1964 Pontiac GTO… and icons for your layout


Many of us model little (or big) icons on our layouts.  They can be cultural icons, historical icons or anything that strikes a chord with us and connects us to a larger place, time or feeling.  They can be particular freight cars we remember seeing pass by when we were 14, a favorite structure along a sleepy branch line, a commercial sign that awakens memories.  Whatever they might be, they help our layouts mean more to us than just a place to “run trains.”

Below is just a quick illustration of what I am talking about.

Dr. Pepper – I remember seeing tall bottles with this logo as a kid.  Makes me think of playing golf for $3.00 a round at Gus Wotham Golf Course in Houston.

Tracks to nowhere – I remember seeing a lot of lonely branch lines all over Texas and Arkansas that I wondered if they were still in business.  Sure enough, there was eventually a small business that still saw some rail activity.  The late-1970-early 1080s still offered a lot of opportunities to explore lonesome, yet still active rail lines.

Houston, TX May 1980-–©photo by C. E. Hunt

The Rock! — I remember seeing a lot of Rock Island action as a kid.  I caught the above on a Burlington Northern train near Houston, TX in May of 1980.  This is such an icon for me, that like B. Smith, I have adopted a dual era layout–1979 (Rock still active) and 1981 (Post BN-Frisco merger).  You’d be surprised how many cars and locomotives must exit or enter the stage based on two years.  Been spending a lot of quality time with my Railway Equipment Registers!

National Forests — I love National Parks, National Forests, BLM lands and State Parks.  To a kid growing up in Texas, being able to roam for miles on my land without encountering “No Trespassing” signs everywhere is heaven.   (Warning — Commercial for protecting our public lands.  Make your voice heard and consider joining this great organization or another like it.  I like Trout Unlimited too!)

Grocery Store Warehouses — Here is an icon that may appear on B. Smith’s LCN.  Grocery store warehouses receiving rail shipments screams out an earlier day in railroading.

Scene on the Rails West layout

Falstaff Beer – This is really an icon for all the former great brewery traditions or brands across our land. I know a lot of great new beer traditions have merged, but I still miss some of the iconic brands like Falstaff and Hamms.

Old pickups and cars — These are some of my favorite icons.  Vehicles have the potential to create a time aura like nothing else.

.Scene on the Rails West layout.

What if you really want an icon that is very difficult to achieve?  No kits, no available art work, etc.  That is when it really gets fun.

And that finally, brings us to the main topic of this post…the 1964 Pontiac GTO!  Now that’s an icon!

1964 Pontiac GTO

Considered by many to be the first muscle car, meaning high performance and low-cost, the GTO became available in 1964 as an option to the Tempest LeMans.

The GTO featured distinctive appearance items in place of standard LeMans features.

The famous Gran Turismo Omologata (GTO), better known as ‘The Goat,’ ‘The Tiger,’ and ‘The Great One’ was for the first year offered to the public.

The GTO became a much greater success than Pontiac ever thought possible.  Here’s a slick video on this iconic car.

Here’s the colors it came in in 1964–

A little over 30,000 were produced for 1964.  I am striving to figure out how a couple can be the denizen of Carrizo Springs or Artesia.  (Artesia is a former town near where the IMC mine is.  There are a few signs of the old town still in the Rails West world.)

How am I going to do that?
Good question.  I have been able to get my hands on a set of Williams Bros GTOs!  We will see what happens.  Here’s a link to Williams Brothers kits.  They are clear plastic.  I don’t know if they are still available.  The link was last updated  April 17, 2000!   It is going to be a challenge for sure.
I have about three or four projects ahead of them, so it is going to be a while.
The Rails West layout NEEDS a couple of these.  We’ll see what happens.  Stay tuned.

Sanderson, 1968 — Part II

In Part I, we two came into Sanderson in the late afternoon with box cars for Big Bend Wool and Mohair and two empty open top hoppers for scoria loading.  After little a little action, we took on water.

Let’s pick up where we left off.


About to couple into the load.


Grabbing the two empty hoppers on the main.

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And putting them on the scoria siding so they can be rolled down for loading.

(Note:  I did a post on modeling scoria operations a while back.  Click here to see it.  It shows scenes from the LCN in 1990.)

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Backing down the main to get the caboose after leaving the load on the scoria track to be picked up tomorrow.  Looks like the ACI label has just been applied to the hopper.  The crew shakes their heads at this new-fangled electronic system and say it will never work.
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With caboose in tow the locomotive trundles down to the east end to spot the two loads at Big Bend Wool and Mohair.
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1968 in West Texas and Big Bend Wool and Mohair is getting in lots of bagged feed in by rail.
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Big Bend Wool and Mohair with two cars spotted in August, 1977–©B. Smith photo
Above is a scene from 1977 that helped inspire the above operation.
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The locomotive and caboose tie up at the water plug and the crew call it a day.
LCN logo 6 Primary

Sanderson, 1968

By B. Smith

(Note: B. Smith is embarking on an exciting new chapter for his LCN RR layout.  Rather than just operating in 1990, he will be embracing multiple eras while maintaining reasonable efforts to present prototypical rolling stock, vehicles, etc.  He and I have been having numerous philosophical chats on this as we explore ways of thinking on the subject.  I too am experimenting in this area, but with a smaller range of years [1979 and 1981, pre-Rock Island shutdown, post-SLSF-BN merger].  Likely much more to come on this, but meanwhile, enjoy a recent session on his LCN.  Don’t be surprised if you see a glitch or two as we work the kinks out. )

We arrive in Sanderson just as the LCN local arrives.  The year is 1968.  The LCN still operates a steam locomotive.  Today’s consist are two box cars for Big Bend Wool and Mohair and two empty open top hoppers for scoria loading.  (I have the wrong side of the fourth car facing the camera.  The consolidated lube plate shows.  I’m not used yet to considering which side of the car faces out.)  (Note:  We are experimenting with dual era cars being detailed for different eras on different side.)

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The crew cuts off the caboose and two empty hoppers.  The LCN is having problems getting open hoppers from the class ones and operates an eclectic assortment of second-hand hoppers to serve the scoria shipper.  The empty hopper when the train departed earlier in the day has been loaded.


The two loads for Big Bend Wool and Mohair are run to the east end and cut off on the main.

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The locomotive then backs to the water plug to fill its tender.

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After filling the tender the locomotive backs down the siding to the loaded hopper after the brakeman flags it across a crossing.

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In Part II, we’ll complete the run and tie down for the evening.

LCN logo 6 Primary



Neat little structure in Roswell, New Mexico to model and more…

I love buildings like this.  Not easy to model, but what character!Roswell

Roswell near Roswell Wool

Roswell near Roswell Wool 4Here you can see where the tracks used to service the structure.

Roswell near Roswell Wool 2

Unfortunately, Rancher’s Supply appears quite closed.

However, for you more modern modelers, next door is a modern gem.  Note the orange and white building next door to the right?

Roswell Wool 2

It is Roswell Wool.  It is still a going concern.

Roswell Wool

Sadly the BNSF no longer a has an active spur to it, but you can see where it once ran and the doors that were possibly used to load boxcars at one point.

Hard to know how long Roswell Wool has been at this location.

warehouse 2

Right down the track to the north are a lot of warehouses that were at one time used for shipping agricultural traffic as well.

warehouse 3

On this map the blue circle depicts those warehouses.  The black circle shows were the old ATSF passenger and freight station once stood (a portion still remains).  The red circle shows where the Rainbo Bakery sat that served as the model of the bakery on the Rails West layout.  You can still see the concrete pad where the flour silos once sat. (The rectangle with the 8 holes, click here for a post on the bakery that once operated in Roswell.)

Like many western towns of any size, Roswell is full of building crying out to be modeled.

Take Artesia just to the south of Roswell for instance…

Oh well, that may be a subject for a future post.


Time for a little operating…

The local came into town pretty light today.  As is often the case, the yard crew in Trinidad did an iffy job of blocking.


Three empties for the C&C RR interchange and two loads for Carrizo Springs.


A couple of recent Rails West projects are featured.  A re-worked Accurail kit to depict a GN double-door boxcar.  I weathered it, cut the ladders down, removed the roofwalk, added lube plate, wheel inspection and ACI decals, replaced trucks, installed grab irons, stirrups, scale wheels and pin lifters and brake hoses.   It was about a 3-month project with many, many breaks.


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All in all, I’m pretty happy with it.  Not perfect, end ladders clunky, but it is close enough.


I also re-worked an Athearn BN 40 footer.  I did most of what I did to the GN boxcar, but I did not replace the grab irons.  Again, close enough.  I wanted a couple of double door 40 footers to serve as backups when no 50 footers were available for the sawmill on the C&C RR.  They will be rare visitors, but I like the idea of having a few 40-foot boxcars still on the layout.



Again, a bit clunky in a few places, but overall acceptable.  Weathering hides a lot!

Forty footers are fading icons from the rail scene in my era, the late-1970s and early 1980s.


The two work pretty well together.

We might as well check out the rest of the small consist.


Here’s an empty for loading at the sawmill too.


Here is a load of beer for Hernandez Distributing and the CPLT box is a load of plywood for Foxworth Lumber (team track in town).

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And lastly, the venerable CB&Q caboose that frequently makes the trip over from Trinidad.

The crew will make their set outs and grab a bite at Paul’s Mexican Food.  They’ll grab the empties from Western Warehousing and the empty Frisco box from Hernandez Distributing and beat it back to Trinidad hoping to beat the 12-hour clock.



Maps (and planned structures) of the Rails West layout (Conclusion)

In Parts I and II of this series, I shared overall maps and described my structures in place or planned for the east side of Carrizo Springs, the primary town of the layout.  In this post, we’ll explore the west side and outskirts of Carrizo Springs.

Here is a close up of the area we’ll cover–

Layout map Mar 2017 II_carrizo II

Going from east to west (towards the interchange with the Carson & Carrizo RR), I’ll discuss each structure.

Paul’s Mexican Food

This structure is undetermined, but I can share a picture of the inspiration in Carrizozo, NM.


Paul’s Mexican Food, Carrizozo, NM, circa 2007–©photo by C. E. Hunt

This restaurant in the early 1990s had the best red enchiladas and green chili cheese burgers.  It was old school all the way and some of the customers really wore spurs!  It was magnificent in my eyes.  Note the cool swamp cooler out the side of the structure.  Little touches like that give your structure a real regional identity and help create a more authentic sense of place.

Yucca Bar and Grill

This place is the fuzziest in my mind.  I absolutely love this structure (also) in Carrizozo, NM.  I am not sure I’ll do this place, but I’d like to.  It is still a question.  It will involve serious scratch building.  Here is the real structure–


Yucca Bar and Grill, Carrizozo, NM, circa1993–©photo by C. E. Hunt

Above is how the place looked in the early 1990s.  Note iconic sign still there!


Yucca Bar and Grill, Carrizozo, NM, circa 2007–©photo by C. E. Hunt

This photo and the next two were taken around 2007.


Yucca Bar and Grill, Carrizozo, NM, circa 2007–©photo by C. E. Hunt


Yucca Bar and Grill, Carrizozo, NM, circa 2007–©photo by C. E. Hunt

This place screams out to be modeled!  When I did a post on this building in 2015, a reader gave me a great comment–

This was my grandpa’s bar back in the hey day. I worked there when I was a youngster cleaning tables, sweeping and when there was dances or bands I got to serve beer. WOW try that now!!!!–J. Ortiz

We’ll see if I model it, but I know I should try.

The next three are a little easier and almost guaranteed to be quite good because they are Monster Model Works kits by one of my favorite craftsmen kit producers, Jimmy Simmons.  His kits are AWESOME and yield very good results.

Feller’s Garage


Gibson’s Body Shop


Abandoned store (with sign a swinging)


I know it is a little cookie cutter on the last three, but why not embrace excellence and take it easy sometimes?

The infrastructure at the piggyback ramp will be minimal, just a ramp, a couple of trailers and a few tumbleweeds.

At the far western end of the layout, there won’t be much.  My goal is to subtly suggest a change in ecotype as the country begins a transition into the foothills of the Carson Mountains.  A few trees will begin to appear and signage may indicate the boundary of the National Forest.


The IMC mine is still under conceptualization right now.

There you have it on the current and future Rails West layout.  I gotta go, I have a lot of work to do!




Maps (and planned structures) of the Rails West layout (Part II)

In the last Rails West post, I shared a couple of key maps and a little history.  (Click here to see Part I.)

In this post, I’ll share some details on structures and planned structures.  As a refresher, the modeled area is shown again below.

Layout map Mar 2017 II

OK, let’s drill down into the east side of Carrizo Springs.

Layout map Mar 2017 II_ Carrizo I

Taking the structures from east to west:

Agri-West Farm Supply — see this post from 2016 for more.  (See part II here.)img_2506

Hernandez and Sons Distributor (Click here for more, again it was a two-part series.)img_2416

Rainbo Bakery (Much more here, multi-part series.)img_2579

Agri-West Lube and Specialty Oil (under development)

This will be based on a variety of influences, but mostly a combination of former dealers in Marfa, TX along a former SP main line. (now UP).DSC_7570DSC_756816176 Russell410 E El Paso 3 Likely the subject of a post in the near future.

Western Warehousing  (Click here to see the first of a two-part series on this structure.)IMG_2272

Ponderosa Feeds (Click here for more.)img_2657

Carrizo Valley Wool and Mohair (under development)

For a post on an active wool and mohair shipper in Alpine, TX in the late-1970s, click here.

This non-rail serviced structure will be based on multiple influences of a few structures in Texas.

wmohmertzonwmohballinger5478c0b1ae95c.imageunnamed (2)Big Bend Wool and Mohair with two cars spotted in August, 1977–©B. Smith photo

In the next post, we’ll venture towards the western end of the layout.





Maps (and planned structures) of the Rails West layout (Part I)

BN 1743 Three Forks MT Apr 14 1984 Jim Herold Low Res

BN 1743 Three Forks MT, April 14, 1984 by Jim Herold –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

The above photo taken in Three Forks, MT in 1980s captures much of what the Rails West layout is all about–short trains in lonely, beautiful country evoking many of my favorite places and scenes across the American West.

To somehow give a larger narrative to the layout and give it context, I have developed a fictitious map of the region.

Big Map II

Only a small portion of this map is modeled on the layout.  (See yellow box.)  Two of my favorite western roads come together in Trinidad and have a shared line out to Carrizo Springs.  I think of it as sort of a “Camas Prairie” arrangement like the BN and UP had in Idaho.  For a detailed history of the lines see my earlier post.  For the most part, the map of above tracks pretty closely with that history with a few tweaks.

Most notable on this map is the richer detail of the short line that goes to Carson State University.  The Carson & Carrizo Railroad operates a line that the SP sold before the 1970 BN merger.  Carson State University bought the line to ensure continued service to the campus.  Coal and food shipments predominate the traffic to the university, but the line also hosts a fair amount of sawmill-related traffic since one of the old sawmills on the line reopened after the C&C RR took over.

Carson State University’s football team, the Cougars, draws a big crowd during the season and the Unversity has thought about running passenger specials to Trinidad so perhaps a little passenger action may take place in the future.  The scenery of Carson National Forest could be a draw as well in the future. The line traverses numerous picturesque gorges and creeks on the way to Carson.

Layout map Mar 2017 II

The map above portrays the modeled portion.  At this time only the track and a few of the structures are in place.  However, it is enough to permit me to have interesting operation sessions and there are enough structures to give my operations a sense of purpose.

In the next post, I will provide details on some of the structures in place and those to come.