Short Line Model Railroad Club

Welcome to  the Short Line Model Railroad Club. The Pennsylvania – Reading Anthracite Lines has been under construction, expansion and updating for over 20 years, with many more years of fun and enjoyment in the future. We hope you enjoy our small contribution to our community to bring back the era of 1950s railroading.

The Pennsylvania – Reading Anthracite Lines operates East and West between Sunbury and Tamaqua. One of two divisions, the Shamokin Division serves Ashville, Mill Creek, Coalsburg, and a branch line serving Summit Colliery.

On the double track main line, bridge and coal traffic account for a major part of the railroad’s success and profitability. Loaded coal drags can be seen heading east to Philadelphia while empties are routed west for loading.

Other mainline services provided by the PRAL include passenger, mixed freight, local and interchange. The bustling Ashville branch runs southward from the West Coalsburg Junction to service Mill Creek, Ashville and the mine at Summit.

Our regular meeting night is every Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Membership is open to anyone 18 years of age or older after completing a probationary period. Members gain knowledge and skills on layout construction, motive power, rolling stock, trackwork, scenery, DCC controls, train operation.  Open house events show the public lots of prototypical railroad action with long freight drags and exquisite mainline passenger trains.

If you are looking for a first time job or a career move, the PRAL is now accepting applications. Remember, if you are considering a SHIFT in jobs, railroading is not a DRAG, but a SWITCH to get you on the right TRACK.

About the Club

BridgeSince its foundation in 1989, the Short Line Model Railroad Club has strived toward replicating authentic railroad operations in the 1950s with an emphasis on the railroads of Eastern Pennsylvania.  In addition to operations, a large emphasis has been placed on realistic scenery and structures.

“Sharing this hobby with other people makes it much more enjoyable,” according to Keith Bear, one of the founding members.  There are many model railroad enthusiasts who “just don’t have the space or time for a nice layout in their home, and the club offers them a chance to have one.”

Prospective members and visitors are welcome at the clubs work sessions, which are held regularly every Thursday evening between 7 and 9pm.

The Short Line Model Railroad Club is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the town of Ephrata. We are located at 11 S. State Street, Ephrata, PA. the club operates out of the basement of the building, with the entrance around back.

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The Layout

Name: Pennsylvania Reading Anthracite Lines
Founded: 1989
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 25’ x 62’
Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania (freelance)
Era: 1950’s
Style: Walk-Around
Mainline: 250 feet, double-track
Track: Code 83, 100, Hon3 – a mix of flextrack and hand-laid
Minimum Turnout: Mainline #7
Minimum Radius: 22″
Maximum Grade: 1.4%
Height: 43 – 48″
Control: DCC; Digitrax Digtial Command Control with detection
Benchwork: Mix of open girder and plywood subroadbed
Roadbed: Homasote & cork
Scenery: Hardshell


Pennsylvania-Reading Anthracite Lines (PRAL)

Crew members shuffle the logging line during an operating session.
Crew members shuffle the logging line interchange at the base of Bear Mountain.

The PRAL is the extensive, beautifully sceniced model railroad built by the Short Line Model Railroad Club.  In the summer of 2014, a small group decided to try their hand at running the PRAL as an operational railroad.  The club had not held operating sessions to any significant level over the years, so this was a ‘new to us’ venture.  As most crew members were relative rookies to operations, we were literally starting from scratch with a layout that had not been designed with operations in mind. Please note that PRAL operating sessions are restricted to club members.  If you are interested, please contact SLMRC leadership to inquire about joining our crew.


Our goals are:

  • have fun running the railroad
  • make the operations sessions fun for operators of all skill levels
  • improve our knowledge of how railroads work
  • improve our DCC skills
  • learn how to tune our motive power and rolling stock so they run really well
  • give potential members an additional reason to join the SLMRC

Once we decided to jump in, we needed a plan.  To get started, we faced five major tasks:

      1. Operations were defined as trains originating and terminating while doing some railroad work along the way.
      2. Locate the PRAL on the Pennsylvania map, ultimately choosing Hornburg (just west of Tamaqua) as the Eastern terminal (RDG and LV connections) and North Umberland (PRR connection) as our Western  terminal.
      3. Name every location and track on the layout, then post ‘good enough for now’ signage on the fascia.
      4. Develop an operational plan for the railroad.  At first we just focused on the 50′ long branch line, a few trains and a hearty crew of 4 to 6 members.  Within a few months, we greatly expanded the scope to include the 250′  double track main.  Our current plan includes mainline and branch passenger, freight and coal traffic.  Some manifest freights run
        terminal to terminal, others work local switching dropping and picking up cars along the way.  Coal traffic is very prominent.
      5. We are currently testing a car card method of managing the 180 to 240 cars that move in typical operating sessions.
Car cards identify the destination of each piece of rolling stock on the layout.
Car cards identify the destination of each piece of rolling stock on the layout.

We are now refining many of our methods and control procedures to smooth out our operations.  Our progress to date has been accomplished without physical changes to the layout, but we are now considering priority upgrades based on our experiences.  Expansion of the operational plan will allow a broader mix of possible operating options to include mainline running, local freight, local switching, and terminal switching.  As the city of Hornburg nears completion this Spring, more than 10 additional local switching sites will become part of our adventure.  A major coal mine at Montvale Junction should come on line at about the same time.


We currently publish a monthly ‘first-come, first served’ email call board for job selection and are considering some type of ‘seniority’ system option.

Operations are scheduled for the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month.  Motive power should be fired up and ready to go by 6:45 PM.  After a short dispatchers meeting, trains start to roll.  Most sessions last about two and a half hours. We cancel operations if a weather advisory, watch or warning has been posted by WGAL for any part of Lancaster county for that Monday afternoon or evening.

The branchline is seen here getting a workout during an operating session
The branchline is seen here getting a workout during an Ops Session

It has been a fun, rewarding and learning process for every member of our crew.  We are all better model railroaders now than when we started.  It will be exciting to see how far our operating sessions progress by this time next year.

PRAL Schematic as of 2-15-15
SLMRC Ops Schematic as of 2-15-15




2013 Short Line Model Railroad Club Member PhotoYOU are invited to join the Short Line Model Railroad Club.  Our only prerequisite is a love of railroading and a willingness to actively support the organization.  Experience in model railroading is not necessary; membership in the Club is the best way of learning.  Members are encouraged to actively participate in Club activities and support the organization in whatever way is individually possible.

To learn more about joining the Short Line Model Railroad club you are welcome to visit us during our Thursday work session or contact us at

Click to Download a Membership Application