where, in 1967, at least four model railroads opened their doors to the public. For years the events were publicized by mouth and by printed schedule available at hobby shops.
Jerry Britton learned of the events around 2000 and organized caravans of visitors from southcentral Pennsylvania to visit the model railroads to the east. As many as five car loads of "foamers" participated in these crusades!
Having already organized model railroad open houses for historical society tours in the area, Britton organized the Susquehanna Valley Model Railroaders as early as 2004. The group -- in seven southcentral Pennsylvania counties -- began holding open houses on one Saturday each November to "give back" to their brethren to the east.
Several years later, the Susquehanna Division of the NMRA approached Britton about expanding to include their entire division, which encompasses 32 counties of Pennsylvania. Sub-divisions were created, with each "sub" hosting on differing weekends in November.
Following the 2015 open houses, Bruce Friedman, then coordinator of the original Model Railroad Open House, had expressed his desire to retire after 25 years. Friedman's repeated pleas for a successor were met with silence, so Britton volunteered to take on the role, but only if it could be modernized (computer database driven) and all existing regional coordinators were on board.
With support assured, Britton registered The Model Railroad Open House domain and launched the web site. Friedman announced the handoff.
Unfortunately, not all were on board. The regional coordinator for Delaware and the web site developer were apparently not informed in advance and were less than excited -- understandably so. They opted to split off from the group and continue to operate on their own, keeping a portion of northeast Maryland with them. That is how we got two different open house web sites!
Britton has coordinated The Model Railroad Open House since 2016 and sincerely hopes that Delaware and Maryland rejoin the group.
- 2016: 120 open house events in two states; Susquehanna, New Jersey, and part of Philadelphia NMRA divisions
- 2017: 180 open house events across five states; added Garden State and South Mountain NMRA divisions