Amazing Miskatonic Railroad Layout

A1-NE-arkham_A3_LOne of model railroader John Ott’s prized layouts, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional georgraphy, is the fabulous Miskatonic RR.

Many Lovecraft commentators believe that Arkham [Massachusetts] was old H.P.L.’s stand-in for the real-life burg of Salem— Salem of colonial witch-trial fame. Salem today rates about a seven on the dreary scale— not much to see, despite its touristy cant. But up until about sixty years ago, Salem boasted the most spine-tingling eerie Gothic-Norman stone train station in North America.


Ott is a Southern California resident who lived four years in New England. He loves to research his period layouts as much as he enjoys doing the artwork constructing the layouts. That chemistry of talents results in exquisite tableaus of trains, cityscapes and figures that seem to come alive when viewed with the photographer’s eye. Lots of photos of the buildings, engines and rolling stock on his website.

He’s also posted a photo essay about another of theme layout commemorating the 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet to San Diego. Besides a train of open-sided “picnic cars” bringing San Diegans down to the waterfront for the celebration, the fine details include a lineup of naval officers posing for a photographer, and members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union marching in front of the Seven Buckets of Blood saloon!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

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6 thoughts on “Amazing Miskatonic Railroad Layout

  1. The Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem Village (now Danvers Massachusetts), not the better known city of Salem. Danvers for a while was known as the home of the Danvers State (Psych) Hospital/Lunatic Asylum. I know they closed and tore down that pit, but it had a very Miskatonic vibe to it, and I think strange occurrences still surround the grounds, much as if they’d built a sub division above an Indian burial ground.

  2. I was going to post the same thing as David, about Danvers vs. Salem, but before doing so, I checked Wikipedia, and the article on the witch trials claims that various hearings were held not just in Salem Village (now Danvers), but also Ipswich, Andover, and Salem Town (now Salem). I haven’t bothered following the citations, but there are many.

  3. Ray Bradbury’s ancestor, Mary Bradbury, was tried and not killed. Thank goodness.

  4. A train station like that would be almost commonplace in Germany, I gather, where the local barons built defensible castles all the way up until the 17th. century.

  5. Speaking as a resident of Massachusetts, I’ll have to disagree with Mr. Ott’s characterization of Salem is dreary. Downtown Salem is actually quite attractive and has lots of little shops, a really neat museum (the Peabody-Essex) and a bunch of historic sites. Granted, outside downtown, it’s standard Northeastern suburbia, but that’s more bland than dreary.

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