I moved to California from New York in the 1960s and found myself working at LOCKHEED ELECTRONICS in the Los Angeles area. While there, I met a gruff Germanic mechanical engineer named Bill Johann. We worked on a couple of projects together – he on the design end and me on the manufacturing end. Together we were responsible for making sure everything went smoothly for new products as they transitioned from the Engineering Department to the Manufacturing Department.
One day while in Bill’s office, I noticed a wall calendar with train pictures. Liking trains myself, I went over for a closer look. Bill noticed my interest and before long it was clear that we were both model railroad enthusiasts. Soon we were having lunch together and spending time together at work all the while talking about model trains instead of MIL SPECS and DoD. I had just moved to California and all my HO trains were packed in boxes and I was contemplating a new layout. Another idea lurking in my head was the possibility of changing scales. I sort of wanted something larger than HO, but was uncertain how to proceed. This would be an opportune time to change scales, I thought, and so I wanted to keep that option open.
As time went on, I changed jobs and moved to northern California and lost touch with Bill Johann. My scale decision was made and I chose S scale which, as we all know, is between OO and O scales. At the time, there were a total of six locos in S scale and two of them were of no interest to me. So I marched into S scale figuring nobody ever needed more than eight locos. I planned to have two each of four engines and weather them dramatically differently so that they would appear to be eight different locos. That was my plan anyway. Since that time S scale has blossomed with brass imports, mass produced plastic, many craftsman kits, laser structures, figures, vehicles and so forth. No more would I suffer from a shortage of locos.
The photos spread over this article were taken in 1983-84 and show the layout of Bill Johann, with him on the right in the photo of the golden spike being driven along with George and Orlyn on 1-15-83. Johann certainly enjoyed the interaction with other model railroaders and was initially part of one of two very active OO gauge round robin clubs in New Jersey in the postwar era. He was active in the North Jersey group by 1947 as noted in this prior article, which I just updated to include a photo of Johann as a younger man. Eventually the groups merged and they were still meeting actively into the 1980s.
Back to Johann and California, this particular version of his layout was dual gauge. Almost all of the equipment visible is OO (I for sure own a couple of the cars in the photos now, such as this Railbox car) but the F-3s and the SD35 in the golden spike photo are actually HO models according to the caption on the back. (Note also, the HO SD35 won a RMC kitbashing award! More on that here.) If I had a much larger space I might consider running HO in the background actually, it would be an interesting forced perspective effect if pulled off well. But that is a topic for another day.
Many thanks to Ed Loizeaux for sharing this wonderful view into a world of OO gauge activity of not that long ago. And one final plug, there is a great viedo of his S gauge layout on YouTube and also this article on his layout is easy to access online, check out his great model work.