How To Model Train Layouts Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central

Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central

By | May 10, 2023

Bob Wundrock's Gold Hill Central layout was inspired by Model Railroader's 50th anniversary layout of the same name from 1984

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Built by Others is an article series showcasing layouts constructed by modelers using plans and projects from the pages of Model Railroader magazine. The Gold Hills Central was a layout built live by staff and MR contributors at Model Railroader’s 50th Anniversary Conference, held in Milwaukee in 1983. The original story and plan ran in the March 1984 issue. – Ed.

Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central

By Bob Wundrock – photos by the author

I was fortunate to attend Model Railroader’s 50th Anniversary Conference, held on July 8th and 9th, 1983 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. One thing I remember well from the Conference was the construction and display of the Gold Hill Central HO layout. I was impressed that the layout was able to pack a lot of model railroad in a 4 x 6 area. It was the first MR project layout I recall using a two-sided backdrop, and it made the small layout seem much bigger.

The March 1984 Model Railroader featured an article on the construction of the Gold Hill Central, including a lot of great photos from when it was built during the convention. While I already was working on my own basement HO layout, I thought I could also build a smaller layout at the same time and display it at model railroad shows in my area.

I already had a 4 x 6-foot piece of plywood with framing that I used for my son’s American Flyer trains. Since he’d lost his interest in trains by that point and spent most of his time with his Atari 2600 gaming system, I felt the table was fair game.

Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central: black and brown toy train crossing bridge over a small stream with a hill and town in the background
Bob Wundrock’s version of MR’s Gold Hill Central layout featured a small town and a single industry, replacing the original’s gold mine. Although Bob already had a home layout, he built the GHC to be able to take it to model train shows in his area.

I generally followed the construction points in the article. I had some buildings already constructed for my larger layout that I used for the Gold Hill Central. I also kitbashed and scratchbuilt some building flats for the industry side of the layout. I used commercial building prints on the backdrop as well.

I selected various rolling stock from my regular layout to run the trains. As a result, my version of the GHC was Soo Line themed. I built a one-transistor throttle to operate the layout as a one-locomotive railroad. It’s hard to believe it now, but I made the layout during a time when modelers were still building their own DC control systems for their layouts. So, building your own throttle was just part of model railroading.

Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central: Yellow, black, and brown toy trains in a town setting with gray and brown buildings
The town side of Bob’s layout featured a combination of structures made from kits, as well as those he built from scratch. He also made a few as building flats and added some Walthers’ backdrop images to add depth to the scene. Being a Soo Line modeler, Bob used locomotives and rolling stock from his home layout to populate the traveling railroad.

I took my version of the Gold Hill Central to shows in Menomonie, Wis, which is where I lived at the time. I also took it to a show in Rice Lake, Wis. After the 1986 Rice Lake show, I sold the little layout prior to moving later that summer.

The layout was fun to build, and it made a nice diversion from my larger layout. Unfortunately, I only have a couple of photos and some grainy video tape images, but it’s enough to remember the layout. It was a fun project, and I’m glad I did it.

Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central: Green, brown, and blue illustration showing the track and building arrangement for a small railroad
The plan for the HO scale 4 x 6 Gold Hill Central appeared in the March 1984 issue of Model Railroader. While the plan’s layout-dividing backdrop seems conventional these days, it was a new idea for small layout design in the early 1980s.
Gold, white, and black illustration showing how to assemble a small table with legs to support a model railroad
For Bob’s version of the layout, he used an existing 4 x 6 foot layout table that once held his teenaged son’s American Flyer trains. The MR article featured plans for the benchwork as well, built using L-girder construction and a cookie-cutter plywood top.
Magazine page layout showing two color and one black and white photographs and one page of text on white background.
The March 1984 issue of MR featured a recap of the Gold Hill Central Project. The small railroad was built over a two-day period at Model Railroader’s 50th Anniversary Convention in Milwaukee during the summer of 1983. Bob was privileged to attend some of the construction sessions.
magazine page layout featuring eight photographs depicting people doing modeling work and blocks of black text on white background
At the 1983 convention, the MR staff and contributors demonstrated layout construction techniques on the Gold Hill Central. 17 noted modelers of the period took part in the construction process, including Malcolm Furlow, Bob Hayden, Art Curren, John Olson, and the layout’s designer, Gordon Odegard.

2 thoughts on “Built by Others: Bob Wundrock’s HO scale Gold Hill Central

  1. Brought back good memories. Started to build this in 1984 with/for my 5 sons, ages 3 to 12 at the time. Laid the track, had some buildings and scenery, ran trains. Never completed it. I don’t have a layout right now. Maybe it’s time to try this again.

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