Pennsylvania model railroad

Gary’s Pennsylvania model railroad is based on a class of streamlined electric locomotives, the GG1:

“Hi Al,

I have had many starts and stops on my layout due to medical issues with both my wife and I.

I knew that I was not going to get done with as much as I wanted to, so what I have been concentrating on was my track work, turnouts and running trains with no derailments.

That is why when you see my video, you will notice, especially with my track work, that I have not completed weathering the track and applying ballast.

Two of the main reasons are, first, I had two areas of my layout where the base was just not level.

The second is that I made a big mistake when I started by using Atlas switches.

The points just do not close tight against the rails. I have had to replace about half of them with under table Tortoise switch machines and also Micro Mark under table Switch Tender Switch Machines and used many Peco Turnouts.

I have about four more Atlas switch machines that I need to replace.

Also, you will notice that there is a lot of unfinished scenery and spots on my layout that must be completed; the track work comes first. As they say, a model railroad layout is never done.

Also when you look at my video you will note that it is not built to model an era in railroading like most of the modelers do.

The layouts that the modelers send in are fantastic and beautiful and I view them all to look at how and what they do to learn as much as I can from them.

But my layout is all about one locomotive, the General Electric GG1 engine.

The Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 was a class of streamlined electric locomotives built for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), in the northeastern United States.

Between 1934 and 1943 General Electric and the PRRs Altoona Works built 139 GG1s. The GG1 entered service with the PRR in 1935 and later ran on successor railroads Penn Central, Conrail and Amtrak.

The last GG1 was retired by New Jersey Transit in 1983. Most have been scrapped, but sixteen are in museums.

I was a freight conductor for the Pennsy in the late 1960s and early 1970s working in New York and New Jersey and most of the time the engine we worked with was the GG1.

I am very biased towards it, I think it was the most beautiful locomotive built in its day.

Here is a famous picture of the GGs in Sunnyside.

Pennsylvania model railroad

Here is my Pennsylvania model railroad version.

Pennsylvania model railroad

What I want to accomplish in my layout is to model a passenger train headed by a GG1 coming from Penn Station, NY. Park that train in one of the tracks in my Sunnyside Yards passenger
yard. Uncouple the engine and run it into the engine yard for maintenance.

Then, get another GG1 from the engine yard, run it out to the passenger yard and couple up to a train which has been serviced by the crews in the commissary yard. Then take that train out onto the main line going to Penn Station, NY to pick up passengers.

I wanted to do that all automatically with me controlling the blocks, signals, hands free uncoupling, and the movement of the engines and trains. All of the passenger yard tracks
have blocks and all of the engine yard track are blocks.

Most of the signals work in conjunction with the switches and blocks. All of this I did purposely with DC. I know now that DCC would have made things a lot easier, but I started with DC and decided not to stop, convert and start over again.

It has been a fun and a learning experience but sometimes a very frustrating learning experience. The electrical component of HO is so much more complicated then the O scale which I grew up with. I have so much more to do.

I have to install blocks and signals on my two main lines so that I can bring in trains from either track. I have to ballast and weather all the track. I want to add a road on the north side of the layout that will have a White Castle Hamburger scene and also a Harley Davidson motorcycle shop.

I have to install railroad crossing signals on the road that I currently have within the yard. AND I have to dirty up the yard (railroad yards were not the cleanest places to work in). I also want to build a factory building backdrop for the layout using some of Al’s printable buildings.

With the trains, I want to add lighting to the passenger cars and add seated people. Also, I am getting all my engines maintained and running smoothly. I am also building dummy shell engines with parts and broken engines that I have bought off of EBAY.

Plenty to do and I will be at it for a long long time but I enjoy it and I am always learning from all of you modelers that send in blogs and videos and tips.

Well, that’s all for now; I hope you enjoy the video I put together. It won’t win an academy award but for my first one, I think it came out OK.

And I thank Al for his site and the posting of all our layouts and tips and pictures. Keep them coming.

Gary M from Long Island”

I thought I’d add some links to Gary’s previous posts so you have see what a journey he’s been on:

Gary’s first post on his Pennsylvania model railroad

Gary responds

Gary’s third post

Gary’s fourth post

Gary’s fifth post

Gary’s sixth post

Gary’s seventh post

Gary’s eighth post

Gary’s ninth post

Gary’s tenth post

Gary’s eleventh post

Gary’s twelfth post

A huge thanks to Gary for sharing his Pennsylvania model railroad every step of the way – it really is wonderful to see. I’m really looking forward to seeing his next update.

That’s all for today folks – please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if today is the day you start on your own layout.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

19 Responses to Pennsylvania model railroad

  1. Carl Smith says:

    Great model of the Sunny side yard! You may not have the scenery completed, but your electrical part is superb! Congratulations!

  2. John Frye says:

    I too consider the “G’s” as we called them when I worked at Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Virginia the finest locomotive ever built, designed by Raymond Lowery who also designed the Studebaker Avanti. Likely some would still be running if Amtrak had not switched from pulsating DC to full AC catenary. That move by Amtrak killed several older Pennsy and Amtrak locomotive types. Anyway, great layout and fascinating history.

  3. Cary B says:

    Hello Gary,
    Really enjoyed your post this morning. I think it’s really awesome that the layout is based on much of your real life experience. My dad took me to see GG1’s when I was a kid in Washington DC.
    I really like that Alastair included your prior posts in today’s link so I can view them later.
    Thanks for sharing and be well.
    Cary B New Market Maryland

  4. George Zaky says:

    Hey neighbor! Great narrative. Very important that the switch radius be large enough to take large passenger cars also. The atlas standard turn out is too tight and a # 6 in your case would be the least radius. I changed out my atlas switches too.
    If you cant buy GG1 engines already factory DCC with sound IMHO the addition of decoders is too painful. Stay with DC.
    Keep up the great work and thanks for the post.
    I had to take the LIRR to work- Lousy, Irresponsible, Railroad Road.
    Be well
    George from LI, NY

  5. Chester Karlewicz says:

    The yard looks fabulous, I drove over that yard everyday on Queens Blvd when I worked in the old Pan Am building on Queens Plaza North. You did a great job duplicating the yard and structures.

  6. James. Heck says:

    My GG1 is my favorite as well. Just make sure the radius is 18 or
    better and I just deleted all my inclinds as the long passenger cars
    wanted a smooth surface. .Their is a GG1 in Green Bay that I hope
    to visit.
    Jim from Brookfield Wi.

  7. Robert Brady says:

    Nice Vid Gary ,Don’t mind you talking to yourself just as long as you don’t answer
    Love the diesel in the back ground. Should have ran that around.
    The Critic

  8. Erick says:

    That Kool.

  9. That’s a great layout. Awesome track work
    Nothing Is perfect however if you covered those louvered doors with the scenery van in my humble opinion it would be as close to perfect as possible it’s a great great layout

  10. Norman Rosen says:

    I just got my first GG1 in N Scale. I remember these engines very well at the Philadelphia station, where they loaded up people for New York while we took a little steamer to Atlantic City.
    I sympathize with Gary about Atlas switches. I have the same problem with many of them. I actually tested them before putting them down and now some seem to be ‘loosening up’ with use. (One actually came wired backwards!)

  11. Larry says:

    All my switches are Atlas #6 with their own remote switch machine. Never had a problem with the points not closing enough. Strange…

  12. Calvin Kaufmann says:

    I have always wanted a GG1. The Art Deco styling by Raymond Lowey made that engine unique. The layout looks like it would provide many hours of pleasure. I enjoyed the background information and the video.

  13. Jay Kirk says:

    Hi Gary,
    I really enjoyed your latest post. Growing up in W. PA., I never saw a GG1. Grew up with O gauge Lionel. As a second grader, my parents gave me the best Christmas gift, ever, a Berkshire 2-8-4 freight train, and still run that engine. As an adult, I “discovered” GG1 engines at my local train store, and now share your love for this amazing engine. I run & collect HO & O gauge GG1s. I have over 2 doz HO GG1s and 8 O gauge versions. I run 4 independent O gauge lines (2 GG1s at a time, and 2 HO lines on the second deck. Before retiring, I spent four years commuting daily from Trenton Station NJT to Penn Station, NYC, for my job. Too late for the GG1 era, but on the same lines. A friend, also a GG1 fan, gave me a custom painted O GAUGE NJT. She’s a beauty.


  14. Bob Muhme says:

    Quite well done. Sure like the signals you’ve got working. Adds to the realism. Once you add a backdrop, it’ll look like we’re there!

  15. Frank says:

    I have lived in Virginia a few times, but never saw much except for an occasional train and mostly those bright yellow Conrail boxcars.

    Of course now I’d probably pay more attention, but I was really more into the model trains than the real thing. Still I only recall maybe 3 spots were you’d see any cars or a running train.

    Frank in Orlando

  16. Andrew Aves says:

    Awesome Gary – Just awesome
    Andrew in Oz

  17. Al Korzen says:

    As a kid in the late 40’s and 50’s grew up 2 blocks from the Sunnyside yards. Can remember in the summer with the windows open(no A/C ) you could hear the loudspeaker system and the steam engines moving around the yard. Also there was a Railway Express Agency depot there right on Northern Blvd and it to had a great deal of activity. Then there was the Army signal Corps depot there. But you are right the GG1 was a majestic engine that spoke power.

  18. Jim Landing says:

    Gary, Wow that really closely matches the original picture. Great Job!!

  19. Jim B says:

    Enjoyed your post today, I too had to replace my Atlas switches with the same problem.
    I also liked your comment that a model railroad layout is never done.
    Mine is 30 plus years in progress and in DC, thank you!

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