Wednesday, May 4, 2022

ProRail 2022

The title, as many will know, refers to a nationally invited operating weekend where something like 60 operators gather for three days of operation, typically one layout on each of three days. This happens to have been the 50th anniversary of the first such event, held by “RailGroup” in Chicago in 1972, and so this 50th anniversary was very appropriately held in Chicago. “ProRail” stands for “Prototype Railroad Operations.” For more on the history, you may visit the site: .

I enjoyed this event once again, and had the good fortune to operate on three fine layouts. The first one was Jerry Zeman’s Spokane Southern Railroad, an amalgam of Great Northern and Northern Pacific operations in 1952 in the Northwest. My assignment was Worley Yard, along with Travers Stavac, who was yardmaster. In the view below, Travers is in the distance in the dark shirt. Just behind him is Doug Harding, engineer of an arriving train.

This is a very large layout, not only occupying a large floor space but parts of it built on three levels, connected by a 12-turn helix. One feature of Jerry’s layout that I found ingenious and effective was his method of protecting the operating knobs for the Blue Point push-pull switch controls. He simply added a drawer pull outside of each one, neatly preventing inadvertent bumps.

The second layout I visited was Lou Steenwyk’s relatively new layout, modeling a free-lance railroad serving Minnesosta iron ore country in 1959. The foundation is the Ashland & Iron Range, though two other railroads are also modeled. The large yard at Ashland, Wisconsin is in two parts, and I handled one of them, while Henry Freeman handled the other. Below is a shot of the yard I worked. This is not one of the ore yards, but handles general freight and a number of local industries, some of which are visible along the backdrop. I liked the layout, which operated well and has comfortable aisles.

The last day, I operated on John Goodheart’s LECS (Lake Erie, Columbus and Southern), modeling the former Erie Lackawanna line from Columbus to Cincinnati, Ohio, and set in 1969. It’s a large layout, about 1100 square feet, and was enjoyable to operate, with a very long run to cover the entire layout on its two decks. The large yard on the layout is shown below, with Phil Monat at left, working the yard, and beyond him, John Bauer. At right is Paul De Luca, engineer on a passing train.

This was, as usual, a very pleasant and invigorating ProRail. I was pleased to be invited and greatly enjoyed operating on the three layouts to which I was assigned. I look forward to next year in Kansas City!

Tony Thompson

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