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.

Another baby for the layout (BN!)


Tangent Scale Models has done some real solids for us BN and BN predecessor modelers of late.  After recently releasing the 4740 covered hopper in Great Northern and Northern Pacific, Tangent then added Burlington Northern, Northern Pacific and another Burlington paint scheme to their incredible Hy-cube model.

All three of these cars are outstanding.  There was just one hitch for me personally, I model 1981 and the BN model offered was for 1982.


One obvious spotting feature is the white hy-cube band across the top of the end.  Other differences included different lube plates, no ACI tag and no yellow dot.  All of which would have been removed or revised in the 1982 re-paint.



BN 281469, location, date and photographer unknown (probably late-1970s)–©photo C. E. Hunt Collection


Above is a late 1970s shot of the type of scheme I wanted for my 1981 era Rails West layout. The yellow dot has yet to be applied and the ACI tag has been removed. Online sources show better the likely 1981 appearance of my car.  Click below for the examples I used on my model.


I didn’t seek to perfectly capture all the 1981 appropriate details, but I sought to change the ones that would have the most impact.  My car is not perfect but close.  Above, I had to remove the yellow sign and the more modern lube plates.  I then, with decals, added a yellow wheel inspection dot, ACI tag and a new lube plate.

Next, I painted over the white end panels.


This had the most impact and gave the car a nice pre-1982 feel.

After the addition of scale wheels and some weathering, I have a nice stand-in for a BN hy-cube car to bring appliances to Western Warehousing in 1981.

A cool business to model from the early 1990s


Roswell 1992 sharp

Maloof distributor in Roswell NM in 1992 –©photo by C. E. Hunt

This is largely a freshened up post from February of 2014.  My pictures are much better now that I have purchased a competent scanner.


As I wrote in 2014–

South of town sat this lonely white structure. The green Burlington Northern box cars spotted there were almost as large as the structure. This venue connected Roswell with Golden, Colorado about two or three times a month or so. It was always nice to see a new car spotted there as I drove south out of Roswell on Hwy 287. 

This another cool thing about modelling the early 1980s, single (or two) car shippers were still very common which is ideal for modellers and a great deal of beer was hauled by boxcars.  Though a lot of beer is still shipped by rail, including intermodal, most beer was hauled by boxcar up until probably the middle to late 1990s.


Roswell 1992 Coors

Front of Maloof Distributor, 1992–©photo by C. E. Hunt (Anybody know what kind of car the yellow one is?  AMC?)

Beer cars are great to model.



Scene from the Rails West layout.  A lot of beer was brought into the Roswell, NM Miller Distributor in SL-SF boxcars like this one in the early 1990s.  See this post. The trailing ATSF boxcar was a frequent visitor to the Roswell Budweiser distributor.




In another scene from the Rails West layout, this filthy WP beer car has just been collected from the distributor.



A load of beer being spotted on B. Smith’s LCR RR which is set in 1990.


photo 4 (10)

A string of beer cars on the Rails West layout before backdating the layout to 1982.  No more “plain jane” ATSF beer cars sadly.  They were very common at the Bud distributor in Roswell throughout the early 1990s.


If you’re not thirsty yet, check out one of my all time favorite Rails West posts here on the Golden Age of beer advertisements.  Here’s a sample of what you’ll see..






Selecting an era to model…

It is funny how fundamental this decision is, yet not a great deal is written about it.  For some of us, it tortures us to select just the right locale, era or railroad to model.  For others, it seems to come easy (I kind of envy or perhaps even almost hate those people, just kidding).  Why should it be so easy for them and so hard for others (including me)?

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970.  Photo by Hol Wagner.

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970. Photo by Hol Wagner.

I have had many scenarios during my modelling career.  Here is a highly simplified summary of my torturous history–

Mid-1970s — CB&Q in the 1970s (Midwest)

Late-1970s to early 1980s — BN in the 1980s (Pacific Northwest)

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA.  Photo by Jim Gavin.

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA. Photo by Jim Gavin.

Took a break — College, women and career

Mid-1990 to early 2000s — SAL, L&N and ACL in the early 1960s (Southeast)

Early-2000s to mid-2000s — MILW, Rock and CNW in Midwest in the 1980s

Mid-2000s to late 2000s — BN, SP and WP in 1978

Late-2000s to early 2010s — CSX in Florida (modern, Lance Mindheim almost hooked me, click here to see how.)

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011. Photo by Glenn Laux.

2011-2012 — CSX, NS in Midwest (modern)

2013-2014 — ATSF in New Mexico in early 1990s, UP modern

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993.  Photo by C. Hunt

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993. Photo by C. Hunt

2014-present — DRGW-SP in Southwest (right after UP merger, late 1990s), UP modern


DRGW-SP era in southwestern Colorado, 1999. Photo by Roland Levin. See his great website –

That is really kind of a “train wreck” because I collected equipment for all of these periods.  There is really a financial impact and almost emotional impact for jumping around so much, particularly in this era of hyper-limited runs.  Thank goodness for ebay!   Through ebay, I estimate that I have been able to cut my losses by about 70%.

Here’s a point of sharing my lack of focus, you are better off settling into a period and primary set of railroads as soon as you can.  It is a lot easier on the wallet and saves you some of the anguish of collecting then selling so much!  We often assume that once something is run, It will never be run again.  That is often not true.

As late as September 2014, I was focused on the ATSF in New Mexico around 1990.  I designed and built a track plan around the concept.  It quickly became apparent that the layout was going to be limited and difficult to operate.  I started to redesign it, but then I anguished over letting go of Roswell as I did.  As I began to gently let go of Roswell, Athearn Genesis came out with DRGW GP-40-2s.


Here is the troublemaker. Athearn’s release of this locomotive, partially caused me to re-evaluate my ATSF in Roswell concept.

As soon as I saw them, I had an epiphany–I always wanted to model the DRGW, why wasn’t I doing it?!  As I started considering it, I also started to think how neat it would be to model the DRGW-SP era.  I grew up with the SP kind of in my backyard in Texas and felt an emotional attachment to the SP.  I thought if I model right after the UP merger, I could feature UP, MP, DRGW, SP, SSW, WP and CNW (all railroads of interest to me) all as “home road” reporting marks.  This concept really caught hold with me, and I am committed to it (for now).  I have re-designed the layout in a much more free-lance manner that offers less complicated, but richer operating scenarios including a shortline inspired by the Union Railroad of Oregon.  (Click here for a nice link on the Union Railroad of Oregon.)

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon.  Note tiny locomotive on train.  This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design.  Photo by Dan Schwanz

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon. Note tiny locomotive on train. This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design. Photo by Dan Schwanz

I hope it sticks.  Here’s why–

1 — It is rich with having both DRGW and SP motive power and an occasional caboose.

2 — Home road cars of UP, MP, WP, SP, SSW, CNW and CNW.  All favorites–just need some ATSF thrown in.

3 — The track plan holds great promise and having a shortline could offer a variety of operations as well as mini-operating sessions when desired.

4 — I am very tired of re-configuring my rosters!!!

5 — It operates in the part of the country that I love and is beautiful.

Time will tell.

I also seriously considered backdating to the WP (early-1980s) but decided against going that far back.  I love the WP, but it is a bit limited compared to the versatility of the above scenario, plus I can run some WP rolling stock as a home road reporting mark.

I hope my sharing my difficulties in settling on an era, may help you navigate this tricky issue that we often may not fully appreciate.  We may let ourselves just drift along being knocked off course whenever a bright and shiny new product is offered.  (Take me for instance.)  Try not to go there if you can avoid it!  It is ultimately exhausting and can derail your dreams of having an operational layout.

ATSF (and Burlington Northern) Heritage

A number of railroads are commemorating their heritage through special locomotive paint schemes.  The BNSF, created when the ATSF and Burlington Northern merged in 1996, chose a different method.

BNSF has painted a number of covered hoppers in commemorative schemes.  Unlike the normal boxcar red of most BNSF covered hoppers…

BNSF #   in Brady, Texas    2008.  photo by C. Hunt

BNSF #486489 in Brady, Texas June 20, 2008. –photo by C. Hunt

…these cars are light gray so they really stand out in BNSF consists.

BNSF  485171 Kansas City_MO_John_Rus_2014-09-03_82209

BNSF #485171 in Kansas City, MO September 3, 2014. ©photo by John Rus, courtesy of (Opening photo is also a portion of this nice photo by John Rus.)

BNSF 477433 in Fort Worth TX May 8, 2013.  ©photo by Roberto Alaniz, courtesy

BNSF #477433 in Fort Worth TX May 8, 2013. ©photo by Roberto Alaniz, courtesy

This car honors the Great Northern.  The GN became part of the BN in 1970.

BNSF 485609 Old Monroe MO May 13 2014 Shane Gillam copyright rrpa

BNSF #485609 in Old Monroe, MO on May 13 2014 ©photo Shane Gillam, courtesy

The Northern Pacific became part of the BN at the same time.

What is also great is that the BNSF has chosen to honor its lesser known heritage roads.

BNSF 486868 in Barr Lake,  CO on Dec 30 2013.

BNSF #486868 in Barr Lake, CO on Dec 30 2013. ©photo by John Shine, courtesy of

Though formally part of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy for decades, the Colorado and Southern was absorbed into the BN in 1981.

BNSF 485233 in Fort Worth, TX on Dec 6 2013. Roberto Alaniz rrpa not copy

BNSF #485233 in Fort Worth, TX on Dec 6 2013. ©photo by Roberto Alaniz, courtesy of

Though long affiliated with the Colorado and Southern Railway, the Fort Worth and Denver, “The Denver Road,” became part of the BN in 1982.

Thankfully, each of these great photographers captured these cars before any tagging (graffiti) occurred.

I hope this effort on the part of railroads to honor their heritage continues!

Layout progress report #3

The track crew has been busy! (Well, kind of busy)

The ATSF has now come to the north end of Roswell.


Track looking north towards Portales. The main line north is to the left.  The spur to the Budweiser distributor goes to the right.


Aerial of area modelled above. Structure is Budweiser distributor.  Track at top heads north towards Portales.


Boxcars waiting to be unloaded at distributor.

Photo above shows box cars along what will be the Budweiser spur.  Given the unusual shape of the distributor, it will be a challenge to model.  Only a portion will be modelled given the limited space.


Close up of BN and ATSF “beer caddies.”


Boxcars parked at distributor in 1993. –C Hunt photo


Front of Budweiser distributor, 1993. Rail spur (not visible) is on right side of building. Note trailer with old Budweiser logo to the left. –C. Hunt photo

Well, at least the track crew is making some progress.  The next area to be worked on will be the middle of town near the old depot including the spur to the bakery and team track where flour, lumber, plastic pellets and more come in.

For more on beer shipments in to Roswell in the 1990s, see–How about a cold one? (February 15, 2014), A Dinosaur comes to Roswell (February 20, 2014) and Beer is proof that God loves us…(Series beginning April 27, 2014)

BN 734087 Casper WY June 5 1999 Dave Krumenacker Photo

“Beer Caddie” visiting Casper Wyoming in 1990s, BN 734087 — Dave Krumenacker Photo