About the Site
New Britain Freight House c1910.
I'm fortunate to have met many great friends in the hobby. We all agree that probably the best thing about this hobby is the people and the fun times we have. I'm apparently in the middle of nowhere. Most of my modeling buddies are about an hour away (although many of them live relatively near each other. There really are too many to list at this point, but these are the folks that pop up most frequently in the blog:
Many of us meet at his place on Thursdays to catalog the photo collection of the NHRHTA. Because of this, the majority of recurring characters on the site are from this group. He is modeling the Valley Line and a significant portion of the Air Line on the New Haven in 1947-1949. A fantastic modeler.
A great friend that tragically passed away in June 2022. An almost-New Haven modeler, he modeled the Housatonic Railroad in 1892. Since there is very little commercially available for that era, he produced some kits and had also gotten into a lot of 3D printing, including the stack for Russell & Erwin for me.
I did a post remembering Craig here.
I first met Ted when we were both bidding on the same item on eBay. His Essential Freight Car series in RMC is what got me hooked on freight cars and building resin kits. His attention to detail is second-to-none and has greatly inspired much of my modeling. He has also authored some essential books.
Roman lives right around the corner from Chris. He's one of Joseph's good friends and has been helping Chris on his layout quite a bit.
I met him when he came for an open house after the NE Proto Meet and we hit it off. His knowledge of railroading as a whole is impressive. One of these days he'll figure out what he's actually going to model.
Thursday semi-regular. He has an amazing ability to identify nearly any location in a picture of the New Haven, although maybe I should put together a test for Charlie, Chris and Dick... His particular passion is NH wrecks. Oh, and steam (yeah, another one of those guys).
Former Thursday regular (until his driver Dave moved). His layout of Derby Junction on the NH has been published in Model Railroader. In the process, he's pretty much done it all. The layout is a blast to operate, and he takes particular pleasure in not telling the new operators about things like the operating derails...
One of train several buddies (along with John Jones and Mike Motyl) from church (when I manage to make it). He's a contractor and was particularly instrumental in the design and construction of my liftout.
Another former Thursday regular, until he moved to Maine or some lame excuse like that. He's modeling Vermont Rail from Bellows Falls to Rutland Center and Burlington, c1980's to the present. It also includes some old Alcos that haven't been retired, and a periodic NH steam fan trip. One of these days I'll get over to see it.
Not a New Haven modeler. As he tells people, I'm the other long-haired modeler. I'm older, but he may have been active modeling before me.
Since I decided not to stick with Sergent couplers, I sold them all to him. In turn, he's convinced me to get ProtoThrottles. He works for the Central New England Railway (CNZR) and now so do I. That's his fault too.
Another real railroader, and track enthusiast. I wish my track looked as good as his Proto:48 track, but there are just things that aren't possible in HO scale. At least for me. He's also a 3D designer and has a resin printer so he's been making some parts we need.
Another Thursday regular. He's modeling the Shoreline from New London to Cedar Hill. He's also included the lower Valley Line. He's probably weathered and sold more freight cars than I currently own (which is saying something, although I'm no Mike Rose...). His layout is about ready to start testing some operations to see if things are working as designed.
Max is a former Thursday night non-modeler. Max has a vast amount of knowledge on the Valley Line and is (literally) wrote the book. It seems like he worked on pretty much any major piece of infrastructure in the state.
Another impressive modeler, and also a 3D designer that has been providing much needed New Haven details. It's great fun to see him and his wife Melanie at Springfield each year.
Thursday regular (see a pattern here yet?). Modeling the CNJ in S-scale. One of those long-time (and second generation) modeler who has modeled just about everything at one point or another. HO-scale, HOn3 (I think, some sort of narrow gauge), etc.
Not a Thursday regular (although he is invited every week). I've actually "known" him for some time, he worked at the hobby store I frequented as a kid and owned another one I visited when I moved to another part of the state a couple years after I was married...and just before he closed the store. He even recognized me. I finally 'met' him properly at the NE Prototype Meet.
Bill's old O&W layout is a model of 'less is more'. The layout has been published many times and was a double-deck layout comprising of two towns in about 12' x 10'. His new O&W layout is also a double-deck layout is a model of 'more is more.' More room, more towns, more track, more trains (but not more levels). Chris and I have to get moving or he's going to finish his second (third? Fourth? It depends on how you count) layout before we finish our first. Amazingly, at least three of his prior layouts still exist...
His modeling approach and design has greatly influenced my layout. He's also a great cook, and we have been co-manning the grill at various get-togethers at his place or mine.
Joseph used to live around the corner from me. I met Joseph at the Hobby Shop when he had some questions about installing decoders. That's when we figured out we are within walking distance and that Jessica used to go to his house regularly when his Mom still ran a day care.
Now that he has a job on the
Pioneer Valley Railroad Connecticut Southern and lives in MA I see him a lot less, but I do need to get up there and help him get working on a layout of his own.
Non-modeler Thursday nighter. Back in the '40s he frequently rode with the Valley Line local crew. See Shoreliner Vol 22, Issue 4 for some great memories, including the time when he had to show a green fireman how to fire a K-1-d. Not only does he have a great memory for all of this, but he's also a prolific photographer and has given us some fantastic photos of the New Haven.
Chris has been producing some 3D printed parts and is fantastic (and fast) in his CAD work. I picked up a larger 3D printer and we're working on some projects together. He works at the Essex Steam Train too.
I recently released that I know Chris from A to Z...
I'm also a guitarist, avid Dungeon & Dragons DM, computer geek (aka an IT guy), husband and father. Not necessarily in that order.
I'm also officially a professional model railroader now that I have helped built a layout for hire, installing decoders for fun and profit, worked on model projects with several companies, and trying to launch Prototype Junction as a viable operation.
How did I get here?
The Short Version
I'm a model railroad retread focusing on prototype modeling of the New Haven Railroad in the late '40s, early '50s. I was out of the hobby for about 18 years after high school. This is the third layout that I've started since getting back into the hobby in 2006 or so.
The first was really intended as a re-initiation and test layout and was quickly replaced with something that was intended to be a more prototypical model of the New Haven Railroad in Windsor Locks and Thompsonville, largely so I could model the Connecticut River bridge. As research continued I determined there was no way to successfully model the significant passenger traffic on the Springfield mainline in 1948. In addition, I had been operating on a number of other layouts and I realized that there really wasn't enough operating interest with a single daily local freight.
Thus, this layout and this website.
I have a wonderful wife Laura, and twin daughters, Jessica and Emily. Both were premature, and Emily has significant medical issues requiring her to live more than her first eight years in the hospital.
The other hobbies (I have too many) that take up my time is playing guitar, occasionally at Simsbury United Methodist Church, (and music in general) and writing and running my heavily home-brewed D&D games, among others. Aside from the guitar, most of what I do today I've been doing since third grade.
The Long Version
If for some reason you want to know more than that, here are all the gory details, well most of them anyway.
The Early Years
I had a model railroad for as long as I can remember as a kid. I started with an O-27 railroad, along with some Marx O-scale equipment that was my grandfather's. My first layout was up and running before second grade, probably started around first grade (6 years old). I remember where it was in the house, but not much beyond that. I'm trying to see if I can find some pictures of it. I had a nice Lionel Lehigh Valley diesel (we lived in New Jersey).
Anyway, that came down when we moved in the summer between second and third grades. The next layout was an 8' x 8' layout. My dad built the benchwork out of two sheets of plywood with homasote on top. This was in an unfinished room in our basement. The room was only partially excavated, so the floor was uneven and higher than the floor in the rest of the basement by a couple of feet. Other than the train, we had some 4' deep shelves for storage.
The layout, as can be expected, was a mix of everything. Our first HO equipment was a combination Christmas present for me and my brother Brad. He received a B&O F-unit and several Athearn passenger cars. I received a Sante Fe Road switcher, and several freight cars. Brad ended up not being all that interested. I don't really remember him playing with the trains at all. But I spent a lot of time up until we moved just after high school working on it.
The rolling stock and locomotives consisted of all sorts of road names and eras. This included steam, diesels, and a couple of trolleys (including a european-style trolley) all running on the same mainline. Most of the motive power was Atlas, and as far as I can tell, all of the rolling stock was Tyco.
I remember a basic oval around the whole layout, with at least one track across the center, on a an up-and-over trestle set. I'm pretty sure there was a second track with a tunnel. Well, I think I managed to get a window screen mountain built, but I don't think it was ever covered. I would try just about anything I thought was neat. By the early '80s I had a subscription to Model Railroader and I still have most of the well-used issues.
A few of the more memorable efforts:
We went to a club someplace, and they had a subway under a section of the layout. Naturally, this was below the main deck, and I remember it being very cool. So, I had to have one. Since my layout was flat, I simply took some scrap wood paneling (the faux paneling so popular in the '70s) and covered up a corner of the layout and put a couple buildings on top of it.
I wanted to have some water on the layout. I have a little farm on the front section, so I dug out the homasote, added a little scenery, and mixed up some two-part epoxy that came as a double syringe. Naturally it simply seeped between the (and probably into) homasote and plywood since I hadn't sealed it. In addition, it never cured. So the bottom of my "pond" remained wet and tacky.
There was an article in Model Railroader about kitbashing the California Zephyr from a couple of Athearn passenger cars. Naturally, I had to have one. I couldn't get the styrene to bend as the article instructed for the streamlined power car, so I used cardboard instead. I still have it, and should post a picture here sometime.
By my high school years I was getting a little better at modeling, and was building a fairly decent model of a town on the layout. Unfortunately, after moving these were the main things that went missing.
Anyway, after graduating high school, everything was boxed and put into storage when my parents moved. After a few years at their place, it ended up in storage at my place. For 18 years.
The Later Years
When our daughters were about 2 1/2, we took Jessica on a steam train ride (Emily is disabled and still living in the hospital at this time). Jess didn't like loud noises, so although she was excited waiting for the train, she wasn't sure about getting on it once it was there.
She loved it.
After the ride, Jessica and I were following everybody back up to the car. She stopped and just stared at the big locomotive. She didn't want to get too close, but she didn't want to leave. So I figured that the time may have come to see about pulling out the old trains.
We have a relatively small house, and they had remained in storage with the intention of pulling them out one we moved to a bigger house. So I picked up some track, and set up a simple circle on the floor or kitchen table that we could easily break down. Jessica really enjoyed it.
So I started poking around on the internet, and decided I could build a "test" layout in one corner of the basement. It would be an 8' x 8' layout, but open in the center so I could access all of the track easily. I planned on trying out as many techniques as I could on this layout to prepare for the "real" layout.
Jessica and Laura were out of town for a long weekend, so I decided it was the perfect time to throw together a quick layout. I knew right from the beginning that this was for me, not Jess, but I also like to expose her to as much as possible and let her participate in whatever she'd like.
Jessica enjoyed it, and I was having fun trying out different modeling ideas. I jumped right in, not realizing that for most people nowadays "model" railroading doesn't mean the same thing it did to me 18 years ago. I started with an Intermountain box car kit, and a Branchline Trains heavyweight passenger car, as well as a Branchline Trains REA reefer. Only then did I pick up a couple of Accurail box cars.
Greg Gordon, the owner of the local hobby shop at the time, steered me toward the New Haven Railroad in the transition era. After finding the NHRHTA website, I was hooked. There was a post on the forum at the time that it had become "impossible" to find the Life-Like DL-109s. I took this as a challenge, and soon had five of them. My earliest posts on that site were hysterical (June of 2006). I still have them, but I'm sure you can find them if you care to. I still don't claim to be an expert, but I fake it pretty well.
That test "layout" was never finished, and only lasted about three months. I managed to complete the mainline for a second layout using ripped OSB for the majority of the benchwork and masonite spline for the subroadbed (the benchwork cost about $40).
Progress on the actual layout has taken longer than expected perhaps, with a few steps back and many forward. My tendency to experiment and willingness to go back and rework things that I feel can be better has a big impact. Just like rebuilding/rewriting this site for the third time in 14 years. But after that time, I feel I'm closer to the "end" than the beginning.