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  • [an error occurred while processing this directive]
    Rogier Donker's Elliana & Heritage Railroad

    Author: Rogier Donker

    Editor's Note:

    By way of background it should be stated that the author of the following epistle is a professional artist potter and cabinetmaker, who has a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University and is generally very well known as a rather flamboyant, but very nice fellow who makes his living by the sweat of his brow, flipping and waving his magic hands playing in the mud and "entertaining young and old with his mad antics on the potter's wheel". "He's a mean cabinetmaker too", it was said. Pushing 60, Rogier has been married to his beloved Ellen for thirty years. After very succesful artistic careers in Indianapolis (he as a potter, she as a jewelry designer and goldsmith) they left the city scene when their son Elias was born and moved to the country, to devote most of their time to raise the future National Merit Scholar. Model railroading is something that Rogier sort of fell into, and it proved to be a hobby where he could apply all his talents, and then some, and have a lot of fun at the same time.

    Rogier Donker's Elliana & Heritage Railroad

    The Elliana and Heritage Railroad

    The adventures of a semi-serious model rail roader

    .......And ye shall be like children.....

    "....So, what does "AT&SF" stand for?...." " Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe ", said the man in the hobby shop with a patient smile.

    Thus began the involvement in this hobby we call model railroading. Our four year old son had just received a basic Bachman oval of steel track, a very small controller and a Santa Fe F 7 (or was it an F 5?) plus some silly cars. It didn't take long or the steel track was rusty and corroded, the connectors worn out and the bottom of the locomotive resemled Sadie, our Golden Retriever, filled as it was with dog hairs and general "floor crud". So off to the hobbyshop father and son went to get an education. Hobbyshop owners have to be a special breed of human beings! What with having to put up with all the "silly" questions the novice throws at them! Joe, the friendly proprietor of the "Hobby Barn", gently explained the difference in "toy" sets and "good" sets, steel track versus brass track, this controller versus that controller.Oh my! More choices than Carter had pills.And then along came the building kits!Look at that one, and that one, oh my, gotta have it all! :-) Armed with the Walther's "Wish Book" we went home to dream of that large lay out in the sky.

    The first lay out consisted of a 4x8 sheet of plywood that had more hills and hollers (yeah! Sculptamold!) and more track than one could shake a stick at. Oh how that cleaned up F 7 raced through it all.Just like the Indy 500! There was an inside oval, an outside oval, crossovers, X marks the spot in the middle! A more powerful toy controller, TWO trains, whoa, did you see that! :-) Are we having fun yet? Head on father and son dove into this new activity, but, as is often the case, the son (now five years old)lost interest (trains were replaced by turtles, snakes and lizzards) and Dad......? Well.....:-), he was bit by the railroad bug and decided to approach this hobby with a slightly more serious approach. By now Model Railroader Magazine had become a staple in the household, the wishbook and Joe are providing all kinds of inspiration and, being self employed, free and over twenty one, it is decided to construct a whole new lay out.

    By now we have learned that steel track is for the birds, brass track is "alright", but one really should go with this new stuff: nickle silver flextrack, on this newfangled cork road bed. "Toy" engines are out (except for salvaging the shells) and Athearn loco's are taking over.An article in MR tells how to upgrade the engines to make them perform better and pretty soon a "Service and Testing Facility" is created to service all the rolling stock that seems to come out of the woodwork. We attend train and hobby shows and learn more about this hobby everytime we leave one with yet another armload of "stuff". This is fun! Expensive, but fun! :-) The second lay out consists of TWO sheets of 4x8 plywood that are suspended from the ceiling of the pottery studio by means of steel cables and an old boat trailer winch. Elias once again displays an interest in "Dad's " trains and is delighted when Dad offers the operation to Elias and his classmates on Saturday mornings. Living in a economically deprived rural area(as we do) is not exactly condusive to the proper development of young children. What with both parents working, broken homes and less and less parental guidance, the "RailRoad" quickly became a place where the youngsters could come and spend some quality time with a "grown-up" As time goes by, the lay out is growing ever larger and the two sheets of plywood, when lowered, are now connected to the "Service and Testing Facility" by means of simple "connector ways", eight foot long bare 2x4's, held in place by simple "eye&pin" connectors of home made design, with track spiked to them. Electrically the lay out is divided into blocks, has three MRC controllers and five trains can be run at the same time. There's no particular theme to the railroad, just having fun running trains and building the lay out. A curved wooden trestle takes up 62 hours of time, a compressed version of an "ABBA" unit another six and on it goes.......

    More and more people are becoming aware of the RailRoad and it doesn't take long or boxes and boxes of HO "stuff" are donated to the cause.Overnight, it seemed, the railroad became twice it's size......

    As we become more educated and experienced in this hobby, it is becoming very evident that the railroad is taking over the pottery studio.Especially so when one Friday night one of the steel cables broke and the whole shebang came tumbling down! There it was : down in the middle of the studio and five hundred coffee mugs had to be made..........Somehow we were able to fill the order of the 500 coffeemugs, but the railroad was in-operable, covered as it was with wareboards with drying mugs everywhere.......That's when the love of my life came in and graciously offered up half of "her" garage. (We own several buildings that we refer to as "her's", "his's" and "our's" ) So, the railroad was dismantled and rebuild in it's own space, in it's own building, with it's own heat and AC.Talk about being blessed :-) ! The new environment is definately more condusive to even more serious railroading as we now have the room we always dreamt of! Think of it!: 12x 20 feet, all to be filled with toys! There's so much "stuff" that we must come up with a name for the heretofore unnamed RailRoad. Aha! "Elliana", for my beloved Ellen and the state of Indiana and "Heritage", since we've "inherited" so much from those who left the hobby.Thus the "Elliana&Heritage" was named!

    Slightly set back by the Wabash River Flood of '91, the new trainroom is transformed into a well running railroad, better engines and cars are "discovered", track is laid much more carefully than on the previous lay outs and we actually spend some time thinking about what it is that we are doing! Saturday mornings the kids still have a ball, but Friday evenings are reserved for just "grown-ups".One to ten area adults, who also have an interest in the hobby, but lack the space or the time to have their own lay out. Some of them are "rivetcounters", some of them are "armchair" modellers, some talk a lot, some don't, but all of'em share the childhood dream of having a well running model railroad. So, they bring their trains, thoughts and dreams and the Elliana&Heritage grows and grows. "Wouldn't it be nice to have a roundhouse", says Jim.......Wham! One roundhouse! "How about a tunnel over there", says Pat......Wham! One tunnel! And so it goes....:-) Membership in the NMRA proved to be very informative, but after a few years, we became dis-illusioned with the "I-am-better-than -you-are-attitude" of that organization and let the membership expire. Ah, for being a lone wolf!

    We attend shows, meet interesting people and we befriend Gary, "the Brass Baron", who makes his living travelling from train show to train show peddling his wares. Gary's van is "home" to a fortune in brass engines, both new and used and mouths water at the sight of these meticulously crafted engines. Oh, oh, :-(, me thinks the "brassbug" bites again! After a nearby trainshow, the Brass Baron comes to visit and to recuperate from his travels, we invite him to stay in the guest house for a few days. That Friday night the van is backed up to the trainroom and we run brass model after brass model.This is FUN!! "How much did you say that Shay is worth?" Hello! Sit down! ;-)

    Having connections to a fully equipped woodworking shop allowed the Elliana &Heritage Railroad to acquire some display cases for the ever growing collection of rolling stock. (Looks nice on the wall too!) " So,", the Brass Baron says,"...what do you get for one of those display cabinets?" "So, what do you get for one of those brass engines?" .......... ;-) and so it goes....the art of the deal......:-)

    Such a magnificent brass engine ( the first : a 1978 PFM 2 Truck Shay) requires of course it's very own testing facility.Thus a 48" fully banked circular track containing its own controller was built : "The E&H RR Brass Testing Facilty"......Hey! It fits around the Christmas tree too! Double duty! ;-)

    It wasn't long or the E&H became somewhat of a regional happening and the local TV station decided to do a story on it. Just before Christmas 1991 the story of the Elliana&Heritage Railroad hit the airwaves on the local station and, because it "is the season" the story goes out on the "national wire" and is picked up by CBS affiliates all over the country, then by CNN and PBS........more notoriety and more "boxes of HO stuff" arrive at our address......

    "Friday nights" are still "Friday nights", and the E&H is expanding ever more : there's trackwork above, trackwork below, controls here, controls there. The roundhouse is fully operational, the staging yard works and the main line runs along the outside wall all around. Plans fo a second yard quickly materialise and we can now handle four operators at the same time and run trains "all over the place" There's an operating windmill, bells and whistles at the crossings, a helix and a "sky bridge" connecting one of the electrified tracks in the display cases.

    Up to now the E&H just had a collection of "non descript rolling stock". Over four hundred cars, seventy five some locomotives, some running really good, some not so good.Some made up into imaginary trains simply because they "looked good", some made up in semi-good looking passenger trains. There's the "Daylight", the Dixie",the "Crescent Limited", etc,etc. "Barfman", "Lima", "Rivarossi", "Athearn", "LifeLike", "Modelpower", "Mehano" and MDC are but some of the brands that fill the thirty six some feet of seven shelf display cases along the walls of the trainroom. The next eight years find us enjoying this hobby evermore, we're scratch building this, modifying that and generally having a ball with a hobby that suddenly is not that expensive anymore! Seems like all we are doing is re-locating and shuffling parts! One of the nicest things about all of this is that the trainroom is an entity all by itself and we can walk away or enter it at our leisure, in that department too, we are blessed indeed!

    And then, as the saga continues: along came the Internet, or rather, I came along to it! "Discovered" this one website operated by this nice guy in England, where just about anybody could ask and answer just about anything having to do with model railroads........Hey! This is fun!!! So I joined the crowd from all over the world, more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Relatively new to computers, we quickly became adept at surfing the net, looking especially for model railroad "stuff". One night we stumbled onto this Slovenian Website and I fell in love with the "Thalys". The Thalys is a beautiful, four feet long, high speed passenger train the prototype of which runs between Paris and my former hometown Amsterdam.The site was Mehano's and they were just starting their website. Unfortunately the english used on the site was "of the most atrocious kind" I offered the webmaster some help in "translating" the contents of the site into "proper" english. Fun!

    Through the local hobby shop the E&H acquired Mehano's new "Thalys", the Premier Set .Via the Internet and thanks to my "translating" efforts, intermediate cars for the Thalys were procured from Mehano. With the addition of the intermediate coaches, the Thalys is eight feet long and now requires some definate "running space"........That kind of space the trainroom did not have................:-(

    So we dream of a larger trainroom........

    "Hey, Ellen.....:-), you know that extra room in your garage, behind the trainroom?????"....

    Ah, what love can do!!!

    So, in September 1999 the backwall of the train room was demolished, along with most of the railroad and remodelling and rebuilding of the new and improved E&H commenced in a space that is now 12x28 feet. Although operational, the E&H is still not completely done to the level of where it was prior to September 1999, but we're making progress! Little by little .......All because of that "Thalys" ........and then the "Eurostar" and then........, and then..... will it ever end?

    Gosh, I hope not! I'm still a kid! :-) Are we having fun yet?


    Rogier Donker sent some photos and track plans of his layout. Unfortunately the plans did not scan well, so the photographs will have to tell their own story.
    Rogier demolished his "old" layout in early 2000 and is building a new one.

    So, here is a brief photo visit to Rogier's layout, "The Elliana & Heritage Railroad" before the big chop...

    click on image to view a larger version The Western Maryland BL2 on the lower level above the town of Elliana.

    click on image to view a larger version View from the yard to the roundhouse. Track on the right goes underneath the layout all the way back to the helix to emerge in Elliana on the upper deck.

    click on image to view a larger version Union Pacific passenger on the upper track on its way to Elliana.

    click on image to view a larger version Scratchbuilt roundhouse - fully operational.

    click on image to view a larger version Some of the rollingstock. This wall is now history and the display cabinets are hanging 10' further away.

    click on image to view a larger version The "Holland" corner. This is basically going to move 10' further south. The windmill and the bridge will stay put. These are part of the very first layout.

    click on image to view a larger version The MDC/Roundhouse Shay - the first Kit I ever built. What an experience!

    And Rogier's "The Elliana & Heritage Railroad" after the big chop...

    click on image to view a larger version LIMA MAT '46

    click on image to view a larger version LIMA MAT '46 and a model of Rogier's 1974 VW Beetle. The real Beetle is now fully restored and running like a sewing machine!

    click on image to view a larger version Getting operational again in May 2000. That's a mirror running the full width of the train room (12') under the cabinets.

    click on image to view a larger version Just relocating parts!

    click on image to view a larger version What a mess!

    click on image to view a larger version But you get the idea! "X" in the bottom right hand corner shows where the duck-under used to be.

    [ last updated 31st Dec 2003 ]