PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

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I first met Ron Hoess years ago, I believe at the Malvern RPM. Between that and the PRRT&HS annual meetings, I've had the pleasure to sit in on a number of his clinics and have awed at the amount of detail he puts into his modeling.

Ron models the Pennsy's Chestnut Hill, Stifftown, and Midvale branches in the late 1950s. These locations connected with the PRR main line just soutch of North Philadelphia, in the Philadelphia Terminal Division. Noteworthy customers from the 1945 CT1000 Listing of Stations and Sidings included Linde Air Products, Erie Steel Co., Pittsburgh Plate Glass, General Motors, and the Budd Company.

Not a huge model railroad by any means (13' x 18'), but a right-sized railroad with extensive switching opportunities and a staggaring amount of detail. Ron is a welcoming host and I was fortunate to visit with him late in November 2021.

IMG 1150Like myself, Ron relies heavily on Sanborn maps, original railroad documents, historical photos, and site visits. Ron is currently on the RPM "talk show" circuit with a clinic on how he constructed the Margie Street bridge (right). He was able to track down the original blueprints, transcribe the measurements to his PC, and cut the intricate parts with a Cameo Silhouette cutter.

In looking at the overview photo (top), a segment of the main line (now called the North East Corridor) follows the wall along the right. There is a small yard at Margie where freights for the branches are assembled. At the far end of the room is the entrance to the Chestnut Hill Branch, with its station at the wye. The North Philadelphia station would be just behind it. A reversing move off the main would put you onto the Stifftown Branch.

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In addition to detail within his model railroad community (above), Ron spends a lot of time on the rolling stock...

IMG 1152 This gondola load was created by using Tacky Glue and individually applying all of the scraps of metal within -- and Ron has multiple loads like this! IMG 1156 Ron used a traditional soldering iron method for "banging up" the sides of this gondola. He used aluminum foil between the soldering iron and the plastic.
IMG 1151 Every railroad with catenary needs a tower car, right? Ron scratch built this one! IMG 1157 Ron hand-carved a master for the Belgian block, made a mold, and cast duplicates for scenes such as this.


For the General Motors stamping plant, Ron used the Silhouette cutter to make automotive parts such as doors, hoods, and the like. There's a simulated conveyer belt moving the parts to waiting box cars.

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What Ron is really known for -- and a subject of past RPM clinics -- are his Philadelphia-style row homes. Using a combination of Silhouette cuts as well as other masters, he assembles full rows and adds unique details to each unit. Also, the units differ from street to street, per the prototype. 

IMG 1158 Probably my favorite -- the corner store! Note the details like the man holes, the storm drains and fire hydrant, and the doors to the basement reveal a partial interior! The weathering on the sidewalks is excellent.
IMG 1159 IMG 1160 Ron points out that it is the back sides of the row homes that typically were seen from the tracks! Note the "bump out" additions on the rear of the units.
IMG 1161 My wife was the first to notice that this row featured fans in a number of the second floor windows. IMG 1163 A top-down view of these back yards reveals details like trash cans, garden hoses, laundry, gardens, and of course, junk!


And of course, there are trains...

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