Model railroading the american way?

Well, that's me, Otto or commonly known as OOK, driving home the golden spike on my BAE-layout in late 2007. Let me tell you why I claim to go the american way in this hobby of model railroading while following european prototypes.


Back in 1957 when I was 17 y.o. our english teacher procured english speaking pen pals to all pupils of my class. Mine was a boy in Maine. When I told him that I was interested in model trains, he took this literally and sent me two copies of MODEL TRAINS, a then Kalmbach publication. Those happened to contain the first two installments of Linn Westcott's series "A railroad that grows and grows" which was to become a great success as a book later.

By these two installments I learned that a pike could be much more than a place to let trains run around in circles. Linn showed that even such a small 4x8 could be operated as a transportation system. I got hooked. And spoiled. Spoiled for the way the model railroad hobby was executed here in Germany.


The MODEL TRAINS copies also had ads of their sister magazine Model Railroader and I filed a request for a subscription as a Christmas gift. The first copy of this subsription arrived the day before my 18th birthday.

My first intention was to model american prototype. But at the time it was nearly impossible to import american stuff, Fleischmann models were the only ones available. But soon I understood that the prototype was not the most important thing that was different. The most important thing was the approach to the hobby, especially the way layouts were conceived, designed, built and - last not least - operated.


The first years of my MR subscription were those years which followed Frank Ellison's famous articles on operation. It was the time when the idea of walk around designs came up and met Dough Smith's articles on freight car forwarding. And I was getting those brand new information first hand while most modelers over here were going to know them two or three decades later. Or never at all.

The next step forward in the development of the model railroad hobby was to my opinion initiated by Allen Mc Clelland's V & O series in Railroad Model Craftsman during the seventies under the editorship of Tony Koester. While I have never been an RMC subscriber a friend of mine was and again I got all the revolutionary news first hand.


What I mean by model railroading the american way is principally:

• linear point-to-point-design

• walk around

• understanding a layout as part of the general railroad network

• the "beyond-the-basement"- philosophy

• operate a model railroad trying to emulate the way real railroads work


These principles can be applied to any prototype. My personal opinion is that by modeling a single track main- or branchline it is much easyer to accomplish this than with a class one double track electrified line so typical for the national rail systems of Europe.


I've been a fan of narrow gauge since my childhood. And when I say narrow gauge I do not mean the cute, quaint, funny and derelict little trains but real railroads doing tough jobs transporting freight and passengers as part of the general transportation system. Those which have been built in narrow gauge for economic or topographic reasons.  So it's no wonder that my BAE layout is representing a metre gauge railroad. More of it in the chapter prototype and concept.