Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doug Tagsold’s New Layout, or The Model Railroader Curse, Part II?

Doug Tagsold's old layout.

Those who read Model Railroader would have seen an article in the April issue by Doug Tagsold about changes he made to his great Denver, Front Range & Western HO scale layout.

In the article, Doug described how he had updated the layout to feature modern BNSF and UP power, along with other changes to the trackplan.

But by the time the article appeared in the magazine, it was gone—for about two years. Is this another example of the Model Railroader curse?

For those who aren't familiar with the Model Railroader curse, it's similar to the fabled Sports Illustrated cover curse. According to the curse, athletes who are featured on the cover are doomed to have bad seasons or performances. (In fact, an investigation found that it was only true 37.2 percent of the time.)

In the Model Railroader curse, people whose layouts are featured in the magazine (not just on the cover) are doomed to dismantle them. It's not ucommon to discover in the notes at the end of the article that the builder has torn down the layout since the article was published.

As I showed in my post about the curse in 2010, the explanation is quite simple: It's due to the lag between the time the magazine buys an article, and when it is published.

In Doug’s case, it appears to have been about two years since the time he wrote the piece on his upgraded layout and the publication of that article. By that time, he had moved on to build his new Terminal of Toledo layout.

Doug's new layout.

(As an aside, it’s been about two years since Model Railroader purchased an article about the CP Rail M & M Sub. from me. It hasn’t been published yet. Meanwhile, the section of the layout featured in the article is gone. The curse affects me, too!)

Doug’s new layout is completely different from the old DFR&W. This time, he’s featuring urban switching. Interestingly, he also designed the layout to be operated sitting down, using rolling chairs. (You can listen to an interview with Doug about the new layout and this unique operating method on the Model Railway Show.)

Trackplan for Doug's new layout.

Below find more photos of Doug’s layout. Some are taken from his website, Doug’s Custom Model Railroad Service, which features layout design and building, weathering and custom-made trees. Others come from someone named Larry who posted photos of a visit to Doug’s layout on his Photobucket site.  (You can find more photos on both sites.)

Doug may have changed layouts, but one thing hasn't changed: The new Terminal of Toledo is just as spectacular as his previous layout!


A photo showing the height of the layout and
the rolling chairs.


  1. Thanks for the photos and article. I, too, have become tired of standing after three decades of model railroading and am now working on the first layout in the house we moned in about 5 years ago. My current 2' x 12' "test" section is set a little below eye level when I am seated in my chair. I can just hold my wireless DCC throttle and make things run while I sit and watch or I can stand when I want to do some switching.

    I liked Doug's western layout but the new one is also a stunner. I grew up on the Great Lakes and that model of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a stunner (and space consumer as well).

    Bill McBride

  2. It looks like the basement layout changed, did he move or just remodel the room(s) containing the layout? Looking at my April, 2012, MRR, the stairs and walls look completely different. I too have noticed more and more layouts in published magazines, not just MRR, have the dreaded "the layout is no more" paragraph at the end of them.

  3. From what I gather, Doug has moved to a new house.

  4. Hi John:
    Two things -
    First of all, thanks for the shout-out for The Model Railway Show podcast. Doug was a great guest and he did a great job of explaining why he opted for a sit-down operating style. (Phil - yes, Doug moved. As he explains in our interview, he ran a business that came with a house. When he sold the business he had to move.)
    Second, I wonder if the "MR Curse" is always a curse? I wonder how many layout tour articles get submitted to MR because people know that they're about to tear down the layout and they want to get it in print before they do? Just a thought...

  5. I was looking at that ship and thinking she looked a lot like the Fitz and then I read the name. What a model!

    "As big freighters go she was bigger than most, with a crew and good captain well seasoned"

    It certainly is bigger than most model ships on a layout, and his skills are a modeller are definatly well seasoned.

  6. Thanks for the note, Trevor. The "curse" is easy to understand, as I noted in my previous post on that subject. Many model railroaders wait until their layout is "done" before writing about it. With the time lag between being accpeted and getting published, it's not unusual for the owner to decide to move on to something else. That's what happened to me.

  7. Happened to me, John, as my layout's prototype location was changed, and new track plan being constructed by the time my Winnipeg Terminals was featured in CRM. Maybe it's just that model railroaders have attention spans that are too short!

    I can think of 5-10 prototypes I'd like to model right now. Some come with significant changes in scenery and rolling stock, so some would represent a greater number of changes (and cash expenditures) than others.

    I prefer Doug's new layout - my era, my favoured type of operation - industrial switching, and a nice track layout. Favourite photo - that awesome staging yard.

    Nice post, John.

  8. Interesting post about Doug's layout - one of my favorites!

    I kind of like the idea of sitting down to operate!

  9. How is everyone. I liked Doug's Denver,Front Range&Western. I model only Mountain models in N gauge scale. It's mountain railroads for me, and I am sad Doug took it down. Oh will that's life for yeah.
    Brian from Mountain Pacific Railway.

  10. I guess he's going back to his Midwest roots as far as his model rr. Back in the 80's he had a layout based on NYC practices around Adrian Michigan called the Great Lakes Central. Several Trackside Photos in MR and some in the NMRA Annual Calendars as I recall. BTW same inspiration as Doug Leffler's fine Lenawee County layout featured in Jan '81 RMC.

  11. Just thinking about being published in MR makes me want to tear it down and start over, Modeling the same era and locale though.