Allen McClelland passed away peacefully this past Friday. Like countless others in the hobby, he had a profound effect on me. Many have commented since his passing that their railroad wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Allen, and the same is true for me. He gave me two very special gifts for which I will be eternally grateful.
The first gift was a keen interest in proto-freelancing. When I got back in the hobby in 1978, the V&O Story had just appeared in the model railroad press. I poured over every issue and decided right then and there that I would develop a proto-freelanced railroad. At the time, it wasn’t common to develop a model railroad that fit into the greater scheme of real railroads and was geographically centered in some part of the country. I jumped on the bandwagon and developed my railroad, and I’m still at it- the same railroad- over forty years later. It has sustained my interest over that period of time and provided more hours of enjoyment than I ever thought possible. What a wonderful gift! And I know there are thousands of other people who received the same gift from Allen.
The second gift was his friendship. Back in early 2016, I begged my way into Gerry Albers’ work group. Gerry, Allen, and a handful of other incredibly gifted model railroaders get together every Tuesday to work on Gerry’s beautiful VGN layout. As many of you know, it includes a portion of the V&O that Allen affectionately calls the V&O 3.0. In the summer of 2016, Allen asked if I would be his backup on the V&O. The job would involve assisting him in staging the railroad between sessions, troubleshooting any mechanical problems, and dispatching the railroad when he was unable to make a session (which was almost never!). It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Over the years, Allen and I developed a friendship that will be with me for the rest of my life. How often do you get to meet one of your heroes, let alone have the chance to become friends with them? His kindness, sense of humor, and ability to make someone feel special were only a small part of what him such an incredible person.
Allen was working on the V&O right up until the end. He had plans for an RDC-3 that would make the run up the Durham Sub from Martinsville to Charleston and back. He was also planning some additional trains to run across the Gauley Division, using some of the train numbers from the original V&O. He was an endless source of creativity regarding the railroad, and he would always preference his new thoughts with the comment, “You know, I’ve been thinking, and you know how dangerous that can be.” Oh, how I’ll miss those conversations.
So farewell, Allen. You have touched thousands of lives throughout your long run in this wonderful hobby. And I’ll be forever grateful to you for touching mine.