Christopher Brimley updated December 5, 2011


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  • A Ride on the North Shore Division

    by Art Fahie

    Photos by the author

    Two Athearn locos lay over at Hunterspoint. Both have been re-geared with Ernst components and painted with Polly-Scale paint. The road is made of spackle, applied over foam board.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 44 Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 45

    YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE INTO RAILROADS to have one affect your life, especially if you grew up on Long Island, NY, where most of the residents clock their schedules by the ones the railroad sets for them. Where commuting was a way of life, and every street seemed to have a grade crossing, it's no wonder that many Long Islanders took to being model railroaders. John Jaklitsch, of Queens Village, was bitten early-on by the bug, building a rail empire that captures Long Island's hilly north shore, and uses the classic look of the area to depict not one, but several eras of the world's largest commuting line.

    John started modeling the LIRR in 1981, using plywood and table parts dating back to his old Lionel train sets! His concept was to model the railroad in its prime, when the high ways and roads of the island had yet to be fully developed. The railroad was kept busy with freight trains, often with leased Pennsylvania locomotives, delivering goods for near by New York City, while carting produce from the heavily farmed areas of Long Island in the '50s. While John's North Shore Division is purely fictional, the genuine feel of his modeling derives from the fact that his two major destinations, Hunterspoint in Queens, and Oyster Bay in Nassau County, really do exist. Hunterspoint was (and still is) a major commuting station on the LIRR, but it is also the place where eastbound trains would pass through en route to the sleepy branchline that terminated in Oyster Bay. There, they could be shuttled and prepared for their westbound run to NYC the following day.

    The layout started as a 4'x 8', growing into its present 10'x15' L-shaped dimensions. Nestled into a comer, the railroad was built on casters, allowing it be rolled away from the walls for cleaning purposes. Construction is standard L-girder and 3/4" plywood bench work. Ceiling-mounted track lighting combines with a hand-painted background, constructed with coved corners, to give John's efforts the look of a professional diorama.

    Pennsy starts a northbound run through Oyster Bay Interlocking. the switches in this area are hand-laid. The model cabooses are made by Model Power.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 46 Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 47

    The background was painted onto 1/4" Masonite board, painted sky blue , with acrylic paint used to add the rolling hills of Long Island's rugged north shore. Walthers paper building backgrounds were lightly misted gray, to reduce their vibrant colors, then cut-out and applied directly to the sky board in the Hunterspoint area of the layout.

    While many of the structures are standard kits, John has used both plaster castings and DPM modular wall sections to create some unique scenes. The influence of both Earl Smallshaw and George Sellios are obvious, but in John's depiction of Hunterspoint he has managed to strike a balance between the detailed intensity of George Sellios, and the suburban cityscape so well depicted in Earl's modeling. A member of the NMRA's Sunrise Trail Division, John has captured awards for his scratchbuilt structures. Not one to pass up an opportunity, John was quick to model his own home and place it in the ideal location...along the mainline...of course!

    The last decade has seen a remarkable evolution in scenery ideas and techniques, and with a 17-year-old railroad John has tried most of them. From lichen, to ground foam, to Super Trees, the North Shore Division has them all . Updating and rejuvenating older areas of the line has kept John occupied while pursuing his latest endeavor...the painting of his motive power.

    The NSD trackage is mostly Atlas Flex, Code 100. Caboose Industries ground throws eliminate much of the wiring, and a hand held throttle connected to an MRC power pack lets John tether between his two main switching panels. Even this l7-year-old rail road has some innovations in it. Back before it was widely accepted, John was hiding his curves, visually revealing 30% or less of any radius, hiding the 22" minimum radius curves inside tunnels and under scenery, while exposing only long, sweeping track work to the viewer's eye. We all know that someplace in John's layout there is a sharp radius with a pretzel-like configuration, but clever planning has masked what can be an obvious flaw in many model railroads.

    This MDC Boxcab is the oldest diesel of the fleet. Only used for work-train assignments, it can really hold up traffic on the mainline!
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 48 Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 49

    John collects LIRR passenger equipment, but is more comfortable running the '50s-era rolling stock that fits so well on a layout of this size. John admits his love for rail fanning, and because friends enjoy breaking in new equipment on the NSD...he gets to see an occasional BN or ATSF loco roll down his tracks...a site that would leave many Long Islanders rubbing their eyes!

    Some one once said, "Being a New Yorker means never having to say your sorry!", but in John's case it simply means more work. As there is little available in his beloved LIRR paint scheme, John individually paints each one of his gray/orange diesels. All motive power sports Kadee® couplers, necessary marker lights, and a careful attention to weathering. Much of the steam fleet has been "rusted" by applying a "goop" produced by dissolving steel wool in vinegar onto various engine parts. A look at the photos will show that while John has put in a lot of effort into these extra details, the results were well worth it!

    What does the future hold for the NSD? Replacing structures ranks high on the list. Many of the earlier plastic kits are being replaced with fine scale laser-cut models. An array of motive power, from every era, is undergoing the change to LIRR colors...and John is getting involved with local clubs in an effort to share his modeling skills and expand the magic of the NSD beyond his basement walls.

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