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MIT Building 20

TMRC first arrived at MIT's Building 20 in 1948, within two years after its foundation in 1946. TMRC began its history in building 20 with a double bay in 20E-216/18. The club's popularity prompted MIT to soon allow the use of 20E214 also (around 1950), first as a meeting room, and later as Tuckerton. This space, about 900 ft sq, came to be a national attraction for model railroaders, both for its beautiful scenery and its automated control system.

Building 20 Picture Over the years TMRC grew to become more than just a model railroading place. Setting the mood for future activities housed in Building 20, TMRC became a place of engineering; creativity inundated the place to such a level that the term hacking was created by TMRC members. TMRCies (TMRC members) soon learned to "hack" electronic and mechanical devices to help their purposes. The practice to make things do what you need, even if they were not designed for it (a hack) became part of MIT's culture.

Entrance to 20E As time passed, the club grew in popularity, since it was one of the few places where MIT students could build and design electronic projects without having to turn in a lab report for it! The word about TMRC soon got out to companies such as Digital Equipment and Western Electric. In the early 60's Prof. Carlton E Tucker (one of the club's long time advisor) facilitated the club with several surplus WECo (Wester Electric Co.) equipment. Later on, WECo gave materials directly to TMRC. From 1963 to 1966 all these donations were hacked into "System 2." This was truly a hack, since the donations were mainly telephone relays and cross-bars, usually pre-wired for telephone operation! TMRC members unwired them and made them become the first automatic advance system of a model railroad! With only one major failure ever reported in the history of System 2, it can be said that System 2 is indeed the oldest hack still around! You can see it today in the new clubroom - operating Phase 1 of the new layout!

Since TMRCies were known for their creativity and ingenuity Digital was kind enough to donate to TMRC the first PDP 11 to appear at MIT; this made the Club the first MIT student group to ever have a computer! Soon TMRCies combined the operation of WECo's donations and Digital's PDP 11 to create cab assignment and switching though the computer. The computer also allowed the implementation of 'phone operation' - that is, switches could be thrown via the telephone system within the club room! (This phone system, to be named MaRoto, was also a TMRC customized item.)

When TMRC gained so much popularity and as student groups became more important to the administration, TMRC was allocated more space in the adjacent room. MIT assigned TMRC 20E-220. This room allowed the Club to create Gifford City passenger station. Gifford City is a part of the layout which can be seen today Lantern in Building 20 in the new room (N52-118 still under construction). This was the final configuration of TMRC at building 20. With this long strip of bays the club was able to build a layout which was featured in the magazine Model Railroaded in the 80's; the revolutionary control system has been reviewed by many others since its creation.

TMRC had the fortune to be in Building 20. While there, the club gained from the creative atmosphere of the building; while there, the club was able to pass that kind of atmosphere on to future groups. Even after leaving Building 20 TMRC continues to practice what they learned there, promising to preserve the legacy of Building 20 to its maximum. We hope that TMRC was able to give Building 20 as much as we got.

Today you can find the Club at N52-118 . We are hard at work constructing a new layout which will someday be as great as the old one!

TMRC Members since 1946

The most important part of TMRC are its members. The layout in Building 20 would had been nothing without them. We have a page listing all the TMRC members since 1946! This page is a big Thank You to all those who have made TMRC such an incredible place!

More Information on Building 20

MIT's EECS Department held a special ceremony to celebrate Building 20. It occurred March 26-27, 1998. Please visit EECS's Building 20 Web-page for more information on this ceremony.

You can also see a photo spread in The Tech taken just before the last open house held in Building 20.

Live Presentation

During the ceremony TMRC gave a presentation of its new layout in N52-118. We had a live Internet broadcast of the presentation. You may see this broadcast with REAL Player 5.0. Then go to the our live presentation page and view the saved presentation!

Also, you can now see (New 6/29/98) a copy of the PowerPoint(r) presentation in the WWW. We have a full copy of the presentation in this site.


Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
MIT Room N52-118
265 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

+1 617 253-3269
x3-3269 (on campus)
Email: tmrc-web@mit.edu
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