• Welcome to Toad Hall

    The home of the WXToad
  • The Toad Hollow & Mud Pond Rlwy

    The Early Years

    The Glory Years                              21st Century

    I've always had an interest in trains, beginning with a Lionel set I received when I was about six years old. Boy, I loved that set and I was lucky that my parents indulged my interest by allowing me to have a 4'x6' table in a corner of our small family room for many years. When I was in high school, my Dad told me that he would finish off a room in the cellar for me if I did the required lowering of the dirt floor. I spent a summer digging and setting two buckets at the time up on the high window sill and then going outside to dump the buckets into a wheelbarrow. I sure got my exercise that summer. At last I had dug down enough so that it was level and low enough for a cement floor to be poured. Then came some sheetrock walls and at last I had a space all of my own for my railroad empire. I built an L-shaped table with several levels and took my first stab at scenery - paper-mache covered with glossy paint.

    This shows my little empire as it existed in 1961.

     thmp 001
    I thought this was a pretty neat layout. It boasted a small yard, a large lower loop and a siding that went into the mountains, around a reverse loop and back down again.

     thmp 002
    Here's a view looking toward the mountain. The next year I went off to college and my folks asked me to remove the layout so they could have some extra storage space.

    In college I got my introduction to HO scale model railroading. I met Geoff Quadland, an acomplished modeler who was a big fan of old-time steam operations. Together in 1964 we built a small HO layout - a fairly simple over-and-under design with two short sidings in the middle. Although the layout was small, about 3'x5', it was incredibly heavy thanks to its solid plaster scenery. If only we had known abour hard-shell or foam scenery! We met the challenge of where to keep a layout in a dorm room by mounting the layout on the headboard of the bed so that it pivoted up and down.

     thmp 004
    Although a bit blurry, this provides an overall view of the layout.

     thmp 003
    Another feature of this little layout was a complete signal system powered by real relays salvaged from the Maine Central RR. The rack of relays was just about as big as the layout! We made a control panel from a purloined cafeteria tray on a long cable and could amaze our friends by operating the layout from the next room.

    The highlight of the layout was this rather intricate trestle that Geoff built at one end.

    After graduation and receiving my Air Force commission, my first assignment was in New York city, where I rented a tiny basement out in Queens. All I had room for was a small switching layout about 6' long. This was my first attempt at hand-laying track, stub-switches and all.

    Circa 1967

    thmp 005
    Here is a view from above. All one could do with it was shuffle cars around, but at least I could claim to be running trains.

    My next assignment found me married and living in base housing....with the luxury of a spare bedroom. This time I went for a point-to-point layout, again with hand-laid code 70 rail. Although it doesn't show in this picture, I was able to use the yard from NYU days at one end.

    This one didn't last too long: our twins were on the way and the room was desparately needed as a nursery.

    Circa 1969

    So back to the drawing board, which led to another over-and-under design with a short branch-line. This was about 40"by 60".

    Circa 1970

    thmp 008
    I built the yard area on Homasote and installed it in the center of the layout after the track was laid.

    Unfortunately I have no color photos of this layout in its more completed stages. But this picture features my best scratch-building effort, a bi-level station based upon Jim Findley's Cross Junction station on John Allen's Gorre & Daphetid Lines. The Gallows turntables was also scratch-built, by Geoff Quadland. This station has survived and has been used on more recent layouts. The challenge comes in designing a layout to meet the two levels and the two lower tracks the station requires.

    Circa 1975

    thmp 009
    This layout came along quite nicely, with another wooden trestle carrying a track over the 3-track yard. About all that is missing in this picture is the tunnel portal on the left.

    thmp 0011
    At this time we were renting an upstairs apartment in  a two-family house. The landlord gave us use of half of the basement, so naturally that's the layout was located. There was enough space that I decided it was time for an expansion and began work on a 10'x2.5' addition. What's really interesting is that forty years later, after having had a large 12'x20' layout, this is the only bit of layout that I have now. It's been re-scenicked several times and I'm at it again.

    Circa 1976

    thmp 0012
    For some reason that I can longer fathom, back then I had a thing for fancy control panels. Filled with all sorts of toggle and rotary switches and spaghetti wiring, it was definitely overkill for the size of the layout. However, it did allow two operators to run trains at the same time, and I actually hosted a number of operating sessions.

    Here is a little layout that I built in four days - two weekends.

    Circa 1991

    My previous layouts had scenery made using the hard-shell technique, but for this I wanted to experiment with foam-based scenery.

    It turned out to be a pretty quick way to get a good scenery base in place. However, cutting and shaping the foam is a rather messy job - the little beads that one disturbs while doing this stick staticly to everything. I was lucky - I was near my front door and was able to do most of the work outside on the lawn.

    Here we are with some ballast in place. In the interest of time I skipped my normal practice of hand-laying track, choosing instead to use cork roadbed and flex-track.

    By day 4 I was ready to run trains.

    OK, I lied - this rock retaining wall did not appear during the first 4 days of construction. It took some time to carve those rock out of Celluclay applied over a cardboard form.

    The end of Day 4. All that's missing are some buildings and the stone retaining wall mentioned above.

    I could have done a little better in eliminating the layered look of the mountain, but on the other hand it does sorta-kinda look like hills out west.

    A few days later finds the layout in operation with some buildings in place. It turned out to be a fun little switching layout.

    All in all I was pleased with the way this turned out. A few years later I gave it to a neighbor's son.

    As I worked to scenic my next, larger layout, I used some of the techniques that I tested out with this one. See "The Glory Years".