When a soon to be model railroader sits down and starts to design his (or her) layout, he (or she) will start by picking out a location and time period. The number of locations a model railroader picks are of course dependent upon space. Even within the locations, one needs to choose certain structures and areas as the whole location or region cannot possibly be modeled true to scale.

Picking and choosing is a hard process when someone wishes to model a location in a particular period with some historical accuracy. From looking at this Web site, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that I have settled on two possible locations, eastern central Nebraska centered around Fremont, Nebraska, as well as the Skally Line between St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota. Colorado narrow gauge was a close third, but it would be expensive as Nn3 equipment is pricey and not readily available. Also, since it is not in close proximity to me it would be hard to model first hand. (I’m still holding out for a double shelf layout, Nebraska on bottom, Minnesota on top. I’m not ready to cut either one yet until I am met with reality.)

Historical significance was important to me when choosing a location to model. Since my interest lies in local history dating back to the 1880s, choosing an exact era was a little difficult. I loved steam, the old west, and such, but the modern operations, which I could readily observe and long to emulate, would not be able to be incorporated.

I’ve got my mind set on the 1980s, as that was my childhood and many historic structures still remained. As I do my research many demolition dates took place in the 1980s. Many structures of historical significance still remain standing, which allows me to model them as well, except I am hard pressed to find a modern example of a clap board sided store that has withstood the last century of progress. I loved the clap board sided buildings of yesteryear. One other benefit, is that Fremont, even today, still has some brick streets, so it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to have a brick Main and 1st Street on the layout.

Rolling stock? We’ll, as a visit to a club layout recently revealed, replicating authentic operations during operating sessions can be done, while at other times just pulling out the old steamers and have them chug down the line past the modern buildings and vehicles is just fine. There are no model railroad police, and the model steamers really don’t need water tanks readily available.

It is going to be really important to focus on including the essence of the places and eras instead of replicating every little detail. Over and over again I read from the experts that a problem beginners (though I have 3 years past experience) is the lack of focus on manageable pieces. Careful planning is essential.

I will no doubt have 100s of pages of notes, 1,000s of photographs, and many books to base my layout on. (You’ll see all that as you browse the companion sites rrpics and rrwiki). I will also have put in many hours of CAD design (at a much later date) and 6-7 years of planning before I glue the first piece of N scale flex track to foam core.

I’ll talk about my long list of railroads and main lines another day. Now that is a list that needs narrowing down.

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...


  1. pogopod
    Posted June 3, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    My vote is the Skally. When I moved to my home in 1979 I listened to the trains everyday and night. I was within seeing distance of the line. It had semaphores and lots of different road names using the line. I saw and photographed C&NW, Milw, BN, DW&P, CN, to name a few. the Soo crossed in White Bear and there was a BN branch at White Bear, lots of neat bridges and industries all the way up to Hinckley.

  2. Posted June 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realize it was that active at that time, or that the branch from White Bear to Stillwater was still in use. The year you describe is exactly what I am going for. This is the only photo I have found online for that era: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23711298@N07/2882260039/

    I’d be interested in seeing your pictures of the line. Do you you remember where the semaphores were located?

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