Tulsa Line 2023

The Spaendahl Yamanee & Densum (SY&D) Railroad

Owner / Location / Website Crew Operating System Car Forwarding Layout Location
Steve Gillett
Tulsa, OK
3 Digitrax Color-coded switchlists, which require the operator to only identify the car's herald and color, but not the very small road number First floor bedroom


The SY&D is a proto-freelance layout located in a 10.5' x 13.5' bedroom of my home in Tulsa, OK and represents the New York Central railroad between East St. Louis, IL and Indianapolis, IN. About halfway between these two cities lies the town of Mattoon, IL around which the focus of the layout is loosely based. The time is April 30, 1960, when I lived there as a young teenager.

About the Railroad: Construction on the SY&D began in the summer of 2015 and became operational in the summer of 2017. It is a three-level, E-shaped layout. The lower level (at 40" elevation) contains a 6-track, double ended staging yard. The yard tracks are between 16.5' and 18' long, each able to hold a 50+ foot long train and four engines. The main level (at 52� elevation) is "E" shaped, with a dog boned double track main around the outer three sides and a peninsula in the center. All track is in place and scenery is 80% complete. Temporary buildings (wood blocks) are used as space holders for permanent structures that are not yet built.

The left side of the upper level contains a petroleum refinery next to a 6-track stub yard. The right side of the layout contains a town with three industries. The center peninsula contains an industrial park with 20 industries, all having rail service and needing switching.

There are two ramp-style helices that run around the back of the layout. Trains transition between staging and the main level using the two ramps, one rising clockwise (2.44% grade) and one rising counterclockwise (2.175% grade). Trains climb the grade 6" to the mezzanine level, then climb an additional 6" to the main level.

Operations on the SY&D

The SY&D Railroad models Mattoon, Illinois with a yard southwest of town. Trains running clockwise (CW) are moving east from St. Louis through Mattoon and on to Indianapolis.

There are three jobs on the layout: Yard master, who builds & blocks the local freight to Mattoon and GIP, swaps cars on two long freight trains, and switches the refinery; the GIP switcher, who pulls and spots cars at the Gillett Industrial Park and runs a passenger train; and the Road Engineer, who brings at least two ~50 car freight trains from staging to the yard and back to staging, runs the local freight that delivers and picks up cars to/from the yard and Mattoon / GIP and switches Mattoon.

About the Town

Mattoon, Illinois is a real town, located in east-central Illinois about 135 miles from Indy and 135 miles from East St. Louis. I was born in Mattoon and my mother's family has lived in the area since the 1830s. It was founded in 1855 as the westbound Terre Haute & Alton railroad and the southbound Illinois Central railroad were both racing to lay their tracks. The intersection of the two lines became the center of the new town.

The Terre Haute & Alton was absorbed by the Big Four railroad which was itself absorbed by the New York Central railroad. Both the Big Four/NYC and the IC had full maintenance and repair yards in Mattoon. There is no attempt to accurately model Mattoon.

The downtown section of Mattoon is representative of the north side of Broadway Ave. Kuehne Manufacturing and Blaw Knox were real industries in Mattoon. The Gillett Industrial Park (GIP) is fictional. The highway is representative of Illinois Route 16 which parallels the NYC tracks between Paris, IL and Hillsboro, IL.

For more details, click here for a 12 minute video of the SY&D layout:>