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Who is modeling steam era today.

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Who is modeling steam era today.
Posted by Howard Zane on Thursday, December 11, 2014 11:23 AM

I thought 14 years ago when the century changed, that I and most model rails would have a hard time modeling something from the 1900's. Since, I found this was not a problem, as I'm modeling a period in time....the 1940's- through mid 50's. Modern railroading basically has no influence on my model railroad, design, and/or operation.

Old codgers like me who lived in these steam days, I can see modeling what they grew up with, but what about younger diesel era folks? Are some doing historical or period modeling? There is much to model in the steam era for younger folks. rather than just model todays 4 or 5 viable railroads plus a few short lines using modern diesel power and equipment. Historic research now is just a few clicks away, and the excitement of steam locomotives in operation is fasicnating to say the least. A popular industrial design axiom is that form follows function. A steam locomotive to me is the epotme of this thinking as they are magificent and beautiful due to everything was designed for function...especially the exterior operating machinery. It was only during the art-deco period when railroads attempted streamlining did they decline esthetically with a few notable exceptions.

I would love to hear if other model rails share this thinking and how many are modeling the steam days.


Howard Zane
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Posted by Paul3 on Friday, December 12, 2014 10:14 AM

I was born in 1975, 6 years after the New Haven was merged into the PC, and 23 years after the last New Haven steam runs, yet I model New Haven steam.  Not exclusively, as I do own more diesels than steam, but I do have a dozen or so steamers (mostly brass).

I like steam engines and what they represent.  That so much mass could move that fast and not fly apart is remarkable.  I looked it up once, and an 80" driver rolling along at 80mph has a piston that's moving at something like 7 times per second.  And considering that a piston can weigh something like 2000 pounds, that's amazing.

Also with steam is the uniqueness of each loco.  Even when a class was "standardized", there are differences in the way the pipes are run, which kind of Elesco it had, etc.  Diesels are, for the most part, pretty uniform in their own class (one NH PA-1 looks just about like all the other NH PA-1's).  But with steam, every one seems different, and looking at photos of them becomes a bit like an "I Spy" book where you're looking for what's different about this one.

As an aside, I hear you're still buying brass online.  Whistling  A friend of mine has been selling a couple estates for the families of deceased modelers this year, and told me he's sold a number to you.  I also knew the original owners, test ran all of them, and wrote up the description for the auction.  If you ever want to know more about the modelers or models, just let me know.

Paul A. Cutler III

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, December 12, 2014 10:28 AM

I was born in 1947.  I grew up on Long Island, New York, just a few towns outside of the city.  But, our lines were electrified commuter rails and I seldom saw a diesel.  I don't recall every seeing a steam engine back then.

When I was a single-digit kid, I had a steam engine, a diesel or two and a GG-1.  It didn't bother me at that age.  As a teen, I switched to HO and mostly modeled diesels, although I got a couple of steamers in a box-of-trains and ran them, too.

As a grown-up, I pulled those wonder years trains out of their 40-year slumber in boxes.  This time I concentrated on diesels and tried to focus myself on the early 1960s.  But, I was at my LHS and found myself captivated by an 0-6-0 with sound.  I ordered one that very day, and told myself I'd run an excursion train.

I discovered pretty quickly that, for me anyway, an occasional excursion steamer was not enough.  So, I now have a dual-era layout, or I'm working towards one.  Engines, rolling stock and automobiles have their counterparts in the 1930s and 1960s.

My experience might contain some clues.  It wasn't the engine that caught me, but rather the sound.  Once you're drawn in, then you start to notice the intricacies of valve gear and drive rods that make steam such a visual treat.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by NevinW on Friday, December 12, 2014 11:13 AM

I was born in 1955 but model Nevada mining railroads from 1910.  Diesels are neat, but I'll take a 4-6-0 or 2-8-0 anytime. 

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Posted by jrbernier on Friday, December 12, 2014 11:15 AM


  I was born in 1949.  I remember the last of steam in the early 50's as a child.  I watched DM&IR steam on the 'range' on family vacations in the late 50's.

  When I got serious about modeling in HO in the late 60's, most of the older folks were still modeling steam.  By the 70's, I was basically into diesels as most of the HO steam was not good runners(brass or otherwise).  Being able to build good operating models that could run together was high on my list.  Very few HO steam models could pull much and many had electrical pickup issues.

  With advent of DCC and good steamers like BLI/P2K(that have sound), that changed.  My layout now uses 7 DCC/Sound steamers in addition to the diesels.  I do not model the steam era, but have a late 50's theme to the layout that allows transition era locomotives to mingle together.


Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, December 12, 2014 11:43 AM

I am!

All the different engines and vast array of rolling stock of the steam era brings a layout to life, so much more than hooking up a 150 identical cars behind 3 identical engines. All those little people required to do all that labour required to keep your pike moving is so much more interesting than the automation of today.


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage. 

You can never ever out-train poor nutrition.

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Posted by NP2626 on Friday, December 12, 2014 11:49 AM

I model the transition, so have both steam & early diesel.  I model the Northern Pacific in a freelanced and fun way.

NP 2626 "Northern Pacific, really terrific"

Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association:

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Posted by ACY Tom on Friday, December 12, 2014 12:22 PM

It seems that this goes back to the old adage that we tend to model what we saw in our youth.  Of course that's not always true because we have lots of additional criteria for our choices.  But it is a frequent theme.

I've settled on a time period of 1952 because that's when I was 6 years old and just developing my lifelong love of trains.  My actual memories of 1952 are pretty dim, so I've had to do a lot of research to find out what I need to know in order to get the details right.  The location is northern Ohio.  In 1952, the Erie was pretty much dieselized in my area.  AC&Y was about halfway through the dieselization process.  PRR, B&O, and NYC were making progress in their dieselization plans, and NKP was almost all steam, at least with regard to freight.  My roster reflects that.

To represent that era, you need to consider much more than locomotives.  Of course, locomotive servicing areas were different; but there was much more passenger service, which means every town had a depot.  LCL traffic meant every town had a freight house.  Rail was lighter, and it was jointed.  Every freight train had a caboose.  Section gangs were common sights. Mishaps were cleaned up by the railroad's own people & equipment (not Hulcher).  TT/TO operations were very common.  There was a tower at every junction.  And very few radios!  (One of my pet peeves is a sound-equipped steamer that has radio chatter). 

My point is that you almost had to be there to know what you need to know in order to get it right.  This is why it's so hard for a Yank to build a convincing British layout.  I take a back seat to no one in my admiration of British steam --- particularly L.M.S. Stanier locos (YMMV) --- but I would never try to build that kind of layout because I would always be haunted by thoughts of "How much did I get wrong?"

Just so, a modern kid is likely to get the modern scene right, and get the past wrong.  That being said, I truly admire those who are able to model a world they never saw.  Bernie Kempinski's Civil War modeling is a good example.  Kudos to all who can pull it off!


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Posted by Beach Bill on Friday, December 12, 2014 12:34 PM

I was born in 1951, and Dad worked for the Illinois Central.  The northern lines of the IC dieselized relatively early, and I have no recollection of IC steam.  I became a junior member of the local model railroad club shortly after I could drive into town, and a key factor in my later modeling selection came when the small Cadillac & Lake City 2-8-2 came through town on its way to Galena, IL for use in filming the movie "Gailey, Gailey".  I followed that locomotive for miles in my '53 Plymouth...  later realizing that smaller locomotives and freight cars look better on smaller layouts and can get by with much smaller curves than modern, heavy equipment.

I model the World War One era, just after the completion of the Clinchfield RR opened up vast areas of deep Southwest Virginia for hauling of the coal and timber resources there.


With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost. William Lloyd Garrison
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Posted by twhite on Friday, December 12, 2014 1:00 PM

1939 here (just celebrated my 75th) so steam comes pretty naturally to me, especially since my namesake great-uncle Thomas was an engineer on the Southern Pacific, and one of my very early childhood memories was sitting in the cab of an AC-6 cab-forward while Uncle Tom ran a helper move from Truckee to Norden, CA, over Donner Pass.  Noisy, bumpy and exciting. 

I model SP and Rio Grande standard gauge steam on a model railroad set between WWII and the very early 1950's, and am very heavy into articulateds--as you can see by my Avatar--so that means brass imports which have been 'tinkered' with to run as smoothly as possible.  Which most of them do.  There are a few diesels mixed in, mostly F-3's, but not enough to distract me from rods, wheels and boilers, lol!   I was sixteen when the last steam ran over the Sierra, so there's still a fair memory of it.


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Posted by sschnabl on Friday, December 12, 2014 1:04 PM

I also model the transition era, about 15 - 20 years before I was born.  So all of my modeling will have to rely on research, as I won't have any memories to fall back on.  While I don't mind the second generation diesels that I grew up with, there's just something about seeing all those moving parts on a steam engine that is fascinating.  Plus it's a good excuse to be able to model all those cool locomotive servicing facilities.



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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, December 12, 2014 1:11 PM

I model steam (and diesel) (and even a couple of electrics, but without overhead....).

I don't see how one could AVOID steam.  

But I am also fascinated with stack trains, unit coal trains, and etcetera.  So my "era" is a whole lot more than one day in July 19xx.  Sorry, can't help myself.




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Posted by ALEX WARSHAL on Friday, December 12, 2014 1:46 PM

I was born in the 90s so I'm relatively new to model trains in the big scheme of things. I started with a small Life-Like set and then moved to modeling CSX in the 80s-90s when I live next to their Memphis-Nashville line. I have family in central New York where the New York Central was once king and that really caught my interest. I loved hearing stories and seeing pictures of the old equipment and steam engines. I model the steam-diesel transition era because it includes many different forms of rolling stock, passenger cars, locomotives, etc. I use it as a way to expirence the past in a form that I can see.

-Alex Warshal

My Layout Photos-

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Posted by Dusty Solo on Friday, December 12, 2014 2:08 PM

I entered the world in 1947. I have great memories of steam & early diesels during the transition era from when I was just a kid. I was attracte to the wonderous thundering power of steam locomotives - awsome to behold & frightening too. I feel fortunate that I am a child of the 1940's.  But lets not forget the diesels with their often flamboyant paint schemes, but unlike the steamers whose working parts were there for all the world to see, the diesels had theirs all hidden from view. But like the steamers you could feel their power & strength.

Recently I started to develope an interest in running trains that are easily identifiable as being from the turn of last centuary - this has broadened my interest & helped me from getting a bit stale with my transition era themed modeling.


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Posted by selector on Friday, December 12, 2014 2:16 PM

I was born in '52, and spent my first 11 years seeing a wide range of steam, much of it at or above 13,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes.  The first diesel purchased by the mining corporation came to town, assisted by a steam pusher, in 1963.  I liked the idea of diesels, and still like them for their power and sleek looks.  However, when I saw my first yard switcher at INCO in Sudbury, ON, when I was about two years earlier, and noticed it trundling along slowly with its side rods rising and falling, I was hooked.  I feel the same way about the Super Constellation.  Seeing the works, or most of it, was a thrill to me.  Modern jets and diesels have a definite gee-whiz about them, but they are covered up too much.

So, I concentrate on N. American steam from maybe six roads in all, and my era is from 1920-1958.

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Posted by Graffen on Friday, December 12, 2014 2:19 PM

I was born 1970, and I model US steam! It doesn't matter if I wasn't there when it was the thing... Especially as I live in Sweden and have never even seen a US steamer in action, ever!

Swedish Custom painter and model maker. My Website:

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Posted by wickman on Friday, December 12, 2014 2:21 PM

I model the steam era, I love the dusty look.

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Posted by mlehman on Friday, December 12, 2014 3:33 PM

Pushing 60. Taking the question literally, yes, I model the steam era today, because I model the Rio Grande's Silverton Branch (plus a little more). Steam never went away on what is currently the D&S. I do model in more modern times than strictly "steam era" so there are diesels. I also model the mears line up above Silverton.

Generally, things around and past Durango on the standard gauge are the most recent, trying for mid-70s. Gloing uphoill to Siverton, things get older, but have to be flexible. Up on the Mears lines are generally the oldest structure, vehciles, etc

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, December 12, 2014 3:57 PM

Steam era here, too. I left the erecting floor in 1956 but I have had a boyhood interest in steam since my dad brought me along on many fan trips in this area and into Ontario as well as the usual E.B.T., Steamtown when it was still in Bellows Falls, Edaville, two treks to the Durango narrow gauge in '66 and again in '68 and  scores of others.

In my late teens and early 20s I was fortunate to be involved with a group that was running the GTW 4070 (that's yours truly on the engineer's seatbox in my avatar.) What a fantastic opportunity that was! Just a few highlights, I got to fire on the Pennsy main when we ran two trips double-headed with the Reading 2102 Pgh. to Altoona. We ran a few trips from Pittsburgh to Brownsville on the P&LE (where I killed the fire by over-stoking when we were street running in Elizabeth, Pa. Embarrassed ) and ran the engine near Buffalo (South Dayton, NY) for the filming of ThE Natural with Robert Redford!

So, steam is in my blood and it is well represented on my layout and the structures and details stay pretty faithful to maybe early 1950s save for maybe an occasional vehicle or two.

I do have a penchant for some modern stuff so I will run the occasional Amtrak Superliner train with a few P-42s, Metroliners painted in PRR scheme (1967) and even a U-A Turbotrain! Like others have mentioned, these rekindle memories that I have since I've seen and ridden this equipment but for most day-to-day running I try to keep the layout in the late '40s - early 1950s.

Happy modeling! Ed

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Posted by peahrens on Friday, December 12, 2014 4:10 PM

I was born in 1947 but, miraculously, I'm only 39!

If an inanimate object can be loved, I love steam engines, but I'm fond of early diesels.  I grew up in NYC, and my memories include the NYC electrics (I could see them from our apartment window), F7s and Pensy GG-1 electric.  My trip to western Nebraska in 1955 (age 7) unfortunately includes only interior recollections (the observation car) and climbing in a caboose in the yard, but unfortunately zero recollections of motive power.  If I saw a Big Boy, the still running #844 FEF3, it's all lost to damaged brain cells. In H.S., I do recall chasing a Reading "Iron Horse Ramble" which I think involved a 4-powered axle steamer.   

On the current layout, I've adopted UP for a number of reasons and I justify everything from a 2-6-0 mogul to an SD-40.  If I add older and/or newer items, I have a plan for's really a UP museum!  Back to the steam question, I've been excited to add consolidation, mikado, mountain, challenger and big boy. My wish list includes someone releasing a UP pacific, any maybe bachmann releasing again a 3-truck Shay.


Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by SPV on Friday, December 12, 2014 4:11 PM

I was born in the northeast in the 1980s and model narrow gauge in the American southwest circa 1907.  I don't really have any interest in diesels at all, and don't own or plan to own any.



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Posted by rrebell on Friday, December 12, 2014 4:24 PM

I do mainly steam but have small diesels, like the trackside detail from steam more than diesels, things like water tanks and coaling towers.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, December 12, 2014 4:25 PM

I was born in 1947 so I saw a little steam in action.  I settled on 1952 on the Maryland & Pennsylvania because I can mix early steam (the Ma&Pa still had a 4-4-0), wooden freight and passenger cars, truss rods, archbar trucks with diesels, steel boxcars, etc.  But I'm not pure as I also mix in a few things not found in 1952 like billboard reefers from the 30's and paint schemes from the late 50's.



If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by trainnut1250 on Friday, December 12, 2014 4:52 PM

Born 1959.  Never was a question.  Always was interested in steam.  I love the early 20th century short lines.  All steam.


The photo says it all for me:









see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by dale8chevyss on Friday, December 12, 2014 5:03 PM

I am 30.  I love the transition era and model as such- that period when steam was at it's peak.  I don't mind the diesel trains- there is something about a diesel horn in the distance that I've grown up with- but the allure of steam locomotives are more appealing to me.  I love how the engineer has to be one with his machine- listen to how the locomotive is running and "hook up" the train to run more effeciently.  No computer system/display to make it run better.  The fireman needs to ensure the fire/water is adequate for the engineer when he needs it. 



Modeling the N&W freelanced at the height of their steam era in HO.

 Daniel G.

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Posted by CNCharlie on Friday, December 12, 2014 6:30 PM

I was born in 1947 and grew up in Winnipeg, which was the last bastion of steam in Canada. Lucky for me!! Steam was used extensively right through 1959 and I have a lot of fond memories watching trains on the CN mainline going west. It was only a 15 minute ride on my bike to the tracks. I spent a few summers at Victoria Beach and CN ran a daily passenger train powered by a Pacific in '57 and '58. 

Needless to say, my model RR is CN set in 1955 so it is mostly steam.

CN Charlie

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Posted by nw2 on Friday, December 12, 2014 7:46 PM
I was born in the early 60s, I model conrail in the 80s. The earliest era I considered was the late 60s to late 70s PC -conrail period. Have no real interest in steam, although I do like the 0-4-0 dockside steamer.
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Posted by singletrack100 on Friday, December 12, 2014 8:51 PM

Born in 1967. No steam memories other than that of my dad's American Flyer S-gauge 4-8-4 Northern, affectionately known as "Blackie", and I think what was a streamlined Hudson... of course Blackie was my favorite!

These came out around Christmas every year, and that was all the motivation I ever needed! I model something between about late 30's-1950ish... several Mikes, a few Pacifics, and one each: Challenger, 2-8-8-2, Consolidation and Shay.



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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, December 12, 2014 9:25 PM

I was born in 1954, so I have only a few fleeting memories of the last of the steam being run into Allendale in Ontario. My family had a farm in Painswick that had a mainline running through it. However, the fact that I was growing up after the demise of steam engines  hasn't stopped me from being fascinated with them. I am modelling the late 50s with mostly diesels but I have a few steam engines that I will operate too. Currently my steam roster consists of an 0-6-0, an 0-8-0, a 4-4-0 and a 4-6-0, so they are not exactly 1950s material. I also have Hogwarts Express which was the first HO train I owned.

Strangely, I am not into the huge late era steamers. Nor am I much interested in modern diesels. Each to his own I guess. I live close to the South Simcoe Railway so I get to see a vintage 4-4-0 in operation regularly. My engine service facility will be set up to handle both steam and diesel.


I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, December 12, 2014 9:32 PM

I'm modelling steam in the mid-to-late-'30s, just a little bit before my time.  I grew up (somewhat Stick out tongue ) in the so-called transition era, and, in retrospect, didn't much care for it. Smile, Wink & Grin


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