Santa Fe Dan

Dan’s put together some amazing posts for the blog. They are always helpful too:

“I am Santa Fe Dan to my model railroad friends.

Trains have always been an interest to me. I grew up literally across from the rail yard that served a General Motors assembly plant. I was born in 1942, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the oldest of 4 boys.

Along with my Mom and Dad, living in a three-room apartment. I walked over to the yard and watched how they moved the cars according to a plan. I talked to the railroaders and Ho Bos. They answered my questions and never had a problem. I read everything I could on trains. I now have an extensive railroad library.

It was a very excited little boy when I got a Lionel train set at age 6. With the limited space available, I got to run it sparingly. My uncle made a 5 by 9 table that was cut in half for storage. I got it out to run probably 10 times a year.

By the age of 12 or so it was put away for “later use.” I built my first Athearn tank car when I was 15. Next, I built an Athearn GP 9 with the gear drive. I had a small loop of track on the old table. Then I was off to college at Ohio University and the trains stopped. Not the prototype though.

Santa Fe Dan

My university town was on the B&O mainline from Cincinnati Ohio to the east. I rode the train several times to the school. I changed majors and worked for a year before going to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. This was also a railroad town. At the time the New York Central ran through town. The Norfolk Western also ran through town. Not only that, the Chessipeke and Ohio came through town. Perfect!

During my summers at home, I built building kits. They were craftsmen kits. Mostly western in nature. I was bitten by the Santa Fe bug via the Lionel catalogue. My uncle and I took a trip out west when I was 13. That sealed the deal. I have ridden the el Capitan HI-Level train. I have ridden the Great Northern Empire Builder. Both as GN and AMTRAK several times. I have ridden the AMTRAK version of the California Zepher 3 times. The AMTRAK version of the now called Southwest Chief. Twice. I also drove the Santa Fe passenger route from Chicago to Flagstaff. I have also ridden the Southern Pacific from Seattle to L. A. and L.A. to Chicago. I am a train rider! I have also ridden all over the east, also.

During the summers I built a small HO layout on that “later use” table and honed my skills on modelling. I learned to solder, ballast track, wire track and make blocks for control, and SCENERY. We used Perma Scene (a vermiculite product) over screen wire. Lots of bloody fingers there. That layout was gone forever when I got married. However, my wife ,Sharon, knew what was to come. It helps to have a supporting wife.

We lived in Muncie for 11 years where we both taught school. There was a small model group in town. I learn to rail fan with them. One of the members was a funeral director. Coffins come in shallow boxes. Turned upside down they make perfect modules for a layout. I had a small modular layout in half of my garage. I learned to do car card switching on that layout.

We moved to Martinsville IN where I became the Planetarium Director at the high school. During that time, I continued to build kits and amass rolling stock for a layout to be. I was president of the Indiana Astronomical Society for 14 years.

I built two telescopes. First, I built an 8-inch reflector and then a 6- inch reflector. For 20 years I set up telescopes, with help of fellow astronomers, every spring for our school systems outdoor experience. This was done 16 times in the spring. It wasn’t long before high school seniors came to help with the telescopes.

After the second telescope, it was time to start on the Santa Fe railroad in my basement. You have seen what I have accomplished in these Blog posts, thanks to Al. After 38 years of teaching, I retired in 2006.

Since that time, I have completed 7 layouts. Either from scratch, Boston & Maine for example, or designed layouts, done the scenery, or a mixture of both. I all cases the were finished. In all cases they were what the owner wanted and not what I wanted. I worked with them. I do draw the line at dinosaurs, UFOs, and such. When finished, they might do something like that.

I have had a Christmas train display at a local bank, now for the 32 nd year. I see grand kids of kids who were brought to the bank over the years. Some have gone on to have trains as they have grown up. I am constantly answering modelling issues. Or how do I start. Or can you advise…. Whatever I can do to promote the hobby.

My philosophy is simple, have a good time, it is your railroad. If you have done your best that is what counts. That was my philosophy while teaching. I never look down on someone’s work. If asked, I will help anyway I can to help out


HO scenery for model trains

HO scale trestle template

HO scale gondola loads

HO scale railroad crossing

HO scale roads

Model train Santa Fe

Model railroad rocks

Model train people

HO scale freight yard

HO scale switcher

HO scale Boston and Maine

HO model railroad scenery

Santa Fe train layout

Dan was kind enough to have a look through the Beginner’s Guide, and being forever helpful, came back with this:

“The Beginners Guide is a good place to start. A suggestion might be to try out one of the topics on a small trial basis. As an example: a pond. Before jumping in on your layout do a practice small one. If you like the way it turned out go ahead and put a bigger one on the layout. Absolutely all of my scenery work was tried out before the “big” one got going. I still have the beginner photos.

As to the cost cutting tips. Never throw away something with possibilities. An example might be short left over pieces from a kit. I have several boxes of sprues. Kit pieces left over are never thrown away. I have built whole structures from left overs.

Go to train shows and pick up grab bags. I bought a bag of “people” at a show. There were at least 100 in the bag. It cost less than $5 when I got them. The folks are everywhere on layouts I have worked on. This way I don’t worry about cutting off an arm or leg for a figure to fit a specific place.


A big thanks Dan for all his posts – fingers crossed he’ll keep ’em coming.