News & Reviews Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominees

Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominees

By Bryson Sleppy | March 4, 2024

| Last updated on May 15, 2024

These three brought operations, track planning, and promotion to our hobby

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A western United States rail yard on a model train layout
A three-unit set of Santa Fe F3s pulls a train into its destination of Dixie Yard in Provo, Utah, on Gil Freitag’s Stony Creek & Western. Gill is one of the Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominees. This photo is from one of many articles featuring Gil’s layout throughout the years. Dave Frary photo

By now, you may have heard that we’ve been creating a Model Railroader Hall of Fame. Why? It’s the 90th anniversary year of Model Railroader magazine, and we wanted to honor those who have contributed so much to our hobby. Editor Eric White inaugurated the Hall of Fame in January’s issue, along with the first three nominees. In February, Senior Editor Cody Grivno shared three more nominees, and last month, Senior Associate Editor Steven Otte followed suit. Now it’s my turn. The list of nominees will be put up on our website,, and you can vote for your favorite using this link.

If you’ve already voted in previous months’ polls, please continue to vote for new nominees. The inductees will be selected by the cumulative popular vote from the whole year, not one per month. Previous nominees can still be voted for by visiting

Do you think we’ve missed a worthy nominee? Please let us know by emailing We will take your suggestion into consideration, but we can’t guarantee that they will be nominated. The candidates must have made a significant contribution to model railroading and be no longer living.

The inaugural class of the Model Railroader Hall of Fame will be announced in the December 2024 issue. Until then, please continue to vote.


Gilbert A. Freitag (1936-2022)

Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominee Gill Freitag
Gilbert A. Freitag

A true ambassador of the hobby, Gilbert (Gil) Freitag made a large impact on the hobby, especially in the Houston, Texas area. Gil’s iconic HO scale Stony Creek & Western has been featured many times in the hobby press, including the July 1982, August 1995, and April 2003 issues of Model Railroader, as well as Great Model Railroads 1994. He began building his layout in 1966 with the goal of having the longest main line that he could and scenery quality equivalent to John Allen’s. [Read about John Allen’s nomination in the February 2024 issue of MR. —Ed.] He surely achieved the scenery goal, and his scratchbuilt structures won him multiple awards. Due to his excellent craftsmanship and achievements in the hobby, Gil became National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) Master Model Railroader No. 91.

In addition to building his own layout, Gil and his wife, Virginia, were heavily involved with the social side of the hobby, being longtime members of the NMRA’s Lone Star Region. They would attend local conventions and shows and would plan their vacations around the national NMRA convention almost every year. His clinic demonstrations of scenery and structure techniques were always in demand, as were his open houses, where about 350 to 400 visitors would view and operate the SC&W over two days. In fact, Gil described his layout as “a tool to promote model railroading.”

Peers recognized Gil for his dedication to the hobby. In the Lone Star Region, he was recipient of the Loeffker Service Award (1981) and President’s Award (2015). The NMRA presented Gil with the President’s Award for general promotion of model railroading (2003) and the inaugural Fellow Award (2007). Gil was a 50-year member of the NMRA.

Gil graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He retired from ARMCO Steel after a career in the field. In addition to HO scale, Gil built a 1-1⁄2” scale diesel road switcher.

Gil died on May 22, 2022, in Houston, Texas. He was 86 years old. His wife, Virginia, passed away on April 19, 2022.


Iain Rice (1947-2022)

Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominee Iain Rice
Iain Rice

Four hundred articles. You read that right, Iain Rice was the author of more than 400 magazine articles and more than 20 modeling books. He was known as one of the most creative and prolific track planners in the hobby. Not surprisingly, Iain made a career from the business of modeling railways, as a designer, pattern maker, and custom builder. He ran weekend courses from his Model Railway Study Centre in Devon, U.K.

Iain was a frequent contributor to Model Railroader as well as its annual special issue Model Railroad Planning. He also wrote four books for Kalmbach: Small, Smart & Practical Track Plans (2000), Mid-Sized & Manageable Track Plans (2003), Shelf Layouts for Model Railroads (2009), and Compact Layout Design (2015). He authored prototype railroad and other historical and topographical books and articles and even tried his hand at the odd bit of fiction.

MR’s Rice Harbor project layout, featured in the January-May 2014 issues, is named after Iain and designed using his style of track plan. He also built Roque Bluffs, a 1-1⁄2 x 12-foot shelf layout, built to Proto:87 fine-scale standards. Part 1 of that series can be found in the October 2003 issue of MR.

Having wide-ranging railroad interests, Iain always preferred to tackle a series of smaller modeling projects covering diverse subjects rather than concentrating his efforts in a single large undertaking. Not that there was space for anything large anyway in a 200-year-old, stone-built Devon quarryman’s cottage!

Iain was born in London, England, not long after the end of World War II. Trains were an abiding interest from Iain’s earliest years. His first model railroad was constructed on an old table-tennis table when he was 8.

He also enjoyed music and old wooden boats. He passed away on Oct. 8, 2022.


Frank C. Ellison (1887-1964)

Model Railroader Hall of Fame April nominee Frank Ellison
Frank C. Ellison

The author behind The Art of Model Railroading has to be included as a nominee for the great influence he had on the hobby. Frank Ellison’s masterpiece series of articles was originally published in the March through August 1944 issues of Model Railroader.

In his feature on Ellison in the August 2008 issue, the late Andy Sperandeo wrote, “If railroad­-like operation is the purpose of a model railroad, this is as fine an explanation of both why and how to do it as we’ve had in print.”

Frank built the Delta Lines, an O scale outside-third-rail model railroad that was probably one of the best-known layouts of its day. This layout wasn’t well-known just because of its looks; Frank built the Delta Lines for operation. The premise of his book Frank Ellison on Model Railroads was that model railroads are meant to be operated like their prototypes. His layout, with location names associated with the New Orleans area where he lived, was maintained by an informal club over the years.

What started as a plan featuring a 375-foot-long main line expanded through the years to wrap around his 30 x 44-foot basement space four times. With a point-to-point plan divided into divisions and terminals at each end and division point, the Delta Lines featured many operating challenges. Frank and the Delta Lines truly pioneered and popularized model railroad operation.

However, Frank wasn’t just a builder and operator. He was a railroad telegrapher, vaudeville marimbaist, storyteller, and a newspaperman by profession, so naturally he began to write about the hobby. A prolific and expressive writer, he wrote more than 50 articles for MR between 1940 and 1955. With the common theme of these articles being operation, he had a way of telling a story by conveying excitement while making his ideas accessible to anyone who read the article. He also wrote articles about scratchbuilding structures for the Delta Lines, as well as scenery techniques that he used on the layout.

Frank passed away on Sept. 30, 1964, in Baton Rouge, La.

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