News & Reviews News In Memoriam: Malcolm Furlow

In Memoriam: Malcolm Furlow

By Cody Grivno | March 19, 2023

The noted modeler and artist was a mainstay in the pages of Model Railroader throughout the 1980s

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Color photo of man on horseback
In Memoriam: Malcolm Furlow. Well-known Model Railroader author Malcolm Furlow is shown at his ranch near Taos, N.M. He passed away in March 2023.

Malcolm Furlow, noted model railroader and artist, died in early March from the effects of long COVID. He was 77 years old.

Though Malcolm had an American Flyer train set as a child, he didn’t become interested in model railroading until later in life. Malcolm attended the University of Texas to pursue an art degree. He then spent nearly two decades as a professional musician, playing backup for The Beach Boys and Lou Rawls, among others. Following his music career, Malcolm built movie sets and models for Walt Disney Studios. In 1977 Malcolm read a John Olson article about his HOn3 layout, which sparked his interest in the hobby.

By the early 1980s Malcolm’s byline was regularly appearing in the pages of Model Railroader. The articles often revolved around projects on his 10 x 10-foot HOn3 Denver & Rio Chama Western. When asked about his modeling philosophy in the July 1981 issue, Malcolm said, “Model railroading gives me a creative release, and it allows me to escape. I think it’s good if you can stretch a hobby a little beyond the point of having fun. For me it fills a need for expression. Bull sessions with other modelers and operating sessions with friends help enrich the total, but I really enjoy getting away to the train room to work by myself for a couple of hours.”

Within five years, Malcolm had become one of the most recognized names in the hobby. At MR’s 50th anniversary forum in July 1983, he was on the dais with an all-star lineup of modelers and manufacturers, including John Armstrong, Bruce Chubb, Keith Gutierrez, Allen Keller, John Kunzie, Russ Larson, and Bruce Walthers. You can read Malcolm’s comments from that event in the January 1984 issue.

Jim Kelly, former MR senior editor, wrote in the November 1983 issue, “[Malcolm] always brings a spirit of fun to his projects, and his layout photos have a breathtaking sweep that’s distinctive and instantly recognizable. The dramatic lighting and rich color are reminiscent of the work of the late John Allen, and indeed, Malcolm does credit Allen’s influence.”

Malcolm also became a regular in Kalmbach Video productions during this time. He appeared in Building Model Railroad Scenery with the Experts alongside John Olson, Dave Frary, and Jim Hediger. He shared more tips and techniques in Weathering Railroad Models with Malcolm Furlow. Visit the Video Vault section of Video to see some of Malcolm’s work.

Color photo of large scale model railroad
This photo was the lead image from Malcolm’s article “Wild West masterpiece,” his last byline in Model Railroader. The story on his freelanced 1:20.3 railroad was published in the September 2003 issue. Malcolm Furlow photo

In addition to his HOn3 Denver & Rio Chama Western, Malcolm built the HOn3 San Juan Central. The 8 x 10-foot model railroad, now on display at “The Magic of Scale Model Railroading” exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, was noteworthy as it was MR’s first narrow gauge project layout. The articles ran from November 1983 to August 1984, skipping January 1984 (MR’s 50th anniversary issue). The stories were compiled into the book HO Narrow Gauge Railroad You Can Build.

Malcolm’s last major series for MR was the Carbondale Central project layout, which appeared in the January, February, and March 1988 issues. The roughly 8 x 8-foot HO scale model railroad featured tracks running through an urban setting. Though the layout packed a lot into a small space, the plan was designed with the beginner in mind and used sectional track.

Color photo of acrylic painting
Malcolm Furlow was an award-winning painter who was best known for his vivid acrylics inspired by Southwestern themes. Railroad imagery was occasionally represented in some of his work. This painting is titled Midnite Special.

Following a decade-long run in the hobby, Malcolm returned art roots and became an internationally known painter. “Malcolm is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever known,” MR’s former editor and publisher Russ Larson wrote in the November 1998 issue. “He’s a free spirit who’s managed to make a living as a singer, musician, author, photographer, custom layout builder, and most recently as a Southwestern artist specializing in big, bright, bold acrylic paintings of Native Americans.

“He’s been so successful in his new career that he hasn’t had time for model railroading. He has acquired some On3 equipment and may start a layout when he gets the ranch shaped up. Let’s hope so. It would be great to see some of his work in MR once again.”

Russ’ wish came true. Malcolm’s final MR byline, “Wild West masterpiece,” was published in the September 2003 issue. In the article, he wrote about his 1:20.3-proportion Ferrocarril de Rio Mantañas layout. Malcolm built the large scale model railroad in a 13 x 20-foot firewood storage room attached to the studio at his ranch near Taos, N.M.

Click here to view the Malcolm Furlow photo tribute.

8 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Malcolm Furlow

  1. Very SAD. Mr Fulow’s work may be the thing that kept me in the hobby back in the 1980’s. His work was so different and inspiring. I even made a trip the Buena Park McDonald’s just to see the layout Malcolm built in the lobby. RIP Sir……

  2. R.I.P. Malcolm, at least you can now join the greatest model railroaders up there in building and painting their layouts

  3. RIP Malcolm, long covid is a mess for sure. I have a couple of Malcolm freight car running really weathered ya know, many thanks for all the skills you shared with us.

  4. I am saddened by Malcolm’s passing. The first issue of Model Railroader I ever bought was the August 1984 issue. It featured the final installment of The San Juan Central project. I was just 14 then, and I stared at those pages for countless hours. Furlow’s Rocky Mountain scenery and spindly narrow gage trestles were awe inspiring. I subscribed to Model Railroader and have read every issue since.

  5. The first video I ever purchased was Malcom’s “Weathering railroad models” that he did with Allen Keller. I still have it, but no longer have a VCR to play it. I did see it on YouTube recently. Malcolm was a real talent in everything he did. Sad to hear he’s gone.

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