One of the regular features we wish to provide here at Brick Model Railroader are articles to inspire builders. We’re not just LEGO® Train fans here at BMR, we’re fans of trains and railroading in all their forms. From scale model trains to full size, and from collecting books and RR paraphernalia to visiting museums and tourist railroads, we have a wide range of experience and knowledge in trains and railroading which we hope to use to help builders find that next project, and to increase the enjoyment of the LEGO train hobby.
This being the first of such articles, I wanted to highlight something that has been a regular source of building inspiration for me, and show how it has shaped what I build. Here is part 1 of my article on Finding Inspiration in Strasburg Pennsylvania.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
One of the great rail fan joys of living in South Central Pennsylvania is that you are not far from one of the best railroad museums in North America: The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. And when you’re a LEGO train builder looking for inspiration on what to build, why not go to where the real trains are? Especially when that museum has more than 100 historic locomotives and railroad cars that chronicle railroad history in the state of Pennsylvania. The museum is located in Strasburg, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and is a hot bed of railroad history, and home to numerous railroad and train themed attractions. Which we will cover more of in part 2.
Normally I would not write about my own, older models here on BMR unless it was to highlight something i felt was worth noting. So bear with me here, but since many of my MOCs are modeled on equipment at the museum, I thought they would provide a nice tour of the great exhibits there, and an example of how real world inspiration can shape your model.
Pennsylvania RR K4s 4-6-2 Steam Locomotive
Pennsylvania RR 3750 is one of the featured locomotives at the RR Museum of PA. The K4 class was the work horse of the Pennsylvania RR’s steam passenger fleet in the first half of the 20th century. PRR #3750, famous for pulling President Warren Harding’s funeral train, is one of two surviving K4 locomotives. The other PRR #1361, which is currently under restoration at the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
PRR 3750 was my first AFOL steam locomotive model and has always remained a favorite. The K4 is a Pennsylvania RR icon and the most modeled PRR locomotive in any model railroad scale. I revisited the model in 2012, producing the version seen here. I also built sister 1361 at the time. A favorite of my fleet, and one of the most recognized of my models at train shows, I will always have 3750 on display, though a newer version is in the plans for the future.
Pennsylvania RR E6s 4-4-2 Steam Locomotive
Pennsylvania RR 460, nicknamed the “Lindbergh Engine”, is a Pennsylvania Railroad E6s class steam locomotive and one of the stars at the RR Museum of PA. The engine became famous after racing an aircraft to New York City carrying newsreels of Charles Lindbergh‘s return to the United States after his transatlantic flight in 1927.
PRR 460 has been my favorite subject to model from the museum. The story of the engine’s famous run, as well as the classic PRR lines and powerful beauty, have captivated me. Starting with my original version in 2007, through my 2009 rebuild and finally my current version seen here, I will probably continue to refine my LEGO version of what is one of my most favorite steam locomotives. Version 4 is already in the planing stage.
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR Caboose 508
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR caboose 508 is one of ten bay window cabooses built at P&LE’s own shops in 1950 to New York Central Plans. After its retirement in 1991 N0. 508 was donated to the Railroad Museum of PA.
P&LE 508 is by far my favorite caboose at the museum and one of my favorite caboose builds. The eye popping yellow and the bay windows caught my eye the moment I first looked at it. This model is the oldest caboose in my current fleet, but still holds up well against my more recent builds.
Maryland & Pennsylvania RR 81
The Ma & Pa, like many railroads, began to dieselize their line with the purchase of an EMD SW1 70 and 2 EMD NW2 Switchers 80 and 81. The switchers suited the Ma & Pa’s tight curves well and served for many years. In 1997, NW2 81 was donated to the The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
My favorite diesel at the RR Museum of PA, 81 was a given for me to model. One of my older builds, my version of 81 set the standard for diesel models from me, and has held up well over the years.
PRR X-54 class Boxcar 19103
The X-54 class box cars were built at the Pennsy’s Samual Rea Car Shops in Hollidaysburg, PA between 1959 and 1960. At only 40′ in length, the diminutive length X-54 class was the last boxcar of its size built by the PRR and they were some of the last PRR equipment to feature a shadowed keystone logo. By the mid-1980s the entire fleet of X-54’s had been retired and all Conrail box cars were at least fifty feet in length.
PRR 19103 was built in January, 1960 and spent it’s life hauling beer out of Philadelphia PA. It is now preserved at the RR Museum of Pennsylvania.
My model of this Pennsy box car is another favorite in my fleet. The museum’s restoration is amazing. Looking as shiny as it did the day it rolled out of the PRR car shops with the catching “Shadow Keystone” logo, this car begged to be modeled.
Reading Shops Switcher 1251
The Reading’s little B-4a class, 1251 was built in 1918 from a Class I-2a Consolidation utilizing the shortened boiler, frame, drivers (minus rear set), rods, cross-heads and cylinders and given the number 1251. This engine served many years as the shop switcher or “Roundhouse Goat,” and carried “Reading Locomotive Shops” on the tank sides.
She was well liked by crews and served for 45 years performing switching duties at the Reading shops. Upon her retirement from the Reading in 1963, 1251 was used for a short time pulling passenger excursions on the Maryland & Pennsylvania RR before being acquired by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1968. 1251 is now preserved and on display at The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
The oldest of my steam models still on regular display, my model of 1251 is still earning it’s keep. Most of the time it can be seen around PennLUG’s round house.
I could go on longer about all the inspiration I’ve taken over the years from the RR Museum of PA. From my Fruit Growers Reefer, to my PRR H10, the museum continues to be a great source of building material.
You can find a link to my photos from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania bellow.
I’ll be going over some of the other railroad attractions that have inspired me in part 2.