Do you have a favorite railroad, past or present?

Ever think of making a model of it, or maybe incorporating features of your favorite real railroad into your layout?

Many years ago, I took my family to see the HO layout at RPI in Troy, NY. I was amazed at how meticulous the scenery and structures were made, and so accurately done in scale to the real thing in the Albany/Troy area of upstate NY.

Recently, I had the good fortune to be at the OGR Anniversary Party held at the NJ Hi-Railers Train Club in Paterson, NJ. Again, I was amazed to see the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Statue of Liberty, a Ballantine Beer facility with numerous Ballantine Beer trucks, and the NYC Subway System, among countless other beautiful models in O Scale.

Very few of us have the space and resources to replicate the extraordinary and massive modeling that RPI or the NJ Hi-Railers have done. However, we may be able to do something similar in a much smaller way.

My latest train ambition is to incorporate features of the Put (Putnam Division of the NY Central Railroad) into my basement layout. The Bronx, NY section of that layout, including my Popsicle Stick Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds, can be seen on other threads in this Forum, including Scrounger's Baseball Field. 

This morning, I placed my Rico Station on my layout. The Rico Station could be a model of the Pocantico Hills Station at the Rockefeller Estate along the Put. Here is a photo of it:


Dairy farms existed along the Put in Northern Westchester County, NY. The farmhouse, barn and cows on my layout, shown below, is reminiscent of such a dairy farm:


Have you modeled your favorite real railroad or railroads, past and/or present? Have you incorporated features of such real railroads into your layout? Do you aspire to do so?


In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.


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Original Post

I originally free-lanced by modeling.   I came up with a name based on Beaver County where I grew up and Ohio where I was living - The Ohio and Beaver Creek.     After some time with that, I became interested in the PRR when I realized the tracks that ran by the house where my uncle lived and my dad grew up, were PRR.     I learned more about it and found a section that was single track but busy enough from Greensburg on the Pgh div mainline and Uniontown in Pennsylvania that had a lot of coal branches and connections and also connected with the Monongehela Division at West Brownsville.   

So I slowly migrated over toward modeling based on that,  unfortuantely it had to be very loosely.    But I used town names and some industry names and what not.

If you are familiar with the Pennsylvania RR they were famous for the 4 track wide mainline across Pennsylvania - the Broadway.    Well is very difficult to represent in any scale, especially O and larger.    Multiple track lines take up too much width when  you want to also include industries and switching an operations.     So that is why I searched for a single track line and found one that had a connection to my family.    Another good Pennsy single track line is the Elmira branch from Williamport PA to Sodus Point in NY state.    

One of the difficult choices to make is selecting a railroad or railroads to model.

For instance, although my focus at the moment is the Put, I also love the PRR, like PRRJIM, and I also love the New Haven. This is true for not just the trains, but also the scenery, topography, stations, structures, etc.

As a result, I expect that I will always have some features of all 3 of those railroads on my layout.

Some of us may love most or all of the fallen flag railroads, and decide not to have any focus on their layout. Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

When my younger brother Randy was about 11 or 12, he dipped his toe into model railroading for a while. He wanted to make his own model railroad, but when you're just a kid you don't have a lot of money to do custom cars. But he figured out a neat way to make a model railroad that was "his".

Here are the things that guided his thought process in building his railroad:

  • At the time I worked for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, whose reporting mark was P&LE.
  • We lived in Poland, Ohio,
  • Lake Evans was in our back yard.
  • Therefore, he decided to use P&LE decal sets and call his railroad the Poland & Lake Evans Railroad.

Smart guy...

Rich Melvin

Here's another thought. Maybe the answer is to modify the focus, if any, on the model railroad. That way, it evolves like a living, breathing thing. 

It is possible to have one's layout reminiscent of a particular railroad, ie. The Put, for a year or two, then change the focus so it has features more similar to another railroad, ie. The New Haven. Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

I always wanted to model the PRR from the Juniata yards to the summit at Galitzen I wanted a mushroom style layout with the 4 track main mostly on top and the Holidaysburg and new portage secondary on the bottom. I am slowly aquiring some pertinent structures. I have the signals and of course the trains.

BTW to see some good scale layouts of specific areas( such as the O.P. is suggesting) I highly recommend the Roberson Museum layout in Binghamton NY depicting that areas railroads and the Leigh and keystone model railroad club in Bethlehem PA. this  club/museum  the depicts the leigh Valleys heritage of railroads in scale. Both are HO.

member:Golden Spike Club Charter Member

My 10'-by-5' layout, completed in 2019, is freelanced with scenery and structures that look like a single-track branch line in New England. On that layout, I run locomotives and rolling stock of the New Haven, Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany, Amtrak, Metro-North, and Providence and Worcester. All these railroads operated in areas that look like the layout scenery. Thus, on any given day, depending on the locomotives and rolling stock, the layout can resemble any of them.


My favorites have always been SF, New Haven, and UP.  The trains don't model any particular real-life railroad or scene.  I just like the beautiful trains.

My two layouts are now completely maxed out but, I've said that before.  I'm at the point where I only buy what is most attractive to me, or, I make it myself.  I have to pass on a lot of great trains and buildings because I simply don't have room.  At least my overhead layout has enough track to enable me to add a few more cars.


All my mains are freelanced, and the layouts have been dictated by the shape of the available space.  I remember waiting three years for a gas station that was attractive enough to fill a particular spot on the table layout.


This is the latest, and could be the last, addition.  I waited another 2-3 years for a brewery and saved this corner spot for it.  I love Nathan's hot dogs, and quickly bought the new Nathan's sign, and the car to compliment it.  I used the tunnel insert from the brewery to fashion a makeshift store and a way to mount the sign.


My last thought is to say that when you run out of space, you can only go up.  I wanted more of the available great-looking trains, so I added two upper levels to the table layout, about 4 years ago.  It's far from prototypical, but, I now run 7 trains on 6 main lines, through three rooms, plus two trolley lines.  This agrees with the idea that your layout evolves over the years, instead of sticking to a set plan.  Also, we all probably have tons of materials left over from years of building layouts.  It's fun to put some of it to good use.  It's more fun to run bunches of trains, on multiple levels, all at the same time.



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The beauty of model railroading is there are infinite options on how to enjoy it.  I know people who will stick to a particular prototype come heck or high water, while others it's anything goes.

I'm a freelancer for the most part with my railroad set in 50's-60's Kansas and attempted to keep it that way.  Eventually, I started letting area prototypes on the railroad along with a couple of long shots.  I do try to emulate prototype practices, however.

It works for me for the most part, but I have to say it really comes together when I exile the prototype power from the layout and I just have my freelance power present.

And oh yeah...  Every now and then I whip out my GG1 for a spin.  I just say there's a Tesla tower nearby broadcasting power to the locomotive.


All of them, Katie! PRR, B&O, P&LE, Wild Mary, Shawmut, Union, UP, Santa Fe, Espee, D&RGW, Burlington, they are all favorites.


However, what I model (loosely) is the contemporary Oil Creek & Titusville. That is to say, the back-story of the Plywood Empire Route is patterned after the OC&T. Titusvile was situated on a Class I Mainline (PRR, Pittsburgh-Buffalo) until the entire route was abandoned. In order to maintain rail service to their enterprises local businessmen got together and created a railroad by acquiring several miles of that abandoned railroad in order to connect to the WNY&P at Rynd Farm. The OC&T moves 1,000 cars a year (about three a day) making it an ideal prototype for a shortline model railroad. Even better, every train is a mixed train (passengers and freight). You see, the OC&T subsidizes it's freight revenue with ticket sales to tourists. 


I have found that a mixed train doesn't work for me because O gauge passenger equipment is under scale size (as well as being short Lionel and K-Line aluminum cars are slightly narrow and slightly low) by just enough to clash visually. Thus, tourist service on the Plywood Empire route is provided with a Dinner Train a la the Black Hills Central Railroad.


I say loosely patterned after the OC&T because most freight equipment on the Plywood Empire Route is Fallen Flags, which doesn't fit in a contemporary operation but hey, it's my Pike and it works for me. 



Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.


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This is an interesting thread, a lot of the time when discussions around this theme come up, it usually is around accurately depicting a real railroad (obviously much compressed) at various levels.  I think what Arnold's original (and very useful) post points out is you can model real railroads via  'influence', and that is perfectly valid, too.  I would love  to model the NYC, especially around the NYC area, but I don't have the space to do that any kind of justice. In my perpetual planning (and sort of construction) phase, I have some general guidelines I am trying to use in getting something built:

-Trying to center it around the northeast railroads, primarily the central, where the modelling is more "influenced by" then trying to accurately reproduce it. I guess it is kind of like impressionism in art, it represents, rather than details

-I love urban railroading, and am trying to figure out how to incorporate an "urban" module. One way is to eventually build a second deck that has the city scene, that could have things like a rail ferry (or a suggestion of it), and maybe a version of the high line and street running in NYC. 

-The main level/first to be built likely will be more typical of many layouts, with towns and scenes many layouts have, representing town/rural areas. 

When I finally get around to buying new equipment, likely it will be focused on central equipment, I don't plan on creating my own road name (though that is a marvelous  idea). It won't limit what I run, if I want to run some of my post war stuff  I love, like Santa Fe F3's and or pennsy 671 turbine, or my C and O stuff with Chessie the cat on them, that is fine by me, too. 






The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

Since most of us are train lovers, probably few of us absolutely rule anything out. However, my impression is that most of us have our favorite railroads, and we are drawn to their trains and features. Perhaps our favorite railroads remind us of happy times during childhood.

I am finding as I get older that I focus more on a few favorite railroads than I did in my younger days.

Our modeling can include realistic detail, or the modeler can take a more impressionistic approach. 

IMO, model railroads can look great if they are down and dirty like the real world, or perfectly clean and neat like heaven or paradise.



In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

When I ever get started on my 2 rail layout it will represent about 20 miles of the NY&LB that I grew up on circa 1953-1956 when my grandfather commuted on it.  I have most of the trains that are era appropriate with a few notable gaps to be filled.  Essentially CNJ and PRR in mostly commuter operations with short freight that served the few businesses on the line.

It will required a LOT of compromise and selective compression, but my idea is to make it modular in nature so I can build it up over time.  On the south end I will plan on having the Bayhead loop where all the morning's commuter trains were prepared for the daily commute to NYC.  It will terminate on the north end at Rahway, NJ where it connects to the PRR mainline.  I am thinking a hidden loop there just to turn trains and only modeling what is a 6 track mainline at that point for no more than 5-10 feet. 

The challenge is always what to leave out.  For me, since I regularly roamed the Red Bank to Long Branch segment, I'll likely put in something that represents that area.  South Amboy is a critical location however I plan on compromising with the concept that the PRR electrified to Bayhead.  Other elements I'd like to somehow get in is the cutoff at Red Bank to the CNJ Southern Division.  It doesn't need to go anywhere.  I'd also like to incorporate the Atlantic Highlands branch that originally crossed the Shrewsbury River into Seabright and ran along the Ocean before cutting inland and rejoining the CNJ Southern Division in Eatontown.

It is till obviously and over ambitious plan that will required quite a bit of space even compressed.  However, I've been dreaming about this layout in my head for nearly 25 years in HO, N and now O so I have had a lot of time to visualize.  The biggest challenge is will I ever get the time to actually build it. 

In some ways I don't think it matters if I ever build or not.  It is a really fun layout to operate in my head.

I have staged some photos that many of you over the years have seen to keep the memories alive but one day ... maybe. 

Bored yet?  I can keep writing.....





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Richie C. posted:

As a corollary question, are there people who, for whatever reason, intentionally won't model a specific railroad on their layout or in their collection ?

Enter the freelancer...

Virginian & Ohio, Midland Road, Maumee Route, Gore & Dapheted, Alturas & Lone Pine, Utah Belt to name a few.


Some of the best layouts I have seen have been freelanced. 

A friend of my dad who is a master modeler freelanced a fictional "Star Valley Lines" in the pines of north central Arizona. 

He scratch built most of the rolling stock and did some fabulous kit bashes like converting a Bachmann run of the mill 10 wheeler into a duplex with the second drivers under the tender.  Playful yet meticulously executed down to tools on the running boards. 



I model a shortline, freelanced, but loosely based on the Great Western, which served sugar beet plants in NE Colorado. #90 now on the Strasburg is probably  GW power most familiar to York attendees.  No sticking to prototype for my terminal is fictional Front Range imagined between Denver and Pueblo on the Joint Line.  With much custom lettered Denver and Front Range, a lot of rolling stock is for the East Slope roads that ran in Colorado.  Other obscure equipt. to be seen on sidings is Mich. Upper Peninsula.  While a friend collects O   gauge  Pennsy RPO equipt., I carefully avoid any NE rolling stock, frustrated by its proclivity.  Not ignored are stray cars from smaller Chicago roads ..CGW, C&EI, C&lM.  So, yes, some roads are absolutely not allowed nor purchased.

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

Arnold, it was good seeing you at the club the other night, and I'm glad you joined as a member. I suspect you are going to get a lot of ideas if you spend some time at the club. We have some REALLY GREAT modelers.


  Home of the BRATS RR  




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