Model Railroading, My Way
And now begins the story of the Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway (AWRY – I love those reporting marks!). In both the business world and the model railroading world there is a guiding thought we cannot ignore: plan your work and work your plan. In other words, don’t start building anything until you have a plan in place. Fortunately, my instinctive method of operation (MO) in both work and life is “strategic planner”. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the hobby is track planning.
In the following pages I define the concept, establish standards, and propose a fictional history for the Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway, what will become my home railroad. I also share things that I like about railroading and what I would like to include in the railroad I ultimately build. While the locale and geography will be mostly fiction, many of the features will be based on some of my favorite railroads and will be assembled into what I hope will be a plausible representation of a railroad that could have been.
Imagining the Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway began when I read, in the early 1970s, a book by Willis Dunbar about Michigan Railroads. The book revealed the existence of a short line railroad originating in Kalamazoo, Michigan, my hometown, with plans to reach Chicago and Saginaw. It became known as the Chicago, Kalamazoo, and Saginaw or the CK&S (often referred to in its day as the “Cuss, Kick, and Swear”). It’s greatest reach before its decline and dissolution in 1937 was to the Grand Trunk in Pavilion Township south of Kalamazoo, and the Pere Marquette in Woodbury between Lansing and Grand Rapids.
The Pere Marquette resonated with me because as an underclassman at Michigan State University I walked to classes every day past Pere Marquette 1225, a 2-8-4 Berkshire on static display on campus for a number of years after its retirement from the C&O Railroad. I grew fascinated with the PM as a possible prototype to model but thought the CK&S might be a better choice because it was smaller and represented a bridge concept that would permit different options for modeling.
In the 80s a friend helped me research the route of the CK&S, obtain route maps, and photograph depots and other locations. I also learned more about sites in Kalamazoo that originally belonged to the railroad including the Whistlestop restaurant, the Old Sergeant Oil Company office, and the yard and roundhouse locations. A freelance concept evolved with Kalamazoo becoming Arcadia Creek, named for the creek that flows through downtown and into the Kalamazoo River just northeast of downtown. That led to the name Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway, and the reporting marks AWRY, which always gave me a chuckle.
Over time I learned more about other railroads and became a big fan of the Great Northern and the White Pass and Yukon. In the late 70s I discovered a love for mountain railroading while living in Colorado and traveling abandoned rights of way in our Toyota Landcruiser. I became familiar with the D&RGW, the Colorado and Southern, the Rio Grande Southern, and the Denver, South Park, and Pacific and rode the Central City and Blackhawk, the Cripple Creek and Victor, and later the Durango and Silverton. And I always remember a fascination with car ferries on Lake Michigan, part of the Ann Arbor Railroad, and the car ferry from Vancouver to Victoria in British Columbia.
I also developed a serious interest in railroad operations through my experience as a long time operator on Dr. Bruce Chubb’s Sunset Valley System beginning in 1981. Finally, I developed an interest in railroad electronics through my work with a group of the Sunset Valley operators and friends of mine while building for CSX a safety exhibit in a large utility trailer consisting of an HO railroad outfitted with crossing signals, gates, and other safety devices for display at a variety of railroad and non-railroad events.
All of these interests synthesized themselves into what became the current concept for the Arcadia Creek and Woodbury Railway.
Let’s start though with An Imaginary History of the AWRy.