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Valley Auto's Train Layout 2006
Other years > 1997   2003   2004   2005  

2006 was a year of big changes in our train layout. We didn't make the layout any bigger, but we polished up a lot of rough edges and added a lot of detail.

We added a loading dock to our industrial area, moved the "North Pole" to a different location, and redesigned the track slightly. For the first time, our Main Street area features streetlights, and we added several new Lionel O-scale freight cars.

Most of the pictures in this year's collection were taken in late December by Ali Dinstel, of Dinstel Photography in Colstrip, MT.

Click here to read the Billings Gazette article about this year's layout.

Ray Deering works on the raised platform that supports the village on one end of the layout. At left and right, our table is shown under construction. It takes us about two weeks of spare time to set the layout up.

Here's a picture of me at my favorite store, Caboose Hobbies in Denver. It's probably a good thing we don't live closer to Denver - the budget couldn't handle it!

Our big Santa Fe steamer rolls out of town. This truss bridge model is similar to the "old bridge" across the Yellowstone at Forsyth.

This picture reminds me of both of my grandfathers. The Boraxo car represents my grandfather, Glen Blakesley, who gave me my first train. He always had a can of Boraxo in the restroom of his business, Blakesley's Cigar Store.  The red pickup makes me think of my other grandfather, Bob McKeever, who drove an old Ford pickup similar to this one, although his truck was black.

This scene features some of the new details we added to the layout this year.


This downtown scene really shows the variety of buildings on our layout. At the far left, you can see the Lionel Ford dealership and the Lionel Esso station. Next to the gas station, the large EAT sign points out the diner, which is a scale model built by Scale University in Nebraska. (It looks a lot like the old Speedway in Forsyth, which also used to sit next to a gas station.) Next comes a group of Ray Deering's scratch-built buildings, including Blakesley's Cigar Store which was a Forsyth business fixture for nearly 80 years.

This collection of buildings is our newest village, the Department 56 "Christmas in the City" series.  These buildings are made of porcelain and are very detailed. We plan to add additional buildings to this village in the coming years.  The Department 56 buildings are a little larger than O scale but they are close enough to look right at home next to the O gauge trains.

The caboose visible on the right is a really sharp Santa Fe caboose from Lionel, preceded by a Santa Fe boxcar. We're adding to our collection of Santa Fe cars to go with the #3751 engine.


The Santa Fe "Chief" passenger train makes a night stop at the depot as the town sleeps in the background. If you look carefully, you can see some of the detail in the passenger cars. These Lionel cars feature complete interiors with people, tables and chairs, and even toilets!

We added the Santa Fe engine and cars to our layout last year, and this year we added the long-awaited streetlights to our downtown scene.

Two of our three gas stations.  The Esso on the left is a Lionel item. The Texaco station on the right was built by Ray Deering and is a scale model of the station that used to be next to the Roxy. We found the old-fashioned gas pumps at Diecast Direct, which is also where we get most of our model vehicles.

The NYC Hudson steamer creeps by the Roxy Theatre.

Hudson engines are among the most popular among model train enthusiasts, partly because they're a great-looking engine and also because they are quite rare in real life. Of the hundreds of Hudsons that once ran on the New York Central, none survive ... they all fell to the scrap iron pile. We have two Hudsons on our layout. The one shown here is the larger of the two.

The Roxy Theatre model was built mostly from balsa by Ray Deering. The building next door to the Roxy is "Georgie's Cafe," also built by Ray. Georgie's Cafe was an actual Forsyth business during the steam era, but it was actually located across the street to the east of the Roxy.

We have always featured an "industrial" area to the layout. In the early years, we tried to make it look more industrial by adding giant tanks (actually oil filters) and other items. In the late 1990s, Ray (below) built the red brick building and the Carquest sign, and this year we added the loading dock and warehouse building.

A fast freight speeds by the downtown area.

 The three cars here are all new this year. The Coors reefer is from a relatively new manufacturer called Atlas O. The other two cars are Lionels.

Our two "star" engines sit idle in the station.

These engines were both built in 2004 by Lionel. Many people express surprise each year when we tell them that Lionel is still in business. In fact, Lionel's 2005 sales were 40% higher than the year before, partly due to the movie "The Polar Express," and they continue to have strong sales today.

Most people never get to see the layout with the store lights turned off.  Here, the Santa Fe "Chief" passenger train rolls into town.

A worker loads barrels from the depot into a pickup as the Santa Fe Northern cruises by.

A scene like this demonstrates just how huge these steam engines were in real life. In O scale trains, one inch on the model equals 48 inches in real life. The drive wheels on this engine stood 84" high. The engine was about 55 feet long and weighed almost a million pounds. They traveled the rails at speeds up to 90 miles per hour! (Today's trains operate under a 65 mph speed limit.)

Last but not least, a picture of our North Pole Village.

2006 was the last year this village was featured on our layout. Our "Christmas in the City" collection has grown to the point where there hasn't been enough space for the North Pole village in recent years.