Houston Tinplate Operator's Society, a Train Club

Houston Tinplate Operators' Society Clubhouse

The store front for Houston Tinplate Operators' Society was desgined to look like an old time train depot.
The store front for Houston Tinplate Operators' Society was desgined to look like an old time train depot. | Source
This Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train layout is one of the attractions that small children can play with at the club site.
This Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train layout is one of the attractions that small children can play with at the club site. | Source
Scenery for Lionel trains adds a bit of character to this portable layout.
Scenery for Lionel trains adds a bit of character to this portable layout. | Source
Club members are encouraged to add a little whimsy to the club layouts, including Ninja Turtles climbing out of a sewer manhole cover.
Club members are encouraged to add a little whimsy to the club layouts, including Ninja Turtles climbing out of a sewer manhole cover. | Source
One of the permanent layouts adorns the front window of the storefront clubhouse.
One of the permanent layouts adorns the front window of the storefront clubhouse. | Source
The Houston TInplate Operator's Society logo was designed and voted on by the train club members.
The Houston TInplate Operator's Society logo was designed and voted on by the train club members. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Are you or someone you know a fan of model trains? In West Houston, near the Katy Freeway (I-10), is a model train club known as The Houston Tinplate Operator's Society (HTOS) that provides great entertainment for families with pre-school, school-aged, and adult children alike. The clubhouse features four Lionel train layouts for public viewing. A few of the layout features are accessible even for younger fingers to control. In addition to the Lionel layouts, there is a Thomas the Train set up for the youngest train enthusiasts. A wall of train related reading material is also available for perusing.

Becoming a Club Member

The train club is always looking for new members to help run the trains when the club is opened. In addition, club members can learn how to work on the layouts, either constructing new elements or redesigning existing layout features. If you have a Lionel trains from when you were a kid, HTOS extends the offer to anyone - club members and general public - to bring their Lionel trains up to the club's store. The club will run your train on their tracks. If you have a train set that may be in need of repairs, bring it with you when you visit and let one of the long term members check it out. They may even be able to fix it for you.

The club attends train shows in Southeast Texas, held periodically during the year. These shows allow the club to show off one of the portable layouts, present seminars on the model train hobby, and make money for the club through raffles.

Open to the Public

Houston Tinplate Operating Society is normally opened on Saturdays 1:00 - 5:00 PM, and 7:30 - 9:00 PM on Tuesday evenings (which is also their meeting night). Schools, scout troops, and other organizations wishing to check over the train club at other times should contact the club by writing or calling to make special arrangements for private tours. The club extends special requests to open their facilities for children's birthday parties as well. However, since they do not have a permit to serve food, they cannot provide refreshments for the parties. On the other hand, they will allow party food and birthday cakes to be brought into the club when a party is booked.

Special Events

Every year HTOS participates in a Memorial City Mall’s train show specially set up for father’s day weekend. In addition, the club takes part in the layout tour hosted by the train clubs around Houston every November and December leading up to Christmas. During the annual layout tour, one of Houston’s many train clubs opens their layout to the public for an entire weekend. The clubs decide in advance whose layout will be open to the public on which weekend.

HTOS also participates in a few train shows every year. They attend shows in Houston and the surrounding communities as well as the occasional road trip to other cities in Texas like San Antonio or Austin. These train shows not only highlight train clubs and their portable layouts, but also include booths where vendors sell model trains, train layout supplies, and items from real life trains.

Location and Contact Information

The Houston Tinplate train club is located near the Target Store in Memorial City Mall, at 900 Gessner Road at I-10. From Katy, take I-10 east, and exit Gessner Road. To contact the club, write to HTOS, 11152 Westheimer Rd. #255 , Houston, Texas 77042; or reach them by phone at: 281/277-7630; or E-Mail: htos@htos.org.


UPDATE

Houston Tinplate Operator's Society has lost their lease at Memorial City Mall as the mall needs the space for an in-coming store. They are currently looking for a new location, which will be posted here as soon as the Houston Tinplate Operator's Society finds a new home.

UPDATE

This is a case of "what a difference a day makes." In an unusual turn of events, the mall has allowed the Houston Tinplate Operator's Society train club to stay in their store front location at the current time. We all thank the Mall Management for their efforts to help the train club out during this hiccup.

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