I have always loved trains and railroads, with my earliest memories being riding a passenger train from Louisville to Mobile on the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad (now part of CSX), pulled by a steam locomotive. My Dad worked for that railroad, and we got free passes to ride most of the trains, and that was my first glimpse of freedom and elegance.
As I grew up, my interest increased, and after my first Lionel train set, I was hooked for life. As a teenager, I switched to HO scale, and even worked for the railroad for a couple of summers doing route surveying as a civil engineering intern. A stint as a naval officer during the Vietnam conflict was followed by work for a construction firm, and I was then able to pursue my hobby again.
Later in my career I had the time and money to ride what remained of the narrow gauge lines in Colorado and New Mexico, and after I retired early I took up Sn3 as something that looked more challenging and interesting, and met some people who had similar interests, which brings me to this website and its purpose. All of this took me through my first fifty years.
I recently "completed" a narrow gauge representation of both the RGS and D&RGW narrow gauge (go to either http://rgsmodeler.com or http://drgwmodeler.com (both lead to the same website) to see the results of about ten years of effort in modeling those two roads. I loved creating that ever changing model railroad (in three physical incarnations) before my understanding and tolerant wife Liz and I decided to move recently from Oregon to New Mexico, just south of Santa Fe, where much of her family resides.
After those years of effort, I was not entirely sure I wanted to continue creating model railroads in this new place. However, we had more space than before, and with Liz's encouragement, we considered building a separate structure as a hobby room, office, studio, and/or "man-cave."
So then the question became "What shall I model?" I still had most of my rolling stock, structures, and details from my previous narrow gauge efforts, and to recreate the Rockies once more did not particularly challenge me. There was only the old yet still ATSF transcontinental line about 8 miles south, and the original Chili Line from Antonito to Santa Fe had been torn up, yet still visible in parts. Nothing seemed to motivate me.
I managed to explore the surrounding rural area a bit (I had visited downtown Santa Fe enough previously so I spent little time there), and found two small towns to the south named Madrid (with emphasis on the "mad") and Cerrillos ("hills") west of Lamy on the ATSF/BNSF line. I was astonished as it seemed as if I had stepped back in time a hundred years. Further research revealed that these two towns were rich in many minerals, including coal and turquoise among others, and at one point were served by ATSF spurs to the local mines. Now they are tourist towns, populated by many original remnants of the sixties counterculture, offspring of the early Spanish and indigenous people, and they were rich in history and begged for modeling. The town structures were a mix of adobe, pueblo, wood framed, and other assorted buildings and structures, in various states of decay and rebuilding.
This area had been the setting for a number of famous and some lesser-known western movies, including John Wayne westerns. Part of a more recent civil war era movie (News of the World) was filmed about a mile away. A number of websites and books were available and were found by Googling their names. What a treasure trove of early American western culture was there, going back to prehistoric times!
This area and Highway 14 which runs north/south through most of it is known as the Turquoise Trail, and can be further explored in detail by going to
So I devised a fictional model railroad similar to the Chili Line (which once ran from Antonito in Colorado south to Santa Fe), whose original purpose was to provide rail transportation into and out of those two areas. I envisioned my railroad as representing a line about 30 or so miles long, roughly parallel to Highway 14 (the Turquoise Trail), with scenery that was relatively easy to duplicate, and would (thankfully) not require the recreation of the high Rockies on my next model railroad.
I plan on updating this website frequently, and will attempt to remember to change the date below to make it easier for the viewer to follow the progress.
To the left is a map supplied by Phil Escue whom I recently met at a gathering of a local Santa Fe group of railroad enthusiasts. Phil is, among other things, a professional historian, and obtained this map from the Library of Congress. This is a part of what he supplied me, and shows an early plan to route the railroad along the route that I had planned for my fictional model railroad, giving the scheme some validity, even if it was never carried out.
Phil also suggested I rename the model railroad "The Turquoise Line" in lieu of my earlier selection of "The Cerrillos Line." It turned out to be a perfect selection, and I am indebted to Phil for this information.
The photos below were taken from the general vicinity of my studio, along the approximateroute of the fictional Turquoise Line. The Ortiz Mountains in the background are to the south, and the second photo was taken looking down into a nearby arroyo. Modeling this will be challenging, and most will need to be on my future painted backdrop. It is beautiful country.
Typical Geology of the Area --- And potential backdrop material
As part of my move to an area with which I was unfamiliar (other than visiting as a tourist) I decided that I should have a nickname, or handle, or other means of identifying myself to better fit in with the local population, be memorable, be accurate, and better identify myself as a lover of railroads. I chose "El Loco" (you could look it up) as my new and informal name. Henceforth, I will simply be "El Loco!"
Los Cerrillos Historic Structures - Partial List
Inspiration for some of my models
And for a little local color along the route of this fictional railroad, go to the link below for a short story entitled "The Tombstones."