How did you decide on your Road/Theme? is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.

What kind of road did you choose?

  • Freelance

    Votes: 28 24.1%
  • proto-freelance

    Votes: 57 49.1%
  • prototype

    Votes: 27 23.3%
  • still can't decide!

    Votes: 4 3.4%

  • Total voters


Well-Known Member
Someday you have a week or so to kill take a ride up to Lynn, Mass. It is the city of one way streets. Houdini would have a hard time trying to get in and out of Lynn. It wouldn't be a surprise if they have a few one way dead end streets. :D

Hi Mike,
Interesting you should mention Lynn, Mass. even though I'm from Calif I handled my late Aunts' Estate just South of the Cape Cod and went up into Lynn a couple of times on some legal matters. I had some time to kill so I did drive around a bit do recall the One-way streets too but even Fresno, Calif. has them too in the down town area. They can be a real PIA when your not use to them. Fortunately my little excursions over toward Peabody [Peababdy as I think it's pronunced by the locals] was on two-way roads. I was so close to George Sellioss' Fine Scale Minatures and never did stop in. My buddy was there though and got to know George a bit some years back, around 1997 I think, I was back there in 2000 at the beginning of the year.


Well-Known Member
Although I've grown up and lived in Calif all my life I really enjoyed the the Colorado Railroads and so after getting a number of early D&RGW, C&S & RGS pieces I decided to Free Lance a small short line that would somewhat resemble what some of those areas might have looked like around the Turn of the 1890's to 1900's era and possibly a bit later.

While I drew out a track plan using the Atlas Right Track program, I couldn't get Track Cad or whatever the name was to function correctly for me as it was supposed to be more accurate, I've made several changes already, as what looks feasible on paper doesn't always work out that way when you start drawing out the track plan on the table work. Actually I like going slower and considering the possibilities of doing things a bit differently than I first thought was what I wanted so my railroad evolves as I build it somewhat like the real thing. I rather enjoy it that way.
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Tom Stockton
I completely agree, foxofinfinety, who said:

I just run with whatever I like

Unless you are trying to represent a particular railroad at a particular point in time and are representing that to someone else -- run whatever you like whenever you like!

Have fun with model railroading -- indeed, just have fun!

Tom Stockton
I grew up about 100yds from the Milwaukee Road depot in Minocqua, WI. Was in the late 40's thru late 50's so saw the transition from steam to diesel. That's the era and road I'm modeling.


In the mid-late 50's, I used to ride the train between my hometown (Brillion) and Manitowoc WI, a whopping 25 miles (my uncle was a ticketmaster in Manitowoc). I was just a kid, so I didn't pay much attention to anything other than the Playboy posters that plastered the insides of the cabooses. :) I also drove through Minocqua WI several times a year and stopped every so often to watch the trains while the others shopped (on our way to visit grandparents in Boulder Junction).

However, I never got attached to trains like many of you, I just always liked watching trains. I never got the bug to model per se, so when I started designing my layout (not under construction yet), I just wanted to run trains. I posted my initial design and it didn't go over well at all. During the "discussion" that ensued, I gradually developed a "reason" for my railroad and a theme for the scenery. Most of the changes were the result of self-discovery by "arguing" with a few members here and "thinking" about things, not from specific suggestions.

Anyway, I now have something I intend to build and I'm in the process of selecting track. That too has resulted in "discussions", but every opinion is appreciated, as were all the previous comments. Even though I didn't get the kinds of or amount of comments I expected, the bottom line is joining this forum has been totally worth it. I hope to have years of fun building and running "my" railroad.


Crusty Old Geezer
Wweeelllllll, having no less than 4 roads within a few miles of my boyhood home, NYC, C&O, NKP, and PRR, I could run almost any of the major Eastern roads I wanted. Since I couldn't decide on one, I run 'em all!!!!!! NKP, with their ability to strike fear into the hearts of the "big boys"(PRR and NYC) is probably my favorite.

I grew up with F's, early geeps and E's along with the occasional steamer. Something about the "transition era" just flips my switch. Running steamers alongside deisels just has something to say to me. Just have to figger out what it is.

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Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
Growing up and living literally surrounded by railroads, I never thought of one as being my railroad. We see everything in Chicago so that one line concept many modellers stick to is odd to us. (At least me.) I run everything because that is pretty close to the reality I see. Of course era wise that's not true but on my line it is. I 'moved' my RR to Wisconsin to justify more interesting scenary. (Chicago is about as flat as can be) I'm here to have fun and if I'm not I'm doing it wrong.
I model the Chesapeake and Ohio. As far as railroads go, as a child that was the only one there was. I was born and spent the first 9 years of my life in West Virginia. Most of my family worked for the C&O. My parents moved to De. to find work in 65. My fathers cousin came a little later, probably 67,68. He got a job on the B&O. Guess who owned the B&O.
anyway my father was a major influence on modeling as he grew up with C&O. He was employed there for a very short time. Enough of that. Basically the only R.R. I knew was the C&O. When my children grew up and left I became a serious Modeler. So I built an empire starting in 96. I decided to start in Clifton Forge and go east to Newport News and Baltimore. (Off layout) I went west to Russell.(off layout) My plans were to build 2 additions to my train building one east and one west to model more of the mountains WV and rolling hills of Va. Health issues developed and that will probably never happen.


All new now!
My layout is based on my home town of Mankato MN in 1950 or so. I'm fascinated by the history of the near past in the area I know well. I think it's some sort of link to my Grandparents since that would have been their heyday. I model CNW's Alco line mixed with The Milwaukee Road's branch over the Red Jacket Trestle towards the town of Wells. Those two roads both service Mankato but used different Depots. I'm using the same line and depot to model both roads. Is everything perfect? No, I'm not that dedicated. I'm trying to use locos and rolling stock that would have been used around here with the exception of my Berkshire. That is a pure fabrication but I'm allowed a little leeway right!:D Modeling this area that interests me anyway has added a whole other layer of enjoyment for me.


Gandy Dancer
I started on the slippery slope with a 4X8 plywood layout in the damp, dark basement. Because the Milwaukee Road had a mainline that ran through my home town in Wisconsin, that was my prototype. Well, let's say it was the inspiration for my railroad. Current era.

The next layout was a open pit mining operation set in northern Wisconsin built in a room sealed off from the rest of the attic. I got sick of ducking under the bridge that crossed the doorway, so I changed the track to run out through the wall of the train room, all the way around the attic stairs, then back in through the other wall. I would be running this long ore drag and out it would go. I could eat a snack, maybe take a nap, and then the train would come back in. Fortunately, I never recall a stall or derailment out in the 'nether lands'. Current era, again.

Layout 3 was a fictional short line, that was abandoned by one of the big companies. It provided local service and a connection to the UP and BN. I wasn't constrained by having to run the locos or cars that would be on one of those Class 1's, but they could be on my short line. Current era, which was the early eighties.

Now I'm working on a sort of different premise: I wanted the railroad to fit a need. The need is to carry limestone to a processing facility. I'm not bound by "but the ___ never ran a loco like that". I have to be frugal with the company's money so it will remain profitable. There will not be dozens of locomotives and hundreds of cars- mostly because I don't have the space. My layout is a snapshot in time, on December 1, 1941. My railroad company's history: (scroll down to the 6th post).


Active Member
I wanted to model the railroads that I see today, when driving around town railfanning. So I'm modeling D&RGW, UP, BNSF, Sante Fe 1998-Current.

My layout has Denver Union Station, the open cornfields and plains of northeastern Colorado, and of course the Rocky Mountains.

My extension room layout that I just started building, has a steel mill, passenger station, and staging, which will depict the east coast. The coal loads from the Rocky Mountains shipped to the east coast steel mills.

My reasoning for running steam, and passenger trains from the 1950s, is museum excursion trains.


Stuck in the 1930's
I guess mine is a prototype railroad model but suggesting typical scenery and track design. Also, mine is a photographic set. I planned as many typical scenes and with what appear to be greater distances than exist on my layout.
For a time period, I didn't want to do modern, but I also didn't want to do the same era as everybody else. I am modeling the Norfolk & Western RY in the mid-1930's. Because N&W didn't usually throw out older equipment, their engines were around til the end of steam. I picked a hilly terrain along Rte 81 as it snaked down the blue ridge toward Roanoke. This set up the roster. I worked at a larger local hobby shop in the 1980's-90's, and bought 5 of the Oriental Ltd/Powerhouse N&W Y-3's. I remotored them and added more details like tender chain hooks, tender brakes, condensing pipe and glass in the doghouse and engine. I put the DCC through a piece of shrinkwrap, but not shrunk, but disguised as the stoker pipe. I picked up brass models of thir small 2-8-0 class W2, two Sunset M class 4-8-0's, a Z1 2-6-6-2 and 4-8-2 K3 class, and two more Powerhouse Y3's and a Lifelike Y3 which I cut up and made into a Y2a heavy yard engine. I have a Bowser 4-8-2 which is a K2a 4-8-2, and a Bowser PRR K4 which I've turned into a psudo-E3 4-6-2. I have 2 Y5 2-8-8-2's I built from Rivorossi Y6b's All the engines have the 1930's era lettering, and real coal in the tenders. With all the loco's and track work looking like the 1930's I had to build 60+ vehicles from delivery types to cab's to the number of Ford model A's. Glad Jordan makes such good ones. I even got an Erie model B-2 Steam Shovel which is right out of 1915 or so. Weathered some by the 1930's.

The scenery is designed to block the various 'scenes' on the layout. I designed a four foot 'scene' which allows scenery and rail activity to share the scent to capture the look and feel of the area. Finding photos of the average rural road vs the highway surfaces and note the type of materials were being used to construct bridges and other road related structures. My scenery is screen covered with thinned spackling compound thinned with a little water and rolled on like thick paint. Trees are some woodland scenic trees mixed in with Seedam's which I grow in my yard, and cut a week or two after Thanksgiving. I paint them with rattlecan spray green colors using the military greens as they were to help hide to in the forests. I still used ground foam for the rest and the 'dirt rods' are done by rolling a matchbook car over the almost dried spackle, which leaves ruts. I fill the ruts with clear epoxy to look like water. The closer to the edge you get, the more stuff has to have details. I have two of Bachmanns Sears house, both built differently and both with interiors and slide glass windows. I have fiber optic porch lights and fiber optic table lamps. Most of the town buildings are lit with yellow LEDs. With the lights on, the LED's aren't really noticed, but as you turn down the illumination on the layout the LEDs start to show.

You can see some early video of the layout on Youtube as I tested camera angles and limitations as to how far back I can get and still have swing room in back of the camera. The shot is a BLI "A" and a Y6b climbing a 2.5 percent Blue Ridge grade. I syncronized a recording of the actual event and filmed it in Sepiatone to make it look more real. You can see the effect fading off at the end of the clip. Here is a linky:


Excellent presentation, Y3a. The realistic slow speed gives the look of shear power as it makes its way up the grade. Nice sound as well.


New Member
Even though I grew up with the GTW just down the street. When I first drove to Ohio and watched Conrail racing across the landscape, I was hooked. I think the spikes were driven farther in when Conrail SD60I's and SD60M's showed up and I knew I had to have them on a layout.

The final straw was the SD80MAC :D


As much as I like the real thing, freelancing gives me the freedom to do whatever I want. As for me I'm still in the planning stages for the Aspen Timber & Western Railroad. I am incorporating family names and things I like into the name of my railroad as well as places and industries. I'm still sketching out the track work and as soon as I get something set, I'll post the track layout, but I can say that it is set in Colorado outside Aspen and its starting point is on the old Aspen Branch of the D&RGW, however I changed up the names of places and branched off from the D&RGW and headed west towards Grand Junction, CO and is set in the late 50's-60's.

But for now and due to space restrictions, I'm going to model the junction where my railroad interchanges with the D&RGW, so its going to be a switching layout with the hopes of expanding and have mainline trains running.


New Member
Believe it or not I was not interested in trains until I saw a huge modular set up at our mall. That was 30 years ago and I was about 22 at the time so I came to it late... and through the back door.

I ended up joining that club which was home based at the local historical museum. They model cities, industries and RR's that are/were located in our state. It seemed everyone in the club already modeled C&O, GT&W, Penn, NYC and all the big roads that once populated Michigan so when I found a book about the Detroit & Mackinac (High Iron on the Huron Shore) I kind of adopted it.

It just had so many quirky events in its history. First and foremost is that it never went to Detroit and only in it's mid life even made it to Mackinac. It was a little player on the edge of the big boys range and managed to survive into the '90s. Not bad.

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