A recent thread on the Atlas Forum asked "What model railroads inspired you?" It challenged readers to recollect before responding. Responses were typically in list form, but I'd like to share my list with justification, in no particular order...
Without a doubt, I can point to Bruce Chubb's Sunset Valley Lines as my original inspiration. As a teen, I was glued to the series in Model Railroader. It was my first exposure to the concept of "operations" on a model railroad.
Allen McClellan's Virginian & Ohio is probably on everyone's list. I was late to the party as I was not a Railroad Model Craftsmansubscriber at the time, or perhaps that was when I was at college and my hobby was boxed up. In any case, it was in the late 1980s or even the 1990s that I was enlightened by Allen's work. His "beyond the basement" approach opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.
Tony Koester's Allegheny Midland makes my list as well. While I wasn't a 100% fan of the design of the model railroad, he took Allen's "beyond the basement" approach and coupled it with prototypical coal marshalling. Moreso than anyone else, his series in Model Railroaderinstilled in me the concept of "proto freelancing".
Long before my stint in N scale, I recognized the Reid brothers' Cumberland Valley Lines as an excellent example of operations and that it was possible to operate in N scale. They were clearly pioneers in 1:160 at the time.
Ken McCorry's PRR Northern Regionwas hailed by Model Railroaderas the "World's Biggest Home Layout". In a barn custom-built for the model railroad, and later expanded, it is huge... on as many as five levels! Ken makes my list because he strived to maintain fidelity to the schematic of the prototype. There are probably a dozen junctions with other PRR branches or other railroads and, through creative staging designs, he managed to make them all active rather than just "dead end" at the wall.
George Selios' Franklin & South Mancester. Though the design never appealed to me, the structures and their details, and the scenery, is simply staggaring! If I can do half of what he can do, I will be pleased. NOTE: Changes are currently being made in the design to make the railroad "operational".
Noteworthy: Cal Winter's FEC Key West Extension, Chuck Hitchcock's Argentine Division of the Santa Fe Railway, Tony Koester's Nickel Plate (which I have operated on), Eric Brooman's Utah Belt, Paul Dolkos' Boston & Maine, and Joe Fugate's SP Siskiyou Line.
So, who inspired you?