No. 105: Jeff Kuebler’s L&N Layout

In July, while I was in the U.S. to help with St. Louis RPM, I invited myself to Jeff Kuebler’s house in Columbia, Illinois for a layout tour.  Jeff is one of the finest men you could ever meet, and is part of the St. Louis RPM crew, and he’s also an accomplished L&N modeler and historian.  We had a couple of beers and a great visit.

Lately Jeff and I have been trading e-mails on tree-building and I thought this would be a good time to write something about his layout and show how he’s making unique trees for a signature scene on his layout.


Here are some words from Jeff about his layout.  Jeff writes,

I model the Louisville and Nashville Railroad set in May of 1955 on both the Cincinnati-Corbin, KY (the “C-C” and Eastern Kentucky (“EK”) Divisions. 

I have focused on modeling 50 miles of railroad between North Cabin and Ford, KY on the C-C and Patio and Ravenna on the EK.  This area’s scenic highlights include the at-grade crossing with the C&O RR at Winchester, KY with it’s dual-sided passenger and freight stations, Patio tower and yard—where the divisions split—Winchester Hill, the double bridges and tunnels at Ford, the Red River Viaduct, L&N’s tallest bridge, and finally Ravenna yard.  Hidden staging yards represent DeCoursey and Corbin on the C-C Division and Lexington and Hazard on the EK Division.

I model the early 1950s time period for the inclusion of first generation diesels as well as the “Big Emma”, L&N’s largest steam engines, and also to include the last gasp of L&N passenger operations.  The “Big Emma” Berkshires were used as helpers on both divisions uphill towards Patio yard.  Modeling the first week of May allows spring and summer vegetation as well as some extra traffic for Kentucky Derby Specials bound for Louisville.

I’ve been building equipment and structures for almost 30 years, but started getting serious on scenery building only in the last three years.  My model of the famous Red River Viaduct is a scaled-down version that is modeled in just 7-1/2 feet.  A foot-per-foot Red River Viaduct model would be almost 24 feet in length–that would eat up my whole basement.   A faithful attempt was made to replicate the bridge and the place, which has led me to modeling Eastern Red Cedar trees.  There are pockets of tens to hundreds of these trees along the hills and right of way on the EK Division of the L&N.  Without a cost-effective retail-ready alternative, I came up with a solution to the problem that was relatively simple and easy and effective for the layout. 

We’ll cover tree-building later, but for now, let’s take a walk around the railroad.  Here, below, is the view as you walk in.  Jeff has installed swing gates for both levels here.  The room is about 25 x 25 and Jeff has jammed a whole lot of double-deck layout into the space.


Opposite the entrance, here’s a view of both decks, with Cumberland Yard on top and coal trains rolling on the bottom.


Here’s the big mine on the helix-end.


And here’s the mind on the other side.


Around the corner, at the center of the layout, is Jeff’s version of Patio Yard, an iconic location on The Old Reliable and a favorite of layout operators.


These two scenes below demonstrate Jeff’s transition-era setting.  


Below, the famous Patio tower is easily recognizable.  Love those green L&N tool houses!

L&N Layout

Here’s Jeff, below, running a coal train into Patio.  Jeff’s layout is DC—yep, you read that right—DC, with plug-in throttles.  It runs great!


Opposite Patio Yard are two centrally-located staging yards, both of which are contained in a wide, three-turn helix.  The coal mine in the background is an “empties-in, loads-out” operation and is another signature scene on the layout.  The control panel routes power into and out of the helixes.  That’s my beer on top…


Only about 25% of the layout has scenery.  Here’s another view of the peninsulas in the back of the room.  Space in the peninsulas is pretty tight which is why Jeff doesn’t open it up to many large groups or St. Louis RPM visitors.


Jeff is an accomplished modeler and he’s gone to great lengths to scratchbuild specific buildings for specific scenes.  The tower below is a one-of-kind model of Baxter Tower made by Lake Junction Models that stood on the Cumberland Valley Division between Loyall and Harlan, Kentucky.  The prototype tower was closed in the 1920s but Jeff modeled it as if it stayed open, and moved it to a proper location on the EK Division.  


The L&N yard office below is a scratch built model from a Model Railroader article from the 70s.  Jeff wrote, The prototype was actually in New Orleans, but I needed a real L&N office about that size for Patio Yard so I built this one.  The tool sheds and motor car shed are laser kits from AMB which I helped the L&N HS supply prototype information and paint colors for production of the HO kits.  I have scratch built two and still need about 14 more for the layout.  Laser kits were the only way to go to get them done in a reasonable time frame.  Thankfully AMB came through with some easy to build models!!


Here’s a terrific gas station scene, scratch built by Jeff.  


And here’s the pride of the fleet, L&N 1964, one of 42 “Big Emmas”.  This is a brass import with great sound added.  DC sound–you don’t find too many models like this any more.


The Red River Viaduct Scene

The Red River Viaduct is on the EK Division, near Sloan, Kentucky, at milepost 219.  Patio and Ravenna are separated by 26 rail miles on the EK and the Red River Viaduct falls roughly halfway between the two towns.  In this modern-era view below, note how the Evergreens—Red Cedars—dominate this scene, even in winter.    

Scott Beckler

When I visited, the scene on Jeff’s layout looked like this:


Since then Jeff’s been rockin’ and rollin’ and today the scene looks like this.  He’s doing some fast work!


Jeff did a ton of work on the scene, starting with modeling the Red River and working his way up.

Jeff wrote, After years of searching for a good way to model Red Cedar trees made of natural materials, I gave up recently and tried with using sponges and dowels.  I cut the sponges with scissors into rectangular blocks and then trimmed them to a point, and then slowly rounded them down the sides.  I was careful to not make them look like Christmas trees by trimming the bottom back towards the trunk.  I made a few larger ones first and then made smaller ones to go around them.

I painted the sponges with green spray paint and rolled them in dark green ground foam.  Then I hit them with hair spray and roll on foam again.

I cut these 40 red Cedar Tree shapes of sponge blocks in about 70 minutes. Toothpicks snapped in half make easy trunks.  I insert the pointy end into the trees. 


It took about an hour to do the painting, rolling and sealing.  The wood dowels are trimmed into pieces around 10 scale feet.  My dowels are cotton-tipped swabs previously used for cleaning loco wheels.  I have to leave just enough trunk showing so it can be planted and have about one foot viewable above the ground, Jeff said.

Here are about 40 of them ready for planting.


And here they are, below, installed by the bridge.


Jeff added a bunch of Sycamores too.


Now that you know the back-story, here’s that opening view again.  What a great scene.


An Update: About ten seconds after I published this post, Lee Singletary from the L&N Historical Society e-mailed me this You Tube link, which features trains rolling on Jeff’s Red River Viaduct.  You’ll enjoy it!  Check it out at

Thanks Jeff, for the tour and letting me tell the world about your layout!  – John G

No. 74: Almost Andalusia

My longtime friend and professional railroader Tom Holley is back, this time with a terrific article on modeling the Central of Georgia at Andalusia, Alabama.  Tom is a professional railroader—a freight train engineer—for Norfolk Southern, and a third-generation Central of Georgia man.  His layout plan shows how the professionals keep it simple, and “keep it real”. 

Our thanks to Allen Tuten and the boys at the Central of Georgia Historical Society for the use of photos and material for this article.  – John G

Almost Andalusia

By Tom Holley

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

The Rolling Stones weren’t singing about track planning, but they could have been.

We all have to make compromises when designing our model railroads, and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t find a workable solution.

Andalusia, Alabama was a branchline terminal on the old Central of Georgia Railway in South Alabama. It’s a place near and dear to my heart, as both my dad and granddad held seniority there, as did James Deason, an old family friend.  I grew up listening to stories about the railroad down there, and it’s always been a place I wanted to model.  But when you look at the trackage layout, you’ll see that it’s a spread out, tangled up mess that’s just not going to fit into a 10×14 foot room in HO scale.

So I shelved my Andalusia plan, and put it into the “That’d be nice to model but can’t” file and moved on.  But I kept coming back to it, and trying to find a way to make it work.  It was an exercise in sheer frustration…until one day when it occurred to me that I didn’t have to model the whole thing!

Andalusia1967Above.  Here is a mid-1960s view of the Andalusia area.  The Central entered from the east (the right side of the photo).  The track at the bottom left was the tail of the wye. 

The tail of the wye was pretty long and that was one reason I omitted it from the track plan.  The cement plant and naval stores are on the main line on the right.  You may also note that the L&N and Central run close on the right side of the photo (you can see that better on Google Earth today); after the Central was shortened a crossover was installed to let the shortline access the old Central track up to Gantt, Ala. 

Below, here is a closer view of the L&N Crossing and the depot area.

Andalusia1967 - Copy

To me, the depot area is the key feature of the town.  The wye, although nice to have, is a space eating monster that won’t be big enough to accurately capture the scene anyway.  I run early diesels, so I’m not turning steam.  In later years the runaround track was removed and all trains ran the wye and backed in, but I just kept the runaround.  Not prototypical, but I can live with that choice.  It’s the runaround or no Andalusia layout.

By omitting the wye, I’m losing three industries: a cotton gin/fertilizer distributor, a beer distributor, and the L&N interchange. But I am getting the essence of the town, at least to me, and I can add the other industries over toward staging.  I can add a track to simulate the L&N at another place and still get the traffic.  The photos below show the feel of the town I’m trying to capture.

442 1

442 and 443 1

Taken in 1949, the photos above show trains 7, the daily passenger train from Columbus, Georgia and 95, the local from Union Springs, Alabama at the depot area.  A neat scene, to say the least.  Central of Georgia Railway photographs, Collection of the Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society.  Used with permission.

The crossings over the L&N were protected by Central of Georgia STOP boards (such as the one seen below–this is a Tom Holley photo).  Before crossing you stopped, flagged the crossing, and then proceeded if there was not a train on the other line.  If another train was coming, you waited.  I don’t know what the L&N rules were, but they had to be similar if not the same.  


In the era I model, just a few years later in 1953, the passenger train is gone and those sexy Pacifics have been replaced by RS3s and GP7s. But the track, industries, and depot are still the same.

Here is the track plan I came up with.  And yes, the diamond on the warehouse track is prototypical; that’s where the wye ties into the main.

Andalusia Cameo 3 - NEW


An operating session would be simple: 95 comes in from the staging area to the right, runs around his train, and does his switching.  There were a Hercules Powder stump loading  track and a cement distributor to be worked on the way in.  Then he leaves and goes back to staging.  Nothing hard or fancy, but a time machine to take me back to the Central’s glory years.

Below, here is a 1960 track profile of Andalusia. For a small terminal, it’s pretty spread out.

Track Profile

Train were small, powered by a single four axle unit. Thanks to information provided by David Payne, we have the train data for the period of September 1, 1958 through September 6, 1958. Train consists were as follows:

  • 9/1/58 Engine 166 (GP9) 2×1 (two loads, 1 empty) in, cab (caboose) hop out
  • 9/2/58 Engine 166 9×4 in, 5×0 out
  • 9/3/58 Engine 166 2×0 in, 1×7 out
  • 9/4/58 Engine 166 11×0 in, cab hop out
  • 9/5/58 Engine 168 3×2 in, 5×2 out
  • 9/6/58 Engine 168 cab hop in and out. It was, after all, the crew’s Friday…

Andalusia CG Depot - CopyAbove.  Here is a recent photo of the depot, which fortunately has been saved.  Below is a view of the area as it looks today.  The location of the wye can still be seen.  Much of the Central right of way has been converted to an automobile road.

Andalusia AErial TOday

This industry list from the 1950s shows the large number of customers served.

Andalusia Industry

And finally, below, is some additional about trains 95 and 96, collected from Central of Georgia train sheets by David Payne.  This shows train consists from the Central locals coming out of Union Springs in September 1958.  The consists include cars in and out of Andalusia.  The usual On Duty time was 5:30am.

Monday, September 1 (Labor Day)

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:45am with 15 loads, 21 mtys and arrived Andalusia at 12:45pm with 2 loads, 1 mty and handled 15 loads, 22 mtys, 1850 tons.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 1:45pm as a caboose hop and arrived Union Springs at 5:45pm with 15 loads, 11 mtys, 1450 tons and handled the same.  Eng 168 was picked up at Gantt.  There is a notation of TS 3′ 15″ and off duty @ 6:15pm.  We’re not sure if the TS indicates Terminal Switching or Total Switching.  If I get it sorted out, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, September 2

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:35am with 14 loads, 34 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:50am with 13/34 (Loads/Empties), departed Troy at 9:15am with 12/21, at Brantley 11:35am-11:45am, arrived Andalusia at 1:20pm with 9/4, and handled 23 loads 35 mtys 2535 tons with 4′ 35″ (four hours, 35 minutes) switching.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt. 
  • #96 left Andalusia at 2:25pm with 5 loads and reported “by” Brantley at 3:35pm with 5/0 and arrived Union Springs at 7:00pm with 42/11, 3670 tons, and marked off at 7:30pm.  The T/S time shown was 3′ 10″.

Wednesday, September 3, 1958

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:25am with 10/5, arrived Troy at 8:20am with same and departed at 8:30am with 7/0, arrived Brantley at 9:45am and departed at 9:50am.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt.  Train arrived Andalusia at 11:30am with 2/0 and handled 10 loads 5 mtys, 710 tons, with 2′ 40″ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 1:20pm with 1 /7, picked up Eng 168 at Gantt, was at Brantley between 2:35pm and 2:45pm, arrived Troy at 3:50pm with 3/0 and departed at 4:10pm with 14/4.  Arrived Union Springs at 5:05pm with 14/5, showed off at 5:30pm, handled 14/12, 1450 tons with 1′ 55″ TS.

Thursday, September 4, 1958

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 6:55am with 4 loads/4 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:10am with same, departed Troy at 8:15am with 4 loads/2 mtys, was at Brantley from 9:30am to 10:05am.  Eng 168 left at Brantley.  Train arrived Andalusia at 11:30am with 11 loads/0 mtys, handled 15 loads/2 company material/6 mtys, 1200 tons, showing 2′ 40″ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 12:05pm with cab, arrived Brantley at 1:05pm with cab and departed at 1:18pm, no report, picked up engine 168, arrived Troy at 2:30pm with 6 loads/1 mty and departed at 2:45pm with 14 loads/1 mty.  Train arrived Union Springs at 3:35pm with 14 loads/3 mtys, off at 4:00pm, handled 14 loads/3 mtys
  • 1220 tons with 2′ 40″ TS.
  • Note: Engine 166 was picked up by Train #40

Friday, September 5, 1958

  • Engine 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:20am with 12 loads/31 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:35am with 12 loads/30 mtys, departed Troy at 9:20am with 7 loads/13 mtys, at Brantley from 11:10am to 11:20am, and arrived Andalusia at 12:45pm with 3 loads/2 mtys.  AT Andalusia the crew handled 12 loads/35 mtys, 1680 tons, with 4′ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 2:40pm with 5 loads/2 mtys, at Brantley from 4:10pm to 4:25pm, no report from Troy since agent-operator would be off duty at 5pm, arrived Union Springs at 8:00pm with 23 loads/12 mtys, 2280 tons with 2’50” TS, off at 8:30pm.  

Saturday, September 6, 1958 (on duty at 5:00am)

  • Engine 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:15am with 16 loads/11 mtys, arrived Andalusia with cab at 11:15, handled 16 loads/11 mtys, 1600 tons, no switching shown.
  • #96 left Union Springs at 11:30am with cab, arrived Union Springs at 3:00pm with 4 loads/4 mtys, off at 3:15pm, handled 4 loads/8 mtys, 490 tons, with 3′ 15″ TS.

Here are a few notes on engines and cabooses from June 1963, again from David Payne.

  • On the 1st, Central of Georgia engine no. 148 was used on a spray train between Columbus and Andalusia / 164 on 95/96
  • On the 2nd, Central of Georgia engine no. 124 left for 95/96
  • On the 3rd, Central of Georgia engine no. 124 on 95/96
  • On the 4th, Central of Georgia engine no. 130 on 95/96
  • On the 5th, Central of Georgia engine no. 178 on 95/96
  • On the 6th, Central of Georgia engine no. 113 on 95/96
  • On the 7th, Central of Georgia engine no. 116 on 95/96
  • On the 8th, Central of Georgia engine no. 126 on 95/96
  • On the 9th, Central of Georgia engine no. 126 left for 95/96
  • X48 was the cab on trains 95/96 and cabs X22 and X73 were on train 71/40.  The spray train on 01 June had cab X43.
  • Train 40 would leave a locomotive at Union Springs (except on Saturday) and would pick up a locomotive at Union Springs (except on Sunday).  Actually, No. 71 would make the pick up on Saturday.

I’d appreciate any feedback or constructive criticism.  Remember, it’s not Andalusia, but it’s almost Andalusia.  Email me at

OR Holley SR Inspecting Track

Above.  Tom’s Grandfather, O.R. Holley, inspecting track on the Central’s Margaret District.





No. 27: Modeling the Georgia Northern in Pavo, Georgia

I am pleased to offer my first guest post, this from my longtime friend Tom Holley.  Tom is planning a small, one-town model railroad based on the Georgia Northern at Pavo, Georgia.

Tom is a third generation professional railroader—an engineer with Norfolk Southern—and a good man.  His regular assignment these days is running the Coosa Pines switcher near Birmingham, Alabama.  Tom is seen below in the cab of some Norfolk Southern EMD something-or-other still in primer paint.  Tom’s Dad ran the work trains that built Coosa Pines, and his Grandfather retired as the section foreman at Coosa Pines. I hope you enjoy Tom’s story!


“Son, any idiot can copy better than he can invent.” – O.R. Holley, Jr.

As a third generation Central of Georgia (now Norfolk Southern) railroader, it would seem only natural that the Central would be what I model. For years, even I thought it that true. But because of my familiarity with the Central in my neck of the woods, I couldn’t come up with a viable layout plan. I was just too familiar with the areas I wanted to model, and was not able to live with the compromises required to make them work as a layout. If a yard has three 80 car tracks, that’s not going to fit in a 10 x 14-foot foot room. That kind of compression just wouldn’t work for me; I concentrated on what was wrong with the layout rather than what was right or doable.

As luck would have it, I discovered the Georgia Northern, and met Steve Flanigan, Ken Lehman, and Tom Klimoski while searching for new layout concepts. The three aforementioned gentlemen have (or had) well-executed Deep South layouts manageable in both scope and complexity. They proved to me that a smaller layout could be well-detailed and operationally satisfying.


Ed Mims Photograph, used with permission.


The Georgia Northern was a Pidcock shortline running from Albany to Boston, Georgia via Moultrie. The line was purchased by the Southern in 1966.  By 1990 the line from Moultrie to Boston was gone. For my purposes, I set the layout in the 1972-1976 time frame.  That allows me to model down to Pavo and Barwick.  Since I started railfanning in Columbus in 1973 I have a pretty good selection of source material for Southern power, equipment, and documents.


Columbus, Georgia, mid-1970s.  Photo by Tom Holley.  This is the familiar look Tom will try to capture on his layout.


Another factor in era selection was the operation of the line.  By the mid-1970s the line’s track condition had seriously deteriorated. In the 1973 employee timetable, track speed was a maximum of 10 miles per hour.  The line operated as yard limits, with trains run only on an as needed basis.  So we have slow speed to make the trip seem longer, and no need for a dispatcher or dispatching system.  As an added bonus (at least for me) I can operate power both my Dad and I have run (specifically the 5000 class GP38-2s).  Two track plan ideas are below.




Operations are simple.  The local train leaves Moultrie (staging) and runs to Pavo.  At Pavo we switch the house track, Gold Kist (shippers of corn and soybeans), Parrish Brothers (shippers of corn and soybeans), and Tide Agricultural (receivers of bulk fertilizer materials).  The next stop, if you want to run that far, is Barwick.  In the 1970s there was one business in Barwick that received bagged fertilizer. With your switching done you run around your train for the run back to Moultrie.  The railroad from Pavo to Barwick was abandoned in 1976 so that sets the late end of my era.  Here is an employee timetable, a route map, and an excerpt from the timetable with speed restrictions:




All in all, by observing prototypical speeds and operating practices, an operating session should take about an hour to an hour and a half.  For an old lone-wolf modeler like me that ought to be long enough.  After all, I get to switch boxcars for twelve hours a day at work.


Here’s another Tom Holley photo from the mid-70s, showing an example of the short trains seen on the Pavo line. 



This photo was also taken around Columbus, Georgia, in the mid-1970s.  Tom often refers to the Central of Georgia Railway as The Standard Railroad of Columbus, Georgia.


Research on the line has been challenging.  I can’t find a track chart so the town layouts are based on topo maps, Google Earth, and photos from NETR Online.  Since the line has been gone since 1976 and 1990, it’s hard to tell where the railroad even was.  A retired track department employee who worked there has been very helpful, and the Moultrie Library has gone above and beyond what is customary to help me.  I finally just planned the layout based on the data I had, plus my 28 years of railroad experience.

Construction progress?  Well, I’m behind…way behind.  But after working 10- to 12-hours a day and enduring a two-hour commute each way, my level of enthusiasm is lagging.  I’ll build it; probably in fits and spurts when I’m on vacation.  I think it’s an achievable layout and fits my modeling needs nicely.

After all, as my Dad said, any idiot can copy better than he can invent.


Tom’s Dad, O.R. Holley, Jr.  He spent his entire adult career on the Central of Georgia and Southern Rwy.  He hired out in maintenance of way in 1930, began firing in 1935, and was promoted to engineer on March 3rd, 1941.  He retired on August 28th, 1978.  This photo was taken in the mid-1970s when a steam excursion engine was tied up in Columbus.  Tom says “My Dad and three other old heads were the only guys in town that were still qualified on steam, so whenever an excursion was in town they split up the run between firing and running.  That’s right–those old men FIRED that engine with a scoop!  Some people pay a lot of money to get washboard abs–my Dad got his honest and kept them until the day he died.”

Thanks, Tom, for the great post and the great memories!


No. 6: A Visit to Jim Canter’s P48 Layout

One of the highlights of a trip I made across the east coast in September, 2015 was a visit to Jim Canter at his home in Indianapolis.  Jim is a terrific fellow and runs the huge annual Indy O scale meet.  He is an accomplished Proto48 modeler and has a large P48 layout in his basement, and has produced a line of track and parts in O scale.  If you’re interested in the O Scale show, contact Jim at

If you’re not familiar with Proto48, you can find out more information here:

Here are some photos from my visit with Jim.  Thanks Jim for a very memorable evening!


The view above is what greets you upon entering the basement.  Jim is rebuilding the layout to update the track plan, so there is plenty of new construction underway.  The broad, sweeping curves in P48 scale with the big equipment on superelevated curves is breathtaking.  All of Jim’s equipment is modified to the P48 standard.  Jim’s grandson is at the throttle; he was running big trains around the depot all evening.

Brass equipment was everywhere in multiple cases underneath the fascia.  Everything of course modified to P48.


Here’s another case, this one full of freight cars.


Jim’s layout is full of exquisite cars too.  Here’s a view of Frankfort Yard.


John Pautz, who also lives in Indy, was over this night as well, laying a long crossover at a station scene.  There’s no better man to do the work; John runs American Switch and Signal, which makes fine O scale/P48 track components.  John is a terrific guy and a lot of fun to talk to, and was kind enough to work my invite for the evening.  John is a regular vendor and P48 ambassador at St. Louis RPM.  More information on his company can be found on Norm Buckhart’s website at


Here’s a view of the future roundhouse scene on Jim’s layout…


…and here’s the coal wharf.


Jim’s layout features locomotives big…


…and small.


Here is Jim with one of his babies, a brass PRR Q-2.  The real ones operated regularly through the Indiana flatlands, not too far from Jim’s home.


Even the basement bathroom has a railroad theme…sorta…


Jim also has a portable Nickel-Plate theme Proto48 layout which can be seen at his annual fall O scale meets.


Thank You, Jim!   I had a wonderful visit and learned a lot.  May God Bless You and your wonderful family.