Sunday, July 1, 2012

Great Model Railroad: Dave Rickaby's Wisconsin & Michigan Western Division

I don’t save many old issues of Model Railroader, but one I’ve hung on to comes from January, 1995. That’s the one that features the Wisconsin & Michigan—two layouts featuring different divisions of a railroad by Lyle Beck and Dave Rickaby.

I kept it because I was impressed by the quality of the two layouts, and by their operational concept. The article came along at the same time I was starting my new layout, and it influenced how I conceived and built it.

A little while ago, I came across that old issue, and I wondered what had happened to the two layouts—were they still around? So I contacted Dave for an update.

Before I get to that, a bit about those layouts: Set in Wisconsin’s and Michgan's iron and copper country, the two HO scale layouts not only represented different regions, but also different eras—Lyle modeled modern railroading, while Dave modeled the late 1960s.

Dave’s Western Division of the W & M ran from Everett Junction, Mich., to Crandon, Wis., with a branch line to Mole Lake, Wis. At Everett Junction, it connected with Lyle's Lake Michigan Division. Lyle’s layout ran from Marinette in the south to Everett Junction, then continued to Iron Mountain and Monarch Mine.

As you’ve noticed, I am writing about the layouts in the past tense—both are gone. Dave dismantled his layout in 2003, and Lyle took his down in 2011. Dave is building a new double-deck layout, this time the Ashland Subdivision of the Lake Superior Division of the W&M. The layout covers a 43 X 17 foot area, and is controlled by NCE radio throttles.

(Dave made a video tour of his new layout; find it on YouTube by clicking here.  In the video he says that he might be moving and that the layout would be coming down; that didn't happen—which is fortunate, because it looks great!)

Of the old layout, Dave says: “That article appeared over 17 years ago and people still come up to me and tell me that they remembered it and that it had changed the way that they thought about model railroading. It's very humbling and gratifying.”

Dave kindly sent me some photos of his old layout; it’s a pleasure to post them here, along with a few from that original Model Railroader article. As far as I can tell, this is the first time photos of that fabulous former layout have appeared on the Web. Enjoy!

Photos and info about Lyle's Lake Michigan Division of the Wisconsin & Michigan have now been added to this blog; click here to see them and read about it.



  1. Very nice pics of a very nice layout!

  2. I kept that issue too. I liked Lyle's newer era approach too.

  3. Dave's old layout was a hoot to operate but difficult to photograph because of the valences and double decks. Many of the shots I took here really could have benefited from digital photography. Luckily Dave has become a great photographer in his own right so future photo expeditions on the WM should yield far better results.