Model Railroad Imagineer: The beginnings

So you ask,”what got you started in this imagineering thing?”

Partly, my son and his interest in trains. He  has liked N scale since he was four years old. Once he saw several of my On30 engines out of their boxes, a truly rare occurrence in his lifetime, he decided he liked “the big ones” as well. So now we have a scale and a gauge in common.

However, long before this happened, the idea of using On30 to represent a Maine two foot railroad and a Maryland “Farmer’s Railroad” had come to mind. Thought it would be an interesting project to take to local model railroad shows to share the “Narrow Gauge Experience” as well have something to operate as I worked on my 12″=1ft basement project.

Not being one of the narrow gauge purist when it comes to On30 representing either two foot or three foot railroads, decided to sit down and look at different 24, 30, and 36 inch gauge railroads that offered an interesting switching area that could be made into a module or two since my “permanently up” model railroad was going to be one in On2 and one in Sn3.

Due to my interest in various narrow gauge railroads around the world (mostly western hemisphere), it is difficult to find just one prototype to model when there are so many different railroads, themes, scenes, etc that have caught my fancy over the years. Watching the EBT switch hoppers at the mines in Robertsdale, Pennsylvania sounds just as interesting to me as the Gilpin Tram switching the mills in Black Hawk, Colorado. Themes, just too many have an interest over the years. From coal mining to hard rock mining, logging and wood products, slate industry, dairy, livestock, or just plain old general freight. Scenes are a similar story, whether it was a bridge, a station, line side barn or industry, or the whole town. Once again lots of scenes, not enough space. Then an idea came to mind. How about if I made a On30 model railroad and replaced scenes and buildings. Then I could model several different railroads in the same space! Next problem, a flexible enough track arrangement to make this idea work. What typical scene interested me the most! Came down to those that required switching from Strong Maine to the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska to Peru and everywhere in-between whether a junction, or “division point”. Especially those that contained a wye or switchback, they seemed to make it to the top of my list. However, a few such as SR&RL at Strong and Kingfield Maine, the Ma&Pa  at Delta, Pa/Cardiff, Md and C&S/Gilpin at Black Hawk were the major exceptions to wyes and swirchbacks. Granted, the Ma&Pa did have a wye at Delta at one time, but for most of the Ma &Pa’s time in Delta they used a very nice Sellers turntable.

So the search for an interesting generic scene became the new goal. Standard gauge came to the rescue. Yes, you read that correctly. Standard gauge came to the rescue of my narrow gauge quest. So much for being a narrow gauge fan you  say. I know, but the solution to my problem had an interesting twist. It was 10 minutes up the road and I had driven through it numerous times without giving it a thought. The Stewartstown Railroad’s Stewartstown terminal (see for more about the Stewartstown RR) was perfect . It had a wye, several industries to switch, a small engine terminal, nice station area and it was situated in a small “valley” so to speak in terms of our local geography.

Since I had been searching through photos of Mexican narrow gauge at the time, I wondered how well my Ferrocarril de Agricultor [FdA] (Farmer’s Railway) would fit the Stewartstown configuration. Central to the whole equation where several photos from Mexican and South American railroads that really interested me. I really liked the market scene of vendors selling hats and have always liked the mixed train backing out of the station.

What if the station’s architecture matched the market’s arches? Hmmm that sounded interesting. Wonder if I could make the street between the station and market of a cobblestone covered in dirt, an interesting scene from another photograph I had snatched off of the internet.So then it was off to find other Spanish colonial and adobe buildings to fill out my new Mexican village. The main industry, agricultural products including my favorite drink coffee! Low and behold where there was once nothing, there was now an imagineered railroad, Ferrocarril de Agricultor in  “Peublo de Cafe’ ” ( literally, village of coffee), using a trackplan similar to the Stewartstown railroad in faraway York County Pennsylvania. That is how my adventure in Model Railroad Imagineering got started.

One last thought, what would the FdA’s Pueblo de Cafe’s engine terminal look like? The 2ft gauge Mexicano provided an answer (and maybe a future engine).


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