News & Reviews News Meet Mike Burgett

Meet Mike Burgett

By Mike Burgett | May 6, 2024

| Last updated on May 10, 2024

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Meet Mike Burgett

What was your first train set (or locomotive)?

vintage photo of HO scale layout
A Polaroid photo shows the author’s first HO scale layout. Mike Burgett photo

A Lionel 0-27 scale Rio Grande steam engine, a Great Northern hopper, a Burlington Northern gondola, and one oval loop of track at about age 6. I got my first HO scale train, a Athearn “Blue Box” B&O F7A, at about age 8. After that I was hooked on HO scale for life.

Describe your model railroading philosophy in 6 words.

Operate it 100% like the prototype. The V&O had a tremendous amount of influence on this. Operate your model railroad “like a prototype, like a business.”

What has been your biggest modeling success?

The overall completion of the layout with scenery 100% completed and to high level of detail in just over 20 years of construction. (See p. 32 of the July 2021 issue for a great photo of Mike’s layout — Ed.)

What was your biggest modeling mistake?

The direction in which I ran the linear dividing walls in the basement, I ran them the short length of the basement when I should have done the long length. Wider curves and longer tangents would have been created this way. My concern was aisle space in conjunction with the support beams running down the middle of the basement. Knowing what I know now I think I could have achieved the desire result with my 36 inch minimum aisle spacing requirement that I imposed on myself. Lesson learned!

What’s your least favorite modeling task?

Doing scenery and ground cover. I find it very stressful as it is the ultimate thing that people see and I tried very hard to make it look like the prototype photos.

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

backed off shot of model railroad layout in a room
Mike’s current layout, the Chesapeake & Ohio Clifton Forge Division. Craig Wilson photo

Adding line wire (EZ Line) to the rest of the layout and the railroad right-of-way pole line.

What advice would you give to a new hobbyist?

 low angle shot of model diesel on track: Meet Mike Burgett
Mike models the early diesel era on his layout, when engines like EMD cab units and Geeps ruled the rails. Craig Wilson photo

Start small, don’t be afraid to build a module and refine your techniques before starting on a larger basement size layout. Once the time comes, make sure to research your prototype; both the railroad and local historical societies can be a wealth of information. I find the historical research as enjoyable and exciting as building the models and operating my railroad. Lastly, make the layout room comfortable and inviting. It’s not just your model railroad that needs to be inviting, it’s the environment in which you present it.

Read about an operating session on Mike’s layout, written by “Trains of Thought” columnist Tony Koester, on page 82 of the July 2018 issue.

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