John Armstrong Rip

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Cjcrescent, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. Cjcrescent

    Cjcrescent New Member

    Saw this on SER yahoo groups this morning:
    From Mike Brestel, NMRA VP:
    "To all list members. I was informed today that John Armstrong passed
    away sometime Wednesday July 28th. Funeral arrangements are now being
    made and that information will be posted later.

    All of us that knew John,or benefited from his advise, clincs and
    articles will miss his contributions to our hobby."

    We have lost one of the greatest innovators and pioneers of this fabulous hobby. My deepest sympathies and prayers go out to his family and friends during this time.

  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I'm sorry to hear that, my condolences to his family as well. For those unfamiliar with him, he was simply a marvel in his abilty to condense Class One railroading onto a layout designed to fit an average spare bedroom. Any of his work is highly recommended reading for someone starting out or contemplating a new layout.
  3. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    John will certainly be missed as he was a great inspiration to this hobby.
    Condolences to his family.
  4. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Yes, I even managed to read one of his books. He will be missed. :( Sad day for the hobby. Fred
  5. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    I thought the name sounded familiar but when someone mentioned condensing Class I I knew it had to have a connection with my favorite modeling book - Track Planning for Realistic Operation. His legacy lives on.
  6. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    He was a great influence on the hobby and a great ambassador for model railroading.
  7. NYC-BKO

    NYC-BKO Member

    It's a great loss to our hobby, he will be missed.
  8. jmarksbery

    jmarksbery Active Member

    So sorry to hear this, I think I have all the books he has written. May he enjoy the Great Train Ride in The Sky. :cry: Jim
  9. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    I have always followed John Armstrongs musing and dry wit in the magazines and other publications, and his Track Planning for Realistic Operation has been a well worn reference guide for me since the 1970's.

    BTW, how old was he? must have been mid to late 80's!

    RIP John Armstrong
  10. SAL Comet

    SAL Comet Member

    Sorry to hear that, John was as giant in the hobby and will be missed greatly.
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The first article I saw from John was "Building a Flywheel Boxcar" in about 1956. This was an attempt to get a boxcar to roll down the track after it was kicked by the loco.
    Never did figure out how to apply it to my Lionel cars.
    Also, never had the nerve to phone up and say "can I come over?"
  12. cobra

    cobra Member

    One of the true legends of the Hobby is gone .Most of us have , at some point , been positively influenced by his designs and innovation . He will be missed .
  13. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    He is one of the legends of the hobby. Anyone who did not know him through is many publications, and experience his witt and wisdom, is missing out. AFAIK, he remained active up until recently, and only a few years ago published some fresh articles in major magazines. I knew he was getting way up in years, so I've wondered how much longer he'd be with us.

    Everyone owes it to them self to get a copy of his Track Planning for Realistic Operation. I believe it has been revised and updated since my 1978 copy.
  14. petey

    petey Member

    I was always pleased with his track plans. Goodbye, John.
  15. john p. armstro

    john p. armstro New Member

    Thank you all for your generous messages. We are still dealing with the immediate confusion and grief and hearing from so many caring people really helps. I am one of John's sons and, as such, grew up on the railroads, both big and little. That was me in one of the early, small Atlas track plan books (in bare feet, which bugged the photographer).

    At the present, we are playing cybertag with the Washington Post's Obit. Dept. re; Dad's obituary. The thing we are looking for is a photo of Dad with his layout (they think they have an interesting subject and, of course, they're right). If any one out there has such a thing, please send it to me at I'll post the outcome on the Post's memorial page as well. Thanks a lot and seeyou all soon. JA
  16. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    John P Armstong,

    Thanks for checking in with us. I'm sure we all hope you have lot's of support and help during this time of grief. Many of us have been fans of your father for many years and are saddened of the loss to the model RRing community as well as the many friends and family.

    I'm sure there are many photo's out there with John and his railroad - I'd guess some of the major magazines like Model Railroader etc should have some pictures on file too and would hopefully be willing to share them.

    BTW, I don't recall now, but wasn't John's background in some sort of engineering field? Anyway, I'm sure we would all like to read anything published so please provide the links later on when you get the chance.

    God bless you and condolences, Jim Fitch (Syracuse, NY)
  17. rcline

    rcline Member

    Although I am new beginner at model railroading, I have not heard of Mr. John Armstrong.
    From what I have read in the above replies, I know that I have missed out on the words and wisdom of a fine man with great talents. I am going to purchase his books to read and with any luck I might be able to understand his thoughts and feelings in the modeling world. My condolences to the Armstrong family.
    Mr. and Mrs. Randy Cline
  18. dean

    dean New Member

    [size=+2]Rail Modeler John Armstrong Dies[/size]

    [size=-1]By Patricia Sullivan
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, August 12, 2004; Page B05 [/size]

    John H. Armstrong, 83, who earned a living working for the Navy but who spent his life working on model railroading, died July 28 of complications due to pulmonary disease at Laurel Regional Hospital. He lived in Silver Spring.

    Mr. Armstrong was widely known in the field of model railroading as a designer of layouts, which include both the track and its surroundings. He began working on a layout in his teens, his son John Armstrong said, when "the hobby was really primitive. Everything had to be built from scratch."

    Mr. Armstrong's lifelong project was the "Canandaigua Southern," a 1/48-scale model of an imaginary railroad in Upstate New York and western Pennsylvania. He began the railroad in his teens and continued working on it, with help from other modelers, until shortly before his death. The railroad completely filled a 24-by-36-foot basement and attracted thousands of visitors over the years.

    A hobbyist newsletter called his Canandaigua Southern "arguably the most well documented layout in O Scale." O Scale is the 1/48 size model layout. The track was so popular at the O Scale National Convention in Arlington in late July that convention-goers were asked to get time-stamped tickets to view it.

    Mr. Armstrong was the subject of a number of feature stories in Model Railroader magazine over the years, and in his retirement he designed and built custom track plans for model railroaders.

    "His most significant impact upon model railroading was his ability to create track plans," said Brent Lambert, library director for the National Model Railroad Association in Chattanooga, Tenn. "He definitely had a significant impact upon the hobby that way. He was not only an expert in model railroading but also in creating the prototype."

    Mr. Armstrong was born and raised in Canandaigua, N.Y. He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering and soon began working at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington. He moved with the laboratory, later known as the Naval Surface Weapons Laboratory, to White Oak in 1948.

    After his retirement in 1979, he was a contributing editor for the trade publication Railway Age for 10 years. He wrote scores of articles for various publications and published 13 books, mostly focused on model railroading. He also wrote "Railroad: What It Is, What It Does" (1978), a standard text widely used in the railroad industry.

    Mr. Armstrong was active for many years with various railroad-related organizations including the National Model Railroad Association, Capital Area O Scalers and the Lexington Group. He was named to the O Scale Hall of Fame in 1998 and was a two-time recipient of the National Model Railroad Association's Distinguished Service Award, in 1968 and 1997.

    He was a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Washington, and later, Northwood Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring.

    An insatiably curious man, Mr. Armstrong also enjoyed classical music, art, science and history and the cultural resources of the Washington area.

    His wife of 44 years, Ellen Palmer Armstrong, died in 1994.

    Survivors include four children, Mary Ellen Curtis of Towson, Md., Andrew Armstrong of Orrtanna, Pa., Peter Armstrong of Silver Spring and John P. Armstrong of Gettysburg, Pa.; a sister; and six grandchildren.

    © 2004 The Washington Post Company

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