|Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains|
Modeling Ideas From The Little River RailroadThis page includes suggestions for modeling aspects of the Little River Railroad or its operations. Chances are nobody will try to model the LRRR exactly, but there are many aspects of the LRRR and its surroundings that could lend credence and inspiration to any model railroad in any scale, especially an "east-of-the-Mississippi" mountain railroad.
Scenery and ConstructionIf you are an indoor railroader, you already know how many options are available for modeling curvey railroads through high mountains. But most of those methods don't quite translate to outdoors.
Although I use a lot of "piles of dirt" in my own garden railroading, I would recommend replicating the Smokey mountains with a less "organic" approach.
Trains and AccessoriesIf you want to model the LRRR as precisely as possible, and you aren't in a position to build most of your own locomotives, you're probably better off in HO. Lots of folks already have narrow gauge logging railroads going in HOn3 or so on, but this would give you the chance to model a logging railroad (with the addition of full passenger and freight service ) in standard gauge. HO already has standard-gauge Shays and a wealth of other equipment that could be kit-bashed to represent the LRRR's equipment.
Large Scalers and O scalers, on the other hand, will have to consider some compromises. Still, it is possible to represent the LRRR's business plan (logging plus full-service common carrier) in those scales.
On30 Railroaders - Bachmann's On30 trains are not standard gauge. That means that you can't exactly duplicate the LRRR's infrastructure. However, if you are modeling an alternate universe in which Townsend chose to build the LRRR in narrow gauge, modeling other aspects of the LRRR's operation with On30 equipment would be fairly easy. It would also probably be the least expensive way to go.
True, Bachmann's passenger trains are drawn by a kind of locomotive (Mogul, 2-6-0) that never ran on the LRRR. But the Bachmann On30 mogul is based on designs from Baldwin, the company that built all but one of the LRRR's side-rod locomotives, so the Bachmann Mogul has a similar overall look to the dimunitive Prairie (2-6-2) and Pacific (4-6-2) locomotives that the LRRR did use.
Furthermore, if you like "kitbashing" your trains, the Mogul might be a very good starting point for creating either the Prairie or the Pacific.
As a bonus, most of the passenger cars shown in photos on the LRRR&LC museum's web site are "open vestibule" cars like the ones modeled by Bachmann's On30 passenger cars. In addition, Bachmann's On30 freight cars are all models of cars that would have looked at home on the LRRR.
Large Scale/Garden Railroading Scales - Unfortunately, Large Scale is not one, but several scales, which can get confusing. As an example, here are some pieces you might consider for modeling the LRRR in each important Garden Railroading Scale.
Standard Gauge - If you'd especially like to model an LRRR-type standard gauge operation, it might help to know that AristoCraft makes a Pennsy A5 locomotive that is very similar to the LRRR #1. The closed-vestibule "woody" passenger cars that often come in a starter set (below) with the A5 actually represent a kind of car that was used on a mountain railroad out West. But they still would have looked at home on the LRRR. In addition, AristoCraft's outside frame boxcar (mostly discontinued) would make a nice addition in the same scale.
If I started out using an AristoCraft set to model an LRRR-type operation, I might be tempted to add cars from AristoCraft's "Classic" line, which is mostly closer to 1:24, but looks good with the set described above. Sadly, no standard gauge Shays are manufactured in Large Scale, so if the logging side of the railroad especially appeals to you, and you're planning to work outside, you may want to consider narrow gauge.
Narrow Gauge - If you want to model more of the LRRR's operation in Large Scale, you may be better off going back to the "alternate universe" in which Townsend chose narrow gauge to build his railroad. For starters, Bachmann makes a world-class narrow gauge Shay model in 1:20.3 scale, as well as several cars that look good with it. As the title photo shows, except for the gauge of the track, this model is remarkably close to the LRRR's #2147.
Unfortunately, Bachmann's passenger trains are built to a slightly different scale (1:22.5). Still, nobody says you have to run the log trains and passenger trains next to each other.
While we're on the subject of 1:22.5, you should know that Bachmann's 1:22.5 passenger coaches are very similar to the open-vestibule "varnish" that the LRRR towed in the early 1900s. Most of the Bachmann 1:22.5 freight cars are similar to freight cars in the old photographs, as well.
Bachmann's most popular non-Shay locomotive, their 4-6-0, has similar overall lines to the LRRR's Pacific (4-6-2), though the Pacific had a straighter boiler. Still, a talented kitbasher could probably rework one to give the general effect.
The LGB Mogul (2-6-0), which is a smaller locomotive modeled in the same scale, might also make a good candidate for rework into LRRR's engine #105 (Prairie 2-6-2)
If you can come across one, Bachmann's discontinued Industrial Mogul #81699 may be the best candidate for a kitbash into engine #105. This model has a straight boiler and closely-spaced drivers. It is based on a Baldwin prototype with similar lines to the LRRR's Prairie and Pacific locomotives. It would still be slightly smaller in scale than the Bachmann Shay, of course, but the overall effect when pulling the long Bachmann passenger cars around too-tight curves should be very good.
ConclusionIf all you take away from our collection of articles on the Little River Railroad is a sense that even the real world railroads "broke the rules" from time to time, that should help you lend credence and "background" to your own model railroading efforts. I know that I won't be setting out the model the Little River Railroad, per se, in the next couple of years. But if my own New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad should suddenly add a logging operation, running on the same trackage as our passenger operation, who's to say it's "wrong"? And if these articles inspire you to try something new, or just to think about your railroad's business plan a different way, then you've profited from your visit to the LRRR.
While you're here, take a look at our page on Helping the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum. Learn how easy it is to make a lasting contribution to public knowledge and understanding of this unique railroad and of railroads in general. Not to mention that a good number of you will get to the Smokies at some point in your life - wouldn't it be nice to visit an attraction that has to do with real history (and trains), instead of all those upside-down buildings and wax statures of Elvis and such?
In the meantime, contact us with any questions, concerns, corrections, or examples of things you've done on your own railroad.
Best of luck, all,
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