About These Pages

I got my start with trains when my grandmother gave me some wooden trains made in upstate New York by a company called Skaneateles (pronounced “Scanny Atlas”). Being the collector that I am, I’ve still got them, and they’re on display, to boot.

I graduated to some hand-me-down Lionel Santa Fe F-units and rolling stock.  Then it was H0, Lionel at first then Athearn and so on.  I wanted Rokal TT in high school, but couldn’t afford them at that time.  Instead, I got very early Arnold rapido, which later blossomed to include Minitrix and others. I was a member of the Railroad Model Club of Atlanta in the 1970’s, which got me into 0-Scale. That 7-year membership also would lead me to working in a local hobby shop, which would lead me to manufacturing complete Z-Scale model railroads for customers, which would lead me to being a consultant for a German model train manufacturer, which would lead me to writing a book on Z-Scale layout construction, which would lead me to...... You get the picture. It has been a wonderful experience, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way and seen some interesting trains.  This web site is a culmination of those years of model trains.

There is some thought behind these pages, and each section reflects my desire to both inform about what I have learned and to not duplicate what others have done. There are a lot of very well researched pages out there already, so I have tried to not duplicate the efforts of others.  The site is divided into five major sections:

  • Guide to Z-Scale - This section was the original basis of the current version of these pages.  Originally, the text of these pages came from the book which I wrote for Greenberg Publishing in the late 1980’s.  After some delay, and after the publisher had decided to not reprint the book, I gained the rights and created this portion of the site with the considerable help of the first manufacturer of Z-Scale.  Some of the material was updated and expanded, but I have added little new material in recent years, largely due to the considerable number of well produced pages on the topic.  Why try to duplicate the works of others?


  • Model Railroads - This section largely reflects my experiences with model railroads, techniques and related topics.  There’s a nice section on steel mills, again trying to not duplicate the works of others.  In particular, I’ve tried to decipher the instruction sheets for the Plastruct false-front structure kits, which are as close to scratch building as you will get.  So, too, there are lots of pages devoted to all sorts of model railroad projects which you can refer to for possible help. There’s stuff there about coffee table layouts, a subject which I have extensive experience (but not always commensurate success). I’ve tried a few things that you might want to avoid. At this writing, I’m beginning writing about passenger car modeling and about model railroad command control....


  •   Prototype Railroads - While being one of the smaller sections of this web site, ”Prototype Railroads” also has unique information about the Galesburg & Great Eastern, along with fewer pages on other railroad operations.  The G&GE first came onto my radar in the early 1970’s, when a photo of their No. 5 diesel appeared in the Jerry Pinkepank book, “The Second Diesel Spotters Guide”. Timing is everything, for just two years earlier, I had graduated from a college which was near where the G&GE had operated.  Had I known in 1970 what I would later know in 1974, I would have conducted an independent study on the former Galesburg & Great Eastern. Maybe even have published a book.  But, as it stands, the G&GE segment is my “independent study” on the subject. And, like a good independent study, there were a lot of helping hands. That said, had I been so inclined, there were at least two other interesting railroads right in the vicinity of my little college.  The Prototype Railroads segment will grow in the future since I have several folders worth of information about other interesting railroad operations.


  • Collecting - Far and away, the Collecting segment has the most individual pages on the subject of collecting model trains and toys.  And, as much as possible, I have tried to create pages which do not duplicate existing works. In some cases, such as the Lionel H0 section, I have tried to complement the works of others.  In Greenberg’s Lionel H0 book, Horan and Rosa cover most of Lionel’s Ho production, but only mention the starter sets in passing, so I tried to cover the sets. In other cases, such as Arnold rapido, Minitrix, Rokal and others, information was included about the technological aspects of these product lines. This would include explanations about signal systems and other solenoid technology typical of model railroad lines of the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  In several cases, my interest is in the early days of a model railroad product line.  Rokal TT, Arnold and Minitrix N-Scale and Märklin Z all started from “scratch”.  That is, there had never been anything similar prior to the introduction of these product lines, so it is interesting to see how development of the product lines began with literally nothing.


  • Miscellany - This is the site section where I put all the interesting stuff that didn’t fit in elsewhere. There’s a section about People and there’s a section about the Trains, the little odds and ends that are needed to clarify things in other pages of this site.

I look back at my fifty years of collection and back at my life long interest in railroads and I smile. I look back at the days of the 1960’s, where being a train enthusiast was a losing proposition. In the United States, all it took was to deregulate the railroads and things returned to their natural balance. The railroads today are in fabulous condition. So, too, the model railroad scholarship is terrific, with so many sites out there reporting on the little nooks and crannies of an interesting hobby.  It’s a great time.

Thanks for visiting, and best regards,

Riley O’Connor

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