Chicago Great Western Railway, RI, CNW and M&St.L

Stacks Image 11177
Stacks Image 11182
Stacks Image 11149
Stacks Image 11184
Stacks Image 11186
Stacks Image 30075

Chicago Great Western map

Stacks Image 1418

Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern map

Stacks Image 11189

Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway map

Mike Porter’s Chicago Great Western Railway

The Chicago Great Western Railway is an 11 year old layout that is a work in progress. It depicts the CGW located in North-Western Iowa in the mid to late 60's. Its a time when covered wagons were in command of the daily mortgage lifter timefreights.

The CGW is a 450' long single un-signaled main track with six ample sized passing sidings. It also depicts the main line to Minneapolis.

The working Division point yard at Clarion, Iowa is represented. The yard is at the junction of the three spokes of the system that radiate out towards Chicago, Omaha and Minneapolis. The yard has 8 tracks measuring 16' long. It also serves 5 industries.

The industrial switching yard at Fort Dodge, Iowa is represented. The yard has 5 tracks and measures 18' long. This yard services two 36' industrial stub end spurs that host 18 industry spots accumulatively.

The balance of the CGW portion of the layout hosts 12 granger townsites where grain and small business are served.

95 percent of the buildings are in place and 75% of the scenery has been installed.

The independently operated Fort Dodge - Des Moines and Southern Railroad depicts the north end portion of an electric short line railroad after it was converted from Juice Jacks to GE 70 tonners. The scene is the Fort Dodge, Iowa yard and the 7 surrounding industries which measure about 52' long. The connected downtown industry site measures about 46' long and serves about 15 industries.

The independently operated Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad area depicts a compressed version of the Soy Bean plant located at Belmond, Iowa. All of the scenery and all of the buildings are in place. It measures 30' long and there are about 20 car spots to pull and set along with interplant moves.

The independently operated Chicago North Western Railroad area depicts a compressed version of the Soy Bean plant located at Eagle Grove, Iowa. 90% of the buildings are in place. It measures 50' long and there are about 20 car spots to pull and set along with interplant moves.

The independently operated Rock Island Railroad depicts a portion of a modelers combined branch line that served Clarion and Belmond, Iowa. All of the buildings are in place. It measures 50' long and there are 15 industry spots at Clarion and 4 at Belmond.
Stacks Image 33672

Layout - click to embiggen

Stacks Image 30077
Layout at a Glance 
Stacks Image 12183
Layout at a glance
  • HO scale
  • The room size is 75 X 35 and/or 3100 Square Feet. The home has a suspended garage floor and a suspended front porch to accommodate more model railroad space commonly known as the Man Cave.
  • Several of the locomotives (known as Motors on the CGW) have sound and working Mars lights.
  • 98 percent of the turnouts are hand thrown.
  • Normal time freight size is 30 cars.
  • The traffic velocity as compared to the Prototype is enhanced by 433%.
  • 90 percent single level
  • Linear in design
  • Easy DCC - eight radio throttles and six tethered throttles
  • The CGW is verbally dispatched
  • Push to talk phone system on the CGW
  • 3-1 fast clock
  • Straight forward Plain Jane waybills
  • Color coded waybill boxes reflecting the road involved
  • Repurposed key board trays to conductors desks
  • Four independent switching areas
  • Small CTC panel at a junction and crossing
  • Four crossings with interlocking plants
  • 15' bridge
  • Huge water tower at Fort Dodge
  • Three staging yards
  • Emergency battery powered lights
  • Ground entrance if required
Jobs on the Layout 
Stacks Image 12196
Jobs on the Layout
Chicago Great Western Jobs:
  • Train Dispatcher for the Chicago Great Western.  He/she directs train movements on the main track via telephone.  We use the “Mother May I”  scheme.  The job is busy. 
  • Foot Board Yardmaster (FBY) for the CGW Clarion yard.  The FBY segregates traffic in three different directions.  This job is both interesting and busy.  
  • Foot Board Yardmaster for the Fort Dodge yard. The FBY segregates blocks of cars that have been set out by the Timefreights and blocks the fill cars for the same. This job also arranges cars in sequential order for the turnaround job to set at the 18 industries located on two downtown industry tracks. This job is a steady low pace. . 
  • Engineer/Conductor for the CGW Turnaround job which runs from Clarion to Fort Dodge, pulls and sets the 18 downtown industries and works the seven branch line industries. This job has its own independent yard called The New Yard. This job is a steady medium pace.
  • Pool crews will protect both freight and passenger trains without fail.  All of the pool crews set out and pick up on their own cars.

Fort Dodge - Des Moines and Southern jobs:  
  • FDS Foot Board Yardmaster segregates a 20 car train and an eight car train.  Then lines up the cars up in sequence for a shoving delivery for the down town job.  It also switches eight industries.  Then this job builds two outbound trains.
  • FDS downtown job pulls from the fifteen down town industries; lines up his return train in outbound station order, makes up a switch list and returns to the main yard.   This job may be instructed to work the other industries in the man yard area.  Then this job shoves the set cars downtown and spots the cars at the industries.  Both of these jobs are busy.

Minneapolis and St. Louis job:
  • This job is a turnaround plant switcher.  It arrives in town with cars for the soy bean plant and other industries in the area.  The outbound cars are pulled from the plant, interchange cars are pulled and delivered and the inbound cars are set.  There is some interplant moves and other industries to work in the area.  There is about 20 car spots.  The job returns in the opposite direction.  This job is low key.  

Chicago North Western job: 
  • This job is another turnaround plant switcher.  It arrives in town with cars for the soy bean plant and other industries in the area.  Outbound cars are pulled from the plant and the business tracks and the inbound cars are set.  There are some interplant moves and other industries work in the area.  There are about 20 car spots.  The job returns in the opposite direction. This job is low key.

The Rock Island job:
  • This job works two townsites on a 50' main track.  It starts out by running a short passenger train from staging to staging.  Then it picks up a local freight and starts working Belmond with two industry spots and two interchanges.  Then it continues on to Clarion where it works 15 more local industry spots.  This job works across the CGW main track at an interesting interlocking plant at Clarion.  This job is low key.

About the Layout Owner 
Stacks Image 1196
About the Layout Owner

Mike Porter
(known locally as “Cliff”, “Cliff Clavin”, and “Saucy Jack, the Yarnspinner”)

I started the hobby with an American Flyer train at the age of 10. As a junior in high school I started my railroad career as a student telegraph operator at the joint agency of the Illinois Central Railroad and the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad at Tara, Iowa. I also did student work at the Chicago Great Western Railway depot at Fort Dodge, Iowa. Upon graduation from High School I hired out as a switchman / engine foreman on the Illinois Central Railroad at the Fort Dodge yard.

I had the opportunity to work the Omaha, Sioux City and the Waterloo road districts while employed by the I.C. I was cut off as a result of the Public Law Board 282 award (fireman award) and I hired out as a brakeman on the Minneapolis and St. Louis Division of the Chicago North Western at Fort Dodge. I worked on the Des Moines, Spencer/Estherville and the Albert Lea districts. I separated from the railroad and began a career as a apprentice electrician. I attended night apprenticeship school and worked in the day time for electrical contractors for four years in order to obtain my journeyman rating. I worked the construction trade for 10 years.

The Chicago North Western called me back to work as a locomotive fireman and I attended their formal engineers school in Chicago. I was promoted to Locomotive engineer and I worked out of eight terminals while assigned to the Fort Dodge Terminal. In 1979 I relocated to Kansas City, MO with the CNW and worked out of the former CGW Ohio Street Yard until it closed in 1983. Jump ahead to 1996 when the CNW was ingested into the Union Pacific. I finished my career with the UP and retired at the age of 69 years old.

I had always thought of building a model railroad but work and family came first. At the age of 63 and with a ton of help from local modelers we built the CGW and the other connecting roads. I installed a lot of the electrical work and the phone work but I had lots of help with the bench work, the electronics and the continuing task of installing scenery.

In addition to my 42 year railroad career I completed a 39 year career with the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.

It has been a great journey with good friends in the model railroad community and I would not change this experience for the world.
More about the Layout 

More about the Layout

The layout is a sheet rock layout. I was inspired by the group in LaCrosse,WI who used sheet rock for their table tops. I also asked four of our local engineering type modelers if there was anything wrong with using sheet rock and I received a resounding "its OK to use!" The only thing I found objectionable was when we cut it with a Roto-Zip we had to follow it with a shop vac. Its been in place since 2006 and it has proven to be OK. The second reason I used sheet rock is that it was economical. The LaCrosse group shared with me that a tightwad CNW engineer from Chicago used the sheet rock method many years ago and it was again OK at that time. Since I constructed my layout with sheet rock another local modeler followed suit and is happy with the results.

There are only two rules on the CGW and the foreign lines. Rule #1 - Have fun! Rule #2 - Keep the radio throttles tethered around your neck.

The atmosphere in the basement is laid back, non judgmental and forgiving. My goal is for everyone to have fun; that's what its about.
Track Diagrams 

Track Diagrams

Here are track diagrams for the primary locations on the layout

(click each header to view the diagrams)

Belmond Iowa track

Stacks Image 12642

Clarion Iowa CGW track

Stacks Image 12591

Clarion Iowa Rock Island track

Stacks Image 12437

Eagle Grove Iowa track

Stacks Image 12540

East Fort Dodge Iowa track

Stacks Image 12497

Fort Dodge (downtown) CGW track

Stacks Image 12668

Fort Dodge (downtown) FtDM&S track

Stacks Image 12461

Photo Gallery

Stacks Image 33658
Dave Acheson switching quarry between Florence and Clarion
Stacks Image 33655
J D Spicer on the CGW Fort Dodge downtown job
Stacks Image 33649
Keith Robinson switching the soybean plant on the Minneapolis and St. Louis at Belmond
Stacks Image 33652
Lenny ohrnell working Fort Dodge Des Moines and Southern team track
Stacks Image 33646
Lynn Masoner switching the CGW Fort Dodge yard
Stacks Image 30069
Steve Priest on the Rock Island job at Clarion, Iowa
Stacks Image 30061
Soybean plant at Belmond, Iowa
Stacks Image 30053
Patrick Lenahan on the FtDDM&S Fort Dodge city job
Stacks Image 30045
Passenger train headed east on Fort Dodge high bridge
Stacks Image 30037
Keith Mercer working the FtDDM&S yard
Stacks Image 30029
John Breau running reefer train approaching west Fort Dodge
Stacks Image 30021
John Acheson working M&StL job at Belmond, Iowa
Stacks Image 30013
Joe Kasper sorting cars at Clarion, Iowa
Stacks Image 30005
Greg Murray at the dispatcher’s desk
Stacks Image 29997
Fort Dodge bridge
Stacks Image 29989
Fort Dodge bridge west end, looking east
Stacks Image 29981
Fort Dodge bridge east end
Stacks Image 29973
Dave Acheson pondering his next move on the west local
Stacks Image 29965
Clarion, Iowa interlocking
Stacks Image 29957
CGW Business train coming through Moorland, Iowa
Stacks Image 29949
CGW C&NW job at Eagle Grove, Iowa
Stacks Image 29941
Belmond bean plant
Stacks Image 29933
Belmond bean plan
Stacks Image 29925
Alan Saatkamp with passenger train coming off Fort Dodge high bridge
Stacks Image 11206
Alan Saatkamp talking to dispatcher while running passenger train at Moorland, Iowa

Map and Directions to the Layout

You can click on the “show directions” tab to print directions from the host hotel to the layout. Or you can download them in Apple Maps or Google Maps on your portable device.