Jim Zwernemann’s Proto:48 masterpiece

As I prepared for last week’s trip to Austin for the NMRA Lone Star Region’s annual convention, I mentioned my plans on my blog – and Gene Deimling reminded me that one of the layouts on the tour was the superb Proto:48 layout being built by Jim Zwernemann. I immediately made plans to visit – and I’m so glad I did.

Jim is well known in the Proto:48 community for his beautiful scratch-built freight cars. He’s also an accomplished structure builder.

Where the magic happens: Jim’s workshop.

What he has not been until relatively recently is a layout builder – but he decided that he needed a place to showcase his work. And what a beautiful showcase it is. Jim is modelling a general theme featuring two transition-era prototypes: the Southern Pacific’s Texas & New Orleans, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas. The layout features a single-track mainline that hugs the walls of a 30′ x 25′ space, with a peninsula in the middle to provide some additional switching opportunities. Jim’s workshop is located in a room-within-the-room, in the centre of the layout space.

As the photos show, the layout is still very much under construction – but the pieces that are finished are excellent:

Scratch-built model of the SP depot at Carmine, Texas.
A GE 70-Tonner given the SP treatment.
Jim’s beautiful model of a Texas & New Orleans caboose.
Kistenmacher’s Store.
Mikes’ Bikes.
Lakeside Grocery.
A string of Jim’s boxcars.
SP 178 – a Baldwin AS616 – takes a spin on Jim’s scratch-built turntable.

While all of Jim’s work is lovely, I was particularly impressed by his scratch-built model of the MKT’s freight terminal in downtown Austin:

This structure would make a terrific anchor for a shelf-style switching layout.

O scale has always been my favourite – even though I currently model in S, and have never built a layout in 1:48. But I do love the presence of the equipment and the massiveness of O scale structures. Visiting Jim’s layout has me thinking again about how I could fit an O scale layout in my space. I don’t intend to move from S – not in the foreseeable future. But I may tackle some O scale designs purely as a planning exercise.

Thanks, Jim, for opening your layout to the convention. It was great to meet you and well worth the trip!

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and amateur shepherd, training a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

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