Harold Werthwein

Starrucca Viaduct

Harold Werthwein
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Bridges were a visible sign of the Erie Railroad in its heyday and a notable feature of Harold Werthwein’s layout of the Delaware Division. Harold considered himself lucky to have the best bridge builder in the model railroad hobby build the bridges — Harry McGowan of College Park, Maryland. Harry was also one of the operators during the Friday night operating sessions.


The prototype for the Starrucca Viaduct was built in the 1840s for a single-track, six-foot gauge. It is still in use today, now a double track with very heavy double-stack trains riding over it.

Taking a closer look at how Harry McGowan built the Starrucca Viaduct model, the basic construction of the model is, the arches and sides are masonite, and the road bed is a sandwich of 1/2-inch Homasote and 1/4-inch plywood. The legs are also 1/4-inch plywood. The stones are all individual pieces of styrene from the springer course up. The arch is a one-piece segment.

The foundation for the legs is also 1/4-inch plywood. The stones in the legs were made from a mold, a sheet that was cut and laminated to the three sides of the leg. The stones were moved a little bit on each leg so you don’t see duplication of stonework.

The prototype of this engineering feat was built in one year. Harry McGowan says building the model took him five years to complete.


Allen Keller concluded his discussions with Harold Werthwein with some general questions. Harold’s model of the Delaware Division took him and his friends 14 years to complete. Looking back, Harold did not feel he would change anything major. He looked forward to having the Rail Lynx Infrared Command Control System installed. He thought it would reduce problems in the staging yard and allow him more time to run trains himself as opposed to staging them.

The two greatest things Harold got from this hobby were the friends he made and the satisfaction of getting the job done.

Watch more from Allen Keller.

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