A Bunch of HO Gauge Layouts Over The Years


This is a history of a train nut and of model railroading spanning the continuing life of Joe Jordan not quite sixty years.  This history relates to the building of four different layouts over a period of fifty years.  These four layouts range from the one my father and I built in Rutherford, New Jersey, USA in the attic of our house, through the monster which replicated the New York Division of the Erie/Erie Lackawanna from Hoboken to Port Jervis.  The layout currently under construction relates to the Port Jervis division point between the Delaware Division and the New York Division of the Erie Lackawanna Railway.

Before the first layout:
As a youngster in Rutherford, NJ and having a reasonable train enthusiast as a father, I was bent to be one of the "train nuts" of the future and so having my destiny written in the tracks for me, we began at age 5 sometimes riding the steam trains from Rutherford into Jersey City and taking the ferry into New York City.  My father worked in Manhattan and high above the financial district at 120 Wall Street.  From this vantage point, I could look out the windows of my fatherís office onto the entire harbor of New York.  The Statue of Liberty,Brooklyn Navy Yard (during World War II), the docks on both sides of the Hudson River and,most importantly, the terminals of the Central of New Jersey, Erie and the Lackawanna Railroads on the Jersey side.  The activity of this harbor was an unbelievable sight during the last years of World War II.  Warships, large passenger liners, troop ships, ferry boats, tankers, cargo ships of all types were heavily evident in the harbor at that time of my life. The movement of trains was extremely heavy also, so the Rutherford part of the Erie mainline was full of trains on a constant basis.  In those days it was mostly steam Pacificís running the passenger trains and the real steam heavies moving freight.

The Model Fever
My father, right after the war, bought Lionel O27 trains for us?? and had a layout in the cellar of my first home in Rutherford.  Our cellar consisted of a coal bin, a platform for the washing machine with wringer and sinks, a finished recreation room and the train room.  The Lionel trains creeped out to the recreation room.  The rec room was fully furnished with a bar with four stools and platform for a musical group and lots of room for parties.  This was used almost every summer weekend and relatives were always on the premises.  I canít remember when there wasnít a keg of beer on tap down our cellar.  The Lionel trains ran from the train room, under the stairs, through the coal bin and behind the musical group platform along the back of a bench seat about 30í long, up to the bar where drinks were delivered to attendees on flat and gondola cars by a Lionel Hudson.  The layout was small by comparison shoved into a room less than 12 foot square with the extension into the rec room.  Dad added to the original train set with cars and another engine and then with the purchase of the original Lionel Santa Fe passenger set.  After a while, the bug was caught by my uncle and his two boys and they built a Lionel train layout in Carlstadt, NJ in the attic of a six car garage that was overwhelming.

We moved from that house to another larger house in Rutherford, NJ (sadly away from the Erie mainline) when I was 12 years old.  At about that age, going into high school, the discovery of girls and cars, model trains became a secondary thought.  My father and I worked on an HO gauge layout when no one knew what HO gauge was.  We built a layout in the attic of the new house that consisted of  a double track oval with a track off the inside to a higher elevation and then back down to the inside track.  It never went any further.  I was too busy with other activities and Dad lost interest and there are no pictures, however I have to count this as Layout #1.
Add sixteen lost years in a misspent youth and we arrive after my marriage.  My new wife had no idea that I carried this latent gene called "model railroading".  After buying our first house in Oakland, NJ, I staked off our finished second floor of what was to be two extra bedrooms (hell, we already had two bedrooms downstairs) for a model railroad.  Not in my right mind at the time we bought our starter home, I neglected to make sure it had a basement.  The dumb place was built on a concrete slab.  For two months, I bought lumber and started to construct a base for the railroad.  My wife, finding it very curious I was working on something upstairs, wondered what was going on.  Questions ensued such as: What are you building?? furniture for the upstairs?,  whatís going on up there??  what is it???  I finally had to confess. It was time to buy trains.  She never knew about trains prior to this point in the marriage.  She grew up with two sisters and no brothers and had no idea what "model railroading" was and even worse, thought they were cute.  Little did she understand the impact this would have on her life from this point forward.  She even took pictures of the layout and me working on it still thinking, "Well, it keeps him out of the bars..."

Layout #2.  The Ramapo Valley Railroad in Oakland, NJ, USA

Oakland, NJ is New York, Susquehanna & Western territory and had a line that ran through it, although with little action.  However the Erie Lackawanna was just two towns away in Mahwah, NJ and I started spending time running up and down the mainline taking pictures.  The layout was based loosely on a mythical railroad in Oakland which interchanged with the Erie Lackawanna and was built for continuous running, freight switching, and small passenger traffic.  The only engine the Ramapo Valley had was a blue and white BL-2.  All other engines that ran on it were Erie Lackawanna engines with trackage rights.
The layout started as a base framework of 12" squares across the 10í span of the room.  After putting in the base, I used pieces of a mangled white picket fence for risers.  I found the fence on the property when we bought it.  A track plan was developed that involved four spurs for industries, one passing siding with industry and a continuous run layout with the possibility to run two trains.  As an after thought and the purchase of too many cars to fit on the layout, I added a yard for storage and interchange.  To view pictures, just click on the underlined areas.  Hereís the final plan (not to scale).
 The following is sixteen pictures of the layout in various stages of construction.  The layout provided a lot of fun with complicated way freight switching and interferring run through trains where the passing siding was really to small for a full train.  By the way, it never got finished.  It was left for my brother in law when I sold the house to my sister and him.  It eventually was dismantled.

Coaling trestle in upper middle and manufacturing plant in lower left.
The town passenger station appears.   In the upper middle, the farm is started.
More of the farm is installed and a hotel is added to the town.
Same scene as above. Some scenery, road added and stores in the town.
A better view of the town.
Local passenger train glides into the town in January 1970.
Risers form the skeleton of the mountain. Another spur appears.
Looking right towards the unfinished mountain over the town
Further into the layout as scenery is developed from left to right.
 The "skeletonized" mountain with tape ready for the hydrocal application.
The semi-finished  mountain Nov. 21, 1970
Looking up the finished mountain from the bottom.
The Interchange yard is full of waiting trains in August of 1971.
Mainline passenger motive power is on our local today in August of 1971.
Motive power line up.  Blue and white BL-2 on the right is the Ramapo Valley Railroad's only power unit.

This layout is now on the list for the best top ten layouts on the web.
By clicking on the banner below, you can vote for this layout with a BIG "5"

So much for the "never-was-and-never-will-be-finished" Oakland layout.  You are now able to go on to the masterpiece, the Bridgewater Layout, or you can bail out and go back to the EL photo page. or visit our "For Sale" page