This shot of a Union Pacific streamlined steam locomotive and tender bursting through the snow on Don and Miriam Pruter’s 12 x 20-foot O gauge model railroad fittingly served as the family’s Christmas card just a few years ago.
A Union Pacific 4-6-6-4 Challenger has all the strength necessary to keep running despite the snowstorm engulfing the layout the Pruters built a few years ago. Don has come a long way from the inexpensive Marx passenger train that launched his love of toy trains as a boy in 1949.
Drivers and pedestrians absolutely hate it when a blizzard covers the Pruter family layout with snow. Maybe they should get used to the slippery roads and sidewalks, since winter weather characterizes the scenes all year round!
Traditional tubular track was Don’s top choice for the network on his 12 x 20-foot O gauge layout. However, he improved its look by adding individually painted ties.
With their four kids and grandchildren visiting often, Don and Miriam decided to operate O gauge models representing every era of American railroading.
A 4-4-0 American-type toy train steam locomotive rounds a curve on a mountain top overlooking Don Pruter's Christmas city.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Classic Toy Trains.
Whenever Classic Toy Trains features a layout distinguished by snowy scenes and Santa Claus plus his reindeer, readers naturally assume whoever built it did so while a blizzard raged and icicles formed on eaves and downspouts. They can’t help envisioning logs burning in a nearby fireplace and Christmas lights aglow.
Not always, however. Donald and Miriam Pruter combined their enthusiasm for toy trains and their different talents to create a cool 12 x 20-foot O gauge layout reflecting every aspect of winter while the temperature outside hit 115 degrees. They built vignettes that left them shivering with imaginary cold and damp at the same time their neighbors wilted under the southwestern heat.
A MUST TO SHARE
Once Miriam and Don had finished the basic scenery and situated all the structures, about all they thought was lacking was snow. So they generously sprinkled it everywhere until they had the appearance both of them had wanted.
Three months of pleasant effort side by side helped the Pruters finish an O gauge display both of them consider a dream come true. Of course, the real fun had only begun, because now they could share the layout with family and friends.
“We’ve loved sharing the railroad with our children and grandchildren,” Miriam said. “When our friends’ grandchildren visit, Don and I enjoy running a Polar Express set from Lionel. We give each of the kids a special ticket of admittance before turning out the lights and playing music from that movie.”
What a gift the Pruters have provided for visitors both young and old, letting them observe the layout and even operate trains! But Miriam and Don insist their layout does even more. They want it to inspire CTT readers, especially those who have never built a display, to start.
This husband-and-wife team had a blast working together while learning at first hand that a holiday layout need not be an expensive or overwhelming proposition. Instead, making an O gauge display filled their home with joy.
LAYOUT AT A GLANCE
Name: Don and Miriam Pruter’s O gauge layout
Dimensions: 12 x 20 feet
Track and switches: Lionel (42-inch diameter)
Motive power: American Flyer, Hafner, Lionel, Marx, MTH
Rolling stock: American Flyer, Hafner, Lionel, Marx, MTH
Controls: Lionel VW, ZW and MTH Z-4000 transformers
Accessories: Lionel, Marx, MTH
Structures: Department 56,
Vehicles: Road Champs
Figures: Department 56