Large Scale Desk Layout

Featuring a Beautiful Garratt Locomotive
and a Massive Union Pacific "Big Boy"

Click a photo to see a larger view


The Garratt design solves a difficult problem: how do you build a powerful steam locomotive with a big boiler that can negotiate tight curves. The answer: put the boiler between, not over, the wheels. Then put the fuel and water supplies over the articulated drive units.

In 1927, Hanomag in Germany built twelve Garratt locos for the 2-foot gauge line of the South African Railways. They were a great success: they could haul trains weighing 180 tons up 3% grades, while running at up to 40 mph on level track.

Far from South Africa, NGG 13 Number 60 now resides on the Schinznacher Baumschulbahn (SchBB) in Switzerland after a complete restoration over a ten-year period.

Initially, I displayed this wonderful LGB/Aster model statically on the Engineer's Desk. However, since it so interesting to watch and listen to when in motion, I wanted it to run. So, I built a section of trackwork on each side of the desk, connected it to the display track on the desk - a total of only fourteen feet - and powered it with an auto-reversing unit. Video

The Garratt is just as interesting and lovely when viewed from the rear. Now, thanks to the auto-reversing unit, the Garratt moves slowly from one end of the short run to the other hauling just one log car, rests a while, and then heads in the other direction.

Big Boy:

A total of 25 of the behemoth Big Boy locomotives were built for the Union Pacific Raiload by the Alco shops between 1941 and 1944. The 4-8-8-4 Big Boy was the largest successful engine ever created. It was designed to eliminate helpers and to pull heavy tonnage over the 1.55% continuous grade up Sherman Hill in the Wasatch mountain region east of Ogden Utah. Prior to the Big Boy, it wasn't unusual to see as many as four engines struggling up Sherman Hill. The same load could be handled by one Big Boy with one engine crew, saving the Union Pacific significantly.

The first one, #4000, was built in 1941 and was immediately put into service. The last Big Boy was retired in 1962 - a reign of 21 years. Each Big Boy logged more than a million miles in its lifetime. Of the 25 built, eight survive today in parks and museums around the country.

The Big Boy was the largest locomotive ever built, and this G-Scale model is the largest ever built. It is nearly five feet long and weighs close to 100 pounds. I knew that it would be impossible to run this model on my layout because it needs much broader curves than I have, and it's weight would have demolished my layout's support structure. So my model rests motionless, but stately, on the Engineer's Desk.

Unfortunately, Big Boy #4000 is not one of the surviving locomotives, but my model of #4000 lives on to commemorate its life and times. Although the model is stationary, I've powered its display track so that the lighting can be operated. The headlight and illuminated marker lights are on the front, there are work lights under the running boards, and the cab is lit. The firebox is lighted, and the ash pan glows. It looks like it's ready to go!

The tender, with its fourteen large wheels, looks good in the dark too.