My name is Steven Johnson and have been interested in model trains since receiving my first train set from my cousin Roger. My dad provided a means for me to have a layout that consumed one bay of a two car garage from the mid-80s to mid-90s. In the late 90s, I purchased my first house and created an urban switching layout. The layout was in a constant state of construction/disrepair and was only operated a handful of times.
I then took a 8 year hiatus from model railroading returning in 2009. I started construction on a rural switching layout based off my wife's hometown region. In 2009, I also returned to operating friend's layouts. I was truly inspired by what could be accomplished in a small 10x10' room on Larry Keller's N Scale Peconic Railroad. The enjoyment of operating numerous trains that actually traveled across the layout and not simply a train length away was very intriguing. This got the ol' wheels turning. Before long, I threw out feelers to my friends to determine the feasibility of converting to N scale. I was greeted with open arms by Larry and Marcus Neubacher. Being in HO all my life meant starting over again with a new learning curve. So many questions, but both Larry and Marcus were gracious and patient answering all and any concerns I had.
In February 2010, the decision was made. All HO assets were sold off and the purchasing frenzy began. Not only would I convert to N scale, but make an era change. I had always been one to model current day. As I have got older, I have found that I'm more interesting in the years passed. I researched possible prototypes and found the Rock Island: Illinois Division to be a good fit. It fulfilled my desire of grain trains, locale (near my wife's hometown), 1970s era, and seemingly good supply of motive power and rolling stock in N scale. This was a dramatic change for me, but a welcomed one. Looking back 1.5 years later, I have absolutely no regrets!
There were numerous emails sent back and forth hashing out plans for the new layout. Construction began Memorial Day 2010. By the end of the weekend 80% of the basic benchwork was complete. Amazing! Over the summer 2010, construction was at a fierce pace! By Labor Day weekend, talks of operating were being thrown around. A date was set in November just shy of six months since construction began. Crews continued their feverish pace finishing (to the point we could operate) the originally planned layout in time. The first op session consisted of senior operators Larry Keller, Marcus Neubacher, David Ward and myself. The session went well with only a few minor hiccups.
The layout existed for 3 years before it was shut down on May 31st, 2013. The layout is now undergoing a massive transformation into version 2.0 which will narrow the focus of the layout to a 14 1/2 mile section between Peru and Ottawa, IL. The layout will have a strong emphasis on the sand operations that occurred in this area.