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TMRC Trolley History


There has been a MITCo at TMRC since about 1954. All MITCo systems have featured hand-laid track, and operational overhead trolley wire. The streetcars get their electricity from the pole running on the wire, run it through the motors, and return it through the wheels to the rails -- just like the real thing.

The First MITCo 1953-1958

The first MITCo system was built by Charles Robinson and David Berkowitz. The track they built was the first hand-laid track at TMRC, until that time all the trackwork had been Tru-Scale products, which featured rails pre-spiked to a wooden roadbed with milled ties.

Map of First MITCo

The track plan featured loop to loop operation serving the passenger yard area. An interurban line went over the Valley and Plains division of the TNP, terminating in a wye.

This flyover track was still in service in 1979 when the original TMRC was dismantled for the move to building N52. At that point, it was the only visible brass rail on the layout, all other visible track being laid with Nickel-Silver rail. It was code 70 rail, an unusually small size to be using in the 1950's.

Overall View of First MITCo

This is an overall view of the first MITCo in 1958. (These first five photographs are by Charles Robinson.) You are looking straight down the main street track. The elevated passenger yard is on the right, the freight yard is on the left. In the background, you can see the track over the Valley and Plains Division in the background, with the bridge marked MITCo. The level of scenery is typical for TMRC in this era.

First MITCo Loop

This is a view of the loop at the end of the line. The track passes under the lead of the passenger yard to get here. The streetcar on the far left is on the track to the flyover.

First MITCo Downtown Loop

This is a view of the downtown loop area. The streetcar is coming out from underneath the passenger yard loop. To the right of the streetcar is one of the two diamond crossings betwen the trolley line and the main line. These were the source of much mischief on the part of the trolley operators, and much anger by mainline operators whose delicate steam locomotives smashed into the cast metal streetcars!

First MITCo Passing Siding First MITCo Passing Siding

These are views of the passing siding in the middle of the main street of MITCo. The passenger yard is on the left in the first photo, and in the background of the second photo.

Second MITCo Main Street 1958-1982

The downtown street portion of MITCo was rebuilt after it was warped and damaged by a fire sprinkler failure in February 1958. The new track was not straight like the first one. It had many bends, both horizontal and vertical. Most of the street never had land added on either side, to mention buildings. The primary building was the Gifford City passenger station, built by Andy Miller. Derailments could be fatal, as they would lead to a 42 inch trip to the floor.

Gifford City Station on Hilly Main

This 1976 view shows the main street passing Gifford City Station. Note the open pits on the front left, and across the street from the station.

Gifford City

In this 1979 view, you can see that scraps of plywood have been added to make more land along Main Street. The same passenger yard that was there in 1958 is still there, but now with the "Great Wall of Gifford City" holding it up.

Pettengill Circle 1965-1997

H. Clark Frazier designed and built a new city loop and carbarn ladder for MITCo, which came to be known as Pettengill Circle. This eliminated the diamond crossings of the mainline. It incorporated a large yard along the interurban track, which eventually got a freight interchange with the TNP mainline. The overhead wire for this loop was built by Dana Pettengill.

In the last picture in the previous section, you can see Pettengill Circle on the right, behind the Passenger yard loop track.

Pettengill Circle

In this 1979 view of Pettengill circle, the power plant is on the far left, the pentagonal building is Pettengill Circle Pharmacy, behind it is the carbarn built by Alex Bardow, and the rightmost building is Page Dairy, named for Dana's future wife Nancy Page. To the far right is the wye connecting the loop to the interurban line and the interchange yard. The tracks to the power plant are served off the interchange yard.

The carbarn trackwork was always problematic. Many of the switches were laid right on top of a major joint of three squares of the original four-foot benchwork grid this part of the layout was built on, leading to serious instability of the roadbed underneath the rails.

Pettengill Circle

In this 1986 photograph taken for the Railroad Model Craftsman article on TMRC, you see a more scenic Pettengill circle. The building behind the power plant on the left is the Lone Star Cinema building, which was a hollow building around the access hole on that side of the street. The track in front of the carbarn was paved with hand-carved cobblestones by James VanBokkelen. Some of the buildings in the distance are not in their normal places, they have been placed on the mainline to fill in the background for the photo shoot, along with a blue backdrop.

Third MITCo Main Street 1982-1997

When the Gifford City passenger yard and station were moved to room 20E-220 in 1982, the old MITCo city street system was rendered out-of-place. The new passenger yard loop track was built to higher standards on three-quarter inch plywood, so having track on the far side of it was no longer possible due to low clearance.

MITCo in 1982

This photo shows the hobbled MITCo in 1982, with the new Passenger Yard in 20E-220 on the left. The main street track no longer passes under the P-Yard loop, you can see some remains of the trolley loop in front of it. There is temporary track behind the loop that connects to a former stub track in the interchange yard. The streetcar line at this time was a giant loop, rather than the prior loop-to-loop operation. In the foreground is the three-track mainline (replacing the former four-track mainline), with the interurban track built by Charles Robinson in 1958 behind it.

MITCo Trackwork in 1984

This photo shows track construction progress in April 1984, taken the day of the Spring open house. The new connection to the interchange yard on the right has been retained, with a new wye added at this end of the yard. The track behind the Telephone tower building is active, along with one leg of the wye, allowing MITCo to run as a giant loop. The track on the far side of the loop has not been completed yet, it was still an active project by John Shriver.

The sheet of plywood with this loop was removed from the layout when it was torn down in 1997, and moved to the new layout. Almost all of the track on this loop is in use on the new layout. The switch on the left was removed, as the Main Street from that point is now double-track. The wye was devolved into the double-track spur off the edge of the layout. The switch off the back side of the loop, which then connected to the interurban track, now is used by the single-track spur off the edge of the layout.

New Loop in 1985

In this 1985 view, the trackwork is complete, as are many of the buildings around the 105th and 106th Street loop. This view is looking across the interchange yard from room 20E-220. These buildings can be seen on the loop on today's MITCo.

New Loop in 1986

In this 1986 view, the paving of the street is complete, and the sidewalks are in, but the trolley poles and wire have not been installed yet. Again, the buildings around the loop are even more complete.


As seen before, the original Charles Robinson MITCo had an interurban line that passed over the TNP mainline to what came to be known as North Bassex. In 1956, this was named BITCo, which stands for Bassex Industrial Terminal Company.

First BITCo, About 1965-1988

The track in North Bassex (but not the trackwork over the mainline) was replaced in the mid-1960s by a complicated industrial freight area designed by Clark Frazier, and mostly built by Bruce Bardes. It was a weaving mass of freight trackwork, party in street, partly off-street. It served numerous industrial buildings, with some spurs going into or under buildings. There was also a multiple-track passenger station, with a wye for turning equipment.

The track design was very nice. The scenery and buildings never really caught up with the trackwork, so it always looked rather raw. The track itself was all code 70, with minimal to no guard rails, much in pavement. The trackwork wasn't very precise, and the lack of guard rails with pavement led to very derailment-prone track. There was a diamond crossing between two spur tracks that was just unusably bad.

BITCO Overall View 1979

This 1979 picture above gives an overall view of BITCo. The passenger terminal is on the left, with the wye in the foreground. The industrial trackwork extends back from there. The passenger terminal, the Digital Widgets building on the left and the Coca Bubblie plant on the right were the only complete buildings for many years.

Access to the track was a big problem. Access to the track was partly from theedge of the layout, and partly from three different access holes. The primary access hole was the operator's position, hidden behind the Digital Widgets building. It was excruciatingly small, about 16 by 20 inches, not really a problem if you had a youthful 32 inch waist, but quite unpleasant if you swollen to a 42 inch waist. The throttle was mounted on the bottom edge of the access hole, the block toggles were under the layout just within reach.

Tiny Access Hole for BITCo, 1982

This 1982 photo shows a view of BITCo looking from the windows across the operator's access hole. You can see the track plan hanging in the hole. To the left of Coca Bubblie is the aluminum frame of a building that remained in that state for probably 20 years, which came to be informally known as the aluminum plant. The brick walls sat on top of the building until windows were finally created, and the walls glued on.

Operators generally only used the track that they could reach from that access hole, as having the equipment stall out of reach, or derail, was just too hard to deal with.

View of BITCo and Layout, 1982

This is another view on the same day in 1982. BITCo is in the foreground, and you can see all three of the access holes. You can see the fourth track of the four-track mainline cut off. To the right at the lowest level is the Doxsee Spider, a track area so named because eight different tracks converged on a six-inch long peice of straight track. To the right of that is window siding, also known as Burns hill.

Overhead wire never reached all the track in BITCo. It served the main track, the passenger terminal, and the run-around track. So an electric locomotive could haul over a block of cars from the interchange yard, but local switching had to use a small diesel locomotive.

Second BITCo, About 1988-1997

The second BITCo was built by John Purbrick. It was designed to be operated from the edge of the layout, and was built about the time the angle of the classification yard of the frieght yard next door was changed, both allowing the operator to walk further "into" the layout. It provided a simpler passenger terminal, and a much simpler set of freight tracks. While it was less complicated and rich than the original BITCo, it was much more practical with walk-in access from the edge of the layout. It was made possible the re-orientation of the ladder tracks for the frieght yard.

Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
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