The White River and Northern Model Railroad

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The Sceniced and Undecided Railway


Chapter 2: Newport & Rock Falls

Getting my N Scale feet wet

A turning point in my life as a model railroader came in 1967, shortly after Aurora Plastics introduced their "Postage Stamp" trains. I could not resist the lure of four times the modeling possibilities in the same space! Somehow—I'm not entirely certain how, but—I managed to convince my parents, who had already invested heavily in my HO empire, that I wanted to switch to N Scale. And so the unnamed ping-pong table railroad was decommissioned, and replaced by a two-by-four-foot sheet of Homasote with a new, ever-mutating—and still nameless—N Scale layout.

By this time I had amassed a considerable library of books and magazines on model railroading, and images of the work of the late John Allen decorated my bedroom walls. Inspired by various photographs and illustrations of small layouts (in particular, "The Buckley & Onarca RR" by Bill Baron in the December 1966 issue of Model Railroader), I began work on my first permanent N Scale layout in 1970. I nailed the two-by-four-foot sheet of Homasote to some plywood and tacked on a one-by-three-foot leg to make the four-by-five-foot, L-shaped Newport and Rock Falls Railroad.

But fate was about to steer me in an entirely new direction as I entered my junior year in high school, when I had a science teacher named Linda Spano. She learned I was a model railroader—just like her husband, Rick—and also that I worked at a local hobby shop (The Switching Point).

One evening Rick and Linda appeared at the hobby shop, and Rick and I immediately bonded. Naturally I was introduced to his fabulous (and now world-famous) Sceniced and Undecided Railway. At the time it was less than half its present size, but it was nevertheless an impressive sight.

I was smitten. I wanted to model like Rick—who, in turn, wanted to model like John Allen. By coincidence, we had both independently planned on making the trek to Monterey in the summer of 1973. Sadly, John Allen passed away that spring, and his incredible layout was destroyed by a fire. Our hero—and his masterwork—had vanished.

Rick and I had begun to form a strong, productive mentor-apprentice synergy that bordered on obsession. We'd work on his S&U two or three nights a week, sometimes until four or five in the morning. Heady days indeed!

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