Model railroading is
probably as big a deal or even bigger today than it was when this "Basement
Railroad" article appeared in a 1954 issue of Air Trails Hobbies for Young
Men magazine. The level of engineering and artistry exhibited by model
railroaders is utterly amazing. The same can be said for most forms of modeling,
but the layouts created by model railroad enthusiasts trumps what you typically
see for model car, model boat, or model airplane displays. As shown here, there
are elaborate railroad layouts hidden away in basements, garages, and back rooms
all over the world. Pitifully, the decades-long work of some modelers is lost
when he passes on, and the parts are sold off in estates sales or auctions. It
pains me to think of the creations that have ended up in a landfill because the
inheritor did not appreciate the value of the work and equipment. Of course that
happens much less frequently these days with the availability of Etsy and eBay.
In fact, some pretty amazing prices are paid for vintage trains and layout
components. Modern equipment has added higher quality, functionality, and
reliability to the basics available in 1954. Onboard microcontroller enable
control of speed, direction, whistle, lights, and other functions unique to each
train and/or car on the track by sending encoded signals along the tracks.
Operation of track switches, lighting, and other nifty things can be programmed
for automated operation via computer.
Model Railroading - Look Out Below!
Oh, boy! A young neighbor expresses his approval over one of
the locomotives, part of the large rolling stock of the basement R.R.
America's Basements Blossom with Privately Owned Railroads
Bob's entire life is wrapped up in railroads; he works for one, owns one, even
lives on "Railroad" Avenue!
In any ordinary house the basement may still serve as either a storage place
or a rumpus room, but Robert McKeand, Jr. owns no ordinary home. Rail trunk lines
and spurs take up all the available floor space in his basement. A railroad man
by trade as well as avocation, he works for the New York Central. McKeand gave his
trains places to go; they do not run just on bare tracks, but wind their way through
communities, over bridges, pull in and out of stations and freight terminals. On
"streets" adjacent to the tracks there are stores, homes, vehicles and pedestrians.
There is no question - it all looks real. Tracks are secured in concrete to prevent
damage from vibration. The McKeand miniature railroad has grown to such an extent
that its operator has assistants to help him run it. It is a prize diversion for
his two youngsters and their neighborhood friends who can be found in the basement
at almost any hour ready to call out the traditional "All Aboard!"
Smooth functioning of the railroad and its many components requires
constant attention as well as a good hand with tools to make repairs. Locomotive
gets preventative surgery.
Miniature N.Y. Central diesel speeds over bridge. McKeand's private
railroad has been expanded to include other enthusiasts. Value of rolling stock
and community built adjacent to tracks is nearly $5000.
Every "man" that takes his place along the right of way has a
specific job. A signalman in palm of hand, gravel carrier by track.
Community by the railroad tracks was built of wood and cardboard.
Houses can be shifted when change in scenery is desired.
Elaborate set-up consists of hundreds of feet of track and more
than 20 "locos" to pull the many passenger and freight cars.
Even walls and ceiling of the basement are on duty, being decorated
with on assortment of lanterns and railway equipment.
No railroad is complete without a tunnel. Here a freight train
enters one built at the base of staircase in McKeand basement.
Accidents will happen even on the best-run railroads. Here McKeand
is doing on "on the spot" repair job when car jumped the tracks.
Posted October 31, 2020