Meet the On30 Annual Staff
Some guys just come from the womb nuts about trains, and that is certainly true for Chris. Especially narrow gauge trains and all manner of geared locomotives, be they narrow or standard gauge. A Colorado native, he was exposed to the very last operations on the Rio Grande out of Durango. He is fond a telling the story of his father having to pull him out of the cab of the derelict K-27 No. 464 during a family vacation. Mesmerized by the slumbering narrow gauge veteran, he refused to leave until he had soaked up all the sights, smells, and more than a little of its grime and oil.
As a youth he built a fairly extensive Lionel set and worked on his father’s various HO layouts. His dad may have even finally forgiven him for “weathering” two Varney hoppers by taking a soldering iron to the tops and sides. By junior high, he had switched to On3 and started a new freelanced narrow gauge layout, the Deep Creek & Pine Valley Ry. A move back to Denver in 1976 brought about a shift in his modeling, back to his Colorado roots. Armed with some of the then-new Tomalco kits and a scratchbuilt D&RGW long caboose, he began construction of some modules built to the On3 standard popular at the time. Not finding any other local guys building to this standard, the modules served primarily as track-laying and rolling stock tuning exercises and as test beds for his scenery ideas.
After graduation from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Chris set off to obtain fame and fortune as a rock musician. Within a few years it was clear that the rock n’ roll lifestyle was not conducive to modeling trains, family life or even eating regularly (all things he enjoyed a great deal). So he got a haircut, a wife, a family, and a grownup job in the printing industry. He also joined the Denver O Scale Club (now the Denver Society of Model Railroaders, the oldest original two-rail O scale club in the nation) and spent the next several years building scenery and equipment. In 1994 Model Railroading magazine was sold to a new publisher and Chris joined the staff as national sales manager.
Long before it was introduced, Chris was able to see pre-production models of the Bachmann On30 Mogul. After a time of using the Bachmann models as conversion fodder to On3, the thought started to grow that maybe these models should be used as-is. Further research indicated that new On30 releases were putting a great deal of the fun back into model railroading in general and narrow gauge in particular. The new models were attracting a whole new group of modelers who may have had an interest in narrow gauge, but felt that the skills and expense were out of their reach. These new modelers had great enthusiasm but lacked basic knowledge of narrow gauge practices. Chris found himself spending a great deal of time answering questions on the Internet and at train shows. From these observations, the idea for the On30 Annual was born.
Veteran modeler Don Strait was quickly recruited as associate editor of the new publication, bringing his experience from Model Railroading with him. Within a few months the first issue of the On30 Annual was produced, and it was an instant hit. George Riley came on board with that first issue and has been a fixture ever since. When Model Railroading expired in 2007, Chris joined the staff at Carstens Publications and brought the Annual with him. In addition to producing the On30 Annual and introducing the HOn3 Annual, Chris was charged with producing new books for Carstens’ ever-expanding line of hobby publications, in addition to representing the company at train shows across the country.
When the publishing rights to the Annuals were sold to White River Productions, Chris went along and joined the growing crew in 2014. In addition to the Annuals and book editing and production duties, Chris also does dealer sales.
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Although coming into model railroading a little later than most when he purchased his first electric train set at the age of eleven, George single-mindedly pursued the hobby through out his teens. Having been raised with the mantra of “if you want it, make it yourself,” the railroading hobby was a cornerstone for developing many important skill sets as well as building creativity and imagination.
During college George was able to get a job working at the local hobby shop, which would lead to a career in the hobby industry. Upon completion of his studies in art and psychology, he took advantage of an opening for a wholesaler’s representative in 1982. For the next fourteen years he sold hobby supplies to many of the hobby and craft shops in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Still active in the hobby both as a livelihood and avocation, he was able to enter the manufacturing side of the industry working for several major model railroad companies in a sales and later marketing capacity. He later joined Carstens Publicationsin 2006 as marketing director, a role he assumed in the move to White River Productions in 2014. Working on the On30 Annual (in addition to the HOn3 Annual) has proven to be the perfect blending of his hands-on love of the hobby and desire to promote the industry.
After over thirty years in the industry and a decade prior as a hobbyist, the challenge and excitement of model railroading remains undiminished. George is continually wrapped up with one new project or another designed to demonstrate that anyone can build models and enjoy the hobby.
Don Strait (1941-2015)
Even though Don Strait passed away in February of 2015, his influence continues to be felt at both the On30 and HOn3 Annuals.
Don spent thirty years as an educator and coach in the Cheyenne Mountain school district in Colorado Springs, Colo. Upon “retirement” he moved up to Denver and joined the staff of Model Railroading magazine. While at the magazine, he joined Chris Lane in developing the On30 Annual. His “everyman” mindset and his enthusiasm for his newly adopted scale was the perfect counter-balance to Chris’ long-time narrow gauge involvement and rivet-counting tendencies . Don was a lifelong HO modeler and NMRA member who “caught the bug” and switched to On30 while working on the Annuals. His first On30 layout was converted from an in-progress HO layout and his thoughts and methodologies are chronicled in the 2007 On30 Annual (out of print).
A move to a different house in 2008 resulted in a new, from the-ground-up On30 layout that was built in a 14′ x 30′ basement room. Progress was made on the new Cheyenne Mountain Southern to the point that all the scenery was in place. This was much to the surprise of long time friends who have never seen him advance to the scenery stage of a layout. The new layout was fully operational, and was set up for card order operation. It also served as a frequent test bed for new On30 products. You can see the layout in its final form in the 2015 On30 Annual.
While Don officially retired for a second time in 2010, he kept busy working on his layout, hosting his round-robin group “The Boomers” and helping with the editing of the two Annuals right up to the time of his passing.