John Allen was an institution. Although his material had appeared in print on countless occasions (the December 1947 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman featured a John Allen cover), reader enthusiasm for his well known HO scale Gorre & Daphetid never wore down. What may have been his last feature article for a major model railroad magazine appeared in the March and April 1971 issues of RMC as the staff worked with John to simulate a fantrip over the G&D Lines. As always, mail from new readers and old alike soon began arriving asking for more.
John had his own philosophy about railroading in miniature. He was not what we would term a railfan; he liked to operate his HO layout like a railroad, but it was more of a “John Allen-style railroading” than an accurate scaling down of actual operating practices. This does not represent criticism; he probably had as much or more fun doing what he did than most of’ us will ever achieve.
John’s real talent was, plain and simple, model building. Few if any modelers ever built a truly large model railroad like the Gorre & Daphetid which featured such painstakingly correct detailing. The G&D demanded a large fleet of motive power and rolling stock, yet John took time to build a sway-back combine and kitbash a locomotive rather than simply use a superbly detailed brass import. John was proud of this facet of the G&D, and enjoyed sharing with readers his talents for kitbashing motive power in his “Steam Loco Conversion Quiz” in the December 1970 RMC.
Recalling the development of the current G&D Line reminds one of a Saturday serial on early television in that one could hardly wait for the next set of Gorre & Daphetid photos to appear in print. We eagerly poured over the photos of the “Gory and Defeated” to see what master craftsman Allen had accomplished in the interim.
John Allen passed away following a fatal heart attack on January 6, 1973. We will certainly miss John’s friendly conversation at NMRA Nationals. The hobby has lost an all-time great.