Which Railroad Do You Model on Your Layout?

It might be interesting to hear from some of your subscribers what railroads they favor for their layouts.

This question was posted in response to the article about choosing a railroad to model. What a great question, I thought. It got me to thinking; why don’t I ask you which railroad you model on your layout.

I’ll start this off by talking about two railroads I would like to model: Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. I don’t mean the single combined Burlington Northern and Sante Fe Railroad as it is today, but the separate railroads as they were in the 1970’s when I first became fascinated with model railroading.

Burlington Northern Railroad

Burlington Northern 766 EMD F9

Image courtesy: drbalint

Burlington Northern Railroad trains were an everyday sight growing up in Washington State.

The engines and cars with their distinctive green paint scheme stood out clearly when they would roll by.

The route my friends and I used to walk to school took us through a small freight yard in the rural town of Burlington, Washington about 70 miles north of Seattle.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned the Burlington Northern Railroad was named after a different Burlington!

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Caboose

Image courtesy: Billy Hathorn

When I got the model railroading bug as a teenager in the 1970s, I would study every model railroading magazine I could get my hands on.

I was fascinated by the articles and pictures where the modeler had built their railroad layout using scenery modeled on the deserts of the southwest.

Something about those tracks alongside a winding river at the bottom of a gorge cut through a mountain and all that bare rock.

I know the Burlington Northern has similar lines along the Columbia and other rivers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, but I really like the desert setting.

I haven’t built my dream model railroad layout yet, but when I do I’m sure it will likely be based on one of these two historical railroads.

Which Railroad Do You Model on Your Layout?

What about you, which railroad do you model? Or, like me, are you still in the planning (dreaming) phase? Or do you model, or plan to model, a mythical railroad of your own design?

Either way, share in the comments area below which railroad you model or plan to model on your layout.

Rick Brock

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I am a complete model railroading novice, and I’ve started this website to share what I learn with others who are also new to the hobby and want to learn about it. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter and get the free report: 7 Model Train Mistakes To Avoid.


  1. I don’t have a layout, but if I did, the choice of railroads would be tough. Having grown up in the Minneapolis area, my choice would be to create a layout that featured one of the many passenger trains (I think there were 6 lines running at one time) that ran here. You mentioned Burlington Northern, but I would favor a predecessor, The Great Northern Railroad. It was started by James J. Hill, “The Empire Builder”. The history of this railroad is fascinating. It was the northernmost rail line in the U.S. It was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history.

    My second choice would be The Milwaukee Road (officially, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad). My grandfather worked for this company as a “gandy dancer.” As a boy, I rode on this train one time, and I still remember the experience.

    • Howard Brewer says:

      I agree with Milwaukee Road. Used to work for the. All my equipment is centered on the Milwaukee. Just completed the Olypian Hiawatha series (pre-1960)

  2. Martin Flynn says:

    I model CN, CP, and Burlington Northern.. I have grown up around CN, and Ontario Northland..ONR. I like the freight trains better than passenger..I live in Orillia Ontario, Washago is my viewing grounds Many CN trains still roll through, and the ONR passenger, as well as the Via passenger..The odd GO cars pass through as well..Burlington and Northerns paint scheme reeled me in on that one..The green and white goes well together. Topped off with the black roof, ties it all together. I also have an Erie Lackawanna, loco, and a Conrail SD45 tri axle. There working from out of town LOL..well so are the BNs..I even built a replica of the Washago coal tower, as I think its coming down in a few years or so, as one of the support legs is showing a weak spot…

  3. Robert E. Cronan says:

    I’ve been researching and designing a passenger terminal and maintenance yard associated with Amtrak. In addition, I’ve been installing decoders into AMD103 diesel locomotives and other equipment. It has been challenging and rewarding.
    Happy Modeling Railroading

  4. I’ve got an assortment of rolling stock and locomotives throughout my layout, but Chicago Northwestern has been my go to. We had quite a bit running through my hometown growing up and I always thought their schemes were appealing with the yellow and green.

  5. I have been modeling Erie Lackawanna for almost 40 years. I grew up in Scranton, PA and lived right next to the tracks and a quarter mile from what is now SteamTown. I have never had permanent layout. I’ve built temp winter layouts of various sizes every year for Christmas. It has been 5 year since my last platform – my two girls are grown and married — BUT I now I have a three year old grandson-so this year will have a layout and it will be an EL Christmas.

  6. Jerry P. Cram, Sr. says:

    Southern Railroad circa 1950 to 1960…I grew up in Atlanta and remember all of those beautiful green locomotives…Southern RR did a slow conversion from the green and white color scheme to the black and white (tuxedo) locomotives staring in 1958…Also Southern retired its last steam locomotive in 1953…By modeling this time frame I am able to incorporate late stream, early diesel and both green an black color schemes on the diesels…Have to be very careful not to buy any diesels made after 1960…So, that would mean GP7s, SD24s, F7s, etc….and a minimum number of 50 foot boxcars,,Most boxcars in this era were 40 footers..,Much more fun knowing the locomotives and rolling stock are authentic to the era….JC

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