N Scale Urban Model Railroad, Queens New York City in N Scale

The Rapido New Look Bus (1969s, 1970s) will be placed right in front of the yellow taxi, behind the Old Look Bus. For those city kids around my age, talk about iconic elements of urban life...

An N-Scale adaptation of the Transit Museum's Train of Many Colors at Queens Subway Station

No depiction of Queens (or any major city, especially in the 1980s and '90s) would be realistic without the inevitable 'societal ills.'  Not to pass judgment of the individuals involved, but the activities they were involved with were part of the fabric of (semi-) public life back then, and contributed to a certain seedy ambiance.  Today, these activities are so much more hidden due to the cyber world.  Included in Queens, NYC are drunks passed out, gay men cruising public parks under the Queensboro Bridge (yellow shirt, photo above), and the inevitable 'tunnel bunnies' who lined the sidewalks at both ends of the routes in and out of Manhattan (photo below).

A train of R - 32 Brightliners recently arrived at Queens Elevated Station from Manhattan.

Shown above is one of only 50 similar 2-car sets of Images Replicas N-Scale brass models available for a short time back in the 1990s.  One other type, the R-46, was also produced in similar quantity.  They sell for collector-grade prices today, on the rare occasion that they can be found at all.  I was lucky enough to purchase four 2-car sets back then.

Karl Heidenreich                                          ACEFilmCo.com                                          Contact: acefilmco@aol.com     

Press PLAY button to watch the 1:30 video.

In the 1990s, some LIRR stations in Long Island City were unused and empty off hours.  Some stations, now abandoned, were little more than clearings in the weeds.

Queens, New York City in N-Scale

A GM 'Old Look Bus' (green) and a 'New Look (Fishbowl) Bus'

(Blue) take on passengers at Queens LIRR Station

To an outsider, the details of everyday life in Queens are culturally dominated by the overwhelming presence of Manhattan.

Most people who are from the surrounding suburbs, rural areas, and even from the four 'outer boroughs' consider only Manhattan to be truly synonymous with 'New York' and 'the City.'

Most people who have not lived in the 'outer boroughs' - whether they are from Manhattan or from a suburban or rural area - only know The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island at all due to driving through them on a trip to somewhere else.

For Queens, that would be to the Long Island beaches or the airports.

For others, their sole knowledge comes from some of the culturally iconic films, such as 'Goodfellas' (Queens) and 'French Connection' (Some of it in Brooklyn), and 'A Bronx Tale.'  That's kind of like saying that you learned to swim from watching 'Jaws.'

During my childhood, residents of Queens were considered (untruthfully), by the Manhattan intelligentsia, to be rednecks on small plots of land (such as Archie Bunker).

Later, Queens became synonymous with the mob and particularly John Gotti, who had a social club down the block from where I worked.

The reality is that Queens was ( and still is) a collection of small urban towns, each with a rich history and identity, connected to each other and to 'the City'
by rail, road and bus, and populated by the most diverse collection of peoples ever assembled in human history.

Yet, the fact that a model entitled 'Queens, NYC' is visually dominated by the Manhattan skyline is not far from reality.

As it says in an article about this layout (N-Scale Magazine, 2017) this project was conceived as a more-or-less present-day representation of my experiences.  A memoir in 1:160 scale if you will.  In the time it took to complete this project (1991 - present) my wife and I have raised three children to successful adulthood, welcomed a grandchild into our family, and long-since semi-retired to a rural area.

Also in that time, Jahn's (the ice cream parlor), Lewis of Woodhaven (the old-school hardware/housewares store) and the iconic Redbird trains have all long since disappeared.

I also recently heard that the gifted and talented program I helped start, at an obscure NYC middle school, in a lower income area, a program which helped send newly arrived immigrant children on to medical school, Broadway and West Point, among many other destinations, has been abolished.

For 'Queens, New York City in N-Scale,' what began as present-day has morphed into a nostalgia project for a city long lost.

Except in memory.                                                                                                                                 KH 11/2021

Behind the scenes: Each of the vignettes/scene elements included in this 4 foot by 4 foot layout (more accurately a diorama) represent actual scenes from my life experiences and observations in 1970s through 1990s New York City.  My family moved from Brooklyn to Long Island in the late 1970s, at which time I thought I would never look back.  After college, working in the technical field for a few years and then grad school, I did, in fact, return to the city as a teacher in the mid 1980s.  I would remain at that career until moving to upstate New York with my wife and three children twenty years later. 

My first (temporary) teaching assignments in the late 1980s were in Long Island City, which is the geographic region represented in the diorama entitled 'Queens, New York City in N-Scale.'  More specifically, the area of Queens along the East River from the Queensboro Bridge south to the Mid-Town Tunnel.  (My permanent assignment was in Ozone Park, did that affect my design choices?) 

Other than the general location of Long Island City, I try not to answer when I am asked if certain elements of the layout are based on any specific locations.  Which they all are.

I prefer for each viewer to see what they want to see, and to base their reactions on the confluence of the scene elements and their own memories and experiences.  That is the reason the place names are so generic (Queens Station, Queens Theater, etc.) and the specific vignettes are not realistically organized as to their actual locations in the real world.  Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle of Queens, completed, but with the puzzle pieces in the wrong places.

Even though I prefer each viewer to have a fresh, unbiased look, I will reveal (admit?) that one vignette within the layout is specifically a real location...  the view under the 'El' of the main boulevard. 

That is Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven.  Or is it Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park?  Or is it 31st Street in Astoria?  No, wait, it's Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside...