How did you choose your prototype?

ccaranna May 23, 2008

  1. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Growing up in eastern Michigan, my first memory of the railroad involved looking up through the windshield of a '52 Ford at a grimy enchantment blue C&O diesel I later determined would have been a BL2. I only regret that my parents didn't haul me the ten miles to Emmett, MI where I might have witnessed the last working steam on the GTW. It was years later that I discovered the Detroit and Mackinac, the Pere Marquette and the Detroit, Bay City and Western. Huron and Eastern Didn't exist until I was well into my adult life, but quickly became a favorite with its Geeps painted in a really cool heritage scheme (now a part of history) taken from Pere Marquette's E units. HESR eventually absorbed the Central Michigan and Detroit and Mackinac became Lake State Railway. Then there was the TSBy, which eventually became the Great Lakes Central. HESR has now come under Genesee and Wyoming ownership.
    I guess I would have to call myself confused. I like it all, although for whatever reason I never developed a real interest in MC/NYC.
    I like light steam and truss rod freight cars as well as vehicles of all time periods. Some years ago, I finally accepted the exisence of diesels. (Hey, it's my world and they didn't exist there)
    In short, I like Michigan railroads. Period. I couldn't decide on a time period, so I have collected euipment, structures and details from the last hundred years. I model a freelance shortline perhaps somewhat inspired by the above mentioned DBC&W. The new Huron Central layout will be capable of hosting operating sessions from multiple eras and staging will provide interchange with most of the above railroads at Green River, very loosely based on Bay City/Saginaw, Michigan.
    OK, there ya go- a fairly lengthy ramble providing a look into my disturbed mind. I'm alright. I JUST WANT IT ALL IN 8'6" X 9'0"!:confused::D
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  2. Bookbear1

    Bookbear1 TrainBoard Supporter

    I chose my prototypes because they were either ones I had seen frequently in my youth, or because of trains I had ridden on in my earlier days. I have a special interest in the California Zephyr. I saw CB&Q trains a lot in Illinois as a kid, and thus had to have DRGW and WP on my layout as well for the Zephyr.
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Since my original post in this topic, I have moved somewhat away from that prototype. Instead opting for a Maine 2 Foot style, (HOn30), freelance in a much beloved part of my native State. I am enjoying the freedom and whimsy of this concept.
  4. rray

    rray Staff Member

    I actually started to deviate from NP into BN and MRL for a few years since my last reply to this topic, then back to NP again, and now I have gone so far as to set an era, being the Steam to Diesel transition of the Northern Pacific.
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  5. Akirasho

    Akirasho TrainBoard Member

    While a love steam, when I entered the hobby, brass steam was out of reach. Still I loved the images of N&W, Southern, The Virginian, et. al. diesels battling/snaking Eastern mountains Long hood forward (kind of reminded me of steam).

    My modeling is heavily influenced by this heritage. On my high front hood diesels I take any opportunity to run them Long hood forward... and many low front hood too!

    Train - NS 5076-IMG_9623 (11202009).jpg

    Train - NS 3454-IMG_7292 (11262011).jpg

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    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    Well, oddly enough, I picked mine just to be different from my friends. Back in the 80's all my MRR friends modeled eastern RR's or UP. I did not know in person anyone modeling ATSF or BN so I embraced those. That eventually evolved into modeling BNSF. Now days, I have no in person N scale MRR friends but I am still happy with my choice. :)
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Same here. If there any N scalers in the area, I know naught of them. There were a couple, twenty years ago, but they almost simply disappeared. And there are only a couple of non-HO or 'rubber gaugers' for many miles around. None local :( in HOn30. One an hour away, who also models in other scales.
  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Hadn't seen this thread and it's very interesting. We moved a lot in my youth, and my education and career took me more places, stoking interests in midwest, northeast and southeast railroading. Although I lived in NJ only four years, my parent's families have deep roots there. With routine summer visits to NJ as a kid and residing there at the start of my career, I became fascinated by the anthracite roads.
  9. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

    I do not know how I missed this thread when it started way back 12 years ago. So here goes my story...

    I was born on 08/15/1940, my father had hired out, on the T&NO, in June of 1940 as a fireman as they did back in those days. In my "baby book" my mother made a notation that "Carl took his first train ride today and he loved it". Seems that at the age of 6 weeks I rode, in the cab, of a steamer from the roundhouse to the Alfalfa classification yard with my father. I was around, to touch, locomotives all my life even to the point of actually operating a 2-8-0 steamer.

    In about 1960 or '61 I tried to hire out and was denied because "management is putting the heat on me to hire a minority" a female as it turned out. At any rate I did work for PFE on the El Paso ice dock while attending college classes. My father retired with 42 years of service in 1982. My brother was employed by SP as a clerk in the Dallas Street yard office for 30 years.

    So, the SP has been part of my life forever and remains so today. I do have some UP also.

    Stay safe,
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  10. nscalestation

    nscalestation TrainBoard Supporter

    Like most of you my choices were greatly influenced by childhood experiences. I grew up in the old industrial area southeast of downtown Los Angeles so saw plenty of the SP, UP, and ATSF almost every day. As a kid I had a little bit of each of those roads in O, HO, and finally N scales.

    When I re-entered the hobby in N scale as an adult years later I wanted to focus on just one road. Any of these three would be good choices but I choose the SP. I think what may have tipped the scales toward the SP was that in 77 & 78 I was part of a Naval Reserve unit in Pomona California and the Reserve Center was right next to the SP / UP main lines between San Bernadino and Los Angeles. Anyone who had been in a reserve or guard unit knows that most of the people who stay in past their minimum obligation work for government, a large corporation or public utility, or the railroad. It's in the contract that they get paid military leave where in most private section jobs it is unpaid. Well our unit included 4 who worked for the SP at Colton and I was able to spend quite a bit of time with them train watching while being paid (a little bit) by the Navy. They of course had a great knowledge of the operations and would talk about each passing train, where it had come from and where it was going to, etc.

    As a side note, I was working in the electronics field at a small company and would have loved to get into the SP Signals dept. but even knowing these guys I could not even get an interview. As Carl has already hinted at, the affirmative action hiring trend was so strong then that the door was just closed to me so I moved on without any bitterness.

    So when I started again it was SP and it has been a good choice. When you model a large railroad that covered a variety of geography and types of operations you can generally change a layout without changing lots of your equipment if the era is not too different. I have had 3 layouts including Ntrak modules in the past 28 years all with a primary focus on the SP but in different parts of the system.
    • Los Angeles industrial area, early 1960's
    • Northwestern Pacific, late 50's / early 60's
    • Paired track WP / SP across Nevada in 3 different eras 75-82, 83-88, 89-96
    Depending on the era I have on the current layout, WP or UP share with the SP and I still keep a bit of the Santa Fe to run on the Ntrak layouts.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020
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  11. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Thinking back, a lot of us early N Scalers had our prototype decided for us on our first layouts when everything made was either UP, Santa Fe or PRR. :)
  12. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Although I don't model oe of those (UP, ATSF or PRR), I have felt for the past 25-30 years that model manufacturers have done alright by me (in HO at least). There has always been a lot of C&O and a fair amount of GTW equipment produced. Around 25 years ago, it seems like several manufacturers went off on a big Pere Marquette kick with an Athearn 50 ft auto box and USRA Mikado, P2K mill gondolas and E7's along with P2K and Bachmann Berkshires. Then there's Atlas with Pere Marquette steel cabooses as well as a nicely done D&M C425 in all four numbers along with GP40-2LW 9712 in both its CMGN trim and HESR patchout scheme. Bowser has also been good to D&M modelers with D&M open hoppers and D&M (ex PRR) steel cabooses and round roof boxcars. Accurail and Intermountion have also made contributions. I'm not sure what caused this to happen, but I guess in the spirit of this holiday, it's something to be thankful for.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020
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  13. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    When I worked for a large industrial shipper in the olden days of public freight tariffs, I'd always smile when I saw an envelope from the Detroit and Mackinac with the Mackinac Mac logo. :)

  14. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Mackinac Mac was found in a few places- on D&M employee jackets and on the cab sides of all four of the C425's.
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  15. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    I spent a lot of my youth in Aurora Missouri where the Frisco and Missouri Pacific ran through town. There is a large MFA Grain Mill on the Northwest side of yard where my cousin Jerry and I hung out along with a wood trestle nearby. We would spend all day exploring and watching trains. My grandma and grandpa lived about a half mile from the yard and during harvest Frisco would do switching for the mill at night. I remember hearing the roar of the locomotive and clashing of couplers while trying to go to sleep. Some nights it was too loud to sleep especially if the wind was from the south. Great memories and that's why I chose Frisco and MP as my favorite roads.

    Last edited: Nov 27, 2020
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  16. dalebaker

    dalebaker TrainBoard Member

    I chose my prototype because I can see and hear it every day. I live on a bluff over the port. I have an interest in switching operations so it was a natural. I had to paint my own locomotives to get them in correct livery POC and SKOL but the BNSF was easy. I already have a few of the locomotives I see come on down there.

    Cars are fairly east to come by as well. I do need to patch more for the KO and get them weathered up.

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  17. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I appreciate threads like this, I feel like I get to build each of your stories in my head. All of these early railroad memories add to your characters, and I feel like I get to understand the 'Trainboard guys' a bit more.

    I model BNSF in 2001, and while I do not even have a permanent layout, I plan on putting it on the Southern Transcon. I enjoy the 48' containers that appeared around the turn of the millennium and all the old BN and Santa Fe patched units. BNSF had a really cool fleet of locomotives in their early years, from GP60Ms in Warbonnet, to C30-7s, to ATSF rebuilt Geeps. Everything seems to be ES44s these days. I also like the research aspect of it. I am a college student, so I was barely alive in the early 2000's. I enjoy having to do research and watch old railfan videos, rather than just going 'oh yeah, I remember that', because frankly, I don't remember what trains were like back then. How would a toddler go railfanning anyways?
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  18. bigGG1fan

    bigGG1fan TrainBoard Member

    My prototype (if you can call it that) is based on the streamliners of my youth, rather than any single location or railroad. For me, it's more about the rolling stock. I have the City Of LA, and Daylight sets, as I rode on both (although the Daylight was a shadow of its former self, the diner replaced by an automat car.) I have lots of PRR equipment, including the Broadway Limited set. Many trips on Clockers and name trains between Philadelphia and New York, along with trips to DC on the original GE Metroliners. Although I never rode the Broadway (in its all-sleeping car incarnation,) I had a couple of round trips from North Philadelphia to Chicago on the General, and one unforgettable trip on the Admiral because of a Mainstreeter that arrived 28 hours late.

    I have an original Kato TGV 10-car set without DCC to represent the publicity ride I took on it prior to it entering revenue service, and I am waiting on a double-decker TGV with DCC.

    The only streamliner I rode that I don’t have is the North Coast Limited.

    My layout started with the MR Salt Lake Route, which is trackage I actually rode on, from Lund going west to Vegas. Only mixed train I ever rode on.

    Sent from my SM-T837A using Tapatalk
  19. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

    Grandpa on my dad's side was a serious model railroader. Serious in that he had a large garage layout, brass locomotives and Kadee couplers. This was late 70s/early 80s.

    No model railroaders on mom's side, but a couple cousins and uncles worked for GN then BN, so when we'd visit the family up north us boys would get a tour of the shops or a ride on a speeder depending on whether we were visiting our machinist cousins or section gang uncles. After the festivities would settle down and there was little for us to do but enjoy the summer my brother and I would often end up at the elevator and watch the action. Here we are in '89 long before getting our engine cards for big orange:


    My brother and I both built a lot of models back then - mainly aircraft, formula one cars, trucks, etc. - but I was really starting to get into building model trains around this time, especially kitbashing and scrachbuilding the things I saw in Bottineau. And that's how I got started with prototype modeling in the late 80s.

    A couple years later I was back in North Dakota and seriously motivated to document the trains I'd see arrive empty and depart loaded. I took what photos I could and filled up a notebook with car numbers and descriptions for what I couldn't photograph. Over the next several years I tried to model a 52-car train as seen in the summer of 1991. And since then I've gone back and updated or replaced those models always trying to get closer to the real thing.

    Modeling one train from one week in one town was great, but eventually it was not enough for me. From that experience I learned how much I enjoyed the idea of modeling entire complete trains from a given place and time. So that's what I started doing. Soon I had the Bottineau grain train from my visits with my grandparents in North Dakota and a couple NS coal trains from my college years in Georgia.

    It was when I moved back to Texas that I started modeling the trains I grew up with and modeling the area I grew up in. For me it doesn't get much better than the railroads that converge on the various interlocking towers funneling traffic to the king of them all, Tower 55 in Fort Worth.

    The variety of the 70s was fading away throughout the 80s before it all became BNSF vs UP with a dash of KCS in the 90s. So because I was able to be in the middle of it and have so many memories of Fort Worth from the late 80s that's what I spend the majority of my attention on. And now my modeling is not just individual trains, it's also the specific cars that serve those industries in Fort Worth and get interchanged from one road to another, those coal trains that got handed over from BN to SP or Katy at Tower 55, the grain trains heading to the ports, the locals passing from town to town and switching along the way, the yard transfers taking a drag out and bringing one back and the mill switcher spotting grain loads and pulling flour loads. It's all one big dance.

    And I'm still in awe of it, model and real thing, as much today as I was the first time I saw my grandpa's layout or the first time I climbed up on an SD40-2 in the Havre diesel shop as a kid. Even now as much as the job can be a grind, I'd be lying if I said a day went by where I didn't take a moment to just enjoy running a train.
  20. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    Would just give point for thoughts intead of going back to all the background story of how I came there (which mirrors most of the posts).

    If you can not decide:
    - build a kind of proto freelance by taking pieces of what you like from your favourite RRs
    - interchange the freelance with a prototype you like
    - build your layout in a more generic was so you can change the prototype RR according to your tastes (or just switch prototype between sessions)
    - also having a generic timeframe (you can always adjust by putting / removing cars or other details to set out the time of your choice) helps

    My layout:
    - is located close to where i lived in my infancy
    - has a freelance interchanging with the main company to allow me to get stock I liked but did not fit the main company
    - is generically time placed between 1960 to late 1990 with as less as time specific details as I could (date will be fixed with appropriate rolling stock, cars ....)

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