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Last updated Dec 22, 2018
In the fall of 1974, with the encouragement of Jim Fitzgerald, originator of NTRAK,
Gil Gerretsen sought to start an NTRAK group in Calgary. With the help of Hans Madsen of Hobby West, who introduced several local N-scalers to Gil, group discussions started about forming a club. The group called itself Cantrak Calgary.
In the spring of 1975 the group decided to build a display layout based on the CPR’s Spiral Tunnels at Field, B.C with both ends being compatible with NTRAK. In October of 1975 the Cal-O-Rail club offered space to build the layout and the club was formally organized. Gil left the club for work in Winnipeg about this time. A new club, the Cantrak Society of Model Railroaders, was formed in the spring of 1976 with Don Churches as President.
The Spiral Tunnels layout was designed by John Hoggard and consisted of two modules each seven and a half feet long by three feet wide. All track and switches on the layout were hand laid using code 55 rail. The mountain scenery was made of plaster using different rock moulds to create the many rock faces on the layout. Hundreds of hand-made trees completed the award-winning landscape.
The layout was first displayed, although not yet completely finished, at the Calgary area model train show in 1977. During the next ten years Cantrak displayed the Spiral Tunnels layout at the annual train show, and at the 1979 NMRA Rail-Rodeo Convention in Calgary and the 1983 NMRA Convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was at the Winnipeg convention that the club won the NMRA's “best module display in show” award.
The club formally incorporated as a Society in Alberta in 1981 under the name of Cantrak Society of Model Railroaders. The club had grown from a small group in the mid 1970’s to a large club by the mid 1980’s. In 1983 the club decided to start building transportable modules which interfaced with the Spiral Tunnels to grow the club's layout.
The club moved into a new layout and meeting space in Palliser Square in 1984 and remained there until 1991 when the club lost its home under the Husky Tower. The loss of this space meant club modules now needed to be stored at members' homes. The Spiral Tunnels layout was abandoned at this time as it was suffering continual damage to its delicate plaster terrain features and was heavy, awkward, and difficult to move and store.
The club then started building smaller two foot by four foot individual member modules, based on the NTRAK standard, but with two main lines. These new modules could be put together during shows to form a large layout, similar to the NTRAK concept.
In 1994 the club moved into a warehouse on Centre Street South and remained there for about two years before moving again, in 1997, to a space in the Burns Building.
In 1999 the club moved again, into the basement of a warehouse on 10 Street Southwest.
Two years later the club was homeless again and, for a time, meetings were held at the home of the late Chris Michiels, who was the club’s president.
In 2002 the club was stricken from the register of Alberta Societies as annual reports were no longer being submitted to the government as required. For the next several years meetings were held at the home of Selwyn Morris who had become the president. Selwyn also had the pleasure of storing much of the clubs equipment and modules.
In 2006, with the advancement of digital command control, the club made the decision to adopt DCC and converted the inner main line to use it. The outer mainline remained analog DC. The first DCC trains, using MRC’s Prodigy Advanced DCC system, operated on the layout during the 2008 Calgary SuperTrain show.
The use of wireless DCC was attempted at the 2012 Calgary SuperTrain show but it proved problematic. After sending our master controller to MRC for service we tried wireless DCC once again, this time at Heritage Park’s Railway Days 2012. The system worked flawlessly.
The club acquired two return loop modules and we have used them since then as they avoid the need for a duck under to enter the inside of the layout. This saved our aching backs and knees but it meant that DCC is now used on both main lines as they are no longer electrically isolated. The club has been 100% DCC ever since. Doug Forrester, owner of Eastridge Hobbies, offered his excess warehouse space as a place to meet and store stuff. Meetings were also held at the Eastridge store for several years.
In 2014 the club decided to re-incorporate as the Calgary N-Scale Traksters Society and celebrated by entering our largest layout ever, 34 feet by 34 feet, in the Calgary SuperTrain show. At this time, long-time member David Bates offered his home and garage as a place to meet and store things.
Our display at the 2015 Calgary SuperTrain show set a new record for the club, both in the number of modules set up and the quality of our presentation. Being the club’s fortieth year of operation, we expended extra effort in creating new modules and signage, painting the back drop sky boards and keeping our display space clean and orderly. We were rewarded with the scale second runner up prize.
In 2016 we upped our game yet again with a few new modules and new signage for the Calgary SuperTrain show. Our show manager, John Ambrose, worked hard to get all in shape and we were rewarded with the scale first runner up prize, a great accomplishment considering the very stiff competition.
The year 2017 saw even more new modules and changes to others for the Calgary SuperTrain show. Members focused on selling N-scale to anyone who would listen.
As we enter 2018 the club is focused on replacing the two old return loop modules with new ones. We’ve also started to experiment with MRC’s wifi control system which will allow each member to use their smartphone to control trains instead of using a wireless controller. Initial results look promising.