Influences from Central and South America

There are many Central and South American Narrow Gauge railroads that I find interesting. I really like the 76cm/ 30 inch Gauge railways in Brazil and Argentina. The Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas (EFOM) in Brazil and the Ferrocarriles de Argentinos (an interesting video-turn the sound down) in the Patagonia region of Argentina were both built to that gauge.

Bachmann’s outside frame American is based on the EFOM’s engines. Many years ago, Trains magazine had an article about the EFOM and the museum at São João del Rei. This article was “the seed” that has grown to be a desire to model a “South of the Border” railway that was built as an agricultural feeder line. Since that first glimpse of narrow gauge in Central and South America, I have gone on to discover other railroads of various gauges that I have found interesting. As an aside, Mexican Narrow Gauge railroads are interesting as well, but I’m going to save them for another day.

The Ferrocarriles de Argentinos is another 30 inch/76cm railway in the wild and wide open expanses of Patagonian. Today the railroad is a tourist line, in its common carrier days it was home to the Patagonian express. From what information I have collected, it moved mostly agricultural products and people. Not a lot of traffic, but interesting steam locomotives built by both Baldwin and Henschel as well as very interesting rolling stock. The scenery is unbelievable, wide open plains with rugged snow covered mountains in the background. Would be nice if Bachmann would make the outside frame ten wheeler. It is a nice looking engine. I do like the FdA’s “bordes altos”, or high sided open cars. Once loaded, a tarp was thrown over to protect the contents from weather, dirt, and oil smoke. In the below photograph, you can see one of these unique cars behind and on the track beside the locomotive.

The International Railways of Central America (IRCA) is another interesting 3 foot gauge railroad. Primarily a transporter of United Fruit Companies agricultural products such as Bananas, the railroad hauled other freight as well across Guatemala and into El Salvador. The Unitah’s articulated locomotives as well as some equipment from Oahu Land and Transportation ended up on the IRCA. The freight cars, especially the steel frame, outside ribbed boxes cars, interest me as well. The IRCA was built through a rugged tropical route over the mountains, something for any narrow gauge fan to appreciate.

The  Ferrocarriles del Ecuador Empress Publica (FE EP) or as I call it the Guayaquil and Quito Railway (G&Q) in Ecuador is an interesting 42 inch gauge railroad as well. What really struck me, that some passengers rode on the roofs of converted boxcars. The G&Q never had enough money to purchase many  proper passenger cars, so they converted outside frame boxcars to passenger cars. Many farmers ride in the cars with their baskets of produce to sell at the larger city markets. The railroad also had quite an interesting switchback in its mainline to climb into the Andes to reach the capital of Quito.

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Barriers to Model Railroading part 4: Armchair to Active Modeler

Certainly every person is an armchair hobbyist at some point, whether getting started in a hobby or between projects. Unfortunately some get stuck in the armchair mode. Personally, I’m tired of being an armchair modeler, so it is time to get over the barriers and becoming an active modeler.

Barriers to becoming active can be many, so I looked at what is stopping me. Here is my list, although I doubt it is complete.

Project selection

My biggest is selecting a project, one that can be interesting over time, teaches me new techniques that can be used now as well as with future projects. However, the project selection is usually building the model railroad. Perhaps this is the wrong perspective of the hobby for me. I enjoy building, either from scratch or from a kit. Can be a building, a freight car, a passenger car, and although I have never done one, a locomotive.

Working on too many things at once

Really the problem is not making a plan for the project. Thing of it as a recipe to follow if you like to cook, or the cut list of wood if you like woodworking. I’ll call it the project list for lack of an original name.

Developing a trackplan for sustainable operation.

I think this is an area where many model railroaders have problems. Mine is really finding one with compounded only by myself by wanting ideal operations. I would say it often leads to shelving the actual model railroad due to this issue.

So how to become an active modeler? Pick a project, make a project list and START!

Barriers to Model Railroading part 4: Armchair to Active Modeler @June 2019

By: H Mathews

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Barriers to Model Railroading part 3: If I had unlimited time, I would really like to model …..

As mentioned in my Barriers to Model Railroading post, I decided to take the time to take a hard look at the stockpile of model railroad items I have in boxes and drawers. As I started this process, I kept asking myself, would I ever really have time to build it?

I decided to make a list of all the projects that have been contemplated and some equipment purchased. I will return to these projects individually over the next few weeks.

Ferrocarril de Agricultor (FdA)

A fictional O scale branchline featuring Bachmann’s outside frame 4-4-0’s. These engines are based on the famous Brazilian narrow gauge railroad, (EFOM). I liked the idea of a no compromise to 30 inch gauge in O scale. 30 inch gauge is 76cm gauge and and outside of the United States, it was a common carrier narrow gauge. Plus, I like the EFOM and the Ferrocarriles de Argentinos (the Patagonian Express). If I had a bucket list of railroads to ride, these two famous 76cm lines in South America would both be on them.

The second C module that I built. Mock up of the FdA.
The station is an O scale version of the Colorado and Southern’s Leadville, Colorado station.
I liked its look for the FdA.

Rio Grande Southern

In my last post my interest in the RGS was discussed. If I could go back in time to the late 1940’s, I would ride in the cab of #455 from Ridgeway to Rico on a mid September day. To model the RGS would be fun, but the RGS would be a railfan Model Railroad for me. I just want to sit and watch. Vance Junction to Rico, not many miles but still way to big for a model railroad. Really, Trout Lake through the Gallagher trestles. I want the scenery and the cutting out of the helper at Lizard Head. Sure, I like Ophir, Vance Junction, Telluride, Dallas Divide, and a few other places on the northern division of the RGS. However, the ride up and down from Lizard Head on a K-27 would be the sole purpose of this model railroad. One short train, two engines and a huge amount of space to fit that ride into. I have never even seen anyone try to model the Gallagher trestles. Ophir at least is convenient to fit into a corner of a room but alas the same cannot be said for the Gallagher trestles. Lizard Head though would make a nice set of modules. Building the snow shed, even the much reduced post WWII version would be a scratchbuilding challenge for sure.

That said, over the years I have collected enough Sn3 RGS and D&RGW locomotives to model the northern division of the RGS.

Appalachian and Broad Top coal mining

When Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman ran articles about model railroad bridge lines through the Appalachian mountains my thought was not about the bridge traffic, but of the mine runs. Many years ago, my first ride behind a real 12″ equal to a foot gauge engine was at the East Broad Top Railroad’s 1978 Winter Spectacular. I built and ran part of an HOn3 layout based solely on running mine runs out of a small yard and up several branches. My son and I built and ran an N scale module minus the mine building and scenery based on a C&O branch that my father scrapped way back in the 1970s in West Virginia. So we have both N scale C&O and Sn3 EBT equipment. I also have one of the White Pass and Yukon mikados in Sn3 produced by Railmaster in New Zealand to use for this project as well as a BTS kit of East Broad Top #12 are the stars of the S scale project.

Anthracite Railroads

When Railroads You can Model was released, I got a copy and discovered the New York, Ontario, and Western along with the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain shortline. However, it was the NYO&W that became an instant standard gauge favorite along with my long time favorite Ma and Pa.. A S scale Overland Reading I-8 camelback and NW-2 diesel were picked up over time for this project.

Maine 2 Foot

I have always like the Maine two foot railroads. In checking my boxes, I have plenty of both Sn2 and On2 models. Too much to go into any detail here. My first modular railroad was a version of the WW&F’s Wiscasset upper yard.

Chili Line

I have always liked the Chili Line, it was a mixed train daily accept Sunday for part of its lifetime so what’s not to like! Once again, a fair amount of equipment to model the Chili Line lives in boxes. I recently blogged about a fictional station along the Chili Line that I was planning to build.


Beckleysville is a total fictional project. A small town located in northern Baltimore county, Maryland. First an On30 project but now an Sn3 project. The project is a favorite as my home is in the modeled area. This allows me to actually go and see the buildings for the layout.

Barriers to Model Railroading part 3: If I had unlimited time, I would really like to model…@June 2019

By: H Mathews

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Barriers to Model Railroading- One’s Health

It has been some time since my last post, and it is a rather long story. However I would like to share it with you. This past February, on the last Friday of the month I got up early and decided to take the dogs out. I do not know why I put all three of them on their leashes, but I did that morning. Usually I leash our Newfoundland puppy and our runner who doesn’t listen. What happened as we went out the door I will never know, but I ended up tripping down the steps falling and being dragged through slush, ice and mud about 15 feet into our yard. All three dogs outweigh me and of course all three leashes were wrapped around my left wrist. I let out a cry as my wife came to the door to help with our puppy (our Newfoundland weighed over 100 pounds at the time). She at first couldn’t see me in the dark but quickly got to me, released me of the dogs and said don’t move. Well as my clothes filled with ice and slush I got up and realized my left shoulder was not well. Not good for a left handed person!

Sage, our wonderful Newfoundland

As it turned out, there were about six things wrong in my shoulder. However, along the way of pre surgery labs, our family doctor had me do a coronary calcium score. The result came back high, so off to visit a cardiologist and have a stress test. In spite of normal blood pressure, heart rate, and EKG, my stress test showed a problem. Next a heart catheterization which showed that I had a serious problem. A blockage that was serious but one that my right coronary artery had overcome by creating collateral arterioles to my blocked left anterior descending artery. The cardiologist told my wife and I that to fix it, I would need open heart surgery. Thankfully I had fallen and had been hurt enough to have the test done! Our family doctor, the cardiologist, and the cardiac surgeon all said you were luck, you are a product of bad genes and could have had a major fatal heart attack.

Today, I am post operative day 59, feeling fine and still in need of a major surgery on my shoulder later this summer. Barriers to Model Railroading, temporary for sure. With my left shoulder numerous issues, it is hard to do much fine modeling. I can still draw and make the plans for the Chili Line modules.

Stay tuned as I slowly get back into “the swing of things”

Barriers to Model Railroading- One’s Health@ May 2019

By: H. Mathews

Posted in Misc Thoughts | 2 Comments

Barriers to Model Railroading

Like many people in today’s world, my hobby time varies from a little to none at all. Everyone can certainly add to the list of why this is the case for them. Recently though I listened to Mortise and Tenon podcast #10, “Barriers to Woodworking”. A great discussion going through the many different things that can be a barrier to doing more in your hobby. Space, tools, source of wood, techniques were some of the barriers discussed. Some of those barriers probably sound familiar to most model railroaders.

Today, I would like to share some of my barriers and what are some of my solutions to these barriers. So let’s look at COMPETING HOBBY(IES), TIME, SPACE, SKILLS, and a big one which will be saved for last

One of my barriers to model railroading is a COMPETING HOBBY, woodworking. Now to add to this is a decision to move to using hand tools in woodworking versus using power tools. A few weeks ago, I spent two days away at Joshua Farnsworth’s woodworking school taking a class on restoring wooden planes. A great class for me as I would like to use my wood bodied planes, both bench and mounding planes in my woodworking projects. All of my wooden planes I have purchased on eBay, flea markets, yard sales, or antique stores. All of them are in various states of repair. However, I did learn many skills in two days to fix my planes, sharpen my metal tools, and even use some tools that I currently do not own. It sounds like a hobby all until itself, but it is just part of a bigger one. Imagine having to fix a plane to flatten a piece of wood. Sounds like fixing a model locomotive to run a model train doesn’t it?

A few of my wooden planes. @H Mathews 2018

Finding TIME to do both hobbies is a barrier. What about time? Is time a barrier for you? At times it is for me. I currently work eight nights in a row and have six off. So my hobby time varies. To overcome this barrier my plan is to have several 30 minute modeling moments during the week. The little blocks would certainly focus my attention to the project at hand.

As the commentators on the Mortise and Tenon podcast pointed out, SPACE is an issue. Both woodworking and model trains can eat up some serious space. I have a decent sized basement, however it is full of stuff that does not allow a dedicated space for doing either hobby. So as I cut some plywood for my Chili Line modules this past weekend, I had to move other things around. Even a dedicated space to assemble my modules is a problem. As I stacked my 3/4 inch plywood for the modules and replaced other items I moved I thought this is ridiculous there is no room to do anything. My solution is to start now and create a dedicated space for my hobbies. I do have a very nice desk to do research and model building on. However, to do any model building, I have to move any research items such as book and papers out of the way. Behind my desk chair is several overcrowded bookshelves of trains and woodworking books. Since this area of my basement is more conducive to research and keeping my books, I am going to use it for this purpose. Someplace to build models will have to be created.

Even if my space was cleaned up, a workbench to do wood working and some sort of area to work on modules is lacking. My very tiny woodworking bench my parents gave me as a Christmas present about 30 years ago has been a good bench for power tools. However, it’s size now restricts me from planing wood of any size beyond say 6 inches by hand or even trying to assemble modules for model trains. It is good for assembling small sub parts of the modules but its lack of depth restricts the construction of 24 inch deep modules. It’s underneath storage cabinet though will make it an ideal place to store model train kits and module templates that I have made. Although too small to assemble modules, it is a good table to actually work on assembled modules as well as repair, sharpen and clean my toys.

SPACE or really layout SIZE always seems to be a barrier. Having a large layout sounds nice to many modelers. My choice is something smaller centered around my interests of switching and scenic realism which allows for a slow paced operation. Even modeling a standard gauge branch-line or short line allows for limiting layout space rather than completely filling an area. My rather cluttered basement is a large space, but the task of filling it with a model railroad seems to me to be a daunting and laborious feat. I’d rather place space restrictions on myself and build small layouts. One thing about limiting one’s layout space is being able to dedicate to building the layout, trackwork, scenery, and equipment. Having to build say four buildings vs forty allows you to both complete all of them and to also do a good job on each. Same goes with your equipment.

SKILLS is a tough barrier. As the gentlemen at Mortise and Tenon point out, one can struggle to learn certain tasks for years. However, if you can attend a woodworking class at a woodworking school you can gain valuable experience. My recent experience with my wooden plane class and a timber-framing class in the past both helped me gain valuable experience and a comfort level with the correct process to do the task whether cutting a mortise in a 12 inch by 12 inch timber, or flattening the sole of a wooden plane. Model railroading doesn’t have schools to attend. Certainly one can go to NMRA regional and national shows and attend workshops at those meetings. Some local train shows may have vendors demonstrating a task such as placing decoders into HO scale diesels. However, the opportunities to develop skills in model railroading are not quite the same as in woodworking.

What are other barriers to model railroading? Let’s call it PARALYSIS. I have started more model railroads than I have completed. My decision to do my Chili Line was based on the fact I had most of the equipment in working order, I just needed to build the modules. How many times have you said that to yourself?

One of the solutions to the barrier of never completing a model railroad is just get started and stop stockpiling for the ultimate layout. Yes, it can be easier said than done. From the boxes of stored equipment and kits that I own, I could say that about myself very easily. Prototype narrow gauge railroads fascinate me and I would like to model several of them from different parts of the world. This fascination though is probably my barrier to completing a working model of any one of those prototypes or freelance model railroads based on a prototype. I know I still want to build my Beckleysville project and build a Maine two footer but will I ever have the time to do more than those?

My first look at prototype narrow gauge railroads was checking out Silver San Juan from the public library way back in elementary school one summer. I poured over the book until it was time to go back and I asked my Mom if we could renew it the one time so I could really get a chance to look it over. The Rio Grande Southern has always been a favorite of mine and over the years I have acquired enough Sn3 equipment to model its post WWII era. Yet, I have never once modeled it. I made two small plans, one for Lizard Head and one for Pandora and continued to collect boxes.

Is it time to get rid of the engines, cars, kits, etc for all those projects I thought I may like to do but I don’t think I’ll ever realistically get to. So while building my hobby room and cleaning up I decided to take a hard look at all the trains I have and decide to keep or sell. I am doing a similar hard look at my woodworking tools. Someone else could very well use those boxes I’ll never get to use to build a nice layout. Perhaps that someone is new to the hobby and does not have access to the equipment of a favorite prototype. Give those boxes a chance to do what they were intended to do, become models of buildings, equipment, etc. Let them bring some enjoyment to another modeler if you are really never going to use them.

What are some of your barriers that keeps you from model railroading?

Barriers to Model Railroading @Nov 2018

By: H Mathews

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San Pedro’s Operations

One of the things I read about frequently in model railroading is that the project was too big or that the perceived operations were not desirable due to various issues. I will be the first to admit this has happened to me. As an operational model, San Pedro is rather simple in design, no complex time table operational or opposing train meets to worry over with this layout . The DRG&W ran a mixed train, 425 south, 426 north in my selected time period of late 1930s-1941. The motive power during this time period was always one of the K-28’s. Some days, the mixed was the RPO and Chili Line coach. Other days there were various types and numbers of freight cars along with the RPO and coach. Switching at San Pedro is limited to dropping off a car for the freight house/ team track or loading a stock car at the stockpen chute. Taking on water at the water tank and departing are the other activities. The recent change to the water tank end of the layout provides another siding (track #9-244′ on the photo below) for MOW set outs or water cars to be filled from the reservoir. Unique operations for that small siding and extra maneuvers as it will be a facing siding for Santa Fe bound 425.

Not much operation there you say. That may be true if your only interested in running trains. However, it gives me time to put into the other parts of the hobby I enjoy or want to try. I have several older PBL stock car kits I would like to build as double deck cars for sheep, the primary livestock shipped out of San Pedro. I would like to model the DRG&W’s automobile flats, both the loaded and tarped southbound flats as well as the northbound empties with just their hoop frames. The DRGW tank cars used for water transportation will also be something to learn more about with the recent design change. Another area of the hobby to learn more about is battery operation and San Pedro offers the perfect layout to learn this aspect of the hobby.

San Pedro’s Operation@Oct 2018

By: H. Mathews

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A Trip to Strasburg Railroad

This past Friday , I took Graham to Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, Pennsylvania for an early birthday present. A hostler tour, train ride and visit to the Pennsylvania railroad museum. I cannot say enough about the two hour long hostler tour. What an educational experience on not only prepping a steam locomotive for a day’s work, but many other facts about steam engine operation and mechanics. Even better was the chance to climb into the cab of my favorite Strasburg locomotive, ex Norfolk and Western 475, a Mollie from 1906. Below are several photographs of many we took.

The highlight of the tour for Graham was climbing into the cab on three different occasions to peer into the firebox as the grates were cleaned, the banked overnight fire was broken and spread and what the fire looked like at various stages as it was prepped and built for the day’s work.

After the tour, we took the 11am train to Paradise , Pennsylvania and back in the lounge car. It’s the fist time we rode in that car and we enjoyed the experience. The chairs were so comfortable that Graham almost feel asleep! We had lunch at the Red Caboose motel’s “Casey Jones restaurant” and then spent several hours at the Pennsylvania railroad museum.

A Trip to Strasburg Railroad@Oct 2018

By: H. Mathews

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Chili Line: Connell Tank

A recent interesting post on the The Santa Fe Branch Chili Line group has caused me to make a change to San Pedro. Included in the post was a valuation map and numerous photographs of the area now. I am going to remove the water tank and cistern from left side of the layout in favor of the reservoir, pump house and water tank. The valuation map below provides the layout of the tank area. This will now become the left side of the San Pedro model. I will keep the small one panel trestle as well to complete the edge of the layout as before.

Chili Line: Connell Tank@Oct 2018

By: H Mathews

Posted in Chili Line, Misc Thoughts, Prototype, Sn3 | Leave a comment

Layout Design for San Pedro: The doodles

After several doodles, I have decided that the first version of San Pedro is the one I like best with some scenic modifications. I would like to add a second adobe dwelling, change the road and add a few more trees. See my two “Paint” doodles below.

Layout Design for San Pedro: the doodles@9/2018

By: H. Mathews

Posted in Chili Line, Layout Design, Sn3 | Leave a comment

San Pedro, a Chili Line Imagineering

My new project is going to be a simple layout using an imagineered village along the DRGW’s Chili Line. Why an imagineered location? While it’s true the Chili Line offers several interesting switching towns, I wanted to model several things that interest me such as stock pens (for sheep and double deck stock cars), a cistern and water tank, small freight station, and a passenger station. A simple passing siding  would suffice and perhaps a short spur for a team track. For the village, several small adobe homes and fields to represent one of the small towns served by the Chili Line in northern New Mexico.

There are several Chili Line stations that interest me, however the two small ones that I like are Tres Piedras and Chamita. One item missing from these two stations is a water tank. I calculated the length of the sidings in S scale to give me an idea of an area using a program I found here. As you can see, the sidings, if not compressed, would be very long. Since the Chili Line is only operating a mixed train in each direction daily accept Sunday’s in the time period I’m modeling there isn’t a need to have a long passing siding for opposing meets. Historically this took place at Embudo which will north of San Pedro. While looking for information on Tres Piedras and Chamita, my internet search dug up some excellent information on the Cumbres and Toltec site regarding the DRGW facilities at both stations.

Tres Piedras, New Mexico Milepost 315.05

Track #8 – 786′ siding ( about 12 1/4 feet in S scale)
Depot 36’x44’6″
Platform 8’x16′
Bunk House 7’6″x24′ carbody
Coal House unspecified
Tool House 6’x8′ leanto
Pump House 17’x23′ and a Cistern 3’x5′ 6″
Stock Pen 47’x47′ w/4’x13′ loading platform
Leanto 13’x18 (two are listed)

Chamita, New Mexico  Milepost 366.76

Chamita is the Station just north of the Rio Chama River crossing.

Track #22 – 1174′ siding ( about 18 feet in S scale)
Depot 8’6″x32′ car body (burned 9/18/1938)
Freight House 8’6″x32′ car body (burned 9/18/1938) Platform, cinder 7’6″x32′
Platform, cinder 8’6″x32′


Accessed on 8/28/18

Here is my first concept sketch of San Pedro using an app called “Paper”. With my fingers it’s hard to draw a finished product, but it’s great to use the program for quick ideas. I’m still debating the locations for the cistern and section house.


San Pedro, a Chili Line Imagineering©9-2018

By: H Mathews

Posted in Chili Line, Mixed Trains, Sn3 | Leave a comment