Penn Central Stockton Branch

Chapter 7: The Origins of Names

Although it may sound a tad elitist, the one thing I’ve always refused to do is use “joke”
names, such as “MT Warehouse.” This is not to say it’s wrong; it’s simply not something I’d
ever choose to do, as if anyone really cares. Small layouts struggle to be believable as it is
just by virtue of their size; why make things worse by using silly names? Now, having said
that, I confess the whole layout is basically a “joke” name: the (nearly) stock build of Atlas’
switch tower inspired its name, “Stock Tower.” That logically led to the town of Stockton,
and thence the Stockton Branch. Cue the unbridled laughter.

Usually I’ll pay homage to family and friends on my layouts, and while I’ll try to associate
them thematically with the things bearing their names, I don’t go out of my way to do so.
(Given this layout’s visual theme, I suspect most of my friends would rather I didn’t honor
them—although no one should draw any conclusions about the condition of a building or
place relative to the person for which it’s named.) Occasionally I’ll draw upon life experiences
or things that have inspired me; beyond this, I’ll use ordinary-sounding names mostly drawn
from real-life things or settings that may happen to resemble or inform what I’m modeling.

Stephen A. Greene and Sons is for my adopted grandfather. Both of my biological grand-
fathers were dead before I was born, so I started life with no sense of what a “grandfather”
even was. Around the age of nine, while on vacation in New Hampshire, I met by chance a
wonderful elderly gentleman who by pure coincidence happened to be a distant relative.
I sat on his porch for many a summer afternoon listening to his stories of France, where he
was stationed during World War II, or followed him along his woodland trails as he named all
of the various wildflowers and mosses. He left such an indelible imprint on my soul that I’ve
honored him in some way on every layout I’ve built. And Dorothy’s Bakery is for his equally
wonderful wife and her scrumptious desserts.


Stephen and Dorothy Greenes summer home in New Hampshire, now gone.

Spano’s Service Station is named after Rick Spano, modeling mentor and cherished friend
for over forty-five years. Like Stephen Greene, he’s appeared on every layout; often he
shows up (more appropriately) as Rick’s Hobby Shop, but that sort of business didn’t suit
this layout. And, it’s a Mobil station because my father spent fifty years—his entire career—
working as a research chemist for the Mobil Oil Corporation. The Weller Company pays
respect to a man who had the “audacity” to hire an old local guy for an IT position instead
of a young import from India, as is the norm. This not only saved me from bankruptcy, but
led to a decade of the most exciting and rewarding work I’ve ever done.

JB’s Corner Bar, which has appeared on other layouts, is named after an old college buddy
whose father was a bartender. Haber Manufacturing and Lucas Industries honor a young
man and his son, the former having helped me survive the emotional desolation of my
current circumstances. Central Point Fuel Oil is a tribute to a business associate and close
friend. And Tanna Hill is actually Tannahill, my ex-wife; we separated amicably and remain
good friends.

Dick’s Welding is named for my brother, who worked as an auto mechanic in his youth.
Gregg’s Pawn Shop is a nod to the builder of the layout that inspired this one. LuBrant and
Warner Streets get their names from members of the Pine Creek Railroad, to which I also
belong, and Vaughan Road was inspired by my favorite composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Finally, Rearden Metal Fabrication was drawn from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I’ve used
the name before; I’ve also been known to scrawl “Who is John Galt?” across a (model) wall.

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