Dale Manquen’s Train Layout Tour – October 2012 Part 1


The following chronology of my trip is quite long because it spans 17 days and 5000 miles.

The goals of the trip were to help Lyle Dumont with his TMCC problems in Iowa and to visit several OGR Forum members along the way. A detailed review of the Dumont visit is in the R&D Projects file on my www.trainfacts.com site http://www.trainfacts.com/trainfacts/?p=486 .

The trip began on Saturday, October 6 with my trusty Chevy Malibu headed east to Denver via Las Vegas and Grand Junction. The first day was just driving (835 miles), arriving at Grand Junction in the evening for a night in a motel.

Next morning I headed through Glenwood Canyon, stopping to take a few pictures along the river. My goal was to get to Denver early enough to meet Chuck Sartor in the afternoon. When I arrived on the west side of Denver, I called Chuck and he offered to meet me at a nearby restaurant for coffee (actually, beer.) We rendezvoused and chatted for a while, sharing our train repair experiences.

I then headed for downtown Denver to hook up with the local train club (Rocky Mountain Division of the TCA) meeting on Sunday evening. When I arrived, I was greeted by Jerry Foss. The first order of business was for me to give Jerry a TPC that I had repaired for him, then on to the club meeting. I won a bulkhead car as a door prize, and I purchased a 2343 unpowered A that is in poor condition and missing the power pickup.  Susan Deats invited me to visit her layout on Monday. 

After the meeting I joined the group for more visiting at the local coffee shop. Jerry invited me over to his house to see his layout afterwards. Jerry’s layout is a work in progress, but he has an excellent setup for working on his trains and layout.

After visiting Jerry’s layout I headed south to Parker to my sister’s house. It was late when I got there, but it had been a very nice day.

On Monday my sister and I visited Susan’s layout.  What fun!  Thanks, Susan.  My (non-train) sister really enjoyed meeting you.  My sister and I both loved the Mel’s Diner on her layout, and we recalled out teenage memories at the local drive-in restaurant in Las Cruces, NM where we grew up.


Susan’s layout is a long, narrow layout with multiple levels along the walls. She has a huge helix of track so that she can run any train everywhere on the layout. She explained that this was HER layout, and her husband and his machine shop are her backup when she needs help.

We then went to Caboose Hobbies, to meet Xavier, the repair tech who sends me TMCC controllers for repair. I had been to Caboose Hobbies several times in the past, but just as an interested visitor. Xavier and I had talked several times, but it was nice to add a face to the voice. Xavier gave me some dead electronics cards and I bought (for a very nominal sum) a Kline trolley in need of repair.

After spending some time with my sister and her family, I departed the Denver area through Nebraska to Sigourney in the south central part of Iowa – about 800 miles. Sig’ ourney (not Sigour’ney like the actress) is a small town with two motels because it is near a popular recreation area, Lake Belva Deer .

After breakfast I headed out to Lyle Dumont’s place on the highway just south of town. The Dumont Museum is a multifaceted collection of tractors, O gauge trains, Roy Rogers memorabilia and more. First we had a quick tour of the four major areas of the museum. The entry lobby has a train layout that is about 25’ x 30’.


The next room is a 60’ x 100’ steel building that is all one big train layout except to a row of old buggies and a hearse wagon along one side wall. The third room is the tractor collection.


Lyle collects and displays (all in running condition) a vast collection of green Oliver tractors. They are all fully restored and look beautiful. He has very big tractors, medium size tractors, lawn tractors, kiddie tractors and toy tractors arrayed in a 60’ x 260’ building that is stuffed to the rafters. And you thought trains take up space??…. (The Dumonts also sell decals for folks restoring tractors.)

The fourth room is a variety of memorabilia. Lyle was a friend of Roy Rogers, and Lyle had a lot of Roy Rogers goodies. For example, he had pristine comic books, not only for Roy Rogers, but also Dale Evans, Trigger and even their dog Bullet! Lyle has sold some of the Roy Rogers items in the years since Dale passed away, but he still has a bunch left.

I will skip the technical discussion of our work on his layout here since it is covered at .

During my visit I told Lyle about my visit with my sister to Susan Deat’s layout. When I was leaving, Lyle pulled out a box containing a Mel’s Diner and gave it to me as a token of gratitude for my visit. I was thrilled! I love my Diner, and every visitor to my layout finds it to be the highlight of their visit. Thanks again Lyle!

Back on the road again, I headed for St. Louis, driving into rainy weather. I had been invited to visit the St. Louis Lionel Train Club, with Albert Werder as my host. (Albert passed away Jan. 3.) The Train Club has several rooms with different types of layouts in the various rooms. The facilities are excellent and the layouts are all very interesting. I was honored with a gift of a flat car with a Navy semi trailer – a fond remembrance of Albert.

We headed out to dinner, and were joined by a couple of club member for chow – Mary Ellen & John Blasé. After dinner we visited their train layout and ran a few trains.

The next day I visited the St. Louis Museum of Transportation. I was very impressed with the extent of the train and car collections. I gave the old GG-1 a loving pat. (I have a scale Weaver brass GG-1 that I have upgraded with TMCC – one of my favorite engines.)

I stopped by for a quick visit with a friend who is involved with audio and tape recorders, and then I headed across the river to meet David Gummersheimer. He was busy packing for his trip to TCA in York, PA. His camper trailer is a caboose replica that is scaled down to fit on a boat trailer chassis. What a kick! He has a flat screen TV, DVD player and surround sound! Needless to say, the trailer caused quite a stir at York. David didn’t get much of a chance to cruise the halls because everyone wanted to look at his trailer!

I drove out of the St. Louis area and found a motel for the night. Next morning I made a quick stop in Metropolis, IL to buy a refrigerator magnet, and then headed to Clarksville, TN.

My host in Clarksville was Leapin’ Larry Levin, a top-notch salesman at the local Honda dealer. Larry took a couple days off work to tour around the area, showing me train layouts. You just gotta love this guy!!

On the way to Larry’s house we stopped off to visit Jerry Hill’s layout. Jerry’s garage layout has nice scenery and a pleasant “feel”. Jerry also shared some of his other collections inside the house.



Larry’s basement layout is a very nice multilevel design with an embedded helix to make operating interesting. He also has a nice turntable with parking for several of his fine locomotives.

Leapin' Larry Levin's layout 034

Leapin' Larry Levin's layout 002

Now the intense part of the trip began! Larry had scheduled visits to several layouts in an area that ranged all the way to Madisonville KY, Evanston IN and Nashville TN. We had a “tour group” of several of the layout owners traveling around together to see each others layouts. We had a VERY good time!

All the layouts were different. We had layouts in the rafters of a garage, multiple rooms in the basement and everything in between. The thing that kept coming back to me is that there is no right or wrong when you are building YOUR layout. All of these layouts were completely different, but each represented the fantasy world of the layout’s creator. Some folks like to run trains, and their emphasis is on storage yards and track loops. Others are interested in fine detailing of scenery, buildings and trains. Sometimes the layout is shaped by the available space (and the other person who shares that space.) The variety was most refreshing.

It also made me realize that our magazines do the hobby a disservice by always featuring the exotic layouts. Most of us are not in that league, but that doesn’t make us wrong. Why not feature a layout that runs on the rafters in the garage or shoehorned into a tight spot? It may not have full scenery, but it can trigger ideas of how the folks who don’t have large train rooms can make a layout fit their constraints.

Now, climbing down off my soapbox….

We took a trip up north, stopping first at Madisonville KY to see a well established layout where Rick Hane and Wally Watts park and run a lot of postwar Lionel. I favor the postwar equipment myself, and I enjoyed seeing the variety. The main lines extend around the wall so that a train can be pulled out of the large yard and then run around the perimeter a few times before re-parking in the yard.



Next we headed to Evansville IN to see a couple of layouts. When you arrive at Jim Bengert’s house, the first thing you notice is a full-size grade crossing signal next to the entry to his layout. You enter into an area with a town and mine on either side, but then you proceed to the main area with a lot more going on. Jim has a nice variety of landscaping and scenery. clip_image022


Entry Area


I also enjoyed admiring Jim’s Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Thirty years ago I had my Honda 750…..

Next stop in Evansville was Larry Fieber’s garage overhead layout. (Well, we did squeeze in lunch at a great barbeque place into the schedule at lunch time.) This shows how there is always a way to make room for a layout. (Actually, I thought Larry should be running the trains upside down overhead….)



Next stop was Johnny Dawson’s house in the countryside near Owensboro KY. Johnny has a huge basement that he is filling with a new layout. He has most of the track laid so that he can run trains around, but there isn’t any scenery yet.


As a side note, I was dragging my oscilloscope along on the trip, measuring the TMCC/Legacy track signal on various layouts. When I checked Johnny’s Command Base, I found that the signal was clipped on the lower loop. We substituted another Base that had a proper symmetric signal. I had also found a bad Base at Lyle’s museum. It might not be that rare!

There we were, driving down the highway, crossing over some train tracks when all at once we saw this!!


There was a screeching of tires as we halted to take a closer look at the Fallen Flags paint job. The locomotive was just sitting there, waiting for us to arrive and take photos. What a thrill to see this in real life!! (Did I mention that I had a NYC F3 when I was a kid? And that I was born in Buffalo, NY?)

Our trip back to Clarksville brought us into a heavy rainstorm as we got back into Tennessee. It was a dark and windy night…..

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