In Praise of Model Trains II

by | Dec 13, 2021

In my last blog I wrote about the Christmas present I received when I was 6 or 7, a model train that introduced me to the hobby I have enjoyed ever since. It was one of two moments that I remember vividly that compelled me into model railroads.

The second moment was in the sixties, I don’t remember exactly when. I came across a magazine article about John Allen’s Gorre & Daphetid (‘Gory and Defeated’) model railroad. I was shocked, quite literally, that anyone could make a railroad so beautiful and so realistic. I could scarcely believe I was looking at a model rather than real life, and the scale was immense.

John Allen was a professional photographer who devoted his life to building an HO layout in his basement, with all of the scenery and structures scratch-built. Tragically the railroad was destroyed by a fire shortly after his death in 1973. He re-invented model railroading through his wonderful photography and his marvelous skills as a model builder.

And that is how I decided to become a scratch builder, as best I can. These photographs are of my Cape Fear layout.

This is my fishing harbor. The mine—The Schocken Ore Company— is in the background on the right.

Marine aviation is a big local industry.

By amazing coincidence I have twin granddaughters named Charlotte and Rose.

The visiting aliens greet what they assume is the dominant species on this planet.

The train yard area of the layout. The repair shop is in honor of John Allen’s engine shed he photographed in black and white. The local oil field and the lumber mill are to the right.

Perhaps one day I’ll write a novel about a railroad modeler.

Sign up for John's Newsletter: