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 Trains - The Story

This has been a life-long love-affair that now manifests itself in model building and photography.  I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, but moved away in 1961.  Up till that time there were three railroads that served the area, the Louisville and Nashville, the Tennessee Central, and the Nashville, Chattanooga and Saint Louis Railroads.  All of these roads are just a memory now, mostly gobbled up by the CSX, or just abandoned.  I have chosen to remember them all by way of models.  Some of them are painstakingly hand built or modified to better represent the way things were railroad-wise in Nashville and beyond, in 1950.  I was only 8 years old.

There is a model railroad in H.O. scale under construction.  (H.O. stands for "half- O" so designated when originated over 60 years ago).  H.O. is of the proportion "1:87" or loosely 1/8" per foot scale.  True "O" scale is ľ" per foot.  It comes to these odd numbers by having been converted from 3.5 mm per foot scale.  Kinda like "furlongs per fortnight".

This layout attempts to capture the spirit of one in particular, the NC&StL.  Sound your "Saint" when you pronounce those initials.  This road is one with a rich and colorful history, (particularly the Civil War -- "The War of Northern Aggression" as it is sometimes called down south).  There are lots of interesting equipment and buildings.  It runs as CSX now through some of the most beautiful country God ever made.  Operationally challenging, the line is represented by selectively compressing the main features into one room.  It is the main stem from Nashville to Chattanooga.

I have over 100 pieces of rolling stock (RR cars and locomotives) lettered and detailed for that road, which I have accumulated over the years.  Two of my locos are models of Diesels that Iíve owned since the Ď50ís. I  started in earnest building NC (as it was called) models in 1967 when a friend lent me a copy of Richard Princeís Book on the subject.  I bought the book from him, and it is worn out by now!

Full-size trains

One other interesting aspect of all this model building is what I call the "Phoenix Phenomenon".  In late 1968 I was approached by a group trying to restore a real steam locomotive to service.  They were short on steam savvy, and long on enthusiasm.  I was already a pretty good mechanic from all the cars I'd worked on, so when they asked "whatís a hydrostatic test and how do you do it", I understood, and volunteered to show them.  It did not matter that I had never worked on anything but models.  Thus began an 8 year stint with the Indiana Railroad Museum.  Yeah, we got that old girl up and running and tested and all, and I became one of the engineers who trained other engineers and tried to keep this teapot in steam.  The IRM has gone on to bigger and better things since those days on a rickety ex-Milwaukee RR branch in Indiana.  I have retired from the rigors of full-sized railroading due to health.  It was fun , but an enormous amount of physical work.

In younger years, I went on camera trips, in search of interesting railroad action to photograph.  Many were special excursions powered by steam locomotives still remaining and lovingly restored.  More often, it was everyday down and dirty railroading that has now passed from the scene.  So there is a rather extensive collection of prints and slides taken 20-30 years ago that piques the interest of even tepid railfans.  There are even some movies and tape recordings that are still good today.  Pretty interesting stuff, mainly mid-South and Midwestern.  I donít find modern railroading to be as interesting, since there are only five mainline railroads operating now.  Right or wrong, I donít usually waste my time and film, but I still like to watch whatever goes by!


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© Tom & Maryann Knowles, 1996 - 2011