Like many of us, John enjoyed trains in his childhood, but years later, running an old wind up Marx Commodore Vanderbilt set at his grandparent's farm re-ignited his interest in trains. Over the next few years he amassed a collection of pre- and post-war Marx, Lionel, and others.
In the fall of 2010 he was recruited by a friend to join the Triple R Modelers, a modular O gauge club that operated a layout at various Southern Ontario train shows. John immediately experienced the joy of displaying his collection to a receptive crowd. He also very quickly put his talents to work improving the appearance of the layout, initiating a more harmonious repaint and developing the artwork for new backdrops.
2012: 3RM Rebranding
As a kid, Darrell enjoyed playing with his older brothers' Lionel train set. A lucky purchase of a K-line BigBoy at an antique store brought him back into the hobby as an adult. Slowly, he started to build a collection, which brought him in contact with John over the purchase of (what else) a Marx Commodore Vanderbilt. In January 2012, John invited Darrell to join Triple R Modelers.
Like John, Darrell realized his various talents could be useful to the club. So, with John and Darrell's help, the Club underwent some major improvements – Triple R Modelers was officially rebranded as Triple Rail Modelers (or 3RM for short) with a new logo, new signage, a new full-featured website and a new YouTube channel with professional quality videos, as well as more appearance improvements such as interior de-cluttering and blackening. In the short time John and Darrell were with the club, the display improved dramatically.
2013: Jan – Sept: Restructuring and The End of 3RM
The new year found 3RM attempting to restructure, working towards a new concept with each member transporting their own new modular tables. After the last show of the spring season, the original layout tables were sold, and plans to have new tables for the Fall were discussed. However, John & Darrell opted out of the new structure, which led to the closure of Triple Rail Modelers in September of 2013 and the reformation of Triple R Modelers.
2013: Oct – Dec: GT3 Proof of Concept
John and Darrell had learned plenty from their 3RM days, from layout engineering to group dynamics. Now it was time for them to create something new utilizing their own collection – something conceived and operated by the two of them! So, armed with cartloads of track, trains and accessories they'd collected over the last few years, they descended upon Darrell's work space one weekend to test their layout idea. With pre-printed track plans in hand and a recently acquired black theatre curtain for a table cloth, they quickly had the structure of the layout in place. Trains were up and running shortly afterwards, six of them at the same time. Their idea worked! It went up fast, operated flawlessly, and looked great! Scenic accessories were placed and they had a display that would surely impress.
Using video they shot of their layout, they presented their idea to the organizer of Southern Ontario's biggest train shows. He agreed with their assessment. This was impressive.
2014: January – GT3 Inaugural Appearance
Woodstock was the setting for Greater Toronto Toy Trains to take the spotlight for the first time and the reception was overwhelmingly positive. With only minor hiccups during setup, the layout performed exceptionally well. The trains ran as they should, and the display was indeed a spectacle that captured lots of attention. All in all, it was a perfect debut of the new entity that is GT3.
2014-2019: Constant improvements
After such a successful debut, GT3 knew they had a brand. As they had done with their first club, John and Darrell put their combined talents to work, improving the layout and polishing the brand. A printed banner sign was made, a new website launched, and a new Youtube channel set up. Every year the layout evolved and improved, including...
2014: sidings for staging the next train, sectional roadway to tie the two sides of the layout together, trees with impressive foliage to add realism, and old toys such as a '30s tinplate German wind-up crane to augment the yard.
2015: table inserts to make a wider surface, allowing for another loop around the perimeter – now they could run on 72" curves; an improved staging turnout with over 13' of track to pre-stage the next train; and the ability to now run 8 trains simultaneously!
2016: GT3 were hired as train wranglers for a commercial, which netted them some well-earned money, dozens more trees for the layout, some green underlay material which created a more natural look, and unparalleled bragging rights.
2017: choosing to travel in one car instead of two forced Darrell & John to re-think the centrepiece. Since the triple pizza table wouldn't fit along with everything else, a new elevated dogbone was created which tied the two sides together as never before. And yes, I said one car. Everything you see on the tables fits into one compact car, including the two of them!
2018: two new additions were added in the form of the CN Tower and Empire State Building – created out of Uberstix, a defunct building toy with tons of versatility. GT3 also tried something completely new – running 5 concentric loops around the table, giving the layout yet another page in its versatility manual.
2019: for their 5th anniversary, wanting to try something new at each show, they brought back the Triple Pizza centrepiece (thanks to the extra room in Darrell's new vehicle), increased the amount of lighted accessories, and significantly expanded the roadway. Then, for the Roundhouse exhibit in May, they doubled down and produced a 32' layout (33% larger) AND brought the elevated dogbone back for a never-before-seen double centrepiece. That layout was their best display ever, and set the tone for even better things to come.