Talking to owners of operations-based model railroads, I always find their thought process facinating. I enjoy hearing their stories of how they came to choose the specific railroad and period they’re modeling. I’ve found in several cases what they ended up modeling isn’t what they started out to model. Such is the case with John Schindler’s HO scale St. Louis Junction Railroad.
John was destined to get hooked on the hobby, remembering his father always having a model railroad in the basement. It was different scales over the years, but always there. When he was young, his father took him to the St. Louis HO Gaugers, a large operating model railroad club in South St. Louis. John remembers, “It was the most fascinating thing I ever saw!” He immediately went home to his 4×10-foot HO scale model railroad and things were never the same. Trains running in circles didn’t cut it anymore. Shortly after, he added a four-track staging yard and several industries to his railroad. The bug had bitten hard.
Years later, John originally thought he wanted to model Burlington Northern Santa Fe operations in the late 1990s between Stapleton and Moorhead, Minn., with a connecting freelance short line. His wife Joanne is from Minnesota, and visiting the area helped to spur his interest to model it. He discovered a short line that operated between the BNSF connection at Moorhead and Fergus Falls, Minn. This was the Otter Tail Valley Railroad.
The Union Pacific Tower Grove industrial job is using a National Railway equipment Genset loco today, to see if it can handle the workload. The job is switching out the spalling complex at Leahy Plastics, which is one of several industries in the Tower Grove industrial district.
The more research he did on the design and the more he learned about BNSF’s operations, he discovered most of the traffic would be through trains with very little work being done between these two points. Not much operation interest for a model railroad. At that point he stopped work on his railroad for several months while he re-thought the area he wanted to model and how to go about it. His choice was much more local, much closer to home. He chose to model the area around St. Louis, Missouri.
At the other end of the Granite City steel mill complex, a leased Rail America/New England Central unit switches the yard alongside the rolling mill.
The St. Louis Junction Railroad is a freelanced operation based on the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA). The TRRA is a large terminal and neutral switching railroad operating on both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River. With the exception of Kansas City Southern, each of the connecting railroads that operate in and out of St. Louis owns a share of the TRRA, including Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Canadian National, and BNSF Railway. John’s logo for his railroad is based off the old Illinois Terminal, another hometown favorite. As a model railroader, how could you resist this colorful combination of railroads and operations?