Bernie Halloran's New York Kittatinny and Western
November 15, 2014

See the layout - Photos by Bob Reid


Often one of the fringe benefits of going to a Potomac Division home layout tour is the opportunity to travel through hitherto unseen vistas, even if they’re mostly local. The latest one, on November 15th, involved a trip through rural southern Maryland on a bright, crisp, fall day, as the leaves were nearing the end of their annual color show, to Bernie Halloran’s home in Owings, MD, and his beautifully done free-lanced model set in northern New Jersey and southern New York: The New York, Kittaninny, and Western.

The NYK&W represents what I like to call the “less is more” philosophy of modeling, putting less emphasis on the trains themselves and more on re-creating the features of local areas through which they run, not that the railroad doesn’t have ample opportunities for operation; as the single track main line weaves around a sizable room, there are multiple industries for dropping off and picking up cars as well as several interchanges with the real railroads that once served the area: The CNJ, the LH&HR, the Susquehanna, and the NYO&W; there’s even a branch via Warwick NY to the New Haven at Campbell Hall. The railroad operates on DCC using the NCE system. The motive power is all first generation diesels, mostly New York Central in “lightning stripe” decor, but in colors other than the original black or gray; including one painted dark red, an example of “poetic license” in model railroading.

Bernie’s takes a somewhat different approach to the building of a model railroad as well, in that he completely finishes each section as he moves along - the bench work, the track, the ballast, applicable structures, trees, ground cover, and finally the backdrop – all done before seriously running trains on it (other than, I expect, for test purposes); this is why the railroad is about two thirds completed, with areas where there are no tracks yet or even bench work, but the two thirds that are finished really looks great. At the end of one aisle there’s a sweeping curve with a bridge around a replica of the Newark Reservoir and a photo nearby of the prototype to confirm its authenticity. Further along on that section is a cement plant with cement-dust covered hoppers parked in it; actually, most of his freight cars are appropriately weathered. In another section there’s a quarry with rock dust covering the ground that’s realistic looking enough to get me thinking that I should be wearing a respirator. Then there’s a kosher meat packing company that features a rabbi having a quiet conversation with the owner of the packing plant while a large group of cows in the nearby pens are having their own much more audible conversation utilizing a bovine soundtrack device. There’s even a model of the museum that houses a collection of the famous fluorescing stones native to the area along with some 1:1 samples of them. The layout room is finished, with a tiled floor, a drop ceiling, and well-positioned lighting over the railroad for maximum illumination. The whole project has been five years in the making, a not unreasonable time frame when you take into consideration the size of the layout and the meticulous attention to detail that Bernie has put into it. 

It was a very gratifying experience to see what can be done by someone who has the time, the talent, and the patience to build such an exceptional model railroad, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it when he’s finally completed it.

Bob Rosenberg