In May, I returned to Morgantown, WV, to celebrate with my daughter and daughter-in-law as they received degrees from West Virginia University. Before hitting the road, I contacted Michael Hohn to coordinate a visit. Michael and I have been long time members of the Mon Valley Railroad Historical Society, and we have bounced home layout ideas around. A visit date was set up quickly.
Michael’s home layout is focused on the late 1880’s in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. His work represents the Southern Central Railroad, which eventually became a part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s Auburn Division. I had not visited Michael’s layout in several years. He has made quite a bit of progress, especially in a diverse freight car fleet.
As you can see, the box cars of the late 1880s were far different than many of the 20th Century versions. Size, car colors, road names, and Fast Freight Lines are mostly different from box car details of the 1900-1920 years.
I really like the different gondolas Mike has built. These reflect a few of the various designs that were busy hauling Anthracite coal northward to the Great Lakes. Looking down on a string of empty cars reveals several different details.
Michael also enjoys building structures. He works to convey the architectural look of the region’s buildings. Mike uses an assortment of resources to plan a structure, often starting with a photo or an outline on a Sanborn Fire Insurance map.
Many of the structures are simple rectangles, but have complex roof lines or other architectural details, like the building in the lead image. A main goal is to build industries that were common to the Finger Lakes region the railroad traversed. The combination of 1880s rolling stock and regional buildings announces to a visitor that the layout has a certain time and place.
Michael had a new Bachmann 4-4-0 pulling a few cars along the mainline for my visit. The colorful loco looked great as it rolled along. Another loco was seen in a yard. Mike used the frame, wheels, motor, and tender from a Roundhouse kit and grafted a shortened boiler from a Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0 to build a heftier freight loco.
There were a few other structures set around the layout in various forms of completion. I recognized a couple in this image.
On the left is a depot Mike built long ago that has the distinctive pagoda roof line of some early Finger Lakes depots. In the center is a depot inspired by a common Western Maryland Railway design. On the right is a new general store that is planned for the MVRRHS layout.
This slender building is a car shop Mike has planned for his layout. He used dimensions and details from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map. No prototype photographs have come to light to help in building this model.
Lastly, Mike has completed building the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad engine house that was used at M&K Junction. This is an iconic structure that was once used for light maintenance of huge Mallet steam locomotives the B&O used to assist long coal trains on a difficult eastward grade. The building still stands at M&K Junction, just across the Cheat River from Rowlesburg, WV. Mike built the model to reflect a pre-1940 appearance when an addition was installed.
This model will be featured on a special M&K Junction display being built by the members of the Mon Valley Railroad Historical Society.
It was an enjoyable couple of hours visiting with Michael and catching up on his work. I encourage readers to visit the Southern Central layout website for additional layout details. Mike mentioned some new developments coming soon. I’m sure he will detail those on his website as his layout progresses.
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