MODEL RAILWAYS and tHE PEOPLE WHO INSPIRED THEM
Seventy Years, Seven Model Railways
My father told me once that when I was born, he decided to build
model trains so that, when I was older, we would have something
we could do together. That was a pretty progessive concept back
at the beginning of World War II. In the early 1940's, he scratch-built an HO
Scale CPR 4-6-4 Hudson, entirely in brass. The only commercial
parts were the drivers, tender trucks, motor, and gears.
the years, he built a kit or two (or three) each year and
eventually we had an 8 x 12 foot table top railway to run them
on. Locomotives and passenger cars, and some of the freight
cars, were painted for the CPR; other freight cars were for
various Eastrn roads. Most of these survived into the late
1980's. I inherited some of them, including the original 4-6-4.
Sadly they were lost in a house fire in 2001.
Before I was old enough to contribute to this, my brother and I
had some Ives and Lionel hi-rail O Gauge trains on the floor.
Good stuff and great fun. These were treasured into our early teens,
and finally they ended up donated to our younger cousins.
<== My father, c. 1940
This is Kemtron's CPR 4-6-4 #2459 from the 1970's, a close
cousin to my father's scratch-built CPR #2410, built in the
early 1940's. By the 1970's, all my father's rolling stock was
in boxes, with only a few on display, including both of the CPR
4-6-4 locomotives and some beautifully built Ambroid and LaBelle
FIRST RYE, RUM and REDEYE RAILROAD
By the mid-1950's, we
had moved to a house with bedrooms big enough for me to build a
small HO railway of my own. Father's filled the basement and we still
worked on it too. The bedroom layout was the classic oval on a 2
x 6 foot table top. There were two sidings, three insdustries, a station, and
even a small turntable for the PennLine 0-4-0 diesel. The Rye,
Rum, and Redeye Railroad (RR&R RR) had two passenger cars (with
cardboard sides), a boxcar, tank car, and a caboose. I built a
brass half-length Budd Rail Diesel Cas (an RDC-1/2),
had it chrome plated, and it ran fine on the 11 inch radius
where I learned to model scenery, roads, and the usual clutter of
real life. Track was handlaid code100 brass with spikes in every
tie and hand built switches with live frogs. My buildings were
pretty crude and lacked detail. I had more fun with the scenery,
trying to mimic the concepts of John Allen and Jack Work. I
never reached those exhalted heights, of course, but their
inspiration got me past the bare table-top.
A late 1950's photo of the
RR&R RR in my bedroom. Redeye Station is in the left foreground,
the Shell Oil tank farm is in the middle, a warehouse is at the
right and the distillery is off-screen far-right. The red
Pennline diesel switcher is in front of the tank farm. Handmade
trees, made from paint-dipped weeds, hide a lot of the photo. A
well trafficed road runs across the center to the right, with
Matchbox HO Scale trucks and cars. A small river (creek??) runs
front to back and a nicely printed backdrop gives a little sense
Some of the best of John Allen's work can be found
in a hardcover
book by Linn Westcott, republished by
Benchmark Press. ==>
These are HO Scale standard
gauge cars. I found G&D boxcar #98 at a flea market; it uses
cardboard car sides printed in an NMRA Bulletin. The two G&D
bobbers #3 and #5 are recent NMRA Heritage cars. Over time, I plan to
add some of the MDC/Roundhouse HO G&D models, and build a
diorama to display them.
second RYE, RUM and REDEYE RAILROAD
During my University
years, I built a very small narrow gauge (HOn3) model railway.
It was only 18 x 24 inches with rugged scenery made from real
red sandstone rocks. The oval dipped into a tunnel under the
mountain. There was one siding with a switchback to a mine. The
station was on the level part of the mainline. Track was
handlaid code 70 nickel-silver with hand made stub switches.
Decent ballast, a few trees, and a few people complimented the
The grades were
steep but the Shay could haual a log buggy, flat car, and bobber
0-4-0T steamer could not, so I converted a white metal combine into an
extremely short car and added an N Scale diesel power-train to
it, after re-gauging the wheels. This pair ran the grades
just fine. I still have the combine and the two locomotives, all
of them nearly 60 years old. After 13 moves in the first 4 years
of my working career, the railway disintegrated and was
These are the remnants of my secong RR&R RR, an HO Scale narrow
gauge miniture railway. The combine,
0-4-0T switcher (with the
coal bunker on the roof), and the Shay are on display in my
home-office. The bobber caboose and log buggy disappeared many
years ago. I could see well enough to do a decent paint job in
those days. Alas, HOn3 is not my stromg suit any more -- to see
what came next, read on.
Rocky mountain house, nordegg and pacific RAILWAY
the mid 1960's to the early 1990's, I was out of the model
railroading game, with a brief attempt at an N Scale layout that
was a failure. I was too busy building a carreer, away from home
a lot, and my eyesight problems started to become noticeable. I
stopped driving in 1984 and haven't been behind a wheel since
then. But one day, I was at a train show and saw some large
scale models in operation. "I can do that" I said, and I did.
I started acquiring rolling stock and track, and spent time
renovating a disused 3-car garage, while sketching track plans.
considered Malcolm Furlow to be the reincarnation of John Allen.
He too was a photographer and artist, but he had a flair for
model railways all his own, and worked in both small and large
<== Malcolm Furlow, c. 1984
Coincidences do exist. An
advertisement for a large scale raileway built by Malcolm Furlow
appeared in a 1992 Model Railroader magazine. Since I really admired
Malcolm's modeling work and the track plan was "just right", I
negotiated the move of the railway from San Diego to Rocky
Mountain House in Alberta. The full story of the renovation,
rewiring, and modernized control systems are described
Scenery was a big issue. While the styrofam mountain scenery was
magnificent, the prairie scenes were pretty bare. Only 1
lonesome cactus relieved the topography. So for two years, I re-ballasted the track, built roads and a lake, planted grass,
trees, flowers, laid snow on the peaks, and built styrofoam
scemerry from the table top down to the floor. Vehicles, people, animals,
and a number of new buildings were added. A large staging yard
was added and a backdrop was commissioned for two walls of the
garage. Finally, the railway
looked "just right" too.
Overall view of RMH. N & P Ry. Nordegg at left, Rocky Mountain House in center foreground.
Banff Springs at right, Gorgeous Gorge Bridge at center of photo,
Mountain right background, and Mystic Ridge at left. Era is
around 1924. Track is LGB code 332 Gauge 1, representing 3-foot
gauge (roughly) at 1:22 (G) Scale.
SR&RL Forney 0-4-4T #24 at Banff Springs is on the same
level as DSP&P 2-6-0 Mogul #71 on the Gorgeous Gorge Bridge, but
will pass behind it through a tunnel. D&RGW 2-8-0 Consolidation
#268 pauses the excursion train on the 2nd level to give
tourists the view of their lives. G&D 0-4-0 Porter #2, on the
3rd level, is checking the beavers gnawing on the trestle bents
at Devil's Gulch. Steam Tram cog loco #13 runs on the 35% grade
at right between levels 2 and 3. W&A 4-4-0, the "General", hauls
a load of passengers on the 4th level in the distance. It is
an O Scale train that fools the eye, giving an impression of
great distance to the mountains.
This photo appeared in the LGB Telegram
Magazine Fall 1998 ==>
Many more photos can be found
story in Spring 2000 LGB Telegram.
This model railway has been sold to Stanley Riegel of Rosebud,
Alberta. The move is underway and operation at the new site is
not expected until summer or fall of 2016.
Rocky mountain house, LEAVERITE and NORTHERN RAILWAY
the indoor railway looking right and running right, there wasn't
much left to do from a modeling point of view. What to do? Well.
build another one, of course.
This time, it would be a large scale outdoor railway on a steep
side lawn beside the house. This railway would have a specific
theme, namely the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad around
1885. Steam engines and horse and wagons - no internal
We have less than a 3 month USDA "Zone 3" summer, so I didn't
want to waste time nurturing plants that might never survive. As
a result, the railway was built as a xeroscape (no plants) rock
garden using glacial erratics as the foundation for the scenery.
This led to lots of bridges, a tunnel, and simple, continuous
operation, with walk-around radio control.
Once the railway was operating properly, it was time for
scenery. Using a lot of the indoor techniques, adapted to the
outdoor environment, numerous mini-scenes replaceced the
original low-fi buildings. A description of how all this came to
life can be found
HERE. Scenery is more rugged than the indoor railway,
and detail is not quite as fine, but the fresh air and sunshine
make up for that. Track maintenance issues are much more
realistic too, with frost heaves, deadfall, thermal
expansion, and critters to look after.
Overall view of Rocky
Mountain House, Leaverite & Northern Railway,
taken from below the Big Rock.
Headshot of C&S #30 and her short freight train, stopped for orders
large scale railway is
a simple oval on top of my bookcases that encircles my
home-office. It has an automatic passing track so that two small
trains can meet and pass. The scenery is all false fronts. Track
ballast is grey carpet. Simple and basic. One train is a
kit-bashed tribute to John Allen and his Gorre and Daaphetid
The other is a Grizzly Flats excursion train headed
by the pretty little LGB model of Chloe. I don't run them much;
the sounds can drive you nuts in such a small room. But they are
a nice dispay in a space that would be otherwise look empty.
LARGE SCALE RAILWAY MODULES
I built three 4-foot
modules to the Del Oro standard using styrofoam base, backdrop,
and scenery elements. LGB track, commercial buildings, a scratch
built mine, and lots of details (animals, people, trees, bushes,
weeds) mimic what I had done on my indoor large scale railway.
These modules still live in my screened porch and are used to
demonstrate scenery techniques to visitors, and to store rolling
stock awaiting repair. Although they were intended to operate,
they are currently static dioramas as there is no place in the
house to hold these and more that would be needed to actually
run a train. Oh well, they are pretty.
Display modules: Lost
Lemon Mine (left) with Brewster, an 0-2-2-0 working the ore car,
Daly Glen Tank and Station (center), Foggy Bottom Lighthouse and
Poisson Ratio's Fish Plant (right).
Click here for larger image
Use the View > Full Screen option to scroll across the large image
-- if you look closely near the front
door of the fish plant, you will find me, my beard, and my Great Pyranees
Closeup of Daly Glen Tank and Station as it appeared in the April
2000 issue of Finescale Railtoader's "Module Challenge"