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  • Edward Laity's Valley and Tekoa Railroad

    by David Butts

    Photos by the author

    A freight train exits a mountain tunnel next to the village of Ophir.
    Model Railroading - July 2005 - Page 36

    A "model railroader since 1944" - how many modelers can say that they have been in the hobby for over 60 years? As a life member of the NMRA Southeastern Division, Edward Laity can make such a statement and today he has the Valley and Tekoa Railroad to show for his efforts. The V&T is an 1885 steam-era standard-gauge railroad modeled in HO to somewhat simulate the Virginia and Truckee Railroad that ran in the state of Nevada. Freight trains, passenger trains and mixed trains are run on the layout. The prototype railroad was built to haul ore from the mines to the stamp mills along the Carson River.

    Edward got his start in the hobby as a youngster with an American Flyer train set. Initially, he wanted to purchase a bike with the money he had saved doing odd jobs and chores, but his father insisted he get a train set because it was too dangerous to ride a bike in the area where they lived due to automobile traffic.


    All the towns and structures on the layout take their nomenclature from the Bible, as does the name of the railroad. Edward is a retired minister for the Salvation Army Church. The main town is Tekoa, which has the only brick station on the railroad. The town grew up because of its location in the valley. Other towns are Ophir and Dan. The town of Ophir prospers on the layout because it is the location of Solomons Mine, which produces a small quantity of gold ore. The railroad established a small yard and engine facilities there, which enables the citizens to maintain themselves.

    An overview of the village of Ophir and the freight yard.
    Model Railroading - July 2005 - Page 37

    Design and Construction

    The trackplan is based on a plan found in the book Small Railroads You Can Build by Bob Hayden. The layout is housed in its own special building in Edwards backyard. Like most model railroaders who want bigger layouts, Edward expanded the original 4' by 14' L-shaped layout to 14' by 15' by adding an extension to spread the layout out. This expansion allowed more area for scenery and make possible the addition of a turntable and reverse loop that is hidden in a mountain. More is planned for the future as Edward plans to extend the side of the layout with the reverse loop and turntable next to Hayes Station.

    Generally, the layout is continuous run, single track with two passing sidings to facilitate meets and runaround movements for switching. The layout also features two reverse loops to turn complete trains and further enhance switching. A small, three-track classification yard with engine facilities is structured into the layout next to the village of Ophir to provide a location to handle freight cars and service the steam locomotives. There are approximately eight spurs with on-line industries and one spur for offline interchange traffic. To get more usage out to the space available, some industries are located next to the yard tracks, i.e., the Pickle Works Company. Consequently, this railroad has plenty of potential for shoving, pulling and spotting freight cars.

    All track is Shinohara code 70 flextrack. Turnouts are No. 4s that are thrown by Tortoise slow-motion switch machines positioned under the roadbed and activated by a recessed toggle switch located on the fascia. The roadbed is a cork-based product.

    Layout construction follows the L-girder method popularized by Linn Westcott. Quarter inch plywood sheeting and dimensional lumber were used to build the frame and base. The layout height is 50" off the floor from the top of the railhead. In case the layout has to be moved, Edward built it in portable sections. This also makes it easier to expand the layout and make it bigger for more operating possibilities and scenery.

    Control System and Electrical

    Ophir sits at the base of the large mountain in the background.
    Model Railroading - July 2005 - Page 38

    Dynatrol Command Control is used to power the layout. Dynatrol is a proprietary system that preceded DCC and was popular among serious operators and those interested in having individual control of their locomotives without having to resort to power packs and numerous electrical blocks and toggle switches. The system is very robust and simple. A receiver is placed in the locomotive, and it has a number assigned to it for the channel plug. Then a channel plug with the associated number is plugged into the walk-around throttle to provide speed and direction control of the locomotive.

    Command Control requires a power bus beneath the layout made of large gauge wire. Wire feeders are dropped from the track down to the power bus. Reverse loops are handled with toggle switches set up to reverse track polarity.

    Motive Power and Rolling Stock

    Since the layout depicts an era around 1885, motive power is comprised of woodburning steam locomotives. There are five locomotives and about 25 freight cars. All of the steam locomotives are brass models with can motors of various wheel arrangements No. 11, the Reno; No. 20, the Tahoe; No. 22, the Inyo; No. 26 and a Mogul 2-6-0 switch engine.

    The freight cars and passenger cars are suited to the era and are small and range in length from under 35' to 50' . There is an assortment of boxcars, gondolas, ore jimmies and tank cars from manufacturers such as Model Die Casting, Lambert and Ambroid. Some of the freight cars have been scratchbuilt.

    Scenery and Structures

    Building scenery and structures is a delightful part of the hobby for Edward. The scenery methods employed follow standard practices. All the buildings are made of wood. There is a large percentage of scratchbuilt structures and the balance are kits.

    A passenger train pulls into the station in the village of Ophir.
    Model Railroading - July 2005 - Page 39

    The scenery is styrofoam covered by spackling paste, painted and covered with ground foam. Midsummer is the timeframe for the foliage. The leafy trees in the lower elevation were made from sagebrush and Woodland Scenics materials. Other trees are commercial products selected because they match the background foliage. The backdrop was made of Masonite sheeting painted light blue, with clouds painted on, and the mountainous scenery in front of it is paper glued on cardboard to achieve a three dimensional effect.

    Wood structure building is a specialty for Edward, and he has more than 20 buildings on the layout (18 are scratchbuilt) that include industries, houses, saloons, stores, etc. Some of his structures have been entered into NMRA contests and have earned merit awards. His preferred method of building structures is to start with a painted mockup built to scale from cardboard using photocopied plans. The mockup is then put on the layout as a placeholder until he can fabricate the actual building from scale lumber. This procedure allows him to ensure that the structure fits its location and looks right. His main source of building plans is various model railroading magazines. It normally takes him three to six months to build a structure from mockup to the final product.

    To further lend credibility to the era, oldtime banjo signals by Keystone Locomotive Works and old-fashioned harp switchstands by Precision Scale are deployed trackside. The figures, over 100, are era specific and are distributed by Fun and Games Company out of Jefferson City, Missouri.


    In addition to running trains through nicely done scenery, Edward is an operator. The layout lends itself to operations due to the number of spurs on-line and the spur that serves off-line customers, destinations and interchange. There are several passenger stations on the layout for dedicated passenger trains and mixed trains (those carrying both passenger and freight cars). Trains of this era were typically short, four to eight cars, and this suits the layout fine due to its size.

    Edward is using a freight-car card forwarding system based on one developed and used by the legendary John Allen. Car card pockets are situated around the layout at the towns and spurs for placing the car cards once the freight car has been spotted or pulled. In addition to text, the waybills also feature colored dots to help identify where the freight cars need to go in the forwarding process. A colored dot represents each side of the layout blue for one side and green for the other. Edward usually operates solo, but the layout can support up to three operators. Moreover, one of the neat things about this layout is that it is clearly labeled and organized so that a person new to the layout can jump right in and operate after a quick orientation.

    The Mogul crosses the bridge as swans swim in the stream below, oblivious of the fisherman on the bridge abutment.
    Model Railroading - July 2005 - Page 40

    Points of Interest

    Edward has a highly detailed layout. Not only is it populated with people and animals, but it also features sounds in the background provided by a stereo system with cassette player and speakers. Sounds include bubbling water, train whistles, mooing cows, station announcer, saloon crowd noises and tipple release. Moreover, there are mini scenes such as a man using the outhouse, a fire in a used 50-gallon drum, a carpenter resting while building steps, and lady haggling with a meat salesman.


    This is Edwards fifth layout. It was started back in 1987 when he and his family lived in Jackson, Mississippi. He and his wife now reside in Lilburn, Georgia. Model railroading has definitely provided him with a lifetime of enjoyment that started when he was a youngster with the American Flyer layout he and his father built. His wife of 50 years has been very supportive of his interest and pursuit of the hobby. She bought him his first locomotive used on the layout, the Reno by Pacific Fast Mail. They have three adult children, two sons and one daughter. Edward hopes to pass his layout on to one of his sons so that his life's work in the hobby can continue to be enjoyed.

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