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 various scenes 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.

Most guests assume they’ll see several trains zipping around loops at death-defying speeds and maybe a few crashes. The actual performance 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 following the instructional paperwork that dictates what cars need to moved, dropped off or picked up. Once the train completes it tasks and ties up at the end of the line, the crew is assigned to another train. Train movements are guided by a rulebook, signaling along the way or verbal authority granted by a Yardmaster. Operating sessions may last several hours.

This website aims to familiarize operators and visitors with the history of the prototype M-I and provide background on the 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.