The History of the
Southern Wisconsin Sandhouse Crew

he Southern Wisconsin Sandhouse Crew is a collection of some of the most distinguished and superb modelers known to southern Wisconsin. Founded in March 1931, the Sandhouse crew is also the oldest model railroad club located in the Madison area.

Or maybe not. But we like to think so anyway.....

In reality, the Sandhouse Crew has been around since early 2005. Several modelers felt there was a need for another HO model railroad club in the Madison area, and so the first meeting of what would become the Sandhouse Crew was held in February of 2005. At meetings held over the next few months, it was decided that we would be a modular club, which means each member would build and own sections built to common standards. They would then be put together into the monstrosity we call The Layout. Standards were developed for the modules, as well as some basic rules for the club itself. We decided on two basic things from the beginning; 1. There would be no president, dictator-for-life, or Grand Poobah, but instead things would be decided by the membership as a whole, (The only real position is treasurer, because somebody has to take care of the beer fund, um.... dues money) and 2. The rules would be kept fairly lax; only rules that were necessary to keep the group functioning would be written down. Of course, we do have our fair share of "unwritten rules" that have developed over time. Aside from just building and displaying the layout, we also sometimes will put on slide shows or go on railfan outings.

After only a year's worth of discussions, building modules, and testing the layout, the club made it's first appearance at the Mad City Model Railroad Show and Sale in February 2006. Despite being around only a year, we managed to put together a decent layout that ran well and looked pretty good, at a respectable size of 51' 6" by 15' 6". We even managed to take home the Best of Show award for layouts from the show. Since then we've participated in a few more shows around southern Wisconsin, and our layout has grown and shrunk to fit the specific shows we've displayed at (the advantage of a modular style layout). As of late 2015, our membership roster stands at 16 members. We look forward to our 10th anniversary of the club in 2015, and hopefully many more years of running trains and sharing stories in the Sandhouse.

Timeline of the Sandhouse Crew:
  • February 28, 2005 The first meeting of what would become the Sandhouse Crew is held at the Madison Public Library, although at this point the club didn't yet have a name.

  • December 17, 2005 At a meeting held at a members employer's warehouse on the west side of Madison, the full layout is set up for the first time in preparation for the February, 2006 Mad City show. Trains are run around and much progress is made in getting everything wired and running smoothly.

  • February 18 & 19, 2006 The SWSC displays the layout publicly for the first time at the Mad City Model Railroad Show and Sale, just short of the club's one year anniversary. The weekend is generally considered a success, with The Crew bringing home the Best of Show award for the layout.

  • April 29 & 30, 2006 The SWSC displays a slightly smaller version of the layout at our second show, in Brooklyn Wisconsin at their Depot Days Celebration.

  • September 23 & 24, 2006 The SWSC participates in the Green County Train show in Monroe, Wisconsin.

  • February 17 & 18, 2007 The Sandhouse Crew once again exhibits the layout in the Mad City Model Railroad Show and Sale, completing their first year on the show circuit.

So Why the Sandhouse Crew?

In some of the early meetings in the summer of 2005, we naturally decided our group needed a name. Several ideas were put forth, but we couldn't really find anything that seemed just right for the club. Finally at a meeting one day, one of our members, Bob Welke, who worked on prototype railroads for many years suggested the Sandhouse Crew. Why? Well, why don't I let Bob's words explain it:

"In the days gone by of railroading, the sandhouse was more than just the place to sand locomotives. Because engine traction sand has to be kept dry (or it clogs up the delivery pipes) every major engine terminal had a sandhouse with a large stove inside to dry the sand. The building also had to be kept weather tight and seldom had a window in it (windows lead to condensation). All of this made it a great place for workers to hang out, warm, dry and away from the “brasses” eyes, so sandhouse meetings became legendary. Many a tale was spun around the big stoves while drinking coffee and of course as railroaders do, tales were told of others not always at the meeting. Working as a young hostler in Stevens Point I was lucky enough to get in on some of these before the sandhouse was replaced. The blower truck that replaced it just wasn’t the same…"
The name seemed natural for a group like ours that enjoys meeting, sharing stories, and running (model) trains. Tacking the "Southern Wisconsin" to the front helped give us a general location. And so we had it: the Southern Wisconsin Sandhouse Crew.

Last update: 11/24/14
Created on March 8, 2007 © 2007-2014 Southern Wisconsin Sandhouse Crew. Contact Webmaster.