News & Reviews Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees

Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees

By Cody Grivno | January 6, 2024

February’s list features John H. Armstrong, John Allen, and Gordon Odegard

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The 90th anniversary year of Model Railroader magazine is off and running. In the January 2024 issue, Editor Eric White shared the news that we’re starting the Model Railroader Hall of Fame. Each month, we’ll present a slate of nominees. Inductees in the inaugural class will be announced in the December 2024 issue. This month, we’ll take a look at the Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees for February 2024.

As a reminder, the two requirements for nomination into the Hall of Fame are that the person made a significant contribution to model railroading and that they’re deceased.

Is there someone you feel strongly should be nominated? Please send an e-mail to Though we’ll take your suggestions under consideration, it’s not a guarantee the person will be nominated.

Voting for the Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees is cumulative. The list of nominees for January 2024 can be found in this article.

John H. Armstrong (1920-2004)

Black-and-white photo of man at drafting table with books and magazines in background.
John H. Armstrong was well known in both model and professional railroading circles. He wrote 76 articles for Model Railroader magazine, as well as five books for Kalmbach. Model Railroader collection

Known as “The Dean of North American track planning,” John H. Armstrong made a major impact on the hobby. He was the author of 76 articles for Model Railroader, many focused on track plans he’d drafted for clients or track planning ideas.

In addition to writing articles for the hobby press, John was also a book author. Among the five he wrote for Kalmbach was the influential Track Planning for Realistic Operation, which many modelers still consider the reference for model railroad design. Though the books are sold out, you can purchase Digital Downloads featuring some of his work in the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

Professionally, John spent 34 years as mechanical engineer at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. Following his retirement, he spent 10 years as an associate editor for Railway Age magazine, a trade publication for the rail transportation industry produced by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. In 1978 John wrote The Railroad — What It Is, What It Does, a basic textbook used by professional railroaders.

John was also an active model railroader. His 24 x 34-foot O scale Canandaigua Southern, which first appeared in the January 1971 MR, also served as a vehicle to test his track planning ideas.

John passed away in 2004 after a short battle with cancer.

John Allen (1913-1973)

Color image of man with gray hair and round beard smiling while looking over shoulder.
John Allen’s HO scale Gorre & Daphetid captivated a generation of model railroaders. One of the locomotives from his layout is on display at the Model Railroader offices. Model Railroader collection

To a generation of hobbyists, John Allen needs no introduction. From the mid-1950s until his death, the “Wizard of Monterey” wowed model railroaders with articles and photos of his HO scale Gorre & Daphetid (pronounced “gory and defeated”) in the hobby press.

John started in the hobby in 1946, and within a decade was one of model railroading’s biggest names. Magazine readers were excited to get updates on the G-D Line, and manufacturers turned to John’s photography skills and layout to promote their latest products.

What made his modeling so influential? John used the three iterations of his G-D Line to expand the hobby’s boundaries. Walk-in scenery, weathered equipment, and regular operating sessions were just some of the things John was on the leading edge of.

My former colleague, the late Andy Sperandeo, was a regular operator on the G-D Line in 1970 and ’71. On the 30th anniversary of John’s passing, Andy wrote, “John’s death in January 1973 at his home in Monterey, Calif., put an end to the realization of his dreams for the Gorre & Daphetid. I like to think, though, that his dreams live on in every model railroader he inspired. We owe so much to the man who showed us how dreams could be made into reality.”

Gordon Odegard (1928-1991)

Black-and-white photo of man with moustache and glasses wearing a dress shirt and necktie.
Gordon Odegard was a member of the Model Railroader staff from 1949 to 1991. Among his many contributions to the magazine was the N scale Clinchfield project layout. Jim Hediger photo

For more than four decades, Gordon “Gordy” Odegard’s name was on the masthead of Model Railroader magazine. Founder Al Kalmbach hired Gordy as a model builder in 1949. His young career was put on hold not long afterward when he contracted tuberculosis.

Upon his recovery in 1953, Gordy returned to the magazine, working briefly in the art department before becoming an associate editor for Model Railroader. His skills as a craftsman and draftsman were regularly showcased in the magazine. Among Gordy’s nearly 300 bylines was the multi-part series “A USRA Mikado in brass,” which showed readers how to scratchbuild a steam locomotive. His drawings of the original Milwaukee Road Hiawatha were featured in MR’s 50th anniversary issue in January 1984. Gordy also worked closely with those who contributed prototype drawings to the magazine.

“Grundoon,” as he was known to his colleagues, was actively involved with many MR project layouts during his tenure. His signature piece, which he designed and built a large portion of, was the N scale Clinchfield, shown in the photo below.

Gordy died on July 8, 1991, after suffering a heart attack at the National Model Railroad Association national convention in Denver.

You can vote for the February Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees here.

3 thoughts on “Model Railroader Hall of Fame nominees

  1. John Allen is the Elvis of model railroading. Before anyone did anything, John Allen did EVERYTHING. One look at any photo of his layout, and suddenly you couldn’t wait to drive to a lumberyard or a hobby shop and build your own railroad.

  2. I feel really weird about this? OBVIOUSLY Allen and Armstrong have to be in any hall of fame, it would be a complete mockery if they weren’t. I guess I wouldn’t be offended if Odegard was left out, but he seems pretty great too — I do own one of the books he wrote, good stuff. It seems ludicrously unfair to pit him against two Absolute Legends.

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