Where Did We Come From?

The Railway Museum began in the mid-1990s and has a heritage that dates to a group known by the name of “Lauderdale Shore Lines” (LSL). This was an organization that had built a couple of exceptional layouts in the Ft. Lauderdale area, but was unfortunately forced into moving several times in Broward County. It was not of any fault of their own, property rates were also an issue back then and dues only go so far. But, through all the moves they remained committed to acquiring a permanent location, to build that permanent layout, of which there have been a few.

Luckily for the group, one of its primary members had an association with the JM Moran family which held a prominent position in the Deerfield Beach community. Through him, the thought of acquiring space within the Deerfield Beach railroad station became a reality. The station only had one tenant, AMTRAK and the south end of the station was unoccupied, unused and a perfect spot for that permanent layout. So, with their steadfast perseverance of staying in one place, they gained access to the station in 1994. A windfall, because just four years before moving in and setting up shop, the station was recognized as a National Historic Site, it was protected.

A bit about the heritage of the station, it was built in 1926 and originally constructed for the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Seaboard selected this site because of the largely agricultural area that once was, almost at the end of the line mid-stop before reaching Miami. Seaboard hired architect Gustav Maass of the architectural firm Harvey & Clarke and designed it in the Mediterranean Revival style. Mediterranean Revival is a mix of Arabic, French, Italian, and Spanish influences, both Colonial and Revival. The construction, of Orange Block and Stucco with barrel roof tiles and with an open-air freight dock was and are unique. The station is one of a series of stations of the same architectural style, from West Palm Beach to Homestead, Florida. In 2026, we will celebrate a centennial to the longevity of the station.

The LSL gained access and began to plan the empire, but during the interim, they constructed modules and utilized them while the planning continued. They also changed their name from LSL to SFRM, another letter added to an acronym, but with a more focused name that described the purpose of the organization. The modules were present for a few years and the final layout plan was a reality and construction began about 1997. The design plan was to model the areas from Miami to Jacksonville, but the plan had some drawbacks, mostly available space and opposing personal ideas. After some false starts and a few stops and some acquired temporary layouts, an operating layout was devised as a showpiece for an upcoming national event. The event was the National NMRA Convention of 2002, but it was short-lived, for after the event the parameters within the museum changed. The national convention was the paramount moment of the old guard, once it was over, they moved on.

Through the years, even the last twenty, the museum has had a few changes in direction, focus, and leadership. Our direction is gauged to instruct the youth in the hobby of model railroading as well as the history of the country’s railroads. Our junior members are the future of the place and we try to influence them as to the importance of railroad history and what its future holds. Also, we teach the benefits of the modeling hobby, the mechanics, the electronics, and the operations of today’s models. Much has changed in the focus of the museum, from an organization that looked for a benefactor to one that has become a benefactor. We attempt to assist when we can those fledgling organizations to become what they wish to become.

Our leadership is intent on helping as we can, we remain a member of the Sunshine Region of the NMRA and we have provided an award to those organizations that are within the region. The Kempner Award, named after Marvin Kempner, the man who got us into the station, is issued to an organization annually that promotes the hobby of model railroading. We have hosted two regional conventions, 2004 and 2008 as well as the national NMRA convention in 2002 held in Ft. Lauderdale, all of them with success.

The two layouts today, one in HO scale 1:87 representing the Appalachians, follow no specific prototype other than coal-hauling roads. Prominent are the Chesapeake & Ohio, Norfolk & Western, Pennsylvania, New York Central, and some Clinchfield, but there is everything represented on any given day from Aberdeen & Rockfish to Union RR. The layout is comprised of three levels. Tunnels, bridges, and rocky topography are the main themes. The other, an N scale 1:160 layout represents in a freelanced fashion, typical Florida landscapes. It is a one-level layout; unfortunately, Florida is flat thus the layout is also, but with scenes that typify Florida, urban development, waterfront, orange groves, and aggregates. Both layouts are operational with DCC control and both remain unfinished, because layouts are never finished, so they are both works in progress.

To follow the guise of a museum we display the history of railroading with artifacts and equipment, from maintenance tools and machines, dispatching route controls, to the signaling of routes. We have larger items on display, a CTC console, a signal head, switch stands, baggage cart, and speeder. We also have a fair collection of railroad-specific lanterns, tools of the trade, and railroadiana. We have a fine collection of pole insulators with explanations of their use and importance.

So, this is how we got here and who we are, in the future, we hope that you will visit and see our accomplishments over these past 20 years.

Bob Leonard, President