Lem B. Allen “N” Scale Layout
Recently the Railway Museum received a donation from the family of the late Lem B. Allen of an elaborate “N” scale layout.
The “N” scale layout was a project started by Lem Allen in l986 after both of his sons left home for college. He decided he needed a hobby to fill time to replace the time he had filled being involved with the activities of his sons, Lem Jr. and Zac for many years. He had always loved trains. He got his first train when he was 2 ½ yrs. old.
He first planned the route he wanted his “N” scale trains to travel. He decided to make the route run from Luling Texas to Coleman Texas . He was from Luling and his wife, Susan, was from Coleman. They had ranching interests in both places. Next he drew up a rough design of things he wanted on the layout. He placed the San Marcos River on the South end of the layout then put a raised part on the North end of the layout to denote the rise in elevation from Luling to Coleman. He wanted the track to take a route through Llano or Mason so one of the beautiful courthouses could be a part of the landscape.
After completing the basic design, he had to make a decision about mounting the layout. An 8 foot layout was not long enough to cover that many miles, so the decision was made to do a 16’ x 4’ table. A table was designed and built by a very talented friend that Lem requested build it so that it was tall enough so he could work comfortably standing up or sitting on a tall bar stool.
Lem’s sons Lembo and Zac were always on the lookout for things for their dad’s layout. Lembo was in school in Dallas and was usually able to find some things at Dallas hobby stores Zac built a smokestack to scale that stands in Echo, Texas just North of Coleman on Hwy. 206 near where the ranch was. He also built a brick silo to scale that is a replica of the silos that his great-great grandfather, J. P. Morris, built on the original Rafter 3 Ranch in Coleman County.
The layout is double tracked with every piece of track was laid by Lem. All of the wiring was done by Lem with a little help from his wife Susan. The variety of train cars the couple collected can make up several very long and interesting trains. Lem could run 4 trains at once and getting them timed so they wouldn’t wreck was quite a challenge. He always enjoyed running them for company, especially children.
Susan and Lem Allen moved to Argentina in 2002 and engaged in ranching there. To prepare the train layout for the move to Argentina, Lem disconnected the wires and moveable objects were removed so the moving company could build crates around the two parts of the table to prepare it for shipping by boat. The plans were to set it up and complete the landscaping. Lem and Susan did not have a large enough space to do this. As they were in the process of finding another place with enough room for the train, Lem developed brain cancer and was never able to see this dream finished. He passed away in December 2006. The trains returned to Texas by boat still in the crates from the first journey. This is certainly a well traveled train layout.
The Allens visited the Railway Museum of San Angelo several years ago and Lem commented that he should probably donate his train there. Mrs. Allen and her sons brought the layout to the Railway Museum of San Angelo and January 31st 2009 where the moving company uncrated it for the first time since 2002 and many miles of travel by land and sea.
The Concho Valley Model Club began to assess the layout and decide where and how to set it up for display. Their was not space not big enough for the layout to be set up in its original configuration of 4 by 16 foot so it was decided to reconfigure the original layout into an "U" shape by adding an additional 4x4 foot corner piece to the layout which new track was added to tie the original 2 sections together.
The Club has set the layout up so that four separte trains each running on DCC will generate a lot of action and excitment for the public when they veiw the layout. Plans also include adding a timer system so people can turn on the trains themselves and the layout will shut off after 10 minutes so the trains will last longer.
The club added a DCC control system so when modelers are there to run the layout they have full control of multiple trains and take advantage of the many sidings and train yards on the layout. Sound to the trains for even more realism has also been added.
When all the track laying and wiring was complete the club started on the scenery. As you can see in the attached photos pink foam has been placed in a few places to see how easily slopes and transactions to the scenery can be added. After the foam placement the scenery was painted and Woodland Scenic "grass, dirt, brush and trees" used to finish off the display before the buildings are added. Lighting the buildings and accent lighting complete the effect originally planned by Mr. Allen twenty three years ago.
The Layout was finished and ready for display and running for the Depot’s big Centennial celebration weekend on Labor Day 2009. Estimated man hours to complete the layout to its present state have been just over 1400.