This message is little tardy.
Mike Schwab left us on Friday morning from a heart attack. Though most of his modeling for the past decade or more was in Sn3, he had converted from HOn3 after building several layouts. Mike also was active in O scale building structures and dioramas. His conversion from HOn3 to Sn3 darn near broke Jim Vail's heart as that left Jim the only HOn3 guy in the local narrow gauge group.
What follows was also posted to the Sn3 group and the On3 group. He is already missed in our local group.
Mike was a prolific builder with absolutely no fear of having to tear something out and do it again. He loved scenery and structures, and anyone who saw any of his various HOn3 layouts or his several different versions of the Sn3 San Lorenzo Southern would certainly attest to his excellence at both. His rolling stock was darn nice too. Mike did draw the line at engine work though, leaving those modifications and DCC installations/upgrades to others (unless it was a PBL Foreground model which did not need any work).
Mike did not limit his building to only one scale, and in the structures and diorama area built beautiful models and scenes in O scale along with On3 and On3 dioramas and was collecting items to work on a little HO standard gauge scene. I also think Mike had collected some N scale as well with some thought of seeing what it was like to build in that scale.
As Mike's layout room was about two thirds of a two car garage (the other third being laundry, household storage and similar) he was a master at figuring out new ways to store what he was building if there was no spot on the layout for it. The valence above the layout held a lot of structures, such as all the O Scale D&RGW and RGS Depots he could not resist. Dioramas were built on wheeled tables that could be stored under the layout bench work. Other completed models were stored in tall cabinets on wheels which were built like furniture. These cabinets were both in the 1/3 space of the garage and in the house. At some point Mike gained the space rights to hang a boxed in double ended staging yard on the partition wall in the family garage space that served as the end points of his railroad. Mike was an unstoppable builder!
A little over a year ago Mike decided he needed to tear out and rethink part of his layout to better accommodate some of his physical impairments, provide a little more switching in operation sessions and accommodate some more structures he really wanted to use, and make his modeling work benches and supply storage much more user friendly. Mike works fast, and in short order had the structural and track changes in place so he could have a few of us over for a "test op session" This happened just before the COVID 19 stay at home orders were issued in the SF Bay Area Counties. That test session showed this new version of the San Lorenzo Southern would be fun to operate, and get even better as Mike put in his gorgeous scenery and well composed scenes. In the following months, email exchanges were used to develop the train schedule, employee time table, train line ups and other paper to support TT&TO operations. Most recently, Mike took and break from structure building to get the layout tuned up for operating session with plan of getting back into the rotation once the Vaccine has deployed and the medical experts announced it was safe to meet again. Mike's love of operations I suspect stems from him being one of Jim Vail's early model railroad buddies, even adopting and using Jim's unique car card system for decades before a more recent conversion to the more common car card and waybill system.
I am pretty much a lurker on the narrow gauge ioGroups, but was always struck by the number of times Mike would post just to congratulate or thank someone on a model they posted a picture of to the group. That's just who Mike is. His sense of humor, infectious laugh, willingness to pitch in and help out, his encouragement to keep building, and his always up beat personality will be missed by many of us. A true Gentleman. There is so much more to say.
Thanks for your kind thoughts of Mike and his family.
D&RGW Durlin Branch in On3