Railroaders who are familiar with the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad (better known as the “Frisco”) joke that there isn’t a flat, straight section of track on the whole line—it’s all uphill, downhill, and curves. If you have ever visited Frisco country, you know that statement isn’t far from the truth. One of the best examples of this is the former Frisco main line from St. Louis to Springfield, Missouri. Over this route, the Frisco winds, climbs, and descends through the Ozark Mountains and across hills and valleys thick with trees. It is this part of the Frisco Railroad that John Peluso has chosen to model on his impressive HO scale railroad.
The real Frisco was founded in 1876, originally a branch of the Pacific Railroad project granted permission to build across Indian Territory. The Frisco Lines later extended from Kansas City to Pensacola and St. Louis to Oklahoma City and Dallas, with Springfield as the epicenter. This led to their famous slogan emblazoned on their fleet of boxcars, “Southeast-Southwest: Ship it on the Frisco!” along with the colorful “coonskin” logo. Changing economic conditions in the postwar era sent Frisco in search of a merger partner. After a few false starts, the directors of Burlington Northern agreed to a merger with Frisco in 1977, with government approval coming in 1980.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that John models the busy St. Louis-to-Springfield section of the Frisco. He has fond memories from when he was just a kid, riding his bike down to the tracks near Manchester and Sublette Ave. in St. Louis. The Frisco and the Missouri Pacific had parallel mains that ran west out of the city that passed through this area. There was also a sizable amount of industry sidings, requiring switch engines working around the clock. There was plenty to see for a young man interested in railroading.
John has built several other model railroads in the past, but this was the first he built for operations. Prior to this, he didn’t take much interest in operations until he met up with some local model railroaders who showed him the way. After attending a couple of operating sessions, he was hooked and started designing his current layout.
A pair of Frisco EMD GP7s has just picked up empty box cars and auto racks from the Chrysler Auto plant and is heading back to Lindenwood Yard.
Some Design Considerations
Like most of us, John had to compromise on how much of the basement would be for model railroad and how much would remain for family. In the end, it all worked out. The family area makes for a great crew lounge.
Construction started in 2007 after basement renovations were complete. In 2008, John retired and was able to dedicate much more time to layout construction. Plywood sub-roadbed is supported by standard open-grid bench work. Easy access to the room was a major obstacle to overcome. The initial layout design required a double-deck bridge or duck-under for access. Instead, a swing gate, complete with finished scenery, was the end result. Once you enter the layout room and the door is closed, you are completely surrounded by the model railroad, creating a totally immersive experience.
The main line was constructed with Atlas Code 83 flextrack and turnouts. Yard and industry switches are no. 6, with no. 8 switches on the main line. A few curved turnouts from Micro Engineering and Walthers/Shinohara were also used.
As the RS-1 works local industries, a St. Louis-bound road train with Alco FAs departs Springfield.
Along the Line
John’s layout is based heavily on Frisco prototype practices of the 1950s and 1960s, though some elements are freelanced. While he doesn’t follow the specific operation of the prototype, the towns along the line are based on actual locations.
The Frisco Lines is a double-deck model railroad that employs a helix to gain elevation between the two levels. On the top and bottom of the helix are four circular staging yard tracks. The bottom staging tracks are for St. Louis connecting railroads, while the top represents the Frisco hub at Springfield. Two trains can be staged on each track, depending on length…