A Friend of Ours

I’ve been fortunate over the years to develop close relationships with a group of modelers that share my beliefs in how a model railroad should be designed, built, and operated. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge them and share links to their respective layouts.

It should go without saying, but the images you see in this post are the works of their respective creators. My sincere thanks to each of them for letting me blatantly steal and reproduce their photos here.

Joe Atkinson’s Iowa Interstate 4th Sub

©Joe Atkinson – All Rights Reserved

There’s a reason we call him The Godfather. I first met Joe in the summer of 2003 when I was a neophyte to the Iowa Interstate. Even by that time, Joe was already on his way to being the leader in modeling this amazing regional railroad. He instantly took me under his wing and started my long and deep fascination with the prototype. In addition, his contributions to the IAIS Railfans website made it possible for me, and I’m sure countless others, to start their own IAIS layouts.

Joe’s recent move gave him the opportunity to start fresh on a layout focused on the Atlantic to Adair portion of the Iowa Interstate’s 4th Subdivision as it appeared in 2005.

Scott Thornton’s Milan Branch of the Iowa Interstate

©Scott Thornton – All Rights Reserved

Of all the names listed here, Scott’s approach in designing and operating a model railroad mirrors my own with The Hills Line the closest. The difference is that his layout is an absolute masterpiece. Scott takes a very artistic view to his railroad, especially with his embrace of methods and techniques found in military, wargaming, and scale models other than model railroading. The results are effective enough to make you think you’ve walked into a dream.

Scott models the IAIS Milan Branch serving Rock Island and Milan, Illinois in 2003.

Colin O’Brien’s Iowa Interstate 3rd Sub

©Colin O’Brien – All Rights Reserved

Big-time railroading usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you mention the Iowa Interstate. But Colin has managed to capture that aspect of the prototype to a “T”. By focusing on the operational and spiritual center of the IAIS, he’s hosting mainline power in a double-deck configuration. Even so, the level of accuracy he’s created so far proves that big layouts can have big detail.

Colin’s 3rd Sub layout covers the IAIS mainline from Yocum Connection through Iowa City on the eastern side of the state.

Michael Petersen’s Le Mars Industrial

©Michael Petersen – All Rights Reserved

There was a time that I wondered if Michael was ever going to get a railroad started, much less operational. But considering he’s one half of the team behind Iowa Scaled Engineering, I’d say he’s been a little busy lately. After dabbling with the IAIS, including plans for replicating his hometown in N scale, Michael has finally landed on a spectacularly unique prototype in Le Mars, Iowa. It’s an excellent combination of ice cream and GP10s, which should make anyone happy.

Michael is replicating the Le Mars Industrial Park in HO scale, with numerous industries served by the Burlington Junction Railway and the Canadian National.

Nathan Holmes’s Copper River & Northwestern Railway

©Nathan Holmes – All Rights Reserved

The other half behind Iowa Scaled Engineering, Nathan shares our love of prototype replication in a basement layout. However, he’s taken that approach into the ultimate what-if, while still staying true to the practices, policies, and procedures of today’s railroads. What makes it even cooler is seeing modern-day equipment balanced against the historical accuracy of his chosen railroad.

Nathan’s N scale CR&NR is set in the modern era, showing what could have happened had the ore never run out of the mines in southeastern Alaska.

Thomas Klimoski’s Georgia Northeastern

©Thomas Klimoski – All Rights Reserved

There are those of us that build smaller layouts as a compromise for a perceived lack of space, time, and funds. Then there’s Tom Klimoski, who builds smaller layouts to prove that they are superior to the larger ones. So much so that he literally wrote the book on the subject. There’s a good chance that you’ll find Tom being interviewed in one of the numerous model railroad podcasts, showing us again and again that there’s a right size for a layout regardless of your era, scale, or location.

Tom models the Georgia Northeastern in HO scale and is the author of Building The Right-Sized Layout for Kalmbach Media.

Matthew Freix’s Gateway Western Subdivision 6

©Matthew Freix – All Rights Reserved

As the saying goes, if one of something is good then five of something should be five times as good. That’s the philosophy that Matthew brings to his Gateway Western layout. Not one to mess around when it comes to model railroading, Matthew’s been known to buy out a store in one setting to ensure that he has what he needs to replicate his prototype. The result is a railroad that will never suffer from lack of opportunity.

Matthew’s Gateway Western Sub 6 is centered on Roodhouse, Illinois with branches to Springfield and Jackson.

Tom Johnson’s Cass County Railroad

©Tom Johnson – All Rights Reserved

If I had a nickel for every email I’ve written to Tom that contained the phrase “you win”, I’d be a rich man. Time and time again Tom causes the rest of us to question our choices in model railroading, simply because his stuff is so much better than anything we can ever hope to achieve. Tom may be a retired art teacher, but he continues to school his students.

Tom’s Cass County Railroad is a start-up shortline serving former Conrail spurs in and around Logansville, Indiana.

©James McNab – All Rights Reserved

Now don’t panic. This is still my website, and I’ll get back to tending to my ego in the next entry. But I’ll close with this.

There are countless more modelers and operators that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with, and getting to know other than these eight. While I can’t mention them all in one post, I hope they realize that I’ve gotten to where I am in this hobby because of their guidance and support.

To everyone, listed or not, I offer my thanks.

5 thoughts on “A Friend of Ours

  1. Those are a great set of friends to have. Thanks for sharing the links. I know some of these modelers, but not all – and I look forward to following them.
    A couple of these guys are using WordPress but have not included any means on their sites to subscribe to their posts. I’d love to be able to follow along…
    – Trevor (The Model Railway Show / Port Rowan in 1:64)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much James. It’s been a pleasure from the very start! Getting to share our common prototype and modeling sub-interests with you and the rest of these friends definitely brings a new level of enjoyment to the hobby. It’s been a blast seeing you, and all my friends here, take your very considerable talents in so many different directions. Very well done everyone! I continue to learn from you all.

    Liked by 1 person

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