What is a Freelance or Proto-Freelance Model Railroad?

Model Railroaders are artists, each with a unique interest and style.  A common theme among all model railroaders is the subject matter of vehicles with steel wheels riding on steel rails.  Beyond that, Model Railroads are as varied and unique as the individual modelers themselves.


Though all modelers strive to depict a realistic representation of their subject matter, artistic license and selective compression are used in every instance out of necessity of scale.   On one end of the spectrum of modelers is the strict prototype modeler.  These modelers pick a specific location, time, and railroad to model.  Sometimes, affectionately referred to as “Rivet Counters”, these modelers skillfully use selective compression with just a little artistic license to create for visitors the illusion that they have taken a step into the specific prototype world that the model railroader has selected.


Depending on the interests of the individual model railroader, the degree of artistic license employed in the creation of his or her model railroad can be toggled accordingly.  Essentially this action involves the creation of story “variables” that explain the existence of items in the modeler’s work of art.  As things are added or removed from the original true prototype subject, the model railroads moves away from being a “prototype” model railroad to becoming a “Proto-Freelance” model railroad.


Variables changed by the model railroader can include changing the timelines for mergers, adding territory to an existing railroad, or even adjusting when customers might have appeared or disappeared.  At some point, enough of the variables are changed that the model railroad is considered to be a “Freelance” model railroad.  Most of these have created storylines for railroad companies that are entirely fictional.


Of course some are executed better than others.  A well done freelance model railroad is able to make the visitor’s leap into the created world believable and enjoyable.  This experience is much like going to a movie theater and being immersed in a world and plot that never actually existed.  Some model railroaders collaborate, involving each other’s own freelance model railroad in the other modeler’s story.  This often manifests itself as the presence of locomotives and rolling stock belonging to both freelance railroads appearing together on on one layout and on the same trains. 


Most notable are modeler railroaders like Allan MacLelland and his Virginia and Ohio and Eric Brooman and his Utah Belt.  These individuals successfully created Freelance model railroad stories that were realistic enough in detail that visitors could enjoy the experience of being on the Virginia and Ohio Railroad and the Utah Belt Railroad.  This is despite the fact that these railroads never existed.  These two individuals were successful in creating large followings well before the advent of Social Media. 


Today, with the ease of idea and image sharing that is afforded by the digital age, more people are sharing and being exposed to Freelance Model Railroad ideas.  Some of these are extremely well thought out, aesthetically pleasing, and are developing fans of their own.  Not only are there a number of Facebook groups dedicated to Freelance Model Railroading in general, but there are also pages and groups that are dedicated to a specific Freelance Model Railroad.  These groups and pages have large followings that are growing daily!


Home Shops recognizes this fantastic trend in the hobby.  The number of model railroaders who desire Freelance model railroad equipment is growing, developing a niche demand that Home Shops is uniquely positioned to fulfill!