In U.S. history, when a railroad reached a milestone accomplishment, the people gathered for a grand “last spike” ceremony.
On Friday, members of the Citrus Model RR Club met at their clubhouse in the Otto Allen Building at the Citrus County Fairgrounds for their own “Golden Spike” ceremony, celebrating the completion of their HO Allegheny and Lake Erie track rebuilding project.
They modeled their ceremony after the nation’s first ceremony on May 10, 1869, in Promontory, Utah.
“That was probably the most well-known ceremony and the first in this country after the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S.,” explained Dave Marquis, longtime club member and project coordinator.
“It was a big deal back then ... bigger than the Super Bowl or World Series is today,” he added.
At that first ceremony, a solid silver hammer was used to drive a solid gold spike into a laurel wood railroad tie donated by California.
At Friday’s ceremony, various members took turns “driving” a teeny HO gauge-sized gold-painted spike to the “off-stage” sounds of a real spike being struck.
“Actually, we’re not completely done with everything, but the track is complete,” Marquis said.
He said they have been working on their rebuilding project for more than four years, taking it from one level to two and adding new scenery and painted backdrops.
They’re also rebuilding the N gauge layout.
The Citrus Model RR Club, which began in 1989, invites the public to come and see its elaborate train displays from 8 a.m. until noon every Saturday (except August). They are also open during the annual county fair.
They are also looking for new members. Currently, the 40 or so members come from all over Central Florida, including Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.
“We’re mostly retired guys who meet on Friday mornings, but we’re going to try meeting on Tuesday nights to see if we can get people who might be at work during the day,” Marquis said.
During Friday’s ceremony, Hal Porter, county fair manager, told the club members, “The Citrus County Fair just got over, and there was a tremendous response to your display. So, thank you for all your hard work and we look forward to a long partnership with the Citrus Model Railroad Club.”
For information about the club, visit citrusmodelrrclub.org.