the track itself is Midlin, a favorite OO track of the period that had an extra fin on the bottom of the rail that fit into slots in the ties.
In short about all one can do is look at the photos with a sense of awe. This was quite a different layout than the typical "spaghetti bowl" layouts of the day.
For a larger dose of awe, this is actually the second feature article on the Norfolk & Ohio; the first one appeared in the August, 1948 issue of Model Railroader, pages 524-528. Eight more photos of the layout may be found in this issue including one of Appel himself. In this article Boomer Pete focused on the scenic successes of the layout and wrote,
The actual models seen in the 1948 article are mostly pretty standard models of the day, but check out the engine on the turntable in the middle photo above (click on the photo for a better view). The 1958 article gives more nuts and bolts details on the layout, including notes on equipment and a track plan. Both articles are very worth locating and reading in full.
As with the other classic layouts featured in this series of posts the layout is a memory now. Appel passed on in 1997. Periodically Norfolk & Ohio items are sighted on eBay. Hopefully many of his models survive; it was an impressive layout of a type highly unlikely to ever be seen in American OO again.
For more see:
- Several of his coal hoppers and a follow up with lessons learned
- Photos of a Norfolk and Ohio Super-Scale SW-1 today
- A photo of Appel and his obituary
Also note: The third image above was used on the cover of the Model Railroad Equipment Corp. catalog that was first advertised in December of 1949. See this article for more.