Santa Fe in Miniature

This 1939 brochure briefly mentions the Golden Gate, a Santa Fe streamlined train that connected Oakland with Bakersfield (with continuing bus service to Los Angeles), which had entered service the year before. It also briefly mentions the Golden Gate International Exposition, held in the San Francisco Bay Area. But mainly it describes Santa Fe’s model railroad exhibit at that fair.

Click image to download a 2.9-MB PDF of this four-panel brochure.

The model railroad was built by Milton Cronkhite, who is pictured in the brochure. Cronkhite also built the original model railroad at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and he designed systems to allow automatic operation of multiple trains on these models–something easily done in the age of computers but rarely, if ever, done on a 1930s model railroad.

The Chicago model was built at an unusual Q scale, which derived from the fact that O-scale trains were supposed to be 1/48 of life-size, but the tracks were just a bit wider, at 1/45th of life-size. Meticulous modelers like Cronkhite decided to build everything at 1/45th scale, which they called Q scale because a Q looks almost the same an O. The brochure says the Golden Gate model was 1/48th, so it may be true O scale.

Cronkhite built almost all of the models, including locomotives, cars, buildings, and scenery, from scratch. He even insisted on using same paint the Santa Fe applied to its locomotives so the colors would be a perfect match. He was assisted by his son, also named Minton, who is probably the little boy in the picture posing in front of one of the model steam locomotives.

The Golden Gate model railroad was topped by a 1/2-scale E1 Diesel locomotive, meaning it was 37 feet long. Santa Fe E-1s numbered 8 and 9 were used to pull the Golden Gate trains, which operated from 1938 to 1965. No number is visible on the brochure’s photo of the 1/2-scale model, but the 1/48th model in the brochure appears to have the number 8, indicating that the Golden Gate train was replicated on the layout.

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