In 1970 I met Rick Spano. At the time, I was a budding model railroader with a crude little
starter layout, the Newport and Rock Falls. Rick’s Sceniced and Undecided got me to take
model railroading more seriously, and it wasn’t long before I scrapped the N&RF and began
the White River and Northern.
Inspiration was drawn from an article in the June 1966 issue of Model Railroader Magazine
(which I’d bought while on summer vacation, establishing me as an old man). Bill Barron’s*
“Layout in a Coffee Table?” presented a very intriguing concept, so I adapted his sketches
of a six-foot-diameter HO Scale layout for a three-foot-diameter N Scale plan.
My first “serious” layout, styled as something of a New England logging railroad, was
created as a tool to learn scratchbuilding, kitbashing and other modeling skills, and to
that end it was entirely successful. It also spawned a long series of N Scale layouts—
large and small, barely begun or nearly completed—to carry the same name. Incidentally,
the name is a play on the Black River and Western, the first train I ever rode, an event
that convinced me to make model railroading my “forever hobby,” which I did.
Although looking at photographs of the layout today makes me cringe a little, I’m still
proud of (most of) the work I’d done all those decades ago.
*Yes, this really is the Bill Barron who penned the articles for Model Railroader.
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