A Visit to Mike Hamer’s Boston & Maine in HO

I spent the weekend in Ottawa, travelling on Via trains 40 on the way there and 45 to get back home. Travelling by train was, unsurprisingly, a joy that will never grow old for me, despite the fact that both trains were just minutes under an hour late arriving at their destination.

The highlights of my trip were the morning spent at the National Gallery and our visit with Mike and Lisa Hamer. It turns out that I have much in common with Mike – we’re both musicians and teachers. We also appreciate railroad modelling in a similar way. Mike collaborated with me in writing this post. I couldn’t get all the details correct without his help.

Mike’s layout is deceptive. It photographs really well and it leaves the impression of being much larger than it actually is. A big piece of Mike’s layout is an urban scene comprised of enough structures to populate a much larger layout, and Mike has enough structures on dioramas to fill a modest sized layout quite comfortably.

Next time I visit, I’m going to spend less time taking photos and more time running trains. Here are some highlights.

A pair of B&M 'bluebirds' hauls a freight across a river valley. The northeast states are unquestionably invoked in this scene.

A pair of B&M ‘bluebirds’ hauls a freight across the Haney Gorge. The northeast states are unquestionably invoked in this scene.

In the photo above, Boston and Maine inbound train N2, in care of GP9 Bluebirds 1746 and 1701, steps across the New England River Bridge at Haney Gorge. Note the “billboard” paint schemes on these McGinnis units. The wife of then B&M president Patrick B. McGinnis designed the stylized “B” over “M” as she had done in a similar vein with the New Haven’s “N” over “H” logo when her husband was president of that railroad. These two units were part of an order of fifty new GP9’s that replaced the B&M’s weary fleet of FT’s. While many railfans mourned the loss of the maroon and gold Minuteman scheme on Boston and Maine diesels, one certainly cannot doubt the colour of railroading!


Above, a trio of GP7’s heads up Boston and Maine train PM3 across the New England River Bridge on a sunny May afternoon. The train is under a slow order restriction as it will enter Marshall Cut upon exiting the gorge. B&M units 1566 and 1568 are versatile geeps. Note the train lighting equipment box on their long hoods that enables them to pull passenger equipment for the railroad when not running manifest freights. Trevor Marshall super detailed and painted the 1566.

First generation diesels abound on Mike's layout. Here, a mix of F3 and FT cab units pass an RS-3 spotting a gondola on an industrial siding.

First generation diesels abound on Mike’s layout. Here, a mix of F2 and FT cab units pass the North Dover Station while an RS-3 spots a gondola at Phillips Furniture.

In the photo above, B&M train MP2 arrives North Dover where it will exchange traffic at the outbound end of the yard. F2 diesel locomotive #4255 leads FT AB pairing #4217 on this day. In the mid 1940`s, B&M management realized early on that the FT ABBA quartets were too much power for their trains, so the company purchased an order of F2`s to improve power to train ratios. When the FT`s were retired and parts used on the new order of GP9 Bluebirds, the phase-in period took sufficient time to allow Mike the opportunity to run both types of locomotives on his railroad.

Mike's ability with modelling structures is clear in this overview of an urban scene.

Mike’s ability with modelling structures is clear in this overview of North Dover.

Above, the bells are ringing as B&M train MP2 passes the depot in North Dover. This train left Mechanicville, NY in the morning and will complete its run in Portland, ME later in the day. Mike chose to call his town North Dover to give him artistic license to bring his favourite scenes from around New England to the layout. Mike tells us that his model railroad showcases his skills shortly after he entered the hobby of model railroading. He now likes to spend his time scratchbuilding and constructing craftsman kits for dioramas. He also enjoys building structures for others and working on and operating friend`s layouts.

6 thoughts on “A Visit to Mike Hamer’s Boston & Maine in HO

  1. It was a true joy hosting you and your wife during part of your stay up here in Ottawa. Your impressive photographic skills truly bring the layout to life. You did a great job nailing those captions. At your request, I’ll add a few more points of information.

    I must also add that it was my good friend, Trevor Marshall, who was the inspiration behind the Surround Staging concept which allows me to run a host of trains of varying lengths while keeping all staging tracks within the confines of this 11’x13′ room. At the time I built the model railroad my wife, Lisa, was running a daycare in our basement and she didnt want staging tracks out where the kids might “find” them. Trevor also introduced me to the Boston and Maine Railroad and, indeed, we did spend many happy hours together bringing my dream to life.

  2. Hi trainmodellersza and James. Thank you both for your kind words about my layout. It sure is fun to operate and you are both most welcome to come over for a visit should you find yourself in Ottawa at any time. James, right you are…Herbert Matter did indeed design the bold-faced letter logos on the New Haven and Boston and Maine. It was the artistically trained Mrs. McGinnis, the then president’s wife, who initiated the program to rethink the company’s corporate image using graphic design principles, but it was Herbert Matter who came up with the design. Thanks for the correction!

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