I model a switching layout of twin cities located next to each other just off the banks of the Mississippi River 30 miles south of St. Louis: Crystal City and Festus, Missouri. The layout deviates from the American tradition of modeling a route with trains running along it; rather, it mimics the British trend of modeling a place, with trains running through it. At each end of the point-to-point trackwork are staging yards, one sceniced with a turntable (Herculaneum/Riverside) and the other bare.
Operations on the Missouri-Illinois Railroad (M-I) are intended to be slow and deliberate incorporating prototypical practices such as working magnetic air hoses between cars, manual turnout throws, opening of industry gates, working derails and protecting grade crossings when needed with fusees. Freight management is handled using switch lists generated by the Mac OS app SwitchList
As with all of today’s railroads, the prototype evolved from a series of mergers. St. Joe Lead Company originally chartered a narrow gauge railroad in 1888 to haul lead ore from its mines in Bonne Terre, Missouri, northward 25 miles to the smelter in Herculaneum and an interchange with the MoPac in Riverside. Thus forming the Mississippi River & Bonne Terre Railway. By 1895, the MR&BT had expanded southward to accommodate additional mines and converted to standard gauge track.
Across the Mississippi River, the Illinois Southern (IS) Railway planned a route from the river to Kansas City, requiring a steam ferry to be built at Ste. Genevieve, MO, to shuttle railcars back and forth across the river. The IS never made it farther than the river and in 1920, the first steamship ferry sunk, forcing the IS out of business. A year later, the Southern Missouri Railway and the remnants of the bankrupt IS formed the M-I, affectionately known as the Mike-n-Ike.
In 1929, the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) acquired controlling interest in the MR&BT and then immediately incorporated it as a subsidiary into the M-I. The M-I then operated as a very profitable sub until 1978 when it officially merged with the MoPac. The MoPac itself then merged into the Union Pacific in 1982.
In its prime, the M-I operated about 200 miles of track operating in both named states and produced a steady profit.
In translating Festus-Crystal City to 1/48th scale, allowances are made for size – principally the loss of 2 large industries – St. Joe Lead Company’s smelter at Herculaneum and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory in Crystal City. Despite these concessions, the benchwork is rather large (24’ x 28’) for a switching layout, but this is O scale and I enjoy watching trains amble slowly along the tracks while the crew works.
Artistic license is taken and the layout operates across multiple eras. Steam and first generation diesels with the colorful blue/grey/yellow MoPac livery are the rule for the transition era. Given that I grew up on the M-I from 1956 to 1974, Jenks blue first gen diesels are also present. Although Missouri-side passenger service ended in 1943, the railroad in my 1/48th world still hauls a few passengers to and from St Louis.