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Club History

The Redford Model Railroad Club was founded in October, 1939 in Redford Township, about 10 miles northwest of our previous location in Dearborn.  From its inception, the club modeled in HO.  Thus, most of our earlier equipment and structures had to be scratch built due to the lack of commercial products in the then "new scale".

The club's first layout was located in the attic of an office building in Redford. It was here that the membership adopted "Sand Hill & Western" as the club's road name. "Sand Hill" was Redford Township's original name, while "Western" was added to give the name a more prototypical flavor.

Our club moved often during its formative years, each time to a different member's home.  This continued until February, 1948 when the group merged with an O scale Club and moved to the New York Central freight house on Jefferson and Third Avenue in Detroit.  The newly reorganized group dropped the Redford name and became the Detroit Model Railroad Club, the name by which the O scale group had been known.

For the next several years, the club built and operated two layouts simultaneously, one in HO scale, the other in O scale. The dual operation came to an end, however, in 1958 when the New Your Central informed the club that the space occupied was required use.  The layouts were dismantled and the O scale members of the club elected to again go their separate way.  The HO group reactivated the "Redford" name and moved to a store front building on Grand River and Hubbell in Detroit.  The club remained at that location for three years and then moved once again, this time to the basement of the member's home in the Detroit suburb of Taylor.  This location, like those before it, proved to be only a short term home for the club and once more the member found it necessary to move.  Again the club found itself back on Grand River Avenue in Detroit in another store front building just a few blocks for the original Grand River location.  Here it remained until June, 1972 when it moved to its present home here in Dearborn.

Throughout its history, the club has varied in size from the original ten members to a maximum of fifty.  Present membership is held by the club bylaws to twenty individuals.

The Previous SH&W Railroad

Our previous 17' X 55'  layout occupies almost the entire 935 square feet of available building floor space.  It has been under construction of about 6 years.  The layout features some ten scale miles (600 actual feet) of single track mainline plus ten towns, each with its own yard trackage.  The track plan allows for either point to point or continuous loop operation. The town of Sand Hill is the major freight yard while Western is the primary passenger facility.  During operation sessions, virtually all trains are made up in these two yards.  The other eight towns along the right of way, named in honor of present and former club members, provide industry and classification yard switching facilities.  In addition, each town is provided with a passing siding.  Thus, all meets occur within town limits. The town of Blue Island is provided with interchange trackage.  Here the SH&W meets the NP&NW-the "No Place to No Where" railroad.  As its name implies, the NP&NW comes from no place and goes nowhere, but it does provide the necessary illusion the the " Sand Hill & Western" does connect with the "rest of the world". A "thumb tack" train order system is used during operation sessions to designate switching moves.

The railroad is divided into some 100 blocks which are controlled by a dispatcher in the "tower" above the layout.  As many as ten trains may be in operation at any one time, each controlled via walk-around throttles.  Each town is provided with a local turnout control panel so engineers can handle their own switching moves within town limits.  The overhead panel indicates the location of all trains via "twin T" is constructed of screen wire and plaster over open grid benchmark.  Both cork bark and plaster casting are utilized to represent rock formations.  However, actual rock slabs are use in those ares where scenery extends to floor level.

The club avoids pegging the railroad scenically or operationally to any particular era or locale due to the diverse modeling interests of our members.  Thus, both vintage steam and modern diesels operate in harmony on the SH&W.

As those of you who read the "Bulletin" know, the Redford Model Railroad Club is the home of "Thumbs" and his creator, Milt Moore.  As you also know from Milt's Cartoons, we try to keep "Thumps" at a safe distance from the layout as much as possible.  However, we have been know to let MIlt loose on the scenery and backdrops from time to time.  Thus, may examples of Milt's humor may be found cleverly concealed around the layout. In fact, the extra careful observer may even find a likeness of "Thumbs" himself hidden out there among the rocks and foliage.  By the way, Milt also designed the original track plan at this layout.

Our Future Plans

Future plans for the club include completion of the scenery and the building of a narrow gauge branch line.  Also, a permanent dispatch panel is under construction which will feature digital readout of cab control and block assignments.  This system will also provide interface capability for computer control of power routing function at a future date.  Also stated for the future is completer trackside signaling integrated into the track detection/dispatch electronic systems.

Sand Hill and Western Railroad

In 1985 CONRAIL,  as part of their rationalization of track, decided to make the route around the southern side of Lake Erie - their main line between the east and Chicago. Trackage in Canada between Detroit and Buffalo, including the Detroit Windsor Tunnel would be sold to the highest bidder.

The Detroit Windsor Tunnel was jointly purchased by the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific and jointly run as the Canadian Southern Railroad.

In 1992, Canadian National, now known as Canadian National North America, decided to dig a new tunnel between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario on the joint Canadian National and the Grand Truck Western direct main line between Toronto and Chicago.  This tunnel would be large enough to accept all traffic currently on the rails of North America and foreseen in the future, to include double stacks.

Due to the expenditure of the amount necessary to enlarge the Port Huron Tunnel, Canadian National North America (CNNA) was not interested in enlarging the Detroit River Tunnel as that would not really help them but it would help Canadian Pacific.  This caused a political uproar in the Detroit area.

Due to the possibility of conflict of interest and to settle the political problems, it was decided to sell the old CN double track mainline between Windsor, Ontario and London Ontario, to include their share in the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. The affected Class One Railroad in the Detroit area went in together to purchase the CN property and renamed it the Sand Hill & Western Railroad for a segment of the original line. The Detroit Windsor Tunnel was enlarged to accommodate double stacks and auto racks.

Western (Tunnel) Yard is located in Windsor and sits beside the main line as it exits from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  Sand Hill & Western is a spur track located East of Windsor in an area known for it's casting sand and is used by the auto plants in the Detroit and Windsor Area for casting engine blocks.  All on-line switching is performed by the Sand Hill & Western while the Class Ones use it as a bridge line to get to Toronto.  The Sand Hill & Western also connects with the Essex Terminal at Windsor and is used by GMDD at London to ship new and rebuilt locomotives.


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