If I had to list the two layouts and modellers that have influenced my concept of modelling more than any others, it would have to be Tony Koester’s Allegheny Midland and Eric Brooman’s Utah Belt.  One of these days I’ll add a post about the influence of the AM, as I really credit the two part Model Railroader article in Dec 1987 / Jan 1988 as what hooked me on the idea of an operations-oriented, proto-freelanced layout.  But for now, let’s concentrate on the Utah Belt.

Brooman’s beautiful Utah Belt was the first layout to put the idea in my head of a modern proto-freelanced railroad that moved forward with time.  The AM seemed to move forward or back in jumps whenever Tony would get the itch to adjust the era, whereas the Utah Belt moves forward relatively linearly.  New power shows up, aging power fades to local and helper service, and old power fades from the roster.  It’s all nicely consistent and feels like what a real road would be doing at that time.  Plus, the way Eric captures the deserts and mountains of the Four Corners region is quite spectacular.

I never thought I would have the chance to see the UB in person.  I was at the St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modelers meet several weeks back with Iowa Scaled Engineering (otherwise known as “company I founded to sell stuff I’m building for somebody’s layout anyway”), and was contemplating what to do Friday night.  It was about that moment I saw the layout tour line-up for the evening, and noticed the UB at the top.  This was clearly a must-do, and anything else could be cast aside.

As a note, this is (at least) the second incarnation of the UB.   The new one is only approximately 40’x22′ (the first one was considerably smaller, apparently), but you’d never know it from the photos you see of the layout.  The layout is set up such that it just feels far more vast, capturing the desolate country it models.  Plus, it also has a vast number of photo angles available that all capture very unique scenes.

I forgot my camera, so sadly all I had on me was my cell phone.  Still, I thought I’d share some of the less blurry images with you.

Mr. Brooman, if you happen to read this – I can’t thank you enough for opening your home and your layout to visitors.  It was an honor to visit and, without a doubt, the highlight of the trip for me.


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