The Train Room

We are working on this site.  It will feature news about our Model train layout, activities involving the layout, improvements and future plans.

Description of Layout

Above are the children and teens who helped me with both books, THE ROCK and TO BE WORTHY.  The same kids are helping me with the HO gauge model railroad in the background.  The model depicts Table Mountain, Cedar Valley and Sugarloaf Mountain,the setting for much of the action in both stories.  Below is a is a sketch of the layout as it is described in THE ROCK and TO BE WORTHY.  Much of the action in THE ROCK took place in Table Mountain Village in the north-west part of the map above, and in the city of Cedar Valley, just across the Cedar River and below Table Mountain Village.  Table Mountain Village is located  250 feet above Cedar Valley south of the river.  In the picture below, the kids are standing next to Table Mountain Village.

The Mansion

The Mansion

The Mansion

Much of the action in the The Rock takes place in the Van Hough mansion.  The building was constructed by the wealthy Abernathy Van Hough in 1899.  Van Hough used limestone cut from Table Mountain to construct the three story building.  A bell tower extended above the mainpart of the building.  When Abernathy Van Hough died in 1931, his evil son Richard and his wife Victoria moved into the building after they had Aberbathy’s elderly wife committed to a nursing home.  Richard lived a recluse life in the mansion after his wife left in 1944.  The building was abandoned in 1969 when he died.  The house was used only by hobos when JL Douglas took refuge in the building in July. 1977.

Cedar Valley

Cedar Valley

The Cedar Valley Layout

The oldest village in the layout is Cedar Valley, the village already in existance when Abernathy Van Hough came to town.  This was the home of Robert McDougall and Van Hough until they both relocated to Table Mountain.  The railway serving the town is the Moose Junction, Cedar Valley & Pacific (the MJCV&P).  The sawmill, the coal processing plant and company houses are in the foreground.  The Cedar Valley church, general store, school, Jeremiah’s barn and cow pasture are in the back.

Table Mountain Village

Cedar Mountain Village

Cedar Mountain Village

The Table Mountain Scenic Railway train pulled by the Heisler engine no. 12 is unloading passengers at the Table Mountain Depot.  The railroad runs along Table Mountain’s only road which twists and winds its way down to Tater Junction.  Shown is the Table Mountain Church, the feed store, a building supply company, the Table Mountain Depot, The Table Mountain Hotel, Victoria Van Hough’s house and Homer McDougal’s house.  More of Table Mountain extends into the addition to the right.

Jeremiah’s Cow Pasture

Jeremiah's Cow Pasture

Jeremiah’s Cow Pasture

Jeremiah’s cow pasture plays no part in THE ROCK, but has a part in WORTHY.  Lyle Sampson worked For Mr. Jeremiah as a laborer after he was fired from the local District Attourney’s branch office in Cedar Valley.  Dennis Johnson stayed with Lyle in a little cabin next to the meat store while they were searching for Jimmy-Luke.

Jeremiah raised dairy and beef cattle, owned a butcher shop and a meat store.  Adjacent to the MJCV&P switch yard is one of his pasture lots, his dairy barn, and his meat packing plant.

The MJCV&P Railway

MJCV&P Railway

The MJCV&P Railway

The Moose Junction, Cedar Valley & Pacific (MJCV&P) is a fictional regional railway, serving Graniteville, Montana, Moose Junction, Cedar Valley, and other cities west to the Pacific coast.  In the author’s stories, the MJCV&P controls a strategic pass through the Rocky Mountains, and is used by the mainline railroads to get through the region.  In the story, Great Northern’s Empire Builder uses the MJCV&P to serve the Cedar Valley Depot.  Crowds of tourists come to Cedar Valley to reach The McDougall’s scenic resort, the Table Mountain Company.

The Table Mountain Railway

The Table Mountain Scenic Railway was constructed by Clarence McDougall in 1916 to transport guests to his hotel, dude ranch and network of camp grounds and trails.  It was also utilized by Table Mountain Village residents as an alternative to the narrow, crooked, county road which winds its way to Tater Junction, then back to Cedar Valley.  The Table Mountain Company ran scheduled and special trips for residents, school children, tourists and for just about anybody who wanted a ride.

Layout Scenes Used in THE ROCK & WORTHY

Empire builder and Boy Scouts

THE ROCK begins with JL, Dennis and the rest of their troop riding Amtrak from Minot, North Dakota to Cedar Valley, Montana, where they will spend a week camping in the mountains.

The boys, with their backpacks are waiting at the Cedar Valley Depot for the Table Mountain Scenic railway to take them to Table Mountain Village where they will hike to their base camp.

JL Embarking on His Solo

Eleven year old JL Douglas, who was afraid of almost everything, had to do a solo campout to qualify for a badge.  Although he feared this exercise, he decided he would go through with it no matter what.

JL’s confidence as he embarked on this adventure, surprised Dennis Johnson, his self proclaimed caretaker.

JL’s Temper Tantrum

Everything went wrong for JL.  He got caught in a hail storm, his tent blew away and landed in the river far below, he tripped and fell in the mud, he was tired and mad.  He vented all his feelings in a little temper tantrum in the shelter of the entrance of the old mansion.

Yes, the story says that he burried his head in his backpack and sobbed, but I forgot to give the little guy his backpack for this shot.

Victoria Van Hough’s Flat Car Ride

Richard Van Hough’s wife, Victoria, a wannabe socialite, had this beautiful 1931 Lincoln.  Although there was no road from their mansion to Cedar River, she insisted the car be kept at home where it would be safe.  She normally rode the train down to Cedar Valley where her driver would unload the car and take her where ever she wanted to go.  On this particular day the train was late, so she decided to ride in her car loaded on the flatcar.  Too late, she realized that following a coal burning steam engine in an open car wasn’t a good idea.  By the time she reached Cedar Valley, cinders had burned holes in her clothes and hair, and she was black as soot.

The Flood

In 1943, a major storm caused the Cedar River to flow out of its banks, flooding all of Cedar Valley and threatening to destroy the Table Mountain railroad trestle.

All Cedar Valley residents had to be evacuated to Table Mountain.  After all the Cedar Valley residents were safe,  Jimmy McDougall had to make one last run to rescue an injured Boy Scout as the flood waters threatened to wash over the trestle.

To illustrate this event, I took a picture of the Heisler engine on the trestle, painted in the flood waters, then scanned the altered photo into my picture files.


Kimberly, still recovering from the drug injection her father’s servants had given her, Kimberlywandered outside the fence around the mansion yard.  Her wedding plans were destroyed by her father;  Jimmy had been beaten up by her father’s thugs, and she thought he was probably dead;  her life seemed to be ruined.  For the first time in her life she thought of ending her life.  All it would take is one step toward the edge of the rock and the river, 200 feet below. Minutes later the whole household was awakened by a blood curdling scream.

Read the book to find out what happened.

Expansion Plans

A model  train layout is never finished.  Cedar Valley and Table mountain are almost completed but a lot of the action is in Tater Junction and Moose Junction beyond the bookshelves. The last house in Table Mountain Village belongs to Homer McDougall.  But there are several other houses in Table Mountain Village, on Tater Junction Road on the other side of all these old National Geographics.

So it’s Down with the shelves, down with the wall, and onto the addition to the train room.  When finished, this addition will almost triple the size of the layout.

Here, left, the kids are raising the first wall.  They are, from the left: Jade, Matthew, Steve, Tiffany and Timmy.Many secret messages will forever be hidden in the walls of this building, right.

On June 22, 2009 the boys and I broke the wall open.

Matthew, Timmy and Steve are pushing out the first panel.

Two of four panels are now open; Steve is now cleaning up the mess.

Timmy takes time out from filling nail holes in the sheet rock to take a spin on the Great Northern Empire Builder. Soon the train will be able to visit Tater Junction and Moose Junction in the new addition.

Matthew is painting the trim on the new Train Room addition.

















The walls are Montana sky blue. Soon, clouds, mountains, and trees will appear on the walls. Steve painted the wall and Ron laid the floor tile. The walls are Montana sky blue. Soon, clouds, mountains, and trees will appear on the walls.







Ron Covering the Windows



A lot of work still had to be done to the old train room.  Ron made background panels to cover the windows next to the Table Mountain Village.  Scenes were painted on sheets of foam core and fastened over the lower windows.

Ron placed painters tape over wooden parts between the windows.  The scene was then connected by painting over the painter’s tape.


Now I am going to try to make the Table Mountain “table” a little more geologically believable.  The Cedar River is to have cut through the narrow ridge, creating the huge arch on which Table Mountain Village is located.  I will begin by suspending cheese cloth as a base for the new formations.  Then I soak strips of paper towel in plaster of paris and suspend them across the cheese cloth.  This is kind of like trying to build a house from the roof down. Many of layers of plaster later, the scene is beginning to take shape.

There, doesn’t that look better?

Now I am going to extend the Table Mountain Scenic Railway into the new addition, en route to Moose Junction.  The MJCV&P will also go to Moose Junction on the lower level.  There are many ways to construct model mountains, but I like to use strips of paper towel and plaster of paris.

I will begin each section by making a skeleton or framework.


On the vertical section of the mountain, I will fasten cloth directly to the framework, cover it with plaster of Paris, then reinforce it with several layers of paper towel saturated with plaster of paris.




The little hill on top of Table Mountain is built up with crumpled newspaper.  This will be directly covered with layers of paper towel and plaster.




The little hill on top of Table Mountain has been covered with paper towel and plaster.  Cheese cloth (actually an old undershirt) has been stapled to the framework, and other details added.  The Table Mountain Scenic Railway climbs through the tunnel on its way to Sugar Loaf Mountain.  The Table Mountain Trail is working its way down to Tater Junction.  On the right the plaster work is almost done.  Painting and decorating come next.



This section is now complete except for adding a few trees.




The next several images, below, take us to the corner of the room.  Soon we will be heading towards Tater Junction.


Tater Junction

The twisting Tater Junction Road intersects Highway 645 at Tater Junction. The Tater Junction Cafe, a hay barn and several residences are located at Tater Junction. The Tater Mountain Scenic Railway is located near the top of the mountain. The MJCV&P Railway is located  at the base of the mountain.

Moose Junction

Moose Junction

The supports for the maintain top are on the wall. Within Table Mountain is a natural cavern ending above Moose Junction, an abandoned coal mine and a connecting tunnel joining the cavern to the coal mine entrance. A first aid station was once located here. This is where Jimmy-Luke was held captive in To Be Worthy. Visitors will be able to stand up within the mountain to view the internal activity.

Train Room Action

During January, the Okefenokee Council Cub Scout Pack No. 360, visited the Train Room.  Each Cub Scout had the opportunity to operate one of the three trains running that day.






Other groups or individuals are welcome to visit the layout by contacting the site owner Ron Phernetton.


During November, 2009, everyone, along with friends from our church, got together for dedication ceremony. After a presentation, where we dramatized parts of THE ROCK, we dedicated the Train Room.

Here, Heisler engine no. 12 runs through a ribbon, breaking into the new addition.