Where the Iron Horse meets the Carriage Horse

Early Layouts
Sunrise Layout
Paulden Layout

Early Layouts

Like many of us in the model railroading hobby, we grow and learn by building layouts.  Each one reflects our current interests as well as our abilities.  In my case, I have been doing that for a long time!  Here is a gallery of highlight of early layouts as I wandered through this hobby.

While in college at the University of Arizona, there was the need to run some trains.  HO gauge was the big thing in the late '50s so I built a portable trolley layout in a box.  That is, a two by four foot layout that could be folded in half to carry to train meets or stow in a college apartment.  It has a subway station on the lower level and was designed for automatic two trolley operation.  All controls were hand made.  At time there were neither the components available, nor did this college student have the funds to buy ready made products anyway.  This layout still exists and one day I will take it out and get it running again.


Our first rental home after marriage and before kids offered a spare bedroom which was quickly filled with a permanent HO gauge layout.   Initially it was a traditional 4 by 8 footer, but was soon joined by a four foot square extension.  It never ran too well, but the scenery and buildings were pretty well done, if I don't say so myself.




The twins arrival meant the big leap, a home of our own.  An upper bedroom said to me, "I want a train layout", so the second HO gauge layout was born.  Room sized, it again looked good, but operation wasn't too reliable.  An early experiment using Homosote for roadbed should have also included the plywood base underneath.  I soon learned that was why the track would sag between the table supports!


About that time the hobby was just discovering N gauge.  Since I have always liked sceniced layouts, this new, smaller size seemed to offer great opportunity.  While the HO layout was upstairs, I built a four foot square N gauge layout, again in a box, for the family room.  This time it was so the toddlers could look but not touch. There were few American prototype trains, as the early N gauge manufacturers were English and German.  So this layout consisted of Arnold Rapido German equimpment and German prototype buildings.    It looked beautiful and ran well, and the HO layout disappeared.  The first N gauge layout was built in its place.  It did offer wonderful scenic opportunities, plus trains ran well. 

This first layout was dismantled when we moved from our house on Harmony Lane in Toledo to a larger one in Ottawa Hills - the kids were getting bigger! The pictures below are of the second N gauge layout, in a basement - a first!  All houses ought to have a basement.  This was the most finished layout I had done, and proved to be very popular, being on the visitor circuit for NMRA meets and folks from the local hobby store where I had begun to repair Lionel trains.  More on that later.














During the last months in Toledo, however, I made a dramatic break in the approach to the hobby.  N gauge was really fun to build and operate, but it was still in its infancy, this was in the early '70s.  I was having trouble with reliability of the American built and some Euorpean built locomotive mechanisms as well as switch machines that burned out on a regular basis.  Some early diesel mechanisms were so poorly designed, I had to strip them and run locos as dummies. 

At the same time I had discovered you could buy used Lionel trains, and started to accumulate the trains I lusted after as a kid, but never could afford (the story told by most every tinplater).  I started buying some neat trains that had only been seen in catalogs.  In those days it also helped to learn to repair them, which I did.  Christmas saw progressively larger and larger toy train displays under the tree.  Then one day, my favorite N gauge locomotive started smoking - even though it had no smoke unit.  The motor had fried.  That was the last straw, the N gauge would go and a Lionel layout would take its place.  But six months later, we were on the move to Phoenix and the tinplate layout was torn down only half done.

The first Phoenix home had a carport that could be partially enclosed and the first complete O gauge layout soon was in place.



It was a great proving ground for layout design ideas and operation. 

It was my first try at a high rail O gauge layout, that is one that uses three rail track, but is built with broad curves and with realistic scenery and operation.  This room was too small to accomplish most of these goals, but the layout was fun and another great learning experience.



During that time, I was also bitten by the "collector" bug.  That is I wanted to accumulate as many examples of the different Lionel trains as I could afford.  That resulted in another tinplater's icon, "the wall of trains" to display all these neat items.

It was at this time that I grew more interested in prewar toy trains.  After buying a first prewar O gauge Lionel set shortly before leaving Toledo, a lucky find across the street from our kids elementary school introduced me to Standard Gauge trains.  We never looked back.



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Peter & Mary Jane Atonna
Paulden, Arizona