History

In 1986, Kyle's Grandmother, Mary Lindsay returned from a cross-country trip by train and was greeted by her children and grandchild.  During that greeting Kyle (at the age of 3) asked his grandmother to take him with her to California on the train.  She promised him that if he continued to do well in school by the time he was ten years old, she would do so.  Seven and a half years later, in February of 1994, Kyle embarked on his first cross-country trip aboard Amtrak via the Broadway Limited, California Zephyr/Desert Wind, San Diegan, and Southwest Chief.  Kyle came away impressed.  Mary would repeat the favor four years later via the Lake Shore Limited and Southwest Chief. 

The railroad's physical beginning however is rooted in the first cross-country trip as Kyle's Game Boy was misplaced during the hustle and bustle in Chicago, IL.  According to Mary, because Kyle's handling of the situation was very mature, she purchased two Amtrak models from a hobby shop inside Denver, CO's Union Station.  These were not the first HO trains Mary had purchased for Kyle.  When Kyle was 3, she purchased an HO F-unit which was tragically destroyed when it was left on the floor and stepped on by his mother. 

Early Development

Although the MLRR had HO trains, unbeknownst to Kyle, these trains were in HO scale and belonged to an expandable system.  Kyle dreamed of there being such a thing for these trains but did not expect this.  No one in his family or circle of friends dealt with this type of hobby before and so Kyle was pretty much on his own.

As part of a school project and demonstration, Kyle purchased a Life-Like HO train set.  When the project was complete, Kyle sought to continue to use it for recreation.  Due to the tight space, setting up the figure 8 was a huge challenge.  A year later it occurred to Kyle to try putting the Amtrak models that his Grandmother purchased for him a year earlier on the track and to his surprise, the locomotive responded.  The locomotive was a Bachmann E60CP.  Although the operation was jerky, it opened up the hobby to Kyle in a whole new way.  Kyle had a system that he could expand and since HO being the biggest market and most convenient, Kyle was already set to pursue modeling Amtrak trains and any other trains he admired in that scale.

In 1995, the railroad attempted to set up a short-line end-to-end railroad from his bedroom to the living room.  It worked briefly but the equipment that was used to power the trains and the condition of the track made it a rough ride for passengers.  Kyle had to use track from the Life-Like set which mainly consisted of curved sections of 18" radius track.  To get the desired distance covered, the track constantly winded the whole route.  The railroad even set up a small station in which it attempted to simulate the underground operations of Penn and Grand Central Stations in New York City.  The end-to-end configuration was short-lived for many reasons.  Among them was the lack of practical ability to constantly follow the train's progress and the fact that it infringed on the rest of the household for which Kyle was not the owner.

The railroad decided to set up a single track oval configuration with the existing track.  This proved to be the most successful at the time.  As Kyle began referencing the reference book included with the train set, he began to try and follow some layout plan suggestions that were drawn in the book.  Kyle realized that he needed as much straight track as possible in addition to switches for yards and sidings.  

The period between 1995 and 1997 saw the most drastic changes for the railroad.  It went from establishing a yard in the center oval which it found to be impractical given the foot traffic required in the room.  It eventually moved the yard to the outside of the oval.  This became known as the Chicago siding as most operations that the railroad was trying to represent was reminiscent of the Broadway Limited and California Zephyr.  It later adopted the Chicago/Washington yard designation when the railroad's interest in the Capitol Limited grew.


Layout Development

After Kyle's second cross-country trip, the railroad was determined to have some sort of permanent footing.  It was also determined to have not just one but two major sidings.  The second siding/yard would represent Penn Station giving trains a Northern/Eastern terminus.  The railroad was able to accomplish this relatively quickly and operations became more frequent with the Southwest Chief and Lake Shore Limited being modeled frequently. 

 MLRRphotofile3
Track plan of the MLRR as it existed in its early days.  The MAXIMUM mainline radius was
roughly 19".  On the left is what is now known as the Penn/GCT/BOS yard and on the right is
the Chicago/Washington yard.  The current layout is built on this very concept.

 

 

The Mary Lindsay Railroad's physical resources however (i.e. space for a "standard layout") were still limited.  Due to these restraints the MLRR's primary focus remained on operating passenger trains as prototypical as possible (within the Railroad's defined financial, spatial and technological limits), keeping current with prototypical equipment (i.e. paint schemes).  This eventually lead the railroad to operating trains according to their prototypical counterparts' schedule and running them in real time.  In some cases, fictitious time tables were made to accommodate Kyle's schedule.

MLRRphotofile
In it's earlier years, the MLRR tracks were directly on carpet.  This photo shows 
the MLRR shortly after it was re-constructed following the renovation of the room 
in which it was located.  This shows the original Chicago/Washington yard in its 
earlier days with only four tracks for trains and a couple for locomotives.  
In the foreground is the California Zephyr made up of Con-cor Superliner cars 
which were painted in phase III by the MLRR.  To the right, below the wooden 
stool structure are recently delivered P42s from Athearn.  (Photo taken in June 1999).

Despite the increased activity, the Railroad's/Layout's original location was still Kyle's bedroom floor. The facility that it existed in was not equipped for today's standard model railroad layout as space must be shared with the railroad right-of-way and routine foot traffic.  Although the area is small and limited in "usable space" the MLRR still functioned as a result of its carefully laid out track plan that was inserted into the room so that there was maximum operation, but not too much disturbance of "normal room activity". 

Southbound Amtrak train number 95 en-route to Newport
News, VA.  The train is currently traveling through
Alexandria, VA and passes under a stool that was originally
built back in 1993 as a Cub Scout project.  The MLRR
productive use for the structure as it supported a floor lamp
Allowing for increased track capacity on the floor of the
bedroom in which the railroad was situated. One can also
observe the 1/8" thick foam core sub-roadbed that was
built in sections for faster set-up and break-down times.

Between 2002 and 2005, tensions began to rise between the MLRR and the existing property owners.  During that time operations and the MLRR's existence were constantly threatened.  Lack of understanding of the hobby was mostly attributed to the tensions.  Although tensions would ease, the MLRR hoped that it would one day be in a position where it could grow on its own terms without the fear of outside interference. 

By 2006, the railroad finally moved into a space where it was no longer subjected to threats or being viewed as a scapegoat for unrelated issues that have occurred over time.  As Kyle went on to Graduate school, the railroad went with him.  The added benefit was that the layout was completely re-built.  Although it maintained the same general concept as the old layout, it was much larger and included a greatly expanded Penn/GCT/BOS yard that grew from 2 service tracks and 6 storage tracks to 4 service tracks and 6 storage tracks (with the storage tracks having greater capacity). The rebuilt railroad was also built on a much more sturdy and dependable sub-roadbed.  Like its predecessor (in its last year and a half), the layout was built in sections for easy set-up and breakdown times.  The new sub-roadbed made it possible to set up and breakdown the layout even faster and thus made it possible for Kyle to still entertain guests without worrying about damage to the MLRR right-of-way.  Despite being considered a humble or unimpressive layout by many in the hobby, the MLRR is perhaps one of the most innovative model railroads because of the obstacles it has overcome, both physical and political during its earlier years. This is also taking into consideration the resources it had at its disposal.

By June 2008, the MLRR Right-of-Way was finally taken off of the floor and placed on bench work for the first time.  The layout had a dedicated room of its own for operations with many more enhancements than ever before.  The new layout; which has been built off of previous plans/concepts has now instituted a series of remote snap switches (especially in hard-to-reach areas).  The railroad also successfully engineered the new layout to handle two trains at a time, something that has never been made possible on the MLRR before.  This expansion also made simultaneous freight operations possible, given the extra space available.

The new layout's tenure at the new location was short-lived when poor building management forced the MLRR to re-locate to another facility.  Fortunately the new facility included a slightly larger room with the ability to completely close the door.  This also meant that the MLRR could maximize the space provided.  It also allowed the railroad to increase the layouts width by two feet.  The railroad saw a large amount of activity over the next two years.

In the Fall of 2010 a decision was made in the to completely re-construct the layout.  The decision came when the railroad noticed the deteriorating nature of its infrastructure.  The foamcore was becoming increasingly warped leading to derailments of trains on curves.  Cantilever sections of the layout began to sag and fail despite the Railroad's attempt to limit intermittent layout structural supports.  

         
Left: A view of the old layout supports referred to the MLRR as the "I-beam" leg concept
Center: The old layout slowly being dismantled section by section
Right: An example of the sagging cantilevered sections that became increasingly troublesome for the MLRR 

Work began on replacing all sections of the layout in December of 2010.  Operations on the layout were paused for four months while the MLRR worked dilligently to re-construct its facilities.  There were two parts to the re-construction.  The new surface sections were built off-site in the living room while the original layout was still in tact.  As work began on the benchwork, the railroad dismantled the original layout one section at a time.  Despite tracks found in the yards and terminals, structures and circuitry (primarily remote switches and toggles, all other aspects of the layout were scrapped and completely replaced.  The L-girders were also salvaged.

        
Left: The Penn/GCT/BOS terminal section is errected over the room's desk and television into its position
Center: The new, more conventional layout leg support system
Right: Layout sections being assembled off-site

As a result of this effort, a number of improvements would be made.  The mainline would receive completely new track, the layout supports would be completely replaced and the foam core would be upgraded from 1.5" thickness to 2" thickness (this would reduce warping).  The girders were retrofitted to have permanently-attached folding legs using 2X2's.  This would provide much more sturdy support with the capability of being able to be transported.  This was a more conventional design compared to the previous design attempt in which the MLRR tried to use an I-shaped style support using a 2X4.  The result was the layout careening to the left or the right on any given day.  The final touch was the addition of paneling around the layout.  This added a sense of legitimacy to the layout for the first time since it would now be better integrated into the room as a piece of furniture rather than scaffolding with foam on top supporting trains.  The railroad would also take advantage of this new feature by integrating its rail speedometer into the paneling which had previously sat separately as it's own unit.  The paneling also provided additional surface area in which to add more remote switches and toggles where it was needed.  

        
Left: The fold-lock assembly which makes transport of the layout (when necessary) much more manageable
Center: All completed layout sections are lifted into position for testing prior to the addition of scenery and paint
Right: The speedometer is built into the layout's fascia as opposed to operating as a stand-alone unit.  one can also see the remote snap switches taking advantage of the new fascia; a feature never before present on any other version of the MLRR

The Layout resumed operations on March 20, 2011 under the designation of MLRR 3.2.  The re-constructed layout was fully completed just in time for Mary Lindsay's first visit to the layout in May of 2011.  This would be the first time that the Railroad's namesake had seen the layout, since it had vacated from its place of origin.

  
Left: The main section of the layout.  The only section not in view is the Penn/GCT/BOS terminal
Right: The layout is disassembled for guests who prefer not to duck under the layout when leaving and exiting the room

Building an Equipment Roster

In 1997, Despite the increased activity on the MLRR, the railroad still had an equipment problem.  It lacked reliable pulling power.  Although it had one powered and one dummy F40 and an E60CP, both engines had a drive train with un-powered trucks and lacked pulling power.  For a Christmas gift, Kyle requested a large order of diesels from Longs Hobby Supply in California.  The order would have consisted of two to four Spectrum F40PH diesels.  Just before the phone call was placed, Kyle noticed a small print-out on the same page advertising the AMD-103 from Athearn.  Since the railroad had already decided it was going to keep up with the prototype railroads as much as possible, it was only prudent to go with the more modern locomotive.  After all, Kyle had recently fallen in love with AMD-103 on his second cross-country trip, especially since that was all that was on the point of all the trains between New York and Los Angeles (with the exception of train 48 which had FL9s on the point from Albany to New York).  The order was placed for two powered and two dummy locomotives for the P40 model.  The arrival of these locomotives showed the railroad that there was more reliable power available on the market and that it did not have to settle for quality it had dealt with for so long.  As Kyle became more internet savvy and received monthly copies of Model Railroader Magazine, the railraod was in a position to grow more effectively and in a direction it had control over.

MLRRphotofile2
The first photo taken on the MLRR captures a newly delivered AMD-103 pulling
the California Zephyr.  Trailing the unit is the MLRR's first passenger deisel, the
FP40. (Photo taken February 1998)

One of the biggest changes for the railroad came when Atlas announced a run of AEM7 locomotives in plastic for the first time.  It was the biggest news to ever hit the MLRR.  Up to that time, the railroad could not model the operations of trains in the Northeast Corridor despite being based within the Northeast Corridor.  The introduction of the AEM7 increased the frequency of operations on the railroad as Metroliners were operated as much as several times a day between New York and Washington.  The railroad was no longer at the mercy of Long Distance schedules.