The First?

Although there probably were model railroads built into furniture earlier, perhaps the first published suggestion of the concept was in the June, 1966 number of Model Railroader Magazine. In this article, Bill Baron articulates what has been on model railroad enthusiasts’ mind since the beginning, getting the trains into the living room.

The scene is classic mid-1960’s. The furniture and decor heavily borrow from Danish Modern. The ladies’ teased hair and A-line dresses fit in too. At one end of the sofa, a gentleman stuffs his smoking pipe.  To one side, a Telefunken home stereo gently pumps out Artie Shaw playing “Canyon Road” and Kai Winding’s “Cantaloupe Island”. It’s all so modern, contemporary and sophisticated.

The centerpiece is the modern table. But we soon see that the table is much more than just a table:

Bill Baron both wrote the article and illustrated it.  And, he was kind of sly about it.  The guy with the black horn rim glasses is an artistic representation of the late Linn Westcott, Editor of Model Railroader in that era.

Westcott was probably a genius; his hand prints are all over model railroading as we know it today.  Where once model railroading was crude and elemental, his vision of the model railroad hobby would encompass our modern notions of well detailed trains that are accurately decorated.  Electronics would play a key role.  The model railroaders themselves would be largely populated with dentists, doctors, professionals and other leaders of a modern society, a sophisticated lot.

In so many ways, the Baron article articulated Westcott’s vision for the future.

The balance of the Baron article details the elements of construction.  The top uses panels of hardwood plywood and Formica™, the miracle laminate product of its day. The construction of the table top was sophisticated for its time, but quite doable.  Now, of course, the curved sides would be easily made with vertical grade bending ply, and veneered with unusual wood if that was desired effect.

 

So, too, the basic support of the table and model railroad could be done with hardwood plywood.  This could be finished with stain and lacquer, producing a professional piece of furniture.

Here, the railroad in operation:

Note that the large drum shaped top has mysteriously disappeared.  Since it was made of bending ply & a wood frame, topped with hardwood plywood and Formica™, this top was both cumbersome and heavy.  So, a storage spot was needed when the table railroad was in operation. And two people were probably required to get the railroad into operation.

Also note that Mr. Westcott is operating the railroad from a small control panel.  The panel looks like a Walthers Marnold® unit; these were state-of-the-art in the 1950’s, but were beginning to look a little long in the tooth by the late 1960’s.  By that time, MRC was issuing transistor power packs that offered better control.  Note, too, that the Marnold control panel is connected to the railroad by a substantial cable. Each turnout, track block and the turntable would require wires for controlling their operation. Today, of course, DCC makes this matter considerably simpler.

In the end, you have to wonder if this idea from the fertile minds of Westcott and Baron ever got built, but it certainly was food for thought.

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