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August 24th- On the Shoulders of Giants- Part 14

posted Aug 26, 2017, 7:28 AM by Sue Line RailRoad

Some people see obstacles as opportunities.  This article, the “giant” I would like to tell you about is a long-term friend and mentor of 40 years.  He is Gil Freitag who lives in Houston, Texas with his wife Virginia. They own the wonderful Stoney Creek and Western (SC&W).

The SC&W is a freelance railroad across Colorado and Utah connecting with the AT&SF at Middletown, Colorado (staging) and runs westward to Salt Lake City (staging). The D&RGW has trackage rights from Toluca to Pagosa Jct. The D&RGW narrow gauge runs from Stony Creek westward to Sierra Vista and into Grand Junction (staging). The mainline of the SC&W is 485ft and the D&RGW narrow gauge has a mainline of 157 ft. The railroad is mostly mountainous terrain. The scenery includes numerous scratch built structures and is about 95% complete.

The railroad consists of two main yards and eight towns and five additional towns on branch lines. The main business on the railroad is sweepers and way freights with two-unit coal trains serving five mines. They also have a good passenger business…running seven passenger trains, most of which do switching along the way.

The railroad has been in the April, 1975 Model Railroad Craftsman, the July 1982, the July 1995 and the April 2003 issues of Model Railroader, the March 1987 NMRA Bulletin and the 1994 Great Model Railroads as well as Volume 13 of Alan Keller’s series Great Model Railroads.

 I had the great fortune of first meeting Gil when I was attending a clinic at a Lone Star Region Convention.  Gil Freitag gave a clinic In “Sudden Sand Scenery”.  By the next week, the Sue Line was covered in sand. It was a tremendous inspiration to me then and remains so through today. Gil stayed active in the Lone Star Region for many many years and served in different capacities because it was always in his heart to give back to the model railroading community.


Gil Freitag is not only active in HO scale model railroading, but he has a fantastic G-scale railroad in his back yard which is housed in a depot which he built. Gil Freitag is also active in the Houston Area Live Steamers group in the Houston Area and has some beautiful life steam equipment.


Later I had the privilege of attending the 50th Anniversary of Gil and Virginia Freitag. It was beautiful and very moving experience. It was a valuable insight into the family life which exists outside the model railroad life and an example for all of us. There is much more to him than just model railroading. Gil is also active in his community and several groups which help and inspire children.


Gil is a soft spoken, easy going man who loves to help others. As some of you may know, Gil was slowed several years ago by a stroke as he was getting ready to go out one evening. He was rushed down the street to the local hospital and treatment was started immediately followed by a l-o-n-g rehabilitation which continues today. The stroke may have slowed Gil down, but it did not stop him. He and Virginia have hosted may Lone Star Region events since the stroke. He has even has even added a stair chair to allow him continued access to his beloved model railroad.

Gil Freitag excels not only in scenery on the SC&W, but also in electronics and operation. Some of my fondest memories are operating with Gill Freitag on the SC&W. Gil runs both passenger and freight trains on the SC&W using a schedule, a dispatcher’s panel which he built, and signal system with he also designed and built. If Gil Freitag had one drawback, it was that he was born too long ago. He only rather lately got the hang of integrated circuits. If you have seen his wiring, you know that Ma Bell was envious of his complex next of copper strands underneath the layout!  I have also have had the pleasure of several interesting conversations with Virginia Freitag about her embroidery and its utilization on the T&CW.

When I look at Gil Freitag, I see the drive and determination that made him the man and friend he is today.  Over the last few years, the sands of time have worn on me and could have easily eroded my interest in the hobby.  But I look to Gil to be inspired that even when our lives seem to get a little out of gauge, our bodies don’t seem to be on track like they used to be, and every step feels like the Rock Island in the final days, model railroading is still fun.


The obstacles that life has presented me lately have become opportunities to share with the next generation.  Thanks Gil for reminding us that we always have something to contribute.