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."
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.