I was introduced to the idea of a theme or concept for a model railroad early on in my hobby career. While in High School I found a book in the library entitled "The World of Model Trains". The book was about three or four hundred pages long, most in color, with lots of glossy photographs of train layouts from around the world.
Three things stood out. Most of the layouts looked little better than the pathetic attempt at an N scale layout I was building at the time. The greater number of layouts looked toy-like, with trains running on plywood covered with green sawdust, and kit buildings slammed down wherever there was room. And then there were pictures of John Allen's famous Gorre & Daphetid Railroad. They were exceptional! I wanted to model like that, with realistic looking trains running through realistic looking scenery, and everything on the layout belonging to the era and vintage the model railroad represented. Not long after I found pictures of Irv Schulz's Saint Clair Northern - an 1880's vintage pike that was a work of art. The hook was set, and I became a crank on the subject, foaming off at the mouth whenever I saw people running a diesel or gas motor through an old west scene, or running modern steel equipment behind a 1920's vintage loco. Or running a K-27 on a layout that was supposed to represent a New England line.
The theme of my model railroad was easy, I would create the Sumpter and Bourne Railway as it would have existed had it been built. It would be 1897 vintage, with equipment that could have come to it through the Sumpter Valley Railway. The map of the S. & B. survey showed many interesting details that could go into the model railroad. There was one short branch up Silver Creek towards Cable Cove, and the railroad survey crossed the creek over twenty two times in only seven miles. There was only room in the canyon for a single track, and not much space for spurs or sidings, perfect for an apartment railroad. So my pike would also be single track, with lots of bridges.
The model railroad would represent the era between the incorporation of the S & B in 1897 and the destruction of the city of Sumpter by fire in 1910, which corresponded to the height of the gold mining boom in the surrounding Elkhorn Mountains. The setting and era also set the industries. Bourne was a gold mining town, surrounded by mine and stamp mills, one of which was still standing during my visits in the 1970's and 1980's. There had been a small smelter at Cleveland, half way between Cable Cove and Bourne, and a large smelter at Sumpter. The primary business of the line would have to be carrying gold ore to the smelters, and supplies and passengers up to the mines.
The only other resource in the area was timber. Once again, there was a sawmill in Sumpter. The only prominent features on the S & B survey map, aside from Sumpter, Bourne, and the Cable Cove branch, were tributaries named Pole Creek and Fool Creek. I envisioned have a spur at each location for loading logs or gold ore. I could put in the smelter at Cleveland, the stamp mills at Bourne, but realized that since I couldn't fit in both of the wyes at Sumpter that made up the famous "S-Wye" there, I couldn't put in the smelter located at "S-Wye", but it could serve as an off-layout industry. The era selected also meant that there could be no cars, only horses and wagons, and no diesels or gas motors, only steam engines. More importantly, the dates ruled out running the S.V.'s Uintah articulateds or its Mikados. With these decisions made, it was time to find room to shoehorn a railroad into my apartment.,
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This page updated Aug 4, 2006
Webpage © Lawrence Rickert
Photographs and Text © Scott Gavin