The D&NW is based on two actual railroads, joined in the middle by a ficticious, connecting, jointly owned, former Iowa style interurban that in effect, creates a new direct through route between Dubuque and Mason City, Iowa. The towns modeled are actual towns and where ever possible are recreated as close to the prototype layout as is practical. The Chicago Great Western's main line is modeled between Dubuque and Oelwein. My ficticious D&NW picks up the route at Olewein Jct. and heads northwesterly towards Ionia, Iowa where the Milwaukee Roads Chicago, Madison, WI, Marquette, IA, Mitchell, SD to Rapid City, SD line is joined for the run to Mason City. The Milwaukee Road enjoys trackage rights over the CGW and D&NW for their portion of the layout and the D&NW has the same benefit between Dubuque and Mason City. Major yards are operated at Dubuque and Mason City. A small intermediate yard is operated by the D&NW at Tripoli, IA primarily for servicing the local industries. Wayfreights ("Patrols" on the Milwaukee) service all online local industries from various yards. The former CGW Bremer Branch is operated by the CGW between Tripoli and Bremer.

Railroads Modeled


Route Map

Railroad Overview

Superintendent: Art Danz
Scale: HO
Era: 1954. Why 1954? Because the Milwaukee has just received their latest F9's from EMD and are still operating a few steam engines. The CGW is all diesel as is the D&NW (all Alco RSD5 fleet).
Train Operation: Dispatcher (surly to be sure), Timetable & Train Order. Block phones, Fast Clock
Control System: Digitrax - tethered
Car Forwarding: Car Cards - four routings
Crew Size: I plan on six(6), seven(7) if someone is brave enough to volunteer for the dispatchers chair. I used to use twelve in Illinois, but the boys down here have shown me the error of my ways.
Mason City Yardmaster
Dubuque Yardmaster ("the Killer")
Tripoli Road Switcher (D&NW)
Charles City Patrol (MILW)
Dubuque City Job (D&NW)
Dubuque Turn (CGW)
Bremer Job (CGW)
Freight Pool East
Freight Pool West
Passenger Pool

Layout Description:

I recently moved to Bella Vista from Northern Illinois last December (2013). My Illinois D&NW operated for over ten years with such notables as Craig Willett, Mike Schafer and John McBee. The former layout was a two level system (with a third level serving the common staging yard) and was very successful. It was not uncommon to have over twenty (once there were thirty) operators show up on a session call. I finally had to limit it to twelve (first twelve to respond were marked up) for space and safety concerns. The new Bella Vista layout occupies an 18 X 36 basement area with a separate crew lounge/workshop area. The "new" D&NW will be a three (3) (yes you heard right, 3!) level layout with what I am calling a "weave" design where the main line between towns will weave in and out of the scene while it passes behind the backdrops of towns. This will allow for a longer distance between towns which is something I was not satisfied with on the old layout. The skeptics are all predicting gloom about my idea but I'm confident it will work. All of the base benchwork is presently up thanks in no small part to John McBee. The goal is to have the layout up and operating for HOGRAIL 2016.

Operating Scheme

I've pretty much described everything above so just let me say this. To those of you who have not met me yet my background is this. I am a retired professional railroader with over forty-one years of service in train and engine service. Over twenty years of my career were spent in management transferring around the Midwest on the former Milwaukee Road property. I've seen the good and the bad and have had enough of the prototype to last me a long time. What I really enjoy is watching people tackle prototypical situations and how they achieve their tasks. When I was a trainmaster I always tried to teach, not criticize. And that's what this layout is all about. Hopefully you'll be able to experience something that is close to what the prototype did and come away feeling that you learned something new and that you had a good time doing it. After all, that's what the hobby is all about isn't it?


The D&NW runs a total of ten (10) freights per twenty-four hour period (MILW 62, 63, 67, 68, CGW 90, 91, 143, 192, D&NW 82, 87)

Plus four (4) passenger trains (MILW 11, 22, CGW 3, 4) All these trains are handled by the various pool crews.

Atr Department
Hard at work

Last Updated: 08 December, 2014
Author: Ward Hammond
Copyright 2014