How did you choose your prototype?

ccaranna May 23, 2008

  1. ccaranna

    ccaranna TrainBoard Member

    I may never decide what my favorite railroad is. Ever. There are just too many that I like for one reason or another, and I don't have enough time or money to model them all.

    Here's my background:

    As a 10-year old kid I grew up watching coal trains head up the C&O Columbus Subdivision in Columbus, Ohio in the late 70s early 80s. Thus my first favorite railroad was the Chessie System. (I also liked the C&O and the B&O seperately as well)

    Then many years passed, and for some reason I found the 60s time period interesting, and I realized that the Pennsylvania Railroad was the king of my hometown (Columbus, Ohio) and it also served the steel industry in Mingo Junction, OH that I recall having a fascination for. Thus the Pennsy was a logical choice.

    Only problem is, I find Penn Central and Conrail interesting, so I would like to model them too. And I like modern railroading, so I can't forget to mention that the NS appeals to me too.

    Finally, I realized that after reading about the history of railroads, I feel like the New York Central fits my personality best as far as the way the company was run. If I had a railroad I would have liked to work for (as a pencil pusher, like I am now) I may have fit in there vs. the PRR.

    After a lot or words and typing, I'm still nowhere near choosing a prototype, and I'm sure it'll change a dozen more time before I leave the earth. The guys that can choose one specific railroad, location, era, year, month, day, etc have my utmost respect! How do you manage to keep the interest up?

    So, how did you choose your favorite prototype? Is it what you remember as a kid? Is the paint scheme that you find appealing? The management of the railroad? Do you know someone that works for your favorite RR? Is there no specific reason?
    rch likes this.
  2. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Not only was a favorite branch of my RR close to home, family and friends worked for them.


    Boxcab E50
  4. TexasNS

    TexasNS TrainBoard Member

    There's a lot of things that have influenced my choice. Like a lot of us, I have a lot of "favorites". In particular, I can't get enough of Norfolk Southern. And the N&W is just the best ever, especially in the late steam days. The Pennsylvania was just great and had some of the most beautiful steam engines ever in my opinion. I have a great fondness for any railroad that runs a lot of GE locomotives (after all it was GE's Erie plant that kept food on the table when I was growing up) and just love Dash 7's, 8's, and 9's. And who doesn't like E and F units? The variety of paint schemes alone is just staggering and picking the "best" is impossible.

    What it really came down to when I "settled" on a prototype was this: what is available in my scale. I decided to model steam - first because steam engines are cool, and second because in my miniature world I wanted to run coal drags that would max out at about 25 scale miles per hour. Also, steam-era freight cars are smaller than today's rolling stock so a 30- or 40- car train in the steam era is shorter that one in the modern era.

    So which railroad? Well, N&W was easy because, with the exception of the A class, I can get a Y, a J, and a K in N scale. And the N&W is just awesome. But, being a lover of all railroads at heart, I decided that the N&W only has trackage rights on another of my steam favorites, the Wheeling & Lake Erie. In N scale, I can get a lot of different USRA power, and the W&LE didn't have much else. Their 2-6-6-2, 2-8-2, 2-8-0, and 0-8-0 were either USRA locomotives or copies of the same - and they are all available in N scale. Also, they had a bunch of 2-8-4 Lima Berkshires, almost identical to the Nickel Plates, and these are also available in N scale. And last but not least, I have a pair of 2-10-2's because the Pennsy also makes a visit now and then on my layout - not to mention that the N scale version from Con-Cor is one of the best-pulling locomotives available.

    As you can see, my idea of settling on a prototype isn't really settling at all. I just changed what was for what I want it to be and I'm happy. But I do confess - I have a few Dash 7's and 8's, some coalporters, some double-stacks, and a few assorted modern rolling stock for when the urge to run something different strikes.
  5. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Great Northern - Loco and Passenger car color scheme and lgoo (pre grey / blue)
    Canadian Pacific - Bright red with the CP logo

    Truth is I will run anything that looks good.
  6. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    My first toy trains were 027 Marx Santa Fe and Southern Pacific. My family and I lived in Wisconsin and rode the C&NW and Milwaukee Road along with the PRR when we visited the East. Then moved to Tucson where SP was King. After a three year swing through the Far East, my family ended up back state side and rode the Great Northern from Seattle back to Minnesota and the Milwaukee on to Wisconsin again. Rocky the Mountain Goat became my favorite. Lived for a while in New Hampshire right across the street from a B&M branch line. Got to see a lot of cool old engines pulling freight by all the time. However, I took up 000 scale Lone Star and it was all UP. The family eventually ended up in Texas with a house just down the street from an SP line that came down from Houston on its way to Texas City and Galveston. Somehow everything I bought in N scale was Santa Fe. My brother was going to college up north and aways rode the Texas Chief. We would drive to Houston Union Station early in the morning to put him on. The diner was open and we were able to eat breakfast before the train left. That was cool, Santa Fe all the way. Was not until I settled in Sugar Land that I added SP back to the mix. So I am back to where I started, ATSF and SP.
  7. OC Engineer JD

    OC Engineer JD Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    My first memories are of my Great Grandfather Tony taking me down to the Stockton station to watch the Passenger trains come in. This was the late 60's and I rememeber the Red and Silver F units, and wondering why steam was still coming out when it was a Diesel. :) Grandpa Tony worked for the Santa Fe, and after he passed, I continued to go down to the tracks myself. So.... the love affair was born.
  8. sp4009

    sp4009 TrainBoard Member

    My earliest memory period was watching the 4449 take the siding at Ventura for Amtrak. Had to have been the "World's Fair Daylight," the time frame is right. I was quite impressed watching the train leave the siding.:tb-ooh: Needless to say, it stuck:tb-biggrin: Been an Espee man ever since:tb-wink:
  9. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    I'll turn the question on it's head.
    Why exactly do you need to choose a prototype?

    Answer, you don't need to it's a druther not a given.

    You could:
    1: genericize your layout and get equipment for all the roads that interest you. Swap out to what interests you when it interests you.

    2: Proto-lance/freelance. Rather than model a real railroad, make up your own. You choose the route you want, realistic or completely fake. Choose the locos you run on it. maybe some of the power practices of your favorites. Choose a paint scheme of your own that maybe mimics your favorites. Maybe you paint your trains in Chessie colors, you operate like the NYC, but the route is in Ohio.

    Also, as an aside that can apply to either option or even a true prototype, if it's a more modern era, use run through power.
    Proto-Lance is what I've chosen to do. Though I certainly don't worry as much about ops as the masters do. My railroad is an alternate reality where some forward thinking people combined with the UP melt-down created a 3rd transcon. The locos are often hand me downs, ex-BNSF and Ex-SP/DRGW. I've got my own paint scheme and I have my train lengths and motive power choices I like. It's not a free-for-all. I have rules about how and why, but they're my rules.
  10. completely nuts

    completely nuts TrainBoard Member

    I'm a Chessie and Conrail fan, I try to model CSX in that way I can use engines with CSX and Conrail paint schemes.
    As far as rolling stock CSX, Conrail, Chessie, C&O, B&O, WM, ACL and Seaboard.
    Maybe not in same time scheme, but they are related to each other.

  11. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    Six of my formative years (1947-1953) were spent next door to B&M's Fitchburg Division, drooling over its gorgeous maroon & gold "E" and "F" covered wagons, "tea-kettle" powered local freights, and last, but definitely not least, the Minute Man (#6000), B&M's sister of the Q's Pioneer Zephyr.......SIGH!
  12. Helitac

    Helitac TrainBoard Member

    Most of my childhood we lived in and around Oroville CA. WP was a big deal in those days, and there were a few shortlines operating in that area then also. Camping in the Feather River canyon, chasing trout and watching trains, when we were waiting for the train to clear at a grade crossing my mom would invite speculation as to what was in those boxcars from all those different places. Seems like there were a lot more railroads then, and the trains were more interesting because of all the different paint schemes of the different railroads,So I'm stuck on WP in the sixties.
  13. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

    Well, I kinda have a couple of different prototypes of interest but I do have a predominate choice by which I shape my roster and future layout plans. Like many, I chose what came through my hometown which was the Fort Worth & Denver Railway (a subsidiary of BN at the time) and the Rock Island when I was born. Since my grandparents lived a few hundred feet from the FW&D ROW from the time I was born until about the time I graduated college, that road became my favorite.

    FW&D and the Rock eventually turned into BN and MKT in the 80's. I did develop interest in the Katy as my dad owned a steel supply company that backed up to the MKT (actually, OKKT) ROW. My dad also had several large rock crushers as customers, also served by MKT and I got to see all of these facilities and their rail service and switchers up close. But the BN line in the mid-80's became REALLY interesting with increasing coal traffic, more intermodal, and their great motive power with B30-7A(B)'s, LMX and Oakway lease units, Fuel Tenders, and my favorites: C30-7's and SD40-2's lashed up hauling coal through the area. (and on the tail end the arrival of the SD60M's) The line also had a lot of Santa Fe power, and an MKT trackage rights train or two. Rich modeling potential, no doubt.

    From that, you'd think I'd model mid-80's BN right? Well, something happened in 1994 that totally blew everything out of the water....the BN SD70MAC's. I loved the "Eddie Bauers" and the aluminum coal gons that joined them. But it seemed to be a major conflict: 1994 meant no Katy, and also BN had discontinued intermodal service on their Pacific Northwest to Texas routes and I had really developed an interest in intermodal. Of course I soon learned that this was due to "agreements" with Santa Fe in anticipation of their new merger. I was a huge fan of the Santa Fe as well, and once I discovered the two would merge, it was kinda perfect for me, notwithstanding the loss of MKT from the equation. It wasn't long before intermodal traffic on the FW&D flowed once again, and now exceeds any volumes previously experienced.

    So my main modeling focus is BNSF on the old FW&D line. Era has kinda moved around some, but mostly its 1998/1999 plus or minus a couple of years. The goal is to keep a large percentage of unpatched BN and ATSF power while enjoying some of the newer BNSF freight cars, newer intermodal equipment, and of course Heritage II paint. I really enjoy going to great lengths to try and build a fleet of freight cars and locomotives that are representative of my era and locale. This is in large part a money saving issue, so I don't buy everything that comes down the pipeline. Would I love to maintain a mid-80's roster as well? Sure. Have I thought about the "golden" age of railroading to model the steam-era FW&D? You bet. (I will confess that I do possess a 40's era steam locomotive and diesel switcher and a few era-appropriate cars, and I would probably buy a MKT GP38-2 if Atlas ever does them) Would a few SD70ACe's be nice? OH yeah--even if they do sport the swoosh, I dig 'em. But drawing the line keeps my budget in check and makes the hobby more enjoyable to me.

    Having said all that, I am currently building a small layout based on a 2004-era Trinity Railway Express commuter line, which also includes BNSF and UP. The majority of my roster works for both eras, though, and the only additional pieces are the TRE rolling stock and motive power.
  14. brakie

    brakie TrainBoard Member

    I freelance a short line but,I also model the C&O under Chessie..I like the NS and have seven NS units..Of course these are used at both HO clubs I am a member of..However,the Chessie/C&O units are rotated according to my whims.Now in N Scale I favor NS.
  15. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    I started a freelance road, but as I began to dig deeper into the hobby, I realized I needed a prototype. A few visits to the San Diego RR club's layouts sold me on the SP. I fell in love with the streamlined beauties that the SP ran in the 40's an 50's as well as the strange look of the cab forwards. Of course, I had no idea it would force me into the world of brass locomotives, since that was the medium for most SP locos in N scale, but that is where I am. Thanks to Kato's GS-4 and the IM cab forward in plastic I can increase my roster numbers at lower prices. My favorite locos will still be my Key AC-4 and 6 and my MT's.

    I also run a freelance logging outfit, I like this aspect since I can kitbash odd locomotives to fit into the this world. Many logging prototypes were just weird.
  16. Phil Olmsted

    Phil Olmsted TrainBoard Member

    Growing up in Stockton, CA, in the '50s, there were 2 choices: the big, powerful, black and ugly Southern Pacifics or the sleek, beautiful, red and silver Santa Fe. (Also, when I was 10 we took a trip to Chicago on the San Francisco Chief.)

    I guess I'm stuck with the AT&SF.
  17. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    It was kind of hard. I love Southern Pacific, and it was a railroad I saw often growing up. For that matter, I could have also chosen UP or BN for being nearby.

    Well, that was all too easy, so I briefly considered the SP&S or GN. Maybe part of the appeal was that there was more customization needed.

    Well, that was all too easy, so I settled on Portland and Western/Willamette and Pacific, because I could run a variety of rolling stock, because every engine is either a patch or repaint, and because there's almost nothing available commercially. On the other hand, if I need a prototype detail I can just go out and photograph it. I don't have to play history detective just to figure out what the bloomin' caboose looks like.

    Because I am working on modeling Astoria and the A-line, and because I wish Astoria had more rail, I am turning back the clock a little on the trackage and pretending that Astoria kept it's various rails and that they were expanded over the years. I also will have a "museum" railroad of some sort with oddball things I can't really explain away in my alternative history so easily, like why I have to SP&S RS-3's, and why I have a class A Climax and a Daylight 4449.
  18. Paul Liddiard

    Paul Liddiard Staff Member


    The Rio Grande went by on the east side of Spanish Fork, Utah, and trough the canyon.
    The UP went by on the west side, on its way to Cali.

    The choice was simple....RIO GRANDE!! also my uncle worked for the Grande.

    Paul H. Liddiard
  19. Wildstar

    Wildstar TrainBoard Member

    Why not model the early Penn Central era in 1968, that way you can run NYC, Penn, and PC all at the same time :D
  20. sp4009

    sp4009 TrainBoard Member

    Or BN about 1973, lots of GN, NP, CB&Q, SP&S.....

    Or (do I dare say:tb-frown:) late 90's UP, lots of UP, SP, C&NW, D&RGW......

    Or even BNSF with all 89 paint schemes...... Where else can you have a factory fresh ES44, coupled to a ratty looking ex-BN/NP/GN/SP&S/CB&Q GP9?

    If I had to start over, mid 70's BN would be interesting:tb-err:

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