Contact Us


Paul's Workshop


Meeting with a Master Model Railroader

at his Layout

James Joseph Duffin MMR, age 90, passed away on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. He will be missed by his model railroad friends whom he has helped over many years.

On Sunday April 3, 2011 I had the chance to visit the layout of Master Model Railroader #344.  James Duffin (Jim), a member of the Du Page Division of the Midwest Region, he had his layout on the division layout tour.  I saw an amazing layout with fine details.  I want to share some of his work with you as it matches with our modeling and education goals in the Three Lakes Model Railroad Club.

Photo 20

His layout is not overly large but includes all the elements that make a layout a miniature of railroad operational history.  Jim models the Chicago Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) during transition from steam to diesel. His layout was designed for operation by up to 4 operators using Direct Current (DC) and is now able to operate on Digitrax Digital Command Control (DCC).  Photo 1 shows a control panel with the controls for DC operation via rotary switches selecting the cabs by color Red, Blue, Green or Yellow. Sockets with the same color code provided locations for plugging in the walk-around cabs.  You will notice that all the rotary switches are set to yellow which is connected to his DCC system.  Turnouts are all controlled by Tortoise switch machines from local control panels with Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) switches.  This uses a single 12 volt supply with the DPDT switch acting a reversing switch supplying current to move the switch points.  Light Emitting Diodes (LED) indicates the position of the switch points.  Jim built these control panels using 3/8th inch black Plexiglas and automobile pin striping tape in various widths and colors to create a very user friendly set of local panels. The care and detail in these panels serves only to indicate the quality of the rest of the layout.

Photo 1

Photo 1


Detailed structures are found all around the layout.

photo 2

Photo 2

The buildings vary from scratch built to super detailed kits.  Materials include wood plastic and paper all painted, weathered and adorned with fine details. I have included a set of photos to show what can be done with buildings including plastic kits that have been popular for years and are still available today.

In the Jamestown Yard there are examples of super detailing of simple kits.

photo 3 H

Photo 3


In photo 4 you can see the water tower from Atlas, a coaling tower, now from Bachman, and a sand house that was sold by Tyco and Con-Cor over the years. 

Photo 4

Photo 4

Here are detailed photos of these models.  

Photo 5Photo 7

Photo 5 and Photo 7

Photo 6

Photo 6

Photo 8

Photo 8

 Photo 8 is a diesel fueling station built from kit and scratch materials.  Another contest quality model is an eight sided gateman’s tower, Photo 9

Photo 9

Photo 9

At Interlocking tower DX (Photo 10) we can see the Armstrong Union Switch and Signal Company Series A levers while Tower man Bob waves to the conductor on the caboose of a train that just pasted letting him know everything is ok as there were no automated hot box detectors in this era.  

Photo 10

Photo 10

Jim used Design Preservation models as the basic kits for a number of structures in photo 11 we see a set of buildings on a main street

Photo 11

Photo 11


Photo 12

Photo 12

Jim built this power plant before they offered it as a kit.

The last structure I will be showing is the loading dock for Rose Flower Farms.  This structure was built with great attention to detail; even the chains holding the awning are real with miniature links. (Photo13, 14, 15)

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 15


Buildings Scenery and Power systems are not the only things that go into a MMR’s layout there also is the Civil Engineering.

Photo 16

Photo 16 shows some track work including the points of a scratch built turnout, all be it with a new switch stand.  This is just one of 3 track sections that Jim built and had judged, gaining more than the required 87.5 points to be awarded the Civil AP award.

Before our editor cuts me off for using all this space we should stop for a sample at the D Lull Brewery on our way out of town. (Photo 17 and 17A)

Photo 17

Photo 17 A

Master Model Railroader #344.  James Duffin (Jim) received his MMR with certificates in:
Master Builder Cars, Master Builder Structures, Master Builder Scenery, Model Railroad Engineer-Civil,
Model Railroad Engineer-Electrical, Association Volunteer, and Author.

Yard Extra

Join us in the “Greatest Hobby” as a member of the TLMRC.

Update 10/01/17