Larry Warriner's basement layout has grown to a point where it has even forced the relocation of the laundry room to the main level. Several unusual features, including a town under glass, make this layout unique.
By Chuck Stevens
Photos by Bruce Nail
Larry Warriner began his HO-HOn3 Hollow Log & Misfit Junction Railroad about 25 years ago. The first letters of HL&MJ stand for people in his family: Holly, Lyn, Mark, and Jean. The layout has been changed several times in the last 25 years, and it keeps growing. He justifies using Union Pacific, Denver & Rio Grande Western, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Great Northern by basing his railroad on a fictitious Denver that could have been the hub of these railroads if they had all gone through the rugged Rocky Mountains west of Denver.
There are three concepts that set this railroad apart from others. First is the number of elevations and grade changes with their hidden tracks. Different areas of the railroad also represent different time periods.
The mainline goes up to the 1960s, while the narrow gauge branchline is 1890-1930 and Brewers Flats is 1900-1923.
Larry started his layout before he knew about the L-girder method of benchwork construction. The layout was constructed in an L shape in the back bedroom. It was cut apart and moved to another part of the basement next to the stairs. Larry is very glad that it was constructed with conventional methods, because it was easy to cut and reassemble to fit a new shape.
At first he also used some hardshell that he found was difficult to cut. The hardshell was completely destroyed in the moving. After that experience, he started using chicken wire and patching plaster for his scenery.
Larry likes patching plaster because it has a slower drying time and gives him time to cut in rocks, cracks, retaining walls, and other unique shapes that he feels would not be possible with Hydrocal or Plaster of Paris.
He has added on to the layout several times and this has made it necessary to move the laundry room upstairs to make room for more layout. He has consumed all but the downstairs bedroom and bath with trains. The layout now runs around the entire room and only the fireplace wall doesn't support a part of the layout.
Recently the water heater needed replacing. He cut the track in two places and literally rolled the benchwork away from the water heater. When the water heater had been changed. Larry rolled the benchwork back and put joiners on the track where the track had been cut. His "rolling module" was back in place.
Larry used real dirt, rocks and stones collected on various fishing trips to cover the patching plaster. He keeps coffee cans in the car for just such an occasion when he sees just the right kind of decomposed granite or fine sandstone sand. He blends in Woodland Scenics ground cover, Sweetwater grass, lichen and carpet fiber to make the various mini scenes come alive.
The roads are patching plaster covered with fine sand and dirt from his collection of dirts and sands. The plaster rocks are painted with acrylics. He's painted a back drop on the concrete walls of the basement.
Layout in Glass Bar
Second is the unique glass bar with operating railroad and town (Brewers Flats) under the tempered glass. The front glass in the bar is hinged and drops down for rerailing, detail work or uncoupling of cars.
Above the bar are two large plywood boards suspended from the ceiling. Eventually the high line of the HL&MJ will cross a bridge and end up at Headache, where track and a layout are already in the making.
And third, the uniqueness of a control system using both AC and DC together. The HL&MJ has block control, which allows use of 01 Command control, PFM sound system and cab control. Any one of the control systems can run the entire railroad. Up to ten operators can run trains at any one time.
The 01 Command control is made by Hornby in the United Kingdom. It has two separate command units and two slave controllers. With these four controllers, all located on control boards (one built into the bar and the other hidden under Denver's Union Station), you can operate up to 16 engines. Each engine contains a receiver.
The PFM Sound System and the dual cab controls work together. These are operated from either the control board or the walkaround cab unit. Larry has three locos with speakers and four more in waiting. He also has installed external speakers hidden in the scenery. Push-button switches allow the operator to place sound in any of five places on the layout.
In the planning stage are industry sounds that you will hear with a headset as you walk around the layout. By inserting the headset plug into a female receptacle, you will be able to hear the sound of a sawmill, mining operations, etc. He has the tapes and the players but they are not yet hooked up.
The HL&MJ can operate ten trains at a time or just one train if the president of the railroad is the only operator. The railroad is a point to loop and return system. It has two turntables, one at Burnham Yard with a complete coaling and watering facility big enough for the articulated engines and another dual-gauge turntable on the branch line at Table Mesa.
We've shown you a sampling of passenger equipment but have not included all of the passenger equipment you'll see if you visit the HL&MJ RR during the NMRA Mountains of Fun Convention in Denver, June 30 to July 6, 1991.You'll see the MOPAC's Colorado Eagle, the California Zephyr, the Empire Builder, the Daylight, an older Santa Fe green heavyweight train, a UP Harriman train, and a D&RGW yellow passenger train.
Larry has built 99% of his layout himself even though he is a very active member of the Fraternity of Executives of Railroads in Denver (FERD), a house-to-house club in his area.
Considering that his layout season is Fall, he has some of the best trees on his layout we've ever seen. They are a pleasant mixture of Campbell, Ponderosa, Designers Trees and hand-made trees. Mixing them in with a still, a hobo jungle and other mini scenes helps make the trees come alive and blend in with the railroad. One tree even has his initials and his wife's maiden initials carved into it.
The very nicely done buildings and industries on the layout include a saw mill, ice loading operations, the Fine Scale Miniature coal transfer facility, mines and mining support equipment, a Campbell brewery and several depots including a Model Masterpiece Durango Depot.
The six-stall roundhouse with three outside tracks at Burnham contains a roof crane and the one-stall engine house at Table Mesa is a Model Masterpiece kit.
Larry became interested in railroads when his granddad took him up on Sherman Hill in the '40s to watch Big Boys huff and puff over the Hill. He never lost his enthusiasm for railroading. He's now a granddad himself and looking forward to the day when he can take his grandchildren up on Sherman Hill to watch the long freight drags cross over this famous hill.
1 - Bret's Brewery at Brewers Flats (glassed-in bar) is just one of the many industries that the HL&MJ RR serves. Today an empty load of beer barrels is returned by horse-pulled wagon in this 1923 scene.
2 - Fall colors set off this scene as the leaves are turning at Misfit Junction, while sawdust cars wait to be picked up and taken to another site for recycling. The Five Spot (O-4-0T) engineer takes a break for a cup of coffee in the depot before going up the hill to Headache (over the bar).
3 - Passenger train No. 9 crosses in front of picturesque Collins Falls j ust before reaching the Tom Collins Farm. These La Belle passenger cars carry folks to Table Mesa where the engine is turned and heads back for Denver. If the HL&MJ RR ever designs a passenger brochure, we're sure that Collins Falls will be on the cover.
7 - RGS No. 42 does double duty as it pulls the narrow gauge local No. 9 from Misfit Junction to the end of the narrow gauge branchline at Table Mesa.
8 - Larry Warriner, President of the Hollow Log and Misfit Junction Railroad, looks over his 30' x 24' railroad empire from the glass bar (Brewers Flats).
9 - RGS No. 42 (2-8-0) crosses the Forks Creek's 260' long AHM trestle on its way to Misfit Junction. The Table Mesa branchline ties into the mainline and goes to Denver.
10 - RGS No. 42 does double duty as it pulls the narrow gauge local No. 9 from Misfit Junction to the end of the narrow gauge branchline at Table Mesa. Horses and cows on the Collins farm scurry as the engineer whistles the grade crossings.
11 - The stationmaster at Brewers Flats waves the local passenger train out of town as it leaves the station.