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"Friend's Layouts" Installment #8 - A Love of Trains Since the 1930's, a Layout that began in 1964

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Listening to my friend John W when he discusses trains, real or model, is a treat that I always enjoy. He'll tell you about the steamers and early electrics he remembers seeing, and riding behind, as a youth. He watched NY City's Triborough Bridge (Now the Robert F Kennedy Triborough Bridge) being built from near his home in the 1930's. Completed in 1936, the Triborough connects The Bronx, Queens and Manhattan over the East River. John recalls walking across it before vehicle traffic was allowed to.

John recalls that his first toy train was Lionel's O gauge Blue Comet set that he received in 1939. As time went by, he painted it black and the cars green. He has since restored it to its original colors (beautifully, I must say). 83 years later he still has it - operational but just displayed now.

John is a retired Tool & Die maker and uses those skills to build beautiful truly scale (HO) operational models. His scratch built (mostly from brass) models include a New Haven EP3 electric, a Pennsylvania RR D16 4-4-0 steamer. and early Pennsylvania RR electrics such as their L5, L6, P5 and E2B. John favors these early, pre-GG 1 electrics, as he remembers seeing them run and riding behind them.

He has also built, and super detailed, many Penn Line diecast engine and car kits.

John's painting and hand lettering skills are second to none.

John began building his current HO layout 59 years ago in 1964 and, for the most part, "completed" it within a few years. BUT, as we all know, a layout is never "completed". He has since built several 1 x 3 foot sections on his workbench and added them to the layout.

Trackage is early Atlas (I had no idea they have been around so long!). This track was chosen as his local hobby shop was going out of business and sold him their entire inventory of this track at a great price. John used very course sandpaper painted grey for ballast - the effect is amazing. There is also some Tru-Scale wooden tie trackage.

The layout is 8' x 24' in size, with a large opening in the center for access. It has double track main lines broken into 13 blocks and a branch line. Two trains can be run at one time - it takes 3-4 minutes for them to complete their three time around route. John's favorite railroad is the Pennsylvania and 90% of the trains on the layout are PRR models.

John joined the TCA 1n 1986, almost five decades after receiving his first train. I think it was the lure of the York meet that finally persuaded him to join - he has attended about 36 since then. At first in search of kits and rare trains, and later on to put a few items for sale on tables shared with friends - really, I guess, the socializing at those tables has kept him coming. Unfortunately, at 91 years young, John is no longer able to make the trip. His last visit there was October 2019 before the Covid 19 shutdown.

I hope that you enjoy the following pictures of John's Pennsylvania RR layout and his collection.

We all love workbench pics, so I 'm including this pic:


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