Glad to find this group - nice tribute to Gil

Jeffrey L Witt

I have long admired Gil's modeling, and a while back came across this very nice tribute to him. Enjoy.

Nice to hear that John felt the same.


Ken Vandevoort

The attachment is great.  Two of the people listed that inspired Gil included Cliff Robinson and "Pop" Loeffler.  San Jacinto made a field trip one weekend to Fort Worth and Dallas to tour model railroads.  We did Fort Worth on Saturday and Dallas on Sunday.  Gil set the whole thing up.  Doug Howard, Peter Loeb and I were at Cliff Robinson's late into the night after everyone else left.  It was great to spend time with another legend.  I think all we did was talk. 

Pop Loeffler was the patriarch of model railroading and prototype history in Texas.  He was a retired engineer with Humble Oil and a MIT graduate.  We forget that many of the people that pioneered our hobby were born in the 1800's.  He conducted the club's electronic classes.  I typed all of his handouts.  Pop had his contest entries from the early days of the NMRA.  Today, they wouldn't even earn 87½ points, but they pioneered the way for the rest of us.  Southern Pacific gave Pop a semaphore signal which he set up in his yard and made it operable.  Since Pop lived next to the Gulf Freeway, the authorities asked him not to use it as it was distracting motorists.

I was a radio operator and since Ellington didn't need one, they put me on the switchboard as it was my last assignment.  I volunteered to work only mid shifts and that was granted.  That way I never had to miss a San Jacinto function.  Words cannot express what it felt like going to a large city where you knew absolutely no one and then get adopted by one of the most successful model railroad clubs in the country.

I have slides that I took of Gil's layout long before any of the magazine articles were done.  I have a photo of my AHM cab forward ($18 at Woolworths) pulling a freight on the highest bridge to prove I once ran on his layout.  I was at Gil's for the Christmas meet in 1970 and they had the gift exchange with a $2 limit.  Almost everyone received an AHM structure from someone else.  Virginia was a huge part of things back then just as she is now.

I left the Air Force and Houston in March, 1971.  Fifteen years later I was back in the Air Force Reserve and accepted a request to go to Electronic Security Command headquarters in San Antonio to work in the protocol office for 75 days.  San Jacinto's annual show hit during that period, so I went to Houston for a weekend.  I was barely in the door and ran into Cliff Cheeseman (John Allen was also at his house on the layout tour), the person I spent most of my time with.  Virginia Frietag was at the table collecting admission.  I ran into Dave Milton as soon as I got in and he took me around to meet everyone.  I was back at the Stony Creek and Western that night.

Those guys will always be giants in my eyes.  They helped mold someone who once didn't know much more than 18" radius brass SnapTrack.  I am building my last layout in our last new house.  It will never be Allen or Freitag quality, but it will incorporate a ton of memories.

Ken Vandevoort