The San Juan & Tellurton RR History

12/19/08

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  History

The San Juan & Tellurton (SJ&T) model railroad is owned and operated by Shelly Levy.  It is maintained and shown as a legacy to the memories of two individuals,  Don Brown and Jeff Dutton.  The SJ&T came to life as a result of the confluence of several events in Shelly's life.

Shelly got interested in model railroading back in the 1950's and 1960's while his children were growing up.  He built a layout in his basement, but he considered it an amateur effort, as the model railroad never included scenery or backdrops.  As his children grew up and left the nest, the layout fell into disuse.  His interest in the hobby was re-kindled in 1985 when his grandson asked him if he could get the trains running on the old layout.

In 1990, while vacationing in Canada and New England, Shelly and his wife, Ginny, stopped in New Jersey to see long-time friend, Sandy Brown.  While visiting, Shelly happened to mention his renewed interest in model railroading.  Sandy's late husband, Don, had been an avid railroad enthusiast and was partially responsible for Shelly's initial introduction to the hobby.   Sandy had kept the On3 locomotives from Don's collection, as the narrow gauge equipment had been so dear to his heart.  Unfortunately, Don had no close family relatives who were interested in model railroading to whom the collection could be left.   After hearing of Shelly's re-entry into the hobby, she gave the On3 collection to him, safe in the knowledge that Don would have wished his long-time friend to have the legacy.

Shelly's retirement in 1990 finally allowed him time to seriously pursue his interest in model railroading.  He became active in local model railroad organizations.  This led directly to the next event influencing the creation of the SJ&T.  In 1998, Shelly and Steve McKee asked Suzie Dutton to allow the layout of her late husband, the TC&W, to be included in the tour associated with the 1998 National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) meet in Kansas City.   Although incomplete at the time of his death, approximately half of the layout was detailed with realistic scenery and backdrops representative of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  Through his background as a professional builder of architectural models and his keen eye for perspective, Jeff Dutton had created a real jewel of a railroad.

After the NMRA tour, Shelly asked Suzie if she would be interested in selling the layout to him.  He was interested in the layout for several reasons.  First, he wanted to complete, enhance and show the layout so that people could see the fine work Jeff had done.  Second, Shelly had no real experience with creating scenery and backdrops for model railroads.  He felt that Jeff's layout could provide a physical model from which he could observe and learn.  By emulating Jeff's style, he wanted to step up to the challenge of completing and extending Jeff's excellent work.  Finally, Jeff had put eleven years of work into the TC&W.  Shelly figured that acquiring the layout would save him a comparable amount of time, which was important, having only gotten "serious" about the hobby at the tender young age of 73.

Suzie Dutton sold the TC&W to Shelly in October, 1998.   This allowed Shelly to combine the legacy of engines from Don Brown's collection with Jeff's unfinished layout.   The combination was named the San Juan and Tellurton Railroad, to honor the memories of Don and Jeff.

Jeff's layout was moved to its current location in Lenexa, Kansas, in November 1998.  Relocation of the layout required breaking it down into many small sections to allow them to be moved through doorways.  Re-assembly required significant work to repair the damage incurred by the move, as well as to adapt the original 17'x25', "C" shaped layout to fit the 40'x22' area Shelly had reserved for the SJ&T in his basement.

The relocation of the TC&W enabled Shelly to study, at close range, the techniques used by Jeff to achieve the remarkable level of  realism in his scenery.  Since acquiring the layout in 1998, Shelly has restored and expanded the layout.  Jeff was a master at creating scenery and Shelly has learned well from studying Jeff's work.  People have commented that they cannot tell where Jeff's work ends and where Shelly's begins.   Shelly has accomplished his goal of learning scenery construction, due to his acquisition of the TC&W. 

The expansion and enhancement of the SJ&T continues to this day, with important new features planned.  Shelly spends many hours each week working on the layout.  In addition to gandy dancing, Shelly writes articles about and gives tours of the SJ&T.  

Jeff Dutton's Original TC&W Railroad (114 kb)

  Jeff Dutton's Original TC&W Railroad
   

SJ&T Current and Planned Layout (149 kb)

  Current and Planned Expansions of the SJ&T

  See complete history in the Layout section

   

Go to Biographical Info-Shelly Levy Page

  Biographical Info - Shelly Levy
   

Go to Biographical Info-Don Brown Page

  Biographical Info - Don Brown
   

Go to Biographical Info-Jeff Dutton Page

  Biographical Info - Jeff Dutton
   

Click on the images above to see high resolution versions of each.

 

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