Tag Archives: #Model railroad

Anthracite Country Construction in HO.

Working from period photos, including color slides that my father exposed in the 1950s-1960s, and my own images from recent years, I’ve planned an HO model railroad that is set in Pennsylvania’s anthracite country.

I’ve been scouring old topographical maps, perusing more old photos, reviewing books, and using Google Earth to adapt a prototype from the former Reading Company main line and Mine Hill Branches. I’m incorporating \elements of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Branch, the disused Schuylkill Canal, local highways and towns added in for color and historical context. I’m planning a coal mine (or two), a yard, engine house, and several bridges among other scale infrastructure, and if space and time permits maybe hints of the old Lehigh Valley and trolley lines that also once populated the area.

Barrys Gold Blend is fuel for my railroad building.
Using a level, ruler, square, clamps, wood, glue and screws, I’ve been shaping the foundations for a world yet unseen.

From these visions, my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I are building this model in her basement in New Hampshire. With a view to a four-dimensional model, I’m intent on a degree of realism and tuned to learn as much about the real railroad as I can in the process of modeling it. And yet, I am hoping the final execution will retain the mystique  that attracted us to this railroad in the first place. I’d like it to have a dream-like quality; real yet surreal, an alternate vision of yesteryear. After all the model is but a wee fantasy world.

I’m still erecting the bench-work that is the foundation for the railroad. It will be a while before I can lay track and wire it up, and then we can begin dressing the layout with scenery and tiny structures.

More to follow in the coming months, including more photos of the prototype!

Thanks to Kris who made some of the photos using her new FujiFilm XT4. Special thanks to Doug Scott who generously donated HO scale buildings and rolling stock that go the project rolling forward!

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Reading Company Retrospective

Recently, my girlfriend Kris Sabbatino and I decided to build a model railroad.

For a prototype we selected eastern Pennsylvania anthracite country.

I began scouring my archives looking for material.

Part of my inspiration for this model railroad began many years ago when I was looking through my father’s photographs of Reading Company’s Iron Horse Rambles that he exposed over a five-year period beginning in 1959. Many of these photos were made from the excursions or on chases through eastern Pennsylvania. Most were not captioned at the time of processing, which often makes location details elusive but also part of the dreamlike mystery of building the scale railroad.

Reading Iron Horse Ramble, exposed in May 1964 on Agfachrome using a Leica M. Location unrecorded.Photo by Richard Jay Solomon ©1964.

In 2007, I assembled a book titled the Railroads of Pennsylvania, and made a detailed study of the region.

In 2014 and 2015, I was researching on books on steam locomotives and made several trips with Pat Yough to photograph the Reading & Northern.

The model railroad will blend together all of this inspiration and much more.

As part of a new on-going feature on Tracking the Light, I’ll be reporting on progress with this model railroad and the source material from which we draw.

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