Christopher Brimley updated September 19, 2011


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  • Modeling the Moose River Division

    by Art Fahie

    Photos by the author

    Handpainted Masonite backdrops help to add a feeling of depth around the entire railroad room. Joe may live on Long Island, but his modeling heart is clearly elsewhere.
    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 38 Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 39

    "You're never too young or too old," or words similar to that effect were featured in an old movie musical some years back. I would guess that if our hobby were to have an "official" tune, it would have to c enter around those identical sentiments. From the kid with his first train set, to the seasoned veteran...model railroading is the kind of pursuit that can seemingly still the hands of time.

    While there are many modelers that keep a highly visible profile, there are many more that quietly go about pursuing their creative efforts in far less obvious ways. Joe Schenkel of Long Island, New York, is one of that latter group.

    Finding modeling efforts with the combined craftsmanship and completeness of Joe's can be a daunting task. Do they exist? Indeed they do, and sometimes the best way to search out these fine modelers is to ask at your local hobby shop. It was Harry Farides of Harry's Depot in Patchogue, NY, that clued me onto Joe's existence. Joe has been a well-kept secret, and despite achieving several awards, notably for structure building, Joe is the kind of guy that quietly retreats back to his basement after a contest...hardly leaving a footprint in the sand, and maintaining his quite anonymity (until now!).

    Joe's attention to detail and an eye for composition made scenes like these easy to photograph. The camera sees this railroad realistically from any photos had to be staged for publication!
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    The Moose River Division is a purely fictional concept. Joe wanted to go in the direction of a logging railroad, but decided to use standard gauge track and equipment. His love of the Pennsylvania Railroad would set the stage for his hilly terrain, and help to take him in a freelanced direction. Joe is the first to admit that despite the 13' x 16' size of the layout, he IS a one-man operation. More of a railfan than an operator, Joe's greatest love for the hobby comes in the construction of the many fine structures that reside on the layout. While the concept may be freelance, his major towns of Coatesville, Old Forge and Slippery Rock were all taken from a map of Pennsylvania.

    The operational concept of the railroad is simple...what would appear to be a two-track mainline in actually operated as a mainline (the outer mainline track), and the Moose River logging division (the inside loop of track). Each loop is operated by its own MRC power pack; the layout still uses the traditional methods of block-control. Joe is pleased to add that, One of the power packs has a built-in sound generator, especially important since at this point Joe is looking forward to adding interior lighting to his structures and is getting to the "finer" points of his modeling efforts!

    Joe uses an average radius of 30", depending on contacts mounted in his turnouts to automatically trigger route changes on his NJ International signaling units.

    Joe's favorite structures? Fine Scale Miniatures, of course! Although other manufacturers products can be found on the layout, its Joe's love of George Sellios Franklin & South Manchester that has had a major influence in his modeling style. The last time I spoke with George I mentioned Joe's name to him...his response? "Isn't he one of the guys that actually builds my kits?" George has the crazy idea that there are some collectors out there!

    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 42 Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 43

    Another of Joe's influences lies in the work of Bill Henderson, who's Coal Belt Lines has been featured in an Alan Keller "Great Model Railroads" videotape as well in articles in Model Railroading.

    Joe started construction in 1985, using Shinohara code 100 track and turnouts; Homasote was to replace cork as the roadbed of choice. While Joes approach to scenery is traditional, he is adamant is his approach to constructing trees. Ground foam is fine, but only on natural armatures...weeds, twigs, whatever...but keep it as it is in nature.

    Joe is an also avid builder of scale cars, tanks and ships. An entire room is surrounded by showcases full of the stuff, yet ironically he has no intent of introducing a waterfront to the layout. Joe sees no finer scale vehicles than those made by Jordan and uses them almost exclusively throughout the entire layout. Future development will lie more in the direction of rolling hills and farm scenes.

    The recent addition of the Bachmann Spectrum line of steam motive power has made this new generation of models his favorites, despite many of the original brass models that the railroad had started with. Joe prefers Preiser figures but keeps a cigar box full of cast-metal military figures that were manufactured under the name H&R; Joe sees them as the most finely detailed figures ever produced.

    As for future plans? Work on the newer farm scene, build some new FSM structures (Joe has several dioramas residing under the layout; he just loves building the things), and keep an eye open toward the possibility of real rush though. When asked if there were anything special hed like to share with us about his modeling efforts, his reply was, "Theres really nothing special to talk about."...I beg to differ!

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