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Robert Meyer’s Southern Railway Phlatt River Branch model railroad

The paper mill turn job crosses a short bridge near the town of Klein on Robert Meyer's Southern Railway's Phlatt River Branch.

Continuing our tour of some great model railroads, this month we’ll take a look at Robert Meyer’s Southern Railway's Phlatt River Branch model railroad. Robert has been working on the layout for the past few years and has gotten it to the point where he can host operating sessions, but still has several more years of work on scenery and structures. The railroad models a fictitious branch line of the Southern Railway in 1973. The branch lines serves a few towns along the line and terminates at a large paper mill, the primary customer on the line and the main reason for the branch line. The layout is point to point with a large staging yard on one end and the paper mill on the other end.

The layout minimum radius curves are 30”, and the #6 turnouts make for a very smooth running model railroad. Robert selected prototypical industries that could reasonably be found on a Southern Railway branch line in the 1970s. These industries take a variety of car types which ads diversity to the local freights. A “universal industry” that Robert models is an interchange track that connects the Southern Railway to several other railroads (L&N, SCL, Frisco, and GM&O). This interchange gives another location to pick up and set out numerous cars. The connecting railroads have dedicated tracks in the staging yard and make appearances to pick up and set out cars during an ops session.

The Coal mine on the right and West Eden on the left.

The Phlatt River on the left and the Acton industrial area on the right. At the far end of Acton is the interchange track with other railroads.

The main portion of the layout is in an approximately 15’X 30’ room, and the staging area and the town of Klein are located in a portion of another adjacent approximately 15’X 30’ room. Both rooms are very comfortable ergonomically to operate the layout and are not crowded. You’ll notice that Robert included lots of “negative space” (areas of scenery or open space) that help make the railroad more realistic. While the layout does not have any trees yet, he is planning to build several hundred SuperTrees to populate his layout with in the very near future.

The large staging yard has plenty of capacity for staged trains. Locomotives can be turned at the end of a run by using a manual turntable located at the end of the peninsula.

When Robert was designing his layout some of the goals he wanted to achieve were to set a freelanced railroad in a plausible setting that can be enjoyed by one person or multiple operators. In addition, he wanted a layout with wide aisles and could be operated in a seated position as he gets older, or for friends that had mobility issues. Robert set the layout height at approximately 41”, which works out really well to be operated from a rolling chair.

The Acton Switch Crew, using Southern locomotive 1136, works the industrial area as the paper mill turn job passes by on the main line.

A few weeks ago I went to visit Robert and assist him with setting up an ops session for his layout. We determined the local trains and switch crew jobs, came up with job descriptions for each one, and what towns and industries each would serve. Robert also wanted to include a tourist train run behind a vintage steam locomotive that would run from staging to West Eden, stop for a period of time to let the passengers visit the town, then return to staging. The steam locomotive crew would have trackage rights to use the turntable in West Eden to turn their locomotive for the return trip. This train adds a lot of variety to an ops session as other trains have to clear the main line for this high priority train.

The Phlatt River Paper Company will have plenty of switching for the crew. The large dark blue paper mill structure is a temporary mock up and will be replaced soon, but gives operators now an idea of how large the finished structure will be.

Some of the jobs that will be filled during an ops session are two local switch crews, one assigned to the paper mill and the other assigned to the industrial area in Acton. There is plenty of switching in these two areas to keep each operator busy for over a two hour ops session. A turn job for the coal facility, and another turn job to switch the industries in Klein will keep the road crews busy. In addition, a turn job from staging to West Eden has numerous duties along the way will be a fun but challenging job. The paper mill transfer job will have a morning job which departs the paper mill to staging and a second turn job from staging to the paper mill and return which keeps the paper mill feed with cars. At this point the layout will be controlled by a Dispatcher who issues Track Warrants authorizing movements. An operating session can easily accommodate 6 to 8 operators and will be a great way to spend a few hours enjoying an operating session on Robert’s layout. I am really looking forward to Robert’s first full operating session, I am sure it will be fun.


Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

543 views8 comments


I been a fan from childhood days, growing up in my hometown of Vinita, Oklahoma, of the Frisco Railroad. The Frisco crossed the MKT, (Katy), in the town center. I love it being included in the layout interchange operations. My layout I'm building, will fictionaly connect via innerchange, to the MKT. This layout gave me a idea. Since I'm attempting to incorporate my childhood memories into my layout. Being that the Frisco and MKT both passed through my hometown, I'm going to include the Frisco as a second railroad connection at the innerchange. I'm of course at the track laying stage in my build. Nothing on top my layout yet. That's the best time for new ideas to come, and…


Great layout and plan, I love the turntable at the end of the staging/peninsula section. Always enjoy seeing the Southern modeled in HO!

Inspired here!


Great design concept and nice use of space. Thanks for sharing.


An obvious, but brilliant, solution when getting older – operating with rolling chairs on a smooth floor. One could also do a combo where operators would stand/walk for open running and then move to chairs for switching on an elevated platform so the layout height would be consistent. Neat!

Replying to

The fridge is also elevated, brilliant!😁


Feb 13

A beautiful design by Mr. Meyer , very good article Thomas, thank you for letting us know about your fantastic layout through your visits.

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