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July 13th- Standing on the Shoulders of Giants- Part 13

posted Jul 14, 2017, 6:23 PM by Sue Line RailRoad

This time I want to discuss a “giant” who very few of you may know or have heard of, the late Larry Keeler. Larry was a giant both figuratively and physically.



He spent his early years in a log cabin which his father built in northern Wisconsin.  By 16, he had earned his private pilot’s license and would later spend eight years as a fireman and engineer on the Milwaukee Road.

Later, Larry moved to Dallas, Texas where he worked as an industrial x-ray technician. While eating lunch one fall day in Shreveport, Louisiana, Larry Keeler met a young lady by the name of Patsy Braswell. They married and remained so for 56 years.

In 1964 Larry Keeler moved to Kansas City where he worked for Greb X-ray company for nearly 30 years, returning to his love for flying as a corporate pilot for them for 27 years.

In 1995, he left aviation and returned to railroading for the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad. Larry Keeler loved working for the railroad and was a conductor and engineer for six years. On his retirement, at age 72, Larry Keeler was given a scale railroad car with his name and company number on it. Larry Keeler always thought he was the luckiest of men as he indulged himself in two careers:  planes and trains.

After retirement, he returned to Overland Park, Kansas where his home was filled with an elaborate model railroad which he had designed and built. It was a frequent gathering place for local model railroaders and attracted visitors from around the country.

One of the many inventions of Larry Keeler was a model railroad command control system which he named CTC80. Larry Keeler designed the circuit boards and sold the systems across the country as Keeler Rail Supply. This was before any of the commercial command control systems were available.

Another fascinating invention of Larry Keeler was his HO scale layout which had an operating hump yard with air jet retarders which slowed the cars that were set free at the top of the hump. Each car landed exactly where it should. It was fascinating and I recall spending hours watching the hump yard in action.

Larry Keeler was awarded Master Model Railroader 137 in March 1988. I recall that I had many happy discussions with Larry Keeler about how to operate and control my model railroad. I also recall having had the honor of reviewing the CTC80 system by Keeler Rail Specialties in Model Railroader in the March 1988 edition.

With his exposure to piloting skills, train handling prowess and attention to detail with his work and electronics, Larry showed me that making things better for others was a real gift for the hobby.  At the Sue Line, we try to make things better for others.  As operations tend not to be a spectator sport, I have utilized his approach of always trying to make things better for the operator.  The control system, placement of toggle switches, clearly marked labels and maps, to straightforward paperwork are all integral parts for creating successful weekly operating sessions on the Sue Line.  Those are all details that must be tended to that have nothing to do with the above rail appearance of the railroad but have everything to do with getting us through an enjoyable journey for 3 hours each week.

There are many people out there that have done great things in the hobby whose name will be lost to the passage of time and lack of “fame”.  Their contributions are no less important.  But, as I recall, Larry Keeler would far rather you benefit today with fun on your railroad with better controls and improved operations than he would want notoriety for himself.  Command control is one of those legacies he helped put in place.  How is that benefitting you today?

So you are also standing on the shoulders of one of these more quiet giants in the world of model railroading.  Thank you, Larry.

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