Tour of the Mountain Landscape on the Stony Creek & Western

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While the legendary John Allen and his Gorre & Daphetid railroad are long gone, his incredible model railroad mountain scenery continue to inspire new generations of railroaders. Model Railroad Academy’s Allen Keller meets layout builder and award-winning structure builder, Gil Freitag, and tours his Stony Creek & Western Rwy (SC&W) which pays homage to Allen’s mountain-building lore.

Gil was a longtime John Allen admirer and has always been fascinated by Colorado mountain scenery, so when he began planning and building the SC&W in 1966 he did so with the intention of recreating the feeling of the rugged mountain running so prevalent on the long-gone Gorre & Dapehtid. With his obvious skills at mountain landscape modeling and weatherbeaten Western structures, the SC&W stands as one of the finest examples of its genre in the country.

The 28’ x 45’ HO layout, featuring all-hand laid track and scratchbuilt structures, is located on the second floor of his home, and has added to extensively as his children moved out and more room became available. And Gil shows that he’s not afraid to rip out perfectly good scenery and trackwork in order to extend a line or create a new scene.

The SC&W runs much as its prototype did, with Santa Fe and Denver, Rio Grande & Western equipment, and various shortlines and branchlines interchanging along the way.

In Part One, Allen follows a westbound freight of empty reefers returning from Kansas City on the start of the trip in Stony Creek, the oldest part of the layout, on its way to Salt Lake City. The freight is double-headed by Santa Fe F-units, and it alternately climbs and descends through the mountainous terrain of peaks and gullies, past dusty and dying towns clinging to life with a few profitable industries, over high trestle bridges, through numerous tunnels and beneath massive snow sheds.

The structures depict the waning days of western mining, with a few companies still scraping out the last few mineral deposits. Beautifully painted and realistically weathered, Gil has mastered the difficult art of making buildings and mountain landscape modeling blend together, as though both had existed for hundreds of years.