Blast from my (freelance) Past


I’ve been doing some work to my basement in preparation for layout expansion and had to move some boxes around to make space for construction. I unearthed this GP9 that I built some time in the mid to late 1980s, so I thought I pose it on my layout, along with a Canada Division caboose, to remember what the hobby was like for me some 30 years ago. I had forgotten that I was developing a concept for a freelance railroad set in the Niagara area. Obviously, I was suggesting some kind of corporate connection to New York Central. TH&B was my hometown railroad and clearly here was some influence being exerted on my imagination. NYC and its subsidiaries Michigan Central and Canada Southern Railway had a 3/4 stake in TH&B, while Canadian Pacific held the remaining 1/4. I was probably envisioning something similar to that kind of arrangement for my freelance Erie & Ontario. If memory serves (this was a long time ago) I was proposing that upon the formation of Penn Central, the E&O was excluded from Penn Central, or maybe spun off as a shortline or industrial switching railroad with a more glamourous past.

The photo shows an Athearn Blue Box GP9 that I reworked by removing the dynamic brake, adding torpedo tanks to the roof, creating a larger fuel/water tank, and adding a GMD bell to the long hood. Its number fits onto the end of the TH&B GP9 roster, so maybe I intended to suggest some kind long abandoned pooling of locomotives between TH&B and E&O for passenger service. I remember that I created the paint scheme from a NYC cigar band cab unit decal sheet. Each of the letters was applied individually, the word “and” extracted out of the Peoria “and” Eastern part of the sheet. It was a neat concept, although not exactly endowed with any kind of plausibility. And I have to say that I’m not too thrilled with the lumpy details on the model. I’ve certainly been spoiled by the quantum leap forward in the quality of models these days.

As I recall, I had no layout at the time, just this one locomotive which I built up to test the concept on a model. The idea went nowhere, and I started researching possibilities for a layout depicting the NYO&W, or L&HR, or even L&NE. I started that layout and got it to the benchwork stage before dismantling it and giving it all to a friend. But I do remember having hours of fun devising the paint scheme and rationale for a NYC System subsidiary that embodied a combination of traits from both the Canada Southern and TH&B.


  1. As someone who currently models a freelanced railroad, I can remember the time and energy spent on past attempts at a freelanced railroad and how far those got as well


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