The Great Divide Lines A tribute to John Allen and the Gorre & Daphetid

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Have been following the build and it is really coming along nicely. I can pick out different areas that I can remember from John's layout already.

Excellent work. Looking forward to see the progress.
Yes sir, it's the opinions of you guy's who saw it and some of you who actually operated this masterpiece that matters the most. Things will start to pop this winter Chet.
This is the first time these bridges have cast a shadow over a model railroad or anywhere for nearly half a century. Please take the time and enjoy Two of John Allen's bridges that no one has ever seen recreated before. I am proud to have found a photographic source that was good enough to allow me to use these a photo to build these bridges correctly but will not allow me to share them with anyone. I was surprised and saddened by this, but happy to have had the privilege to have had them for historic accuracy.

Some John Allen HISTORY; In late 1971 John had only 6 bridges to finish and he would be ready to drive the golden spike and officially bring an end to all mainline construction officially competing the line. By January of 1972 he finished the massive, high steel arch bridge from Cold Shoulder crossing high over Squawbottom and reaching the top of Scalp Mountain. Many photographs of this magnificent bridge exist and it is well documented in Linn Westcott's book, pages 24 & 105. So this left 5 bridges to finish. The large span that continued on from Scalp Mountain to the back wall and Angels Camp that John called "The Great Bridge" (the one he never finished) and also four smaller bridges that were needed to complete the high bridge route, part of the Summit Division.

So to put you on the model layout and show you the four he finished during the rest of 1972....; Imagine heading uphill coming out of the cutoff switch tunnel...., proceeding past the roundhouse up the hill and across the large, double track, silver bridge, then continuing over all the heavy steel girders around and over port and to continue on around behind the Port Station and up then the hill across more steel girders to West Divide. Here, are two more of the unfinished bridges (deck truss type) that spanned the area from Andy's Drug Store (at the top of the hill) over to the Central Valley Building.

(these are the Bridges shown here in my recent work. In any photograph previously known these bridges are missing. Today the world can see what John created here for the first time)

Then after crossing these bridges and proceeding over the small mountain, above the cutoff track tunnel (over and behind the Purina Factory) you would come to the Great Divide Freight and Passenger yard. (here you will soon see two more bridges for the first time as well) This is the site of the next 2 remaining bridges (a standard truss girder type) that spanned the yard area and on to Angels Camp, leaving the only gap left to finish the summit division "the Great Bridge". These four smaller bridges are the last work John completed before his death in January of 1973.

It is assumed by myself and most of my fellow G&D researchers that the top of Scalp Mountain would have been the location of the golden spike monument.

During this year of 1972, when John must have been constructing these 4 smaller bridges it is funny he was able to keep them totally secret. As none of the operators I have spoken with during those times remember seeing any bridges on his workbench and certainly nothing was out on the layout during any visits or sessions earlier in 1972. These did not appear until the days just after Christmas of that year. You won't find any photographs of these last four bridges in any book or on any website. In fact you will only see what they looked like right here and I can't share the images I have with the general public but you can see them in person if you ever come to view this layout.

John's heart ran out of time due to contracting one of the more common illnesses as a child that many people were subjected to in the years before we had antibiotics (1945) and he had rheumatic fever (if I remember correctly). Anyway no official drawings of this last great bridge were ever found but some evidence remains today of his long held plans. There was a sketch book I am hoping to get a glimpse of, that showed two designs that he did not plan to use in the end, it would be fun to see some drawings of possible ideas he once had.... His ceiling was not high enough for one of this drawings of a suspension bridge, not even close. But many of the John Allen operators and historians now are in agreement on the facts we can find and we know what his bridge would have looked like. And I have one account from a man who asked John what he planned and John uncharacteristically answered him about this query as he was very tight lipped about this last bridge by most accounts.

He reportedly had planned on driving his golden spike in May of 1973. Many of us (fans of the G&D and many railroad enthusiasts and historians) also agree that his "may date" would have been the 10th of May, to coordinate with the national celebrations of the transcontinental railroad in Utah.

John died on January 6th of 1973. His incredible layout burned only 10 days later. During this time, few photographs were ever taken and it appears John took none himself, which was not his typical habit. This could easily be explained by the reports of fatigue and a total lack of enthusiasm and the charm he normally had, as his heart was giving out on him during this period between Christmas and that first week of January. Very sad, this whole story. To have come so close and to have built such a masterpiece that had achieved as much fame as John had himself in this massive industry makes for the incredible story that he and his railroad and his entire "hobby driven life" was. What a story. A story of incredible achievement and incredible loss.

T West Divide Bridge Unveil 1.JPG Bridge Decks.JPG Bridge Decks 1.JPG Both Bridges 3.JPG
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The Great Divide

Well-Known Member
Some plaster work and mold making has been keeping me busy. These castings will form some of John's iconic structures soon. I did not want to try and copy Johns roundhouse exactly as his was carved linoleum and I liked the look of the South River Model Works enginehouse.. So I made sort of a hybrid of the two and my own preference for field / river stone walls. I liked the outside wall bracings and high arched windows but tried to keep the overall size and window spacing closer to Johns. This is a copy of Johns layout but in a time frame of circa 1948 (just before John Allen and the Gorre & Daphetid takes over control from the Great Divide...) An earthquake can explain any differences from my time in ownership to johns a few years later.. lol.... The pediment over the headquarters building had to also reflect my naming the railroad the "Great Divide" I wanted something that would have more reflected this railroads name... Again an earthquake would provide a fantastic explanation of the change... The rest of the headquarters building will be built exactly the same. The rest of the building pieces are all the exact same things John had to make or modify and they will each stack up to build more buildings that will help me achieve the authenticity I am striving for here. No ready made things for this boy, everything is custom built to match the originals. Much of the rolling stock is already built from more than 75 Ambroid, Labelle, Northeastern and Red Ball kits over the many years while I waited to have the time to indulge this great hobby as fully as I wanted.

Modified Revell.JPG Castings.JPG Pediment stone frame.JPG Roundhouse L&R.JPG
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The Great Divide

Well-Known Member
Gentle Emma our #13 is home. She took some time to find but this is the same exact Stegosaurus. She is actually a fairly rare breed. Took me some time to research her and find the right one. I am working out the correct colors now... not quite there yet. I am bringing everything I have to make this project as perfect as humanly possible for John.... This project will be a rivet counters nightmare. This one's for the good guys, and I am just getting started.

I sincerely hope everyone who cares at all about John Allen or just plain good modeling combined with the historic significance of good research,, are having fun seeing any of this layout unfold.

Emma deserves a like even if ya don't like the work. She has been gone for nearly 50 years.

Welcome back Emma...!

Hey..... Bridges built by John Allen.... never before seen by anyone...! Historical research information you won't read in any book about John Allen, and I am learning more every day. Emma is back making piles of poop and soon to be helping out again. What's not to like...? Or is this all just a bit to much ..?

Emma paint1.JPG Emma Paint2.JPG
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The Great Divide

Well-Known Member
Here's some more progress...
The roundhouse castings just started dropping into place... I really did not want to work there yet, as I don't want to break anything trying to get to all the hardest to reach areas first, but when you're having fun.... why fight it...?

The cutoff track tunnel has some hydrocal soaked paper on it now. (next to the Purina Building) I will be flopping some plaster on this layout... finally.... tomorrow. I think that will help to bring this more to life and make something more recognisable even to those who might not know Johns layout that well...

The "Expandalot" massive parking garage illusion John made famous has its space established now just below the back left corner of the roundhouse in the rocky outcrop that runs around this whole curve.... I have a nice two way mirror for it. But I have not experimented with it yet, it will be fun to build this and see how it was done.
Progress September.JPG Progress September 2.JPG
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Nice find on the Stegosaurus . Are you intending to duplicate John's engine/freight car roster as well?
Only about half of it Willie. if you care for the whole explanation.. read on.. otherwise that's the short answer....
It will all look and feel like Johns layout but will have its own identity as the "Great Divide" John always said he wished he could have named it that himself... In my timeframe.. of just after the War (nothing newer than 1949....) The Great Divide is owned by one of the largest stockholders at Southern Pacific Lines. (You'll see a few SP pieces of Equipment the small Cab Forwards 4-6-6-2's a couple of the McKeen motor coaches...etc.) Now the lettering will be the same font and sizes and the diamond logo (G&D) will be same and John Allen is alive and well and owns a small standard and narrow gauge line called the Gorre and Daphetid headquartered in Gorre, so some engines will be over there......
This railroads story goes that John Allen owns four of the best mines in the region...and his railroads also service a small oil rig he has. He has two good coal mines and has now struck sliver in another and has found oil....! So he recently bought the Gorre & Daphetid and the 3' gauge Devils Gulch and Helengon Lines and is now with enough cash to consider making offers on the larger railroad (The Great Divide) and become a railroad tycoon himself.

He has been fighting with the Great Divide for right of way access over bridges for his narrow gauge line for a while already and had to set up a large coal and ore transfer track, as these products on the narrow gauge tracks the D G & H RR., are not allowed into Port by the Great Divides Rules. Only basic freight can travel through.
So John has been in negotiations for weeks./months and is making some headway and has some guarantees on paper at this has already bought a few engines from the Great Divide and is having them painted up for the Gorre & Daphetid...and refitted in the large roundhouse shop facility in West Divide.

John takes over the railroad in 1950.. (the future) and of course this is when his roster comes into full swing.. This is when the earthquake hits and any of the things I have that are unique to the Great Divide like the pediment carving over the headquarters building... or the different looking walls of the roundhouse are recorded as destroyed and John rebuilds everything to his liking.

For now I will have a few of his iconic engines all painted up correctly for photo shoots... and etc. But a nice roster of Great Divide engines as well. I think even some of the rolling stock might be lettered one side for the G&D lines and the other for the G&D lines of a different name...
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Nice work.

I really like the detail your putting into this layout.
Because of what it is... I have to Patrick.
I have seen many layouts that claim to have, and have attempted to, capture Johns magic but there is just no way to do it unless you really do it. I had to make the hard choice to build additions to my garage space to make this happen. John was one of the best model makers of his day, this layout was one of the finest ever built and perhaps the most photographed and it certainly became the most iconic of all layouts in its day and even today is still considered worthy of the top ten lists of greatest layouts. That is a level of detail achieved back in his day that can not be denied considering the MASSIVE availability of incredible products available in comparison today. Even where John cut corners the shear volume of work was, and still is, jaw dropping.

Patrick I owe this man a good part of my livelihood and many years as a model maker as a profession and as a kid I dreamed of running a train over his bridges and around those tracks. So now that I have come full circle and have acquired a lifetime's worth of model building skills, and am lucky to have the space I have to give it everything I have or it will not measure up. I am scratch building everything the same way as he did. I owe the man this effort. It would be a crime to just build my own layout knowing I can pull this off but did not take it on. So here goes... I hope everyone finds it fun to see something a little different here and realize this is a labor of love. This is an honest effort to change the ending of Johns tragic story somewhat and provide an alternate ending.

It was actually a little emotional to find the correct "Emma" and see her here. Made me grin ear to ear to hold that little vintage toy and know where she will live again. She did have a place where she slept BTW... She'll be back there when I get it built.
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Will you allow Diesel locomotives? Or, like John, will you "Hang by the neck until dead" any Diesel salesmen, if they show their faces?
Diseasels can not be allowed or I think John will turn out the lights on me Mark.

There will be sombreros, and there will be a hanging staged somewhere as there will be people who will want to see it even thought the famous event took place on Johns second layout not this final one.

Now, with that said, I do have the little D&RGW #50, 3' gauge, side rod beasty that my girls named "stinky" So the narrow gauge line might allow this little thing to sneak out from time to time, mostly at night, and he will have a shed with doors that close...! ha.
John never finished his narrow gauge line nor manage to get much of it in at all, he was pushing to finish the standard gauge high bridge run on the G&D and drive the golden spike when he died. The narrow gauge was left undone.
So technically I have some leeway here... and I have already managed to double the narrow gauge trackage... on paper anyway. A long way to go before that line is all in. but when the time comes this one diseasel will be allowed... I think it is the outboard counterweights and side rods that make that little machine almost OK.
Emma hates this little engine BTW... the smell and the noise makes it hard for the guys to keep her focused when it goes by.
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Well-Known Member
Not to take the wind out of your sails; Great Divide. But, even if you successfully complete a replica of the GD Lines, the amount of work you will put into it and amount of work that John Allen put into his, will be two completely different things! Every tie on John's layout was individually placed and every rail upon them was hand spiked by Mr. Allen. I also understand that most of the rolling stock and locomotives were scratch built by him; or, at least built from kits. The GD Line was built at a time when if you wanted a model railroad, there was much more work involved in making one.
Wow! Really?
Is the Purina feed mill the Alpine Scale Models kit?
Hey Alan, ya know I am not positive. I actually built that when I was a kid and it has kicked around now for years. It was a pretty common kit, yellow box so must have been a Suydam kit. I still have to change the chutes up on top to silver and change the routing to more closely match Johns. The Central Valley building has a bunch of that kind of detail work still needed as well. But right down to the vines, they will be accurate in the end.

Closing in the tunnel mountain right next to the Purina Building today. Also closing in the rock scenery along the area under and surrounding the engine facility as well. The famous "Expand-a-lot" concrete viewing port is being built. Got the plaster out and trying to keep it all contained and get as much of it up on the model as on me. This is the fun part. A Micheal Angelo of rock strata armed with a spatula and a stiff, narrow brush !
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No, wy words are not contrary and you have completely miss-interpreted what I am attempting to say! I am sorry you took what I said wrongly. However, I have spoken my opinion: agree; or, disagree, it is your choice! Should you prefer, I will leave this thread alone?
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Well-Known Member
Hey Alan, ya know I am not positive. I actually built that when I was a kid and it has kicked around now for years. It was a pretty common kit, yellow box so must have been a Suydam kit. I still have to change the chutes up on top to silver and change the routing to more closely match Johns. The Central Valley building has a bunch of that kind of detail work still needed as well. But right down to the vines, they will be accurate in the end.
Well if it's metal its a Suydam, if it's cardstock and paper, it's an Alpine Scale models kit. I have several of their kits. Old school design but they make into decent structures! is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to