The old house in this picture actually exists in High Bridge, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the track is gone. This is a different view of one of Michael Flanagan’s paintings titled “Chalybeate Springs”. Fred Lagno's HO scale Allegheny Central is the setting for this scene. His freelanced layout is inspired by his childhood growing up in western Maryland.
A visit to the Allegheny Central
by Fred Lagno/photos by the author
In the process of building my layout I reached a point in time when I decided that I would shoot a few photos for publication. My first was the 1999 Walthers Catalogue, and I’ve been in it ever since. As I accumulated pictures, many of which had been published in Railroad Model Craftsman (most recently August 2011 and June 2008), Model Railroader, Scale Rails, and the NMRA Calendar, my thoughts turned to putting together a book, a collection of my photographs that would be tied together with a story, a work of fiction.
I can’t take all the credit for that idea. A few years earlier my friend Michael Flanagan, a very talented artist, did the same thing with a collection of his paintings. His book Stations was an inspiration. I was so impressed with his artwork that I even modeled some of the paintings! I am proud to call Michael a friend.
We have all grown up with vignettes of the railroad in the back of our minds. I wanted to capture the trackside perspective of how the railroad interacts with our daily lives, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background. After accumulating a number of suitable photographs on my model railroad I turned to my storyline. They say “write what you know," and I did just that. Much of what is in the book is true, based on my life experiences growing up in western Maryland. Most of the photos below are from my book Changes—A Model Railroad Comes to Life.
"This black and white photo is a diorama. The only real thing in it is me!" Fred inserted himself into this diorama using photo editing software. The diorama is reminiscent of artist Edward Hopper's famous painting Early Sunday Morning.
A pair of Allegheny Central RDCs arrives at the Ogdensburg, Maryland, station. This photo was published in the August 2011 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Most of Fred's photos are composed from a trackside perspective, putting the viewer into the scene.
This is the corner of Commerce and Short Streets in the fictitious town of Keenemont. "The whole town is loosely modeled after Brunswick, Maryland," Fred explained.
According to Fred, "This photo of a Chessie System mixed freight has never been published. I decided to try shooting under daylight balanced fluorescent lighting. It comes across as an overcast day."
This model is from one of Michael Flanagan’s paintings. Though the actual location is in Baltimore, the scene fits right into Fred Lagno's Allegheny Central.
A loaded auto train passes through the fictional town of Keenemont. "This was back in the days when autoracks were exposed. Modeler Mike Budde’s articles were the inspiration for these models. The regional telephone truck on the right was a gift from Mike. I thought it would be a nice touch to add to this scene."
"I like to model places with ambiance, the kinds of places I would like to visit," Fred explains. "This is the tiny town of Quimby on my layout. It is tucked away in a corner, and I wasn’t sure what to put there, so I built a town."
This shot along Maryland Route 57 feels lonesome, and according to Fred it was meant to be that way. The actual railroad bridge is on a defunct rail line near Cordova, Maryland. Notice the attention to detail including guard rails, appropriate highway signage, proper highway striping, and a smooth transition to the backdrop.
A freshly painted Alco Century leads a road freight out of Wallis Tunnel on the Allegheny Central Railroad. Wallis Tunnel is a variation of a painting by Michael Flanagan titled “Panther,” and bears similarities to many bores across the Appalachians.
The rear end of an Allegheny Central freight train ducks behind a row of houses on a quiet residential street in a scene played out in neighborhoods all across America. Details like fences, mailboxes, and pole lines make this scene come to life.
About the Book: In Changes—A Model Railroad Comes to Life, Sam Rawlings inherits a large collection of his Uncle Plug's railroad photographs. The photographs stir up pleasant memories of days past, and kindle a desire to travel back to his beloved western Maryland. Follow along as Sam returns to the fictional Allegheny Central Railroad and to the locales that he and his Uncle Plug once visited. Changes is an entertaining and nostalgic look at the past, illustrated with full-page, super-realistic photographs of the author's model railroad. You can order by mail direct from the author's web site.