N Scale Column for MRH
I have signed on to Model Railroad Hobbyist as a contributing editor for a column on N Scale subjects. I have started this journal to solicit feedback from N Scale modelers with suggestions on what you would like to see in the column. So if you have an idea or subject that you think needs coverage post it here, or drop me a private email at email@example.com
I expect my column to focus on commentary and analysis on the world of N Scale railroading. The following subjects are in the hopper: model track, couplers, and the state of N Scale modular railroading.
As for my background, I have always been a modeler. I’m not sure where the bug to build models came from, but I’ve had it since I was about 6 years old. The General Motors display at the NY Worlds Fair really blew me away and probably contributed to this affliction. I loved their dioramas. I still picture them in my minds eye.
Over the years I built static cars, planes, military models and military figures (which I believe to be the most challenging of all model forms I have tried). I also built rockets, slot cars and rubber band powered airplanes. Being a frisky kid, many of these models ended up customized with firecrackers or soaked in lighter fluid and set ablaze. One model I was really proud of was a two-masted whaler that I scratch built when I was about 12. That was inspired by a family trip to Mystic Seaport.
My late father claimed he planted the model train bug in me when he built a model train layout for my brother and I when we were about 8 or so. It was a 4x8 double oval with a mountain on one end and a town, called Twinsville, on the other. I remember enjoying playing with the layout, but not being particularly interested in building train models.
In junior high, my twin brother and I built a 4-lane HO scale slot car track. It was completely sceniced. About a year later, my younger brother, who was really into model trains, wanted to build a train layout. My twin brother and I helped him. It was a 4x8 with some basic scenery.
In my high school years I got into board wargaming. That was my main hobby as I went through college, though I still built an occasional model, usually cars or armor.
I got a BSME in 1978 and a MS in 1980 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Because I had an ROTC Scholarship, I served 4 years in the U.S. Army, getting out as a Captain in the Corps of Engineers. When I got out of the Army, I was fortunate enough to have several job offers, including one from GE Locomotive group in Erie, PA. I turned it down, thinking at the time that railroads were, “boring!”
For the past 24 years, I have worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, VA. I specialize in operational testing of armored vehicles. Some of my programs included the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tank, the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Stryker Family and lots of other tactical military systems.
In 1991 I got interested in model railroading. My young son, Chase, loved trains. He and I would visit the local NS Intermodal freight yard. He’d ask me zillions of questions about the RR. Since I didn’t know much, I did some research. To my surprise, I found the subject very interesting.
After a while I suggested that we build a layout, like my dad did for me. Together, we built a 4x4 HO layout. He and his younger sister, Danica, enjoyed playing with it; though they were a bit rough on the equipment. Later they helped me build a 3x5 feet N Scale layout that resided under my son's bed. By this age they were easily able to handle the smaller N Scale equipment.
In the meantime, I learned about modular railroading. I joined NVNTRAK and decided to build a 2x4 module for “myself.” It featured a small intermodal terminal. It had a scratch built container ship and crane. I had a blast making it. Since then I have built over 20 modules, totaling over 120 linear feet of mainline. I came up with the idea for oNeTRAK about 10 years ago, and that is where most of my modular efforts have been recently.
Since I was always interested in photography, I started dabbling with model railroad photography in parallel with my model railroading. My first photos were pretty bad, but I kept plugging away. Eventually I got some photos published in N Scale magazine. Since then I have written over forty articles relating to model railroading, including 20 related to layout planning. I even had a couple contest winning photos. I enjoy public speaking and over they years I presented about 20 public lectures at historical and hobby related conferences. I also provide layout design services to individuals.
I have built several commissioned models including a large portable display project depicting an integrated 1950’s era steel mill and one depicting a modern paper mill. Another commissioned model I am very proud is a depiction of a civil war era car ferry operation for The Lyceum, Alexandria’s City Museum. It is in their permanent collection.
About 7 years ago I started Alkem Scale Models; a modeling firm specializing in photo etched and laser cut fine scale model kits. The website is www.alkemscalemodels.com.
Recently I have written a book for Kalmbach Publishing entitled, “Midsize Track Plans for Realistic Layouts.” The signed copies of this book are available for sale at www.alkemscalemodels.com. I am currently working on a second book for Kalmbach about steel mill modeling.
I am working on a home layout, but about every two years I change eras, prototypes, and or geographical locales. As a result, my home layout is never finished.
As for other hobbies, I enjoy running, cycling, skiing, baseball (Nats and Yanks fan), video games, especially racing games and Porsche cars.
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