Hilton & Ohio [H&O] Division
 Why this Web Site?
 The Layout
 Despatch Yard
 Christopher Yard
 The Railroad
 More Pictures
 Looking Back
 D-N-D Division
 H & O Division
 H & O Revival
 Bison Yard
 Service Module
 House Caboose
 H & O Slideshow
RR Memorabilia:
 My World of Trains
 Train Travel
 A Very Special Day
 Christmas 1
 Christmas 2
 Lionel Centenary
 Other RR Activity
 Guest Book

  H & O Division

       THE “Hilton & Ohio” (H&O) HO-scale Division of the NORMANED RAILROAD began on 9/13/1978 and fell into virtual abandonment in April 1984 when a bad windstorm caused a large tree in our neighbor's yard to fall into ours, taking out the electrical power lines to our house and starting a fire which burned out the old fuse panel in the basement. Replacement of the fuse panel with a circuit breaker system, upgrading of the electrical service to the then current standards, and relocating the electrical meter to the exterior of the house required me to break apart a large section of this layout in order to provide room for electricians to do the necessary work.

The H&O Division of the NORMANED RR boasts the “largest” known display commemorating the Golden Spike ceremony on May 10, 1869, which joined the nation's East and West at Promontory, Utah, and launched the first trans-continental railroad route. Here, HO models of the Central Pacific's engine “Jupiter” (left), and the Union Pacific's No. 119 meet head-to-head in this “reinactment.”

       This trauma put my six-year enthusiasm for HO-scale into a coma from which only the inspiration of this present (2000/2004) documentation project has brought about a glimmer of awakening after being virtually dormant for more than 16 years. (Although a few new HO-gauge items have been acquired for the collection from time-to-time during that hiatus, the layout damage has never been repaired and the “carcass” of the H&O [like the NORMANED] has been exposed, through neglect and absolutely no attempt at maintenance or protection of any kind, to an accumulation of dust, dirt, dampness and the exploration of the ever-present local squirrel population).

Above: A family of passengers heads for the single-car combine train waiting at the Hilton terminus of the Hilton & Ohio Division of the NORMANED RR. To the left of the depot can be seen (left to right) portions of the Masonic Hall, windows in second-floor apartment rooms over the village dry goods store, and a barber shop. The roofs are not missing from these buildings, as it may appear; they have flat roofs and the Masonic Building and little barber shop have added false-front façades in keeping with much of the architectual style of the period in this small village. The train will have to back out of this spur track to rejoin the main line.

Right: This “composite collage” of separate photos illustrates the way these model buildings would have appeared in Hilton, N.Y. if placed in the same relative positions as the real structures which they represent once stood. This corner, at Main and Hovey Streets, was only a short block away from the train depot. The Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg RR station was behind the area where the Arlington Hotel appears here, but across the tracks from the hotel (out of sight in this view). Although the other three buildings are the same ones that appear alongside the depot on the H&O layout picture above this one (with the train), the hotel is in O-scale and is located in Panthorne on THE NORMANED RAILROAD. They have been sized and rearranged here by computer to appear as if they had been modeled together in the same scale to represent their actual locations.

      During these past 16 years, whenever I was required to be in that part of the basement where the H&O “ruins” remain, I often would look longingly and lovingly over the busted layout with reflections of its past splendor. Portions where I had been able to restore electrical power with jumper wire and alligator clips had allowed me to indulge myself on no more than only a very occasional (less than annual, even) visit to run a locomotive or two (and perhaps three or four cars) over short lengths of track which had somehow escaped heavy corrosion and/or oxidation.
      Actually, HO-scale had become the leader by far in U.S. model railroading from even before my interest in the hobby first took root in mid-century. However, I had strongly resisted any serious interest in that most popular scale for nearly 15 years. Then, however, in 1978, the virtual abandonment of the D-N-D Division serendipitously opened up some space utilization possibilities (model railroaders seem to be keenly alert to any new ways to make more room for their empires).
       I began to think about the idea of building “a small display” with some track and turnouts where I could “practice operation” (only on occasion) of the few HO train items which I had acquired now and again on impulse, simply because they had appealed to me in some particular or peculiar way at the time.

Map depicts how the imagined route of the H&O Division would serve directly, through connections or interchanges, the fanciful four-state and two-nation area of The NORMANED RAILROAD Co. and its subsidiaries in order to explicate the use of the variety of rolling stock which may be observed using its trackage.

      The H&O was thus conceived with a plan in mind. The first step was to purchase a 10-inch x 8-ft. piece of pressed board for constructing a small HO-gauge switching layout in a basement room which had originally been built by my son Ned and me to house his photographic darkroom. I had later used this space as a short-wave radio “Communications Center,” which had been moved recently to my “office”; in daughter Norma's second-floor former bedroom where the D-N-D Division had been built and housed before its relocation to and repose in the third-floor attic.
      The switching layout building began and progressed at a pretty good pace, and it was “entertaining” for me to run an engine around and move a few cars . . . but the time came that it seemed reasonable (to me) that if this long narrow segment could be moved to a different spot, the “HO room” would be just about the right size to hold a “small circle or two” with up to 22-inch minimum radius track in order to “show off” a train (or two) running continuously and simultaneously.
      What was (up until this point in time) a workshop behind one of the walls of this small room had some built-in shelving along one side. One of the shelves “just happened” to be exactly the right height and length to hold the long and narrow switching layout, so (not without some sweat and swearing) it was relocated there. Work began immediately, filling the former darkroom cum radio shack with a wall-to-wall benchwork (leaving a central access hatch), upon which to install “a small circle of track.”

      When this “small circle” was completed, it contained not two, but four continuous loops, a double track crossover, a long passing siding, a branchline ending with a siding and house track at Hilton, and an independent point-to-point trolley line. We named this segment “The Hilton Module” (see photos above on this page).

      It was now the 1980s, and model railroaders were discovering transistors, computers, LEDs and many other sophisticated gadgets of the fledging new technology. One of my pride achievements was the design, building and wiring (with no other help) of a magnificent control panel and making it operable on this “spaghetti bowl” of HO track, using a triple-control DC power pack along with a then state-of-the-art transistorized throttle attachment.

Bundles of wires and dozens of terminal strip connections leading to electrical toggle switches, panel lights, and H&O Division layout trackage are visible in the control panel interior. The three-circuit throttle pack is at the left.

The real surprise to the rest of the family was that when I completed the control panel and connected it to the layout, the trains went where they were supposed to go and the separately AC-powered panel train location and turnout position lights blinked in white, red and green at the touch of the corresponding toggle switches and buttons on the control panel. And I can not recall ever having had a bad wreck or “cornfield meet” while handling trains on this layout, even when using the optional dual cab control which I had built into the operation.
      But we were just getting started -
The HO “bug” had bitten, and its effect was exponential, especially when, from early 1981 until the Spring of 1984 (only about a month before the occurrence of the windstorm wreckage), I had become involved in part-time hobby shop retailing - first as an evening and weekend employee of a local train store, and then for about a year and a half as proprietor of my own small shop, “The Hobby Studio” - selling and repairing model trains as a sideline to my hobby. These endeavors gave me not only a chance to become more aware of just how much HO-scale dominated the hobby, but also what a massive amount of material there was to select from. It also enabled me to acquire considerable equipment with employees' and dealer discounts, and my collection grew rapidly.

       Once each year (in observance of “Presidents' Day” in February), the Lincoln funeral car is displayed on a siding of the H&O Division. The car had been commissioned in 1863 as President Abraham Lincoln's private car, and was completed in February of 1865. However, on April 21, 1865, the car made its first and only trip when it carried the body of the assassinated 16th President of the U.S. in a funeral train from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois. The President's body was accompanied by that of his disinterred son, Willie, who had died in 1862 and was encrypted in a vault in Oak Hill Cemetery, being then moved to Springfield to be buried with his father.

      Additionally, I believe I began to convert from being a “model railroader” to becoming a “railroad modeler” - that is I spent more time building and detailing trains, fancy track configurations, buildings and other structures than I did creating and operating highly-scenic scale model railroads. But I did build quite a collection, some of which was sold in my store, but most of which I stored for future use on the H&O.
      While involved in this phase, however, I continued to expand the H&O Division. First, I built a platform on the workbench (opposite the relocated switching yard layout) upon which I modeled an eight-track version of the now abandoned Bison Yard in Buffalo, N.Y., with a long lead track to the yard using two triple-wye turnouts, plus a by-pass track on new benchwork around the room to connect the four sides of the former workshop with a complete loop. This required ducking under a 5-ft. long truss bridge to get to the controls. In the center of all this, I added a 4-ft. square service and maintenance area with an Atlas nine-position electrically-operated sequencing turntable, serving 16 tracks (figure that one out!).

The lonely brakeman stands guard on the rear platform of H&O Division “Bobber” Caboose #C 1, along with freight cars from two other area railroads. The Arcade and Attica (ARA) RR boxcar appears to have broken a spring or derailed a wheel on a bad track joint and the locomotive has gone for help. The other car, from the Genesee & Wyoming (GNW), seems “perfectly healthy.”

      Then, I installed dual cab control with two transistorized walk-around throttles for the two yards, a separate power source and cab for the turntable area, and a super-sophisticated power pack for one-operator control of the whole works from a main panel. The hardest (but true) part of all this to believe is that it worked . . . . But it really did!
      The H&O Bison yard is a beauty, with a double crossover, slip-switches, engine house, and even some narrow- and dual-gauge trackage for interchange with an imagined future logging operation. Nearly all of the trackage in both yards was filled with my favorite locomotives and a lot of maintenance-of-way rolling stock. On shelves in an adjoining closet were stacked dozens of customized private name freight cars and other rolling stock with “no place to go.”

The H & O Division's roster of logging equipment is displayed above in a staging area. Shown with their various consists are (left to right) a Barnhart loader (by Keystone Locomotive Works) and three geared steam locomotives-- a Model Die Casting Class A Climax, a Rivarossi two-truck Heisler, and a Bachmann 80-ton three-truck Shay.

      Meanwhile, as the turntable and service area had been added to the side of the relocated “long and narrow switching layout,” along with track and electrical connections which provided access to other areas of the “pike,” this entire “shelf” segment was now identified as the Division’s “Mainline Service & Interchange Module,” used by all possible routes of the layout.
      Layout-wise, the only thing now remaining was to figure out how I could connect the two back-to-back segments - one in the old radio room and the other in the former workshop, but with a solid wall separating them. I had to decide which was more likely - to go through the doorways, or through the partition.
      As it turned out, that decision never was made, as it was at this point of progress that the partial demolition from the results of the windstorm damage halted layout operations and badly tarnished my enthusiasm (as described in the opening paragraph of this section). After this set-back, my primary model railroading attention returned to the “parent” N
ORMANED RR for approximately four years before the start of the dozen years of “withdrawal.”
      The H&O damage has not all been repaired (see next page, "The H & O Revival Begins"). It is awaiting the continuation of the ongoing more complete restoration of the N
ORMANED - “The O-gauge 'Phoenix'” (see Why this Web Site?).

Update: The first Common Carrier railroad in the United States, the Baltimore & Ohio, was established on July 4, 1828. The Lafayette, a 4-2-0 built by William Norris of Philadelphia in 1837, was the first B&O locomotive with a horizontal boiler, and the earliest locomotive to feature a leading truck. This recently-acquired (2001) Bachmann® fine-scale HO model of the Lafayette rounds a curve on THE NORMANED's H & O Division, pulling passenger cars created from sketches drawn nearly 200 years ago. The accompanying photograph of the original Lafayette locomotive is from the archives of the B&O Railroad; an operating replica of the Lafayette, built in 1927, currently resides at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

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