When my second wife asked for a divorce, I fell into a deep, black pit from which I’ve
never fully recovered. It conjured memories of my first divorce, when the WR&N II was
growing quickly: all I wanted to do was get as far away from where I was as possible.
That time, it was easy to sell the house: I’d flipped it, and it was worth twice what we’d
paid for it. This time, thanks to a massive real estate slump, my condo was worth
substantially less than the mortgage balance. I was stuck there.
So I tried to make the best of things. Alone in my home, I lost myself in my modeling.
My first thought was to expand the WR&N IV to completely fill the second bedroom.
The plan was appealing, but it had some intriguing scenes I wanted to enlarge, so I came
up with a bold (read: insane) notion of completely filling the living and dining rooms with
a monster layout. After all, I was single and as sure as hell had zero interest in changing
that status. Who needed a living room or a dining room?
Then I got to work. First I modified the condo walls—strictly against Association rules—
and began assembling an enormous grid of steel two by fours. I’d gotten more than half
of the benchwork completed when I received word my WR&N IV was chosen for an NMRA
national convention tour—in the midst of my divorce, no less! Somehow I had to cram
several busloads of people into a bedroom having space for maybe five or six people at
a time. What should have been icing on my Great Model Railroads 2000 cake was instead
an utter nightmare.
Not long afterward I suffered a nervous breakdown, an experience entirely impossible
to forget because it took place right after 9-11; my life had collapsed much like the
World Trade Center. I began a “purge,” destroying everything that defined me as a
creative human: I threw out thousands of photographs, hundreds of hours of videos,
paintings and drawings, and all of my modeling, including both layouts. I literally filled
a dumpster four times over. What little remained I gave to Rick Spano for use on his
Sceniced and Undecided.
Incidentally, no photos of the WR&N V exist—probably just as well. And if this is sounding
more like an autobiography than a story about my layouts, that’s because the modeler
and the modeling are quite inseparable. My life shapes my hobby—a point I’d tried to
make in my GMR article, albeit more subtly. A self-published website affords me the
freedom to delve into details inappropriate for a model magazine, but entirely relevant
to the history of my modeling career.
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