The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading
  NUMBER 119


© October 26, 2008   

©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

 | Read other articles Send in an article |


A Visit to a Grand Scale Railroad

Owner of ATT&Northwestern R.R., John Woods (center) welcomes Tom O'Connor (left) and his brother Jim to the ATT&NW's Fall Gathering.


Written by Tom O'Connor

Photos by Tom O'Connor, Jim O'Connor,
Mike O'Connor and Chris Kucko

My brother, Jim O’Connor, who is the founder and editor of, has asked me several times to join him as he travels to visit various Grand Scale tracks around the USA. I’m so happy that this time I took him up on his offer and went with him to visit the Arborway T.T. and Northwestern Railroad.

This railroad is located in South Central Missouri and is privately owned by John Woods. I believe it to be the largest grand-scale railroad in the USA, if not the world. John’s train layout (if you will) is built on two thousand five hundred acres of land. To give you an idea of how large that is, you could fit Disney World’s ‘Magic Kingdom’ onto this property five times over!

From left to right are Jim, Mike and the author, Tom O’Connor, outside the station building. Locomotive 801waits between trips
(click image to enlarge).

It was a thrill just to sit and pose in the fireman's seat of the 4-8-4 Northern steam engine number 801. This scale train is large enough that you actually sit inside the locomotive. This engine weighs over twelve thousand pounds and the tender almost seven thousand pounds. Wow! That’s almost as much as my mother-in-law! (Just kidding, and besides… she’ll never read this! Ha!)

I’ve got to say that this engine is the sweetest machine I’ve ever laid my eyes on. It doesn't burn coal. Instead it uses #2 fuel oil and an atomizer nozzle to spray fuel into the fire box. A burning rag gets the fire started. It's the fireman's job to manage the size of the flame and to control the water level in the boiler.

801 worked as good as it looked, as we rose through the hills on a 2% grade with a dozen cars in tow with maybe thirty passengers on board.

How does that go? "If my friends could only see me now!" This steam engine possessed the magic to change a sixty year old man into a nine year old boy without even leaving the station!

Even as we were sitting at the depot, it was thrilling just hearing the sound of the steam powered air pump chugging along. After this photo (right) was taken, I stood right under that side discharge from the air pump and positioned my shoes so that the steam cleaned them and made them look new again! Admittedly this is a bit of an expensive shoe cleaner, but it did a fantastic job.

The author with ATT&NW RR's Chief Engineer Alex Beams (at the throttle)  in the cab of the 4-8-4 Northern Steam Engine # 80
(click image to enlarge).

Your author on the “Northern” 4-8-4 Steam Engine # 801
(click image to enlarge).


There are two tunnels at the ATT&NW Railroad, the Deer Ridge Tunnel and the 890 foot long Ozark Mountain Tunnel. Almost all train tunnels are far too short, but the Ozark Tunnel leaves train tunnel fans truly satisfied and joyous. I sat with John Woods on this ride and he told me that he and his Mama planned this grand scale train layout (with a lot of help) and she got to see this stage (phase one) of the railroad completed before passing away.

Amidst some of the most beautiful scenery of the Ozarks, we are in awe as we huff & puff along on our thrilling 30 minute journey over the ATT&NW RR’s main line.

Although we were riding on a grand scale train, the ride was more of a journey and adventure than it was a simple ride around a basic or even glorified loop. And although it was a freight train, we covered so much ground that it felt like I was riding Amtrak cross country! I’ve never experienced anything even close to this on any other model train of any size.

ATT&NW R.R. Steam Train Travels Through The Ozark Hills And Over Its Valleys (right)

View video clip  
View video clip

The ATT&NW R.R. Tunnels are
incredible (click image to enlarge)!

To keep the grades to a maximum of 2%, cuts and fills like this one above are used throughout the main loop (click image to enlarge).


From left to right are Jim O’Connor, Chris Kucko and Mike O’Connor. In the background is the ATT&NW round house (click image to enlarge).

My brother Jim, his son Mike, Mike’s friend Chris, and I flew from Chicago to St. Louis and then rented a car (PT Cruiser, but that’s a story for another time) for the 1 ½ hour drive to St. James, MO.  All four of us are train buffs and were in for the experience of a lifetime at the ‘Arborway T.T. & Northwestern Railroad’.

We checked out the round house (all locomotives, but one, were in use that day) and the car barn (right).

Mike, Chris, and I explored the car storage barn. It's got a great signal system with R/Y/G lights that inform you when your cars are at the end of the barn (click image to enlarge)..

Mike O’Connor drives ATT&NW R.R.’s Davenport Switcher #27.  This little switcher weighs five thousand five hundred pounds (click image to enlarge)!

Mike O’Connor drives the Davenport Switcher #27 (left) across a six acre figure eight track called trestle loop. This run includes a trestle and a bridge that circles Cedar Lake and then travels past tower #10 and along the west side of Bell Lake. 
"Jim's Turn" video clip

Tom O’Connor gets instructions on the fundamentals of the operation of this 15” gauge switch engine (right). This 55hp beauty has enough power to pull an entire train load if needed.

The author receives instruction on the Davenport Switcher prior to his first trip around trestle loop (click image to enlarge).

This author drives the Davenport Switcher #27 along with ATT&NW R.R.’s engineer, Art.  I never was any good at hiding my excitement (click image to enlarge)!

I nudge the reverser forward just a smidge (left) and the faithful #27 workhorse quietly, but powerfully, starts to roll! Yikes!

I pose inside the Arborway T.T. & Northwestern Rail Road Engine Shops along side of the Merrick Locomotive Works’ Switch Engine Type SW-1200 Engine # 17 (right). This little beauty has a Kubota 4 cyl. turbo charged engine that drives a hydraulic pump which, in turn, runs four hydraulic motors (one on each axle). This switcher is rated at 71hp and weighs 5,750 pounds (no mother-in-law jokes).

I’m so glad that the fun continued after dark. The night run somehow increased the phenomenal magic of this train fantasy-land to an even higher level!
I was in a train lover’s frenzy of delight! Don’t forget, these photos show only the visual experience, but there were also the sweet sounds & smells that go along with a live steamer as well!

The author inside the ATT&NW R.R.’s Engine Shops (click image to enlarge).

Locomotive #801, arriving at the depot around dusk  (click image to enlarge).

Northwestern Rail Road has a whole other magic at night (click image to enlarge)!

Part of the magic of a night time steam run is that you have incredible photo opportunities that are all but relegated to the bygone days (or nights) of yesteryear.

John Woods and his staff supplied us with just such photo opportunities by running on-coming trains to light up our own steam against the backdrop of their engine lamps. I almost felt as if I was the famous railroad photographer O. Winston Link getting my camera ready for the next great night train photo.


Tragic News:  I am sorry to report  that we lost John Woods on October 16th. 2008 to a motorcycle accident just 12 days after our visit to his beloved railroad. John's friends comment on his passing.  I will remember John and John's family in my prayers.  I don't know what will happen to John's railroad, but expect it will outlive him by many many years and perhaps be a wonderful legacy for a great man.   Video tribute to John Woods.


Written by Tom O'Connor

Photos by Tom O'Connor, Jim O'Connor,
Mike O'Connor and Chris Kucko



About the author:  Tom O'Connor lives 30 miles west of Chicago and owns and operates both 7.5" and 14" gauge equipment and is an active member of several live steam clubs.  Tom O'Connor is the big brother of Jim O'Connor from


Would you like to discuss
the ideas in this article? 
Post a comment or question here.

the end

Write to
(the subject line must contain the word discover)

Have an idea for an article? 
We need your article on ....

Technical Issues such as problems and solutions associated with steam locos, hydraulic drives, electric drives, track laying and maintenance, signal systems.

Construction Projects, mostly looking for car projects (let's leave the steamer building to the print magazines). How about scenery construction or building a hand car?

Full scale railroads and museums.  If you work for or volunteer for a railroad, if you've visited one recently and have a few photos and can write up a half dozen paragraphs on it, we'll be happy to put it up on the web.

Live Steam Railroads. How about a little background and a tour of your railroad or one you've visited.

Please share what you know with us.



The On-Line Magazine of Ridable Model Railroading

Read Other Articles

| Live Steam Railroads | Suppliers | Postings | Buy n Sell  |
 | Events Calendar | Books | Magazines | Videos  | Photo Contest |

Hit Counter