Origins

Where does the idea for a layout come from? For many modellers it is an unashamed trip back to their childhood and, on reflection, I guess there’s an element of this behind my building this layout: I have a clear recollection of the son of friends of my parents having an HO model of a Big Boy and being insanely jealous of this amazing beast.

But what rekindled this jealously and interest was visiting my daughter whilst she spent a year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie as part of her American Studies degree at the University of Birmingham, England.

Quite why she ended up in Laramie is interesting in itself – all american studies students in the UK spend one year at an American university and she decided she wanted to go somewhere she was otherwise unlikely to visit!

We visited her in February 2010 and one of the first things she said when we arrived was ‘you’ve got to come and stand on the footbridge and see the trains go by’. Now, given that she’s never shown any interest in railways before, this made us wonder quite how exciting a town she’d come to if this was the best entertainment available. Once we’d seen the mile long double stack container trains blasting through at speed, we knew what she was talking about.

Before this I’d never quite ‘got’ why some people in the UK find American railroads so fascinating. I now completely get it and I think the key step in this ‘awakening’ is seeing the real thing first hand and appreciating the shear scale of the railroads in the States.

As soon as we got back to her hall of residence room I googled ‘Laramie Union Pacific’ and up came Richard Leonard’s fantastic collection of Big Boy photos. He had visited Laramie in the summer of 1957 – one of the final peak times for Big Boy activity in Laramie (or indeed, anywhere!)

Laramie Engine Terminal, 1957

I had no idea that Laramie had been a hub for these great beasts but, now that I did, my childhood craving for a model of one was reawakened! The seed that has become Laramie Engine Terminal was set.

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