Coal mining is the big industry in eastern Kentucky. Allen Keller asks modeler of the Southern Bob Lawson about the feeling he is trying to capture with his coal trains and coal mining towns. Since coal was the major product being hauled by the railroad, and Bob finds the coal mines interesting as they are tucked into hillsides and mountains, it was a must on the railroad. Because the model railroads are somewhat compressed from the prototype, he couldn’t model big cities otherwise they would take up too much of the railroad. Smaller towns that fit in with coal mines were the best option. Back then coal mines probably weren’t the best places to work, so he has tried to keep the grit and grime evident.
Allen Keller asks what attracts modelers to the Appalachians. Coal mines generated a lot of traffic for the railroads, and yet beyond the practicality of modeling them, the little mining towns tell a story and this is what Bob tries to recreate. Allen Keller wonders how important is historical accuracy to Bob.vWhile he is a real history buff and he enjoys it, he would not be too concerned if a sign on a building was out of date. He does however like the vehicles and buildings to fit the time period. When Bob creates something on the railroad, he is trying to recreate a time and history in a particular location that tells a story. Like many modelers, he got into the hobby at a very young age. His father was not in the hobby but was very supportive, even building some tables for him. When he got into high school he was taken under the wing of the Atlanta O-Scale Club, he learned a lot and modeled in O scale for close to 20 years. For planning and building tips or more Allen Keller videos, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.