We’ve received several offers of model railroad layouts over the years, and have had to graciously turn them down due to a lack of space. But, one came along recently that was an offer we simply couldn’t refuse. While our long-range plans have always included a model train layout, we assumed it would be in our yet-to-be-constructed permanent building.
Enter Jane Sanders of North Dallas. After a recent visit to the Museum, Mrs. Sanders contacted us and offered to donate her husband’s massive G-scale model train layout. She graciously opened her home for Musuem staff and trustees to view the layout, whereupon everyone concluded that we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to acquire and exhibit such a masterpiece.
To say that we were blown away by the Sanders layout is an understatement! The massive 2,500-square-foot layout was custom built for Steve Sanders, a local collector and successful businessman. It was designed and built by a Fort Worth-based company experienced in museum exhibits, set design, and demonstrational mock-ups for the aircraft industry. Using local talent, the layout was originally constructed in Corsicana then later moved to the Sanders’ new home in North Dallas. Sadly, Mr. Sanders was only able to enjoy the layout for a short time before his untimely passing.
From his creative mind and passion for trains, a truly remarkable world in miniature was constructed. The layout features an animated downtown Dallas street scene, including Union Terminal, the Palo Duro drive-in with actual motion pictures, west Texas refineries, and working sawmills in the mountains of Colorado. From curio shops in New Mexico to the urban centers of North Texas, the layout captures life in the 1950s and ‘60s, connected by Santa Fe passenger trains with their gleaming streamlined cars.
In 2016, the Sanders family decided it was time to sell their house and find a new home for the model trains. They generously offered the layout to the Museum, showing great sensitivity to the potential for many thousands of people to enjoy what had been one person’s dream. Along with the layout come literally hundreds of pieces of rolling stock. Most are finely crafted locomotives and cars by LGB of Germany – some having never been removed from the box.
Following another visit to the Sanders home by Museum and City officials, Frisco quickly saw the layout’s potential to enhance the visitor experience at the Musuem of the American Railroad. Further, it would be a destination unto itself for people of all ages coming to Frisco. The idea was presented to Frisco’s Community Development Corporation, which owns and manages the Discovery Center located adjacent to the Museum. The CDC supported the idea and by unanimous vote agreed to make available over 3,000 square feet of indoor space for the layout. Located within the Frisco Discovery Center, the area provides ample space for the Sanders Family Layout, along with room for expansion and additional public programming.
With the gift of the layout and a prime location for its exhibition secured, the Musuem is seeking funding for moving, reassembling, and enhancing the layout. We have budgeted $200,000 for the project, $160,000 of which covers the actual move and reassembly. The remaining $40,000 covers improvements to the Discovery Center space. We are actively seeking funding and sponsorships with the goal of raising the funds by May of this year. The layout will undoubtedly become a Frisco favorite.
This is an exciting opportunity that has garnered much enthusiasm. We have received countless phone calls and visits by folks wanting to volunteer once the railroad is up and running. Not since the Museum’s move to Frisco have we seen such excitement. In order to make the Sanders Family Layout in Frisco a reality, we must now get down to the business of raising adequate funds for the project. The result will be one of the most unique experiences in North Texas, offering entertaining and educational programming that complements the Museum’s existing role in the community.