Jersey Central N-trak History
Jersey Central Ntrak is very proud of our nearly 20 year history.
The forming of the club
It all started in 1994 at the former Colts Neck Hobby Shop. Two men, having both been members of other local train clubs, discussed the possibility of forming an Ntrak club in the central New Jersey region. They liked the Ntrak concept of portable layouts consisting of standard modules on public display instead of the “in the Basement” hidden permanent layout of the traditional model railroad club. With nothing more than word-of-mouth recruiting, three people joined and the fledgling club was established with three officers: president-for-life, vice president and Ntrak standards chief.
The early years
During the next few months this group of 5 worked to build and establish the club. First it was decided to build specialized club modules to be the foundation of any layout. This tradition continues today with the club now owning over a dozen modules. Together with individually built modules, the mobile layout was born. The club decided on a plan of action:
- Soliciting show venues
- Started a membership drive through local hobby shops
- Adopted the Central Railroad of New Jersey Liberty Herald as the central theme of the club logo.
- Found a meeting place at the Oakhurst United Methodist Church.
This work paid off with their first display being held at the Little Silver Train Station for a New Jersey Transit event. That December, a second venue was added at the Ocean Grove Fire House for the station’s open house during Christmas Season. These two venues were the start of many, many train shows to come over the years.
The years from 1995 until 1999 saw our club membership roster blossom to over 15 members and several organizational changes came into effect. The first changes were the appointment of a club secretary and treasurer. Our new secretary started a monthly newsletter, maintained a member roster, and with the assistance of another club member, started our first website hosted by Geocities.com (now Yahoo.com).
By 1997 our first president and vice president left the club. A new president and vice president filled the vacant offices and we decided to adopt five annually elected club offices: president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and standards chief.
On the show venue front, we began doing two regular shows at the Yardville Firehouse. Through the efforts of our then treasurer, we also began displaying our layout at the Hazlet and Brick train shows and the annual Ocean Grove Open House held in December. Because of our local show displays and website we gained notoriety both locally and amongst our peer Ntrak clubs.
The Great Event
So, in early 1999 we were approached to become one of the four sponsoring clubs for the Edison 2000 National Ntrak Convention being held in August 2000; our biggest break-through yet! We busied ourselves with the preparation over the next 18 months. We incorporated our club as a NJ not-for-profit and worked alongside Long Island Ntrak, Northern New Jersey Ntrak, and Brooklyn Ntrak, the three other co-sponsoring clubs. Edison 2000 resulted in the world’s record largest Ntrak layout surpassing the 1996 Alexandria Ntrak Convention layout thus giving us “bragging rights” and the banner at that time. However, records were made to broken and the 2004 Chantilly National Ntrak convention took our record away only to be surpassed in 2008 by the current standing record Ntrak layout at the Louisville National Ntrak Convention. While we don’t know if that record will ever be broken, our club was at least part of those conventions. And, as a consequence of our co-sponsoring Edison 2000 not only did we add members to our club roster but, we, along with Brooklyn Ntrak, gained Greenberg train show held in Edison as a regular venue. Providing us with three yearly shows, which we still do today.
During the years after Edison 2000, there were some triumphs and challenges. We were regularly doing 8 to 9 shows per year. But after the Chantilly Convention our second president left us as his job transferred. We had changed our meeting location to his house, having moved from the Oakhurst Methodist Church, a new meeting place was required. Our first treasurer stepped up and found the club a place at the Moore’s Landing community clubhouse in Freehold. Because the clubhouse provided a decent-sized hall, we changed the yearly election of officers meeting from its former low-key event into a club bash. We put up a small Ntrak layout, played railroad videos, provided plenty of food; only briefly pausing to hold elections. This club tradition has only gotten bigger with the move to Jamesburg and the great kitchen the Church is equipped with. We have also invited members from other local Ntrak clubs to join us to make this a true party.
Our status quo was dealt a blow in late 2005 when our treasurer passed away. We managed to meet at Moore’s Landing for a while longer and were able to hold our annual club parties there for the next three years. But, again one of our members stepped up and were able to find yet another meeting place, the Buckelew House in Jamesburg, NJ. We began meeting there in 2006 as guests of the Jamesburg Historical Association and the Jamesburg Model Train Club. We had it quite good there, enjoying a nice meeting room and the use of a permanent N Scale layout. It was an 1890’s replica of the Jamesburg area built by the Jamesburg Model Railroad club and used a prop by the Historical Association.
So, we forged a partnership in Jamesburg, even doing a couple of train shows at the Jamesburg Elks Hall to raise money for our benefactor. But, as with all good things there was an end to our good fortune. In 2007 we learned that the Buckelew House was going to be closed for renovations and in April of 2008 we tore down the layout and were essentially out of a meeting place.
Present Day Jersey Central
That was until we met with the Pastor of the Jamesburg Presbyterian Church with a newly completed fellowship hall, meeting and rooms. He agreed to allow us to meet there and even joined our club! So, in 2008 the Jamesburg Presbyterian Church became our official meeting and we use the hall as a show venue to raise money for the church and for our annual club party.
Over the past few years, there have been some further changes. In 2010 our third club president stepped down, as he was forced to move for his job, thus transferring the club leadership to president number four. We decided to build several new club-owned modules consisting of new junction modules, corners, and a yard for a bigger layout foundation. Also, our club was re-incorporated as an LLC from the former and initial incorporation.
It is a now a new era for our club which has undergone several organizational and circumstantial changes but the Ntrak concept remains the same. We moved meeting places, gained and lost members and changed show venues. We have enjoyed both print and Television Media coverage over the years. But we have always been an Ntrak club holding to the Ntrak standards with a nearly 20 year history. And even more notable, what resulted from the conversation of two men, no longer club members, at a hobby shop that is long since shuttered it doors has managed to take on a life of its own. And, if you live in the Central Jersey area, you too can become part of the future history of Jersey Central Ntrak.