After 19 years of faithful service to the public, the Belen Model Railroad Club (BMRC) will close the doors of the newly constructed permanent layout within the Harvey House Museum on November 26, 2014.
We will attempt to keep parts of the layout open as long as possible, but we must be out of the Harvey House by January 30, 2015.
Please be patient as we work on a new permanent location to continue serving the public.
Currently our 20 x 36 foot modular layout is set up in the big display room of the Harvey House Museum in Belen, NM, through Saturday, November 1.
During the week the modular layout is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 12:30 to 3:30 pm.
We invite you to stop by for one last look at our layouts and share your interest in railroading.
You can track our progress at
as we attempt to find a new home and continue serving the public.
President, BMRC ( email: BMRC.President@gmail.com )
The Belen Model Railroad Club opened its doors to the public in 1995 as a permanent display.
The BMRC designed several rooms in the Harvey House that “… recreate the Santa Fe Railway’s route through Valencia County, from Abo Canyon in the east to Mt. Taylor in the west. There is even a miniature Harvey House beside the depot. All of this is possible with the help of many dedicated docents under the leadership of award-winning museum director Maurine McMillan. Often called the ultimate Harvey Girl, McMillan has served as the director, first with Julie Van Valen, and, since 2000, on her own.”
– The Belen Harvey House and Its Several Reincarnations, 1910-2010, Richard Melzer.
A Little BMRC History
Building a Partnership with the Harvey House
and the Original Model Train Layout, 1995–2005
The Belen Model Railroad Club (BMRC) has had a partnership with the Belen Harvey House since 1995. The BMRC started as an HO DC modular club.
- HO stands for the size of the trains and means 1/87 scale.
- DC stands for direct current.
- Modular club: In this type of club, each member builds an 8-foot by 3-foot or 4-foot by 3-foot model train layout (module) with track and scenery. Each module is made to national model-railroad specifications so that wherever the module goes it will connect to other modules.
The original BMRC members would travel to different locations and assemble their modules to form a continuous layout for the trains to run. Sometime in 1995, the BMRC was asked to display a modular model train layout at the Harvey House.
The Administrators of the Harvey House, as well as the Administrators of the City of Belen, were so impressed with the modular layout that they asked BMRC if we would consider building and maintaining a permanent model train layout at the Harvey House. The BMRC agreed and a partnership was formed.
The City and the BMRC agreed that the City would lease three rooms on the southwest corner of the Harvey House to the BMRC on a five-year lease at no cost to the club as long as the model train layout was open to the public during the same hours that the Harvey House was open.
Through the years, the lease agreement was renewed and this partnership evolved into a community service program that benefited all citizens. There was never a charge for the public to view the model train layouts or to ask questions on the history of the railroad or the Harvey House. Donations were accepted.
The Club was fortunate in that its members were railroad employees, electrical contractors, general contractors, locksmiths, plumbers, you name it. The club members were qualified to do any type of work. This was a benefit to the club and to the Harvey House as well as to the City of Belen.
Because funds from the City of Belen were limited, and because both the Harvey House and the BMRC funds were from donations, limited dollars were available for repairs. The club members donated time and material upon request to maintain the Harvey House. Maurine McMillan, who was the director at the time, had a close working relationship with the BMRC members so that whatever Maurine wanted, Maurine got. She was such an experienced administrator that she got things done.
Building the New Model Train Layout, 2005–2010
It came to pass that the BMRC’s original 1995 layout did not meet the new ADA requirements for accessibility for the handicapped. The existing layout would have to be torn down and a new one built. There was not enough room for this to take place in the originally occupied three rooms.
Ronnie Torres, who was the Mayor of Belen at that time, suggested that the Club accept a fourth room on the west side of the Harvey House to build a new layout that would meet ADA requirements.
The design for the new ADA-compliant layout started in 2005 and construction started in 2006. The Belen Art League agreed to paint a mural with a panoramic view of the surrounding New Mexico landscape on the walls of this “new room.” The BMRC paid for the materials and the League donated their time to paint this mural.
Since all the labor was volunteer and all the costs had to be paid from donations, it took four years and thousands of volunteer hours to complete the layout. The cost of the new layout was in excess of $17,000.00.
Every visitor marveled at the authenticity of the model; everything was built to 1/87 scale. The scenes included the original Belen train station, the Harvey House, the Belen railroad yard, and much more.
Out with the Old, In with More New:
Revamping the 3 “Old Rooms”
After the new layout was up and running, the original layout was demolished. The Club built a revised layout that not only used the three original rooms but also tunneled into the new layout to give over 800 linear feet of track. This was all completed over a one-and-a-half year period and, when it was completed, all the layouts and rooms met ADA requirements.
Because the model trains were now run in four rooms, cameras and monitors were installed so the volunteer operator could control all the trains in all the rooms from one work station. The total cost for the rebuilt layout in the three rooms was about $2,000.00.
Aside from the permanent layout, the BMRC sets up a modular display in the big room of the Harvey House twice a year. This enables the club members to show off their modules and usually includes different scenes each time it is set up.
The BMRC is responsible for maintaining a rail yard and yard entrance for the members to assemble their trains. At the end of the Modular show in November 2013, BMRC members determined that the yard and entrance modules were worn out and needed to be replaced. Money, materials, and labor were solicited during the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.
A new yard and entrance modules were built in 2014 with all-new materials at a cost of $3,100.00. That new yard, entrance, and a modular display are currently in operation in the big room of the Harvey House through November 1st. The modular display is open to the public whenever the Harvey House is open.
In the past we were open to groups that requested a special time, but now we are not allowed to do that unless an employee of the City is in attendance. We have been told that there is no money that allows this extra attendance. It should be noted that there is only one employee of the City of Belen who works at the Harvey House. It is our understanding that this employee only works 20 hours per week. All other Museum staff are volunteers.
On October 10, 2014, the officers of the Belen Model Railroad Club were called to a meeting at the Belen Public Library with Ronnie Torres, Julie Cervantes, and Leona Vigil, all City of Belen employees. There the BMRC was informed that the City was invoking the 30-day cancellation clause of the lease agreement and that the Club had thirty days to vacate the premises. As to why, after a nineteen-year partnership, the City has decided to evict the BMRC, only the City knows the true answer.
Looking to the Future, 2015–????
The BMRC will survive, but we are in need of a place to build a new layout where we would be open to the public. This will take time as it took us almost six years to complete the last layout. We are hoping that the people and businesses that donated to building the existing layout will also assist us in building the new layout.
What we stress is that we are a volunteer organization serving the public as a community service and that we do not charge for our services.
We are registered with the Federal Government as a 501C-3 organization. We provide the general public with access to our layouts in order to share our interest and collective knowledge of model railroading and railroading history.