News & Reviews News Meet Bryson Sleppy

Meet Bryson Sleppy

By Bryson Sleppy | April 7, 2024

| Last updated on April 12, 2024

Find a hobby mentor and never stop learning

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

What was your first train set (or locomotive)?

I’ll answer this one in two parts: locomotive and set.

A little boy in front of a Christmas tree holding a book about trains upside down
Bryson’s love for reading about trains started early in life. Luckily, he now knows to read right side up!

You may have already read on or the Winter 2023 issue of Classic Toy Trains that my first model train locomotive was a Lionel Santa Fe Alco. That’s right, just Alco, with no model designation. The locomotive is decorated in the attractive Santa Fe “Bluebonnet” blue, silver, and yellow paint scheme and was originally introduced in Lionel’s 1973 catalog. Only available as part of a set, it hauled three freight cars and a caboose around an O-27 oval. I received this locomotive from my maternal grandfather, who introduced me to the hobby. Since then we have continuously bonded through the love of model trains.

A young boy on the floor beneath a Christmas tree unboxing a train set
The highlight of Bryson’s 9th Christmas was Lionel’s Polar Express train set. He couldn’t wait to open it up and set it up before he finished unwrapping the rest of his presents.

My first set was given to me by my paternal grandmother. Knowing that I was into O gauge trains, she had me circle what I wanted for Christmas in a Lionel catalog, and the first thing I circled was the Polar Express. This was Lionel’s first run of the popular set, and nothing compares to the feeling that I had opening the big orange box on Christmas morning.

Describe your model railroading philosophy in 6 words.

My philosophy has to be “take it step-by-step.” Sorry, that was only five words. I had an influential computer science professor in college who would tell us the “watermelon story” every year. The basis of the story is that you can’t just cut a watermelon in half and start eating it. You have to cut it into bite-size pieces and eat one piece at a time.

That’s how I look at a lot of things in life, especially model railroading. Sure, you can build a model railroad in a week, but even when building something in such a short amount of time, you have to take it step-by-step. Start with benchwork, then lay track. After that, do your wiring and then scenery. Add your buildings, and so on. Even with smaller things like DCC installations, I like to take a methodical approach by ensuring each step is done in the appropriate order.

 What has been your biggest modeling success?

 A man wearing a tan apron with a model passenger car taken apart in front of him
While decaling may be Bryson’s least favorite modeling task, the same cannot be said for electronics. He loves installing decoders and other tasks involved with adding sound and lights to model trains.

Speaking of modeling success, aside from landing the perfect job as an associate editor for Model Railroader, my biggest modeling success has to be the installation of a Soundtraxx Blunami decoder in a LEGO locomotive. While others had done the installation before, there was little documentation on how to do so, especially with adding lights. Ben Lake assisted with the project and found the perfect way to use SMD light-emitting diode lights inside of clear LEGO studs. The finished sound and light-equipped diesel is still one of my favorite things to run.

What was your biggest modeling mistake?

Oh my, how do I choose? While I’m sure I have a lot of mishaps with decals and paint, there’s one mistake that comes to mind. Stuffed in a shoebox in deep storage, labeled “DO NOT OPEN,” are parts of an Athearn Blue Box SW1200 and a Bachmann double deck passenger car.

My original idea was to power this commuter car that had a cab end and use it as a Diesel Multiple Unit-like car (such as those built by Colorado Railcar Manufacturing for the Alaska Railroad). At the railroad preservation I was volunteering for at the time, I had an older friend (I was only 16 or so) take a cut-off tool to cut the frame to the side that I needed. I tried to test-fit the frame with the car and nothing lined up well. I was new to scratchbuilding or kitbashing, so styrene was a mystery to me. I ended up putting it all in the shoebox and walking away. Maybe in a decade, I will open the box and try to give the model new life.

 What’s your least favorite modeling task?

My least favorite modeling task has to be decaling. Whether I’m applying decals to a locomotive or model aircraft, I want them to be perfect, and most of the time they’re not. I know more patience is needed, but even then, decaling will always be my least favorite modeling task.

What project(s) have you been working on recently?

The biggest project that I’ve been working on recently has been the T-TRAK layout. David Popp, Brian Schmidt, and I are each building modules for a cohesive T-TRAK modular layout modeled after Colorado. My section includes a large grain elevator with a siding. Keep an eye out for continuing coverage of this project on

What advice would you give to a new hobbyist?

Find a mentor. I would not be anywhere near where I am today if it weren’t for older, more knowledgeable people who have poured into me and taught me many of the things that I know, whether that’s in modeling or in life. Trust me, this hobby is so much more enjoyable when you’re alongside others who share the same interest. And never stop learning. Keep reading, researching, watching videos, watching full-size trains, and anything else that can help your modeling skills take off. Try new techniques, meet new people, go to new shows. Never stop learning.

One thought on “Meet Bryson Sleppy

  1. ” Whether I’m applying decals to a locomotive or model aircraft, I want them to be perfect, and most of the time they’re not. ”

    Young man, that happens to all of us. And if you look around enough, you’ll find that it also occurs on the prototype roads as well.

You must login to submit a comment