Jim Zwernemann’s Proto:48 masterpiece

Jim Z P48

As I prepared for last week’s trip to Austin for the NMRA Lone Star Region’s annual convention, I mentioned my plans on my Port Rowan blog – and Gene Deimling reminded me that one of the layouts on the tour was the superb Proto:48 layout being built by Jim Zwernemann. I immediately made plans to visit – and I’m so glad I did.

Jim is well known in the Proto:48 community for his beautiful scratch-built freight cars. He’s also an accomplished structure builder.

Jim Z - workshop
(Where the magic happens: Jim’s workshop)

What he has not been until relatively recently is a layout builder – but he decided that he needed a place to showcase his work. And what a beautiful showcase it is. Jim is modelling a general theme featuring two transition-era prototypes: the Southern Pacific’s Texas & New Orleans, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas. The layout features a single-track mainline that hugs the walls of a 30′ x 25′ space, with a peninsula in the middle to provide some additional switching opportunities. Jim’s workshop is located in a room-within-the-room, in the centre of the layout space.

As the photos show, the layout is still very much under construction – but the pieces that are finished are excellent:

Jim Z - Carmine Depot
(Scratch-built model of the SP depot at Carmine, Texas)

SP 5115
(A GE 70-Tonner given the SP treatment)

TNO 345
(Jim’s beautiful model of a Texas & New Orleans caboose)

Jim Z - Kistenmarcher's
(Kistenmacher’s Store)

Jim Z - Mike's Bikes
(Mikes’ Bikes)

Jim Z - Lakeside
(Lakeside Grocery)

Jim Z - boxcars
(A string of Jim’s boxcars)

Jim Z - TT
(SP 178 – a Baldwin AS616 – takes a spin on Jim’s scratch-built turntable)

UPDATE – July 13, 2018: Jim has shared some additional photos and info about the convention with Gene – and Gene has posted them to his own blog. Click here to see more.

While all of Jim’s work is lovely, I was particularly impressed by his scratch-built model of the MKT’s freight terminal in downtown Austin:

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

This structure would make a terrific anchor for a shelf-style switching layout.

O scale has always been my favourite – even though I currently model in S, and have never built a layout in 1:48. But I do love the presence of the equipment and the massiveness of O scale structures. Visiting Jim’s layout has me thinking again about how I could fit an O scale layout in my space.

I don’t intend to move from S – I’m currently considering a new layout based on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway (an interurban that ran in the city I lived in as a teenager), and 1:64 is the best choice for modelling that. But I may tackle some O scale designs purely as a planning exercise.

If I do, I’ll share them via this blog.

Thanks, Jim, for opening your layout to the convention. It was great to meet you and well worth the trip!

If you want to know more about my trip to the NMRA Lone Star Region convention, visit my Port Rowan blog.

4 thoughts on “Jim Zwernemann’s Proto:48 masterpiece

    • My pleasure!
      (While Jim is happy in the conventional DC camp, this is a layout that would be a delight to operate with a ProtoThrottle…)

  1. It looks terrific. The models are wonderful and thank you for sharing the photos with us.

    I’m looking forward to posts that explore your layout space in terms of O scale. It sounds like a really fun exercise.


    • Scribbling O scale layouts for my space will indeed be a fun exercise – but I’ll admit it’s well down my “to-do” list. There are projects to finish on Port Rowan, and there’s that whole NS&T thing

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