The railroad began as a single loop of track around the perimeter of the back yard built during
the mild weather of September 1994. Four months later Charlotte and I got married and suddenly
the railroad had a name, the Petersburg and Charlottesville.
From the start the railroad was built with code 250 aluminum track. This was a result of a
previous railroad inspired by Paul Rose's Rio Verde Western. Brass track was over twice the price
of aluminum track in those days, and I had already developed a technique for building my own
The P&C's locomotive fleet at the time consisted of Bachmann Ten Wheelers and an LGB
Mogul. Battery power was in its infancy. I had several battery cars using rechargeable lead/acid
batteries, but for control all I had was on the roof: an on/off switch. reversing switch, and rheostat.
Once you got a train started, it was just fine, but to control it you had to get to the train itself. About
1995 I discovered Aristocraft remote controls and adapted them to the battery cars. Now the
P&C had a very good battery-power system.
My first Open House was in November 1995. It was a bit chilly but the trains ran fine...at least for
the first three hours or so. Then the batteries started dying and I still had an hour to go! I did the
best I could to charge batteries between visitors, but ever since, I've always had extra trains and
batteries ready to go! I've had open houses in the fall every year since. One day in August 1998 I
hosted two clubs at once, the Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Mason Dixon. It was a bit
crowded but it worked out great. I've hosted the Mason Dixon Club every August since. Another
Open House opportunity came up in June 2002 thanks to Keith. He wanted to get a few local
railroads open for "G Day," which was proposed as a day for garden railroad open houses around
the world. Over the years, the worldwide concept has faded, but we have a growing group of
railroaders that have open houses every June.
As the railroad expanded with sidings and yards, I wanted an alternative to picking up the trains to
put them away at the end of the day. The first shelter was a plywood cover than spanned three
yard tracks. Then in the summer of 1995 I built a 6 by 16 foot shed and ran tracks into it so trains
could simply run directly into the shed. That winter I replaced an HO basement layout with a G
scale layout, using 36-inch radius curves and handlaid track. I was wondering how to connect the
indoor and outdoor layouts when a friend said why not drill a hole through the basement wall and
run a track through it. He lent me a hammer-drill and soon I had a track running into the basement,
with a hinged door to keep out the weather.
The P&C has expanded year to year, so allow me to elaborate. The original loop, most of which I
now call the Pine Grove Branch, was built in 1994. The indoor railroad was built in 1996. In 1998
a wide-radius, moderate-grade loop was built to handle long trains. In 2001 it was
double-tracked. Tracks in the shed have been expanding and in 2002 a third level was built,
totalling 10 tracks in all. The horseshoe curve was built in 2004 with the purpose of longer runs and
a nice scenic view. In 2005 the Western Maryland Line was established, as a separate loop
including the horseshoe curve. By this time there were 4 interconnected loops that could be run
independently. Also in 2005 a small track-powered loop was built in the doghouse area, mostly for
kids to run Thomas and Eggliners. In 2006 the Root Knot Branch was built, a 60-foot loop
designed for more train action at open houses.
The P&C started as a steam-powered narrow gauge railroad. But soon modern diesels and
standard gauge cars began appearing on the market. In 1995 I bought a Chessie U-25 and a
Reading FA-1, and in late 1996, an NW-2 and an RS-3. Ever since there has been a steady influx
of new diesel engines - more RS3's, a 44 tonner, FB unit, SD-45's, and GP-7's. Add to the mix a
small collection of Eggliners, a Thomas the Tank Engine set, a Doodlebug, and a Budd RDC. The
Budd Car arrived in January 2003, got converted to battery operation, and has been travelling
around the country ever since. It's been to Chicago, Nebraska, Colorado, South Carolina, and
many railroads in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. In 2005 I got my first new
steamer in a long time - a Reading 2-8-2 Mikado. Once I equipped it with sound and made up a
pair of battery cars matching a coal train, it's been running on every Open House since.
Charlotte and I have had the good fortune to meet many wonderful people associated with this
hobby. She and I enjoy sharing the P&C with visitors at Open Houses and other events, and when
we travel, railroads are often a big part of it. Did I tell you the story of where I proposed to her?
On a train ride at the Pennsylvania Live Steamers! Where did we start our honeymoon? In a
caboose at Strasburg! We've enjoyed railfanning at places like Cumberland, East Broad Top,
Chicago, Colorado, and Tehachapi Loop California. Other times I'm travelling with friends,
enjoying model railroads and railfanning at places like Seattle, Sacramento, Train Mountain
Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, Chicago, Ohio, Horseshoe Curve, and York Pennsylvania. And as
you've probably noticed, I love to share my hobby and my adventures through Open Houses, club
activities, Forums, this website, and the Mason Dixon Club website. Thanks for visiting!