The Pretoria Model Train Club was founded in 1995 by a group of modellers: Charles van Rooyen, Terence Marx, Hans Sturgeon and Pierre Jacobson who saw the need for an organised model railway club in Pretoria. Amazingly, the founding members got together after Terrence had placed an advertisement in the 'Junk Mail', a specialist classified type newspaper, distributed in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
After an initial meeting between the founders, the need for a club was confirmed and the decision was made to get started. After some discussions about the name, PMT was chosen. The name was not only chosen to give the club it's identity, but also due to the fact that we are a dual medium club and wanted initials that was the same in both Afrikaans (Pretoria Model Trein klub) and English (Pretoria Model Train Club) languages. From the outset it was decided that the Club would be modular in it's form. A set of standards, as used by another club in Johannesburg, EMRIG (Eastern Modular Railways Interest Group) was adopted, with minor changes for use by PMT's module builders. By modules we mean that members build tables which have common connecting points for the tracks and power so that the tables can be joined together at meetings to form a layout.
Most of the information that gets circulated in the Club is done through the PMT Signal, the Club's magazine and the Semaphore, our bi-monthly newsletter. In it we publish all kinds of information that is read in magazines and on the Internet. About 40% of the material published, is original material by the members themselves.
In late 2005, our then chairman, Johan Voordewind, saw the possibility of converting the store room we used to store our modules, into a proper club room with a static layout. He immediately began negotiations, and by early 2006, all has been agreed, and we had full use of the store room. We installed a proper heat insulating ceiling, and member Gustav de Villiers, donated an air conditioning unit to the club. The building of the modules started in 2007. This was followed by laying of the tracks in 2008. The bus wiring was then completed and drop wires was added to the DCC line (B) so that it could be operational for the 14th South African National Model Railway Convention held from the 23 - 27 September 2009
The club started off slowly. increasing modules at a snail's pace. We presently have about 60m (180') of mainline track per line (we have 2 lines, an A and B line) or about 120m (360') total. This does not include any of the other 3 major yards usually set up. We are privileged that almost all of our modules are completely sceniced and detailed. In the longer holidays we regularly fill the school hall of the John Vorster Technical High School in Rietfontein with our layout. This hall is roughly 17m x 13m (50' x 40')!
No limit is placed on the number of modules that each person can own. PMT encourages everybody to build at least one module just so that they can experience the thrill of creating a miniature world of their own and so that the Club can discover which members have any special modelling skills.
Once a member has done the initial work on his module, i.e. the track and the wiring, he has to bring the module to the club so that it can be placed into the layout and the Technical Committee can evaluate it's performance. Although the Technical Committee has the final say, input is usually given by the club members concerning the new modules so that the builder is given further encouragement to complete the project. Comments about the modules under construction are generally favourable as what is said about another's module will most certainly be said about yours later on.
After the first test run and assuming that the module gets the Technical Committee's approval, the builder is not allowed to bring the module until it's 75% completed and all the ground cover has been put on. Items such as buildings can be left for later.
All modules that were in use have now been modified for new yard use or have been stripped and scrapped to be replaced by new format modules as specified under module Specs
OPERATIONS AND CONTROL
The club is open for members to come and run their trains. At normal days, no CTC or any scheduling is done. Every once in a while, we do have a proper operating session during which we try and run the traditionally faster running trains on the A-line and the slower trains on the B-line for ease of control.
The club has not bound itself by a specific theme or railway and therefore one might find American, Continental and South African trains running on the same track through different scenes and locations. This approach of course allows us to accommodate a wide spectrum of model railway enthusiasts in the club.
PMT uses both a normal DC system and a DCC system. After some proper trials and tests we have purchased an Aristocraft Train Control system and have found it to work very well during our sessions. The system uses a base station connected to the track, and 2 wireless handheld throttles to control power to the layout. Initially this was all we had, and one throttle controlled one line.
In 2001 PMT made a bold move, and purchased a Digitrax set. Although the ultimate would be to have the complete layout under DCC, it is not practical as not all our members are able to afford the initial cost to convert to DCC, and the club must of course provide facilities to all its members. Quite a few members in the club have however converted to DCC. It was decided that only the B-line will be converted to enable digital control, but it must be switched so that trains can be operated on DC if there is no members using the Digital line.
On the fixed layout we are at present using Roco DCC. It unfortunately has the disadvantage of having tethered controllers. Smart phones have also been used on both Roco and Digitrax systems via router and JMRI.
PMT used to host an annual Flea Market during the October meeting, and it was always well attended by both exhibitors, traders and potential clients. The popularity has grown so much since its inception, that we currently have a flea market 4 times a year!. These are very well attended by both buyers and sellers, and bargains are regularly discovered here.
PMT does not normally travel with it's modules, as they get damaged, and it is often difficult to arrange transport for the modules to and from events. However, occasionally we do, and one of our previous exhibitions was held at a church, and although there is nothing unusual about this, it is our belief that the fact that the layout was set up inside the church and in front of the pulpit must be a first for South Africa if not in the world and we would like to hear from other clubs about their unusual exhibitions and/or meetings.
We also try to keep our members active, by having frequent workshops and visits to various railway related places. These outings and workshops are usually well attended. We have had the privilege to visit the SPOORNET driver training facility, taking a ride in their state of the art train simulator, and we have arranged many trips through the maintenance work shops. We have also been to the biggest hump yard in the southern hemisphere, at Sentra Rand in Gauteng.
Several of our members have put their various skills into practice and have come up with a variety of scratch built items such as locomotives, rolling stock, scenery accessories and structures, and one stands amazed at the skills available in the club. Click over to our 'Club Photos' pages, and see for your self!
Watch this space for more info and pictures about the Pretoria Model Train Club, which is growing in members and trains.
Kind PMT regards!
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