I grew up in a small town south of St. Louis served by the Missouri-Illinois Railroad (M-I), a subsidiary of the Missouri Pacific.  Because of a lifelong affinity for this short line, I began modeling the M-I in 2015 and constructed a Proto48 (O scale 1:48) train layout based on the area around Festus and Crystal City, Missouri. The layout was about 90% completed by 2018 when we decided to move to our forever home. Most of the layout was discarded, but certain items such as switches and structures were salvaged for re-use.

Once settled in the new house, the virgin basement was built out to accommodate a train room with plenty of extra space for a workshop, crew area and refreshments.

My modeling goal is to create a railroad community in miniature where friends and guests operate the trains and bring the layout to life. Hence, the reference to creating a large, multi-year, horizontal, kinetic performance art installation

What does that phrase mean?  The project is certainly large, comprising nearly 550 square feet of space.  Construction began in 2019 and will take several years to complete. Obviously, the layout is horizontal (better for keeping trains on the rails) and trains are designed to move goods/passengers from one place to another. Operators follow many rules devised by prototype railroads to assure timely delivery of freight and safe transportation of passengers. These performances can be be staged by one or many participants at a time.

Guests often assume they’ll see multiple trains speeding around curves and maybe even a few crashes as seen in The Addams Family. Reality is exactly the opposite. Participants team up to serve as engineers and conductors to build a train. Once built, the train proceeds along the route guided by detailed instructions outlining tasks to be performed – ie, which cars need to moved, dropped off or picked up. Once the train completes its work and ties up at the end of the line, the crew is assigned to another train. Train movements are governed by a rulebook and verbal authority. Operating sessions typically last 2-3 hours.

This website aims to familiarize visitors and operators with the history of the prototype and an introduction to rules used to bring the layout to life.  Although the track plan allows for continuous running (for an open house), operating sessions are facilitated in a point-to-point manner.

At the right are preferred vendors, suppliers and blogs for those interested in learning more about Proto48 modeling.  Explore the top menu to learn more about the layout and the Missouri-Illinois Railroad.