The Gibbon, Cozad and Western is an N scale model railroad under construction in Centralia, Illinois. Started in 2012, the GC&W was undertaken as a retirement project by a long-time model railroader to realize a lifelong dream to build and operate a large model railroad. The layout's depictions are vignettes of the pre-1982 Union Pacific mainline between Los Angeles and central Nebraska. Special emphasis is on portions originally constructed as the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, a with a section devoted to the rarely-modeled Meadow Valley Wash in southern Nevada.


The namesake towns of the GC&W are small agricultural communities in central Nebraska along the UP's very, very busy mainline. This is where most of the railroad comes together to funnel transcontinental traffic through their classification facility in North Platte, NE, the world's largest rail yard. Gibbon is where UP lines coming from Kansas join the backbone, and Cozad is where the "100th Meridian" crosses the railroad. The "100th Meridian" signifies 100 of west longitude, an important reference in settling the early West. These eponymous cities were chosen from nostalgia for early memories of numerous trains on this section of railroad during the mid- to late-1960s.
Era for the GC&W also reflects a fondness for the Union Pacific of the late 1960s, especially their custom-specified large locomotives not found on any other railroad. The UP of the period represented the largest and best in railroading before the Staggers Act of 1980, MBA-driven corporate management and government regulation changed the industry into a homogenous blandness. The GC&W is intended to recall maybe a small bit of that great history: heavy railroading run by railroaders, "as it used to be."



The model railroad is located in a 3000 sq. ft. post-frame building in downtown Centralia, next to the CN's ex-Illinois Central mainline. Constructed in the 1970s, it was originally an auto dealership's body shop, then subsequently converted into the local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall. When the AA chapter disbanded in the mid-2000s, the building was leased to a used clothing and furniture retail store. Showing signs of many years of "loving use", it was acquired for the GC&W, and extensively renovated and remodeled for non-public use.

The current configuration of the building devotes a 40'x44' space 1760 sq. ft. to the layout. The remaining space is split between an artist's studio and a workshop to support both building construction and model railroad activities. Additional spaces are being developed on a mezzanine level for a lounge and informal gathering space.

Specially developed for the GC&W layout is a theater-style lighting system with programmable special effects for day and night representations with transitions, also providing for simulation of weather-related lighting effects. There is a large-screen TV connected to a HD camera with a view of the CN, BNSF and NS lines to the west of the building.

Layout style is intended to accommodate both "railfanning" and "operating" philosophies. There are many opportunities for local and mainline switching while allowing continuous operation of multiple trains on a non-interfering basis. Yards are designed to serve both staging and "classification" operations, with features such as locomotive and car maintenance facilities, "tail tracks", caboose storage and assignment, as well as other prototype features sometimes difficult to represent on model railroads due to space constraints.



Layout construction is planned to take place in phases, with each phase completed to an operable state if not fully scenicked and detailed before commencing the next. The first phase is the portion shown in light green in the track diagram above. It is fully expected that construction of the full layout will occur over a ten-year period. Benchwork is metal stud framing topped by extruded high-density insulation ("pink") foam, these materials selected to minimize effects of the wide variations in humidity the local area is known for. Track is Micro Engineering Code 55 and Code 40, with Atlas #10 turnouts on the mainlines and #7's in the yards, supplemented by a limited number of hand-built turnouts. Most sidings and yard tracks are designed to hold roughly 60 N scale cars.

Operation and control is via DCC, with a mix of Digitrax and third-party components. Integration of JMRI supervisory systems will take place as the layout grows through the first phase of construction, with the building already wired for extensive Ethernet connectivity.