Here's a thread which hopefully will get some good conversation going - how did you decide on your theme and prototype/proto-freelance/freelance road?
Was it a RR you grew up near, or just liked the paint scheme, or did you choose UP because of the massive motive power or...?
I chose prototype since I have no idea what "proto-freelance" since no one can duplicate anything but a tiny slice of a prototype, every "prototype" model railroad has some form of compression or compromise.
I originally chose the LV because of its variety of color schemes, but at that time there weren't good models of the LV's engines available and my research revealed that the LV didn't have a lot of business left in the era I was modeling.
I then went to the RDG in the early 1970's, back dated it to the 1948-1952 era to pick up steamers. I originally chose a version of the C&F branch since it had interchanges with the LV, LNE and CNJ.
After a couple moves I changed it to a favorite area of mine the Brandywine Valley and the W&N Branch. I built a 1948-1952 W&N branch layout, concentrating on the northern half from Birdsboro to Coatesville.
I had always admired the modelers doing the 1900 era. About 8 years ago I had the opportunity to operate on Rev. McGees's wonderful P&P 1906 era layout (its been in MR at least 2 or 3 times). That hooked me on the 1900 era.
So two years ago I took the leap and tore down my layout, rebuilding it as a 1900-1905 era model of the W&N branch. Its a single track branch that serves 2 steel mills, a shipyard, a port, 2 quarries, has 3 branch lines, 5 interchanges with the PRR, lots of other heavy industry, it's own engine terminal and a car ferry operation. Obviously not all that will fit in my room, but it certainly is an exciting menu to choose from.
Here is Wilmington, DE: