Captain, United States Marine Corps - Retired
Tom and Bente Mix
Monument, Colorado - October 2016
Tom Mix is without question one of the finest craftsman in model
railroading. Tom is known throughout the hobby for his
exquisite scratch built Proto:48 and On3 models, and moreover, for his
dedicated service to his country as an officer in the United States
Tom grew up in Colorado, and currently resides in Monument, Colorado
with his wife of 62 years, Bente.
Tom has been building models since he was
six years old. He has also been scratch building since that time,
building miniature structures, model airplanes, and other models
throughout his youth. With the onset of the Korean War in the
early 1950's, Tom enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 16, after
talking his mother into signing his enlistment papers. After Tom
completed USMC boot camp and infantry training, he attended school to be
an aviation mechanic. Tom progressed in his Marine Corps career
quickly, eventually becoming an aviation crew chief serving in both
Japan and in Quantico, Virginia. The crew chief is one of the most
important people assigned to a military aircraft, as he/she is
responsible for ensuring that the aircraft and crew are prepared to
effectively and safely complete each mission.
While stationed in
Japan in the mid 1950's, Tom's modeling interests shifted to railroads.
He purchased his first hand built HO brass locomotive from a small shop
in Tokyo, a Union Pacific Challenger 4-6-6-4. The model cost him
$20, which at that time represented a large portion of his monthly Sergeant's pay.
Tom modeled in HO scale throughout the 1950's, focusing on one of his
favorite railroads, the Union Pacific. During his assignment to
the Marine security detail at the American Embassy in Copenhagen,
Denmark from 1954 to 1955, he met and married his wife, Bente.
While stationed in
Quantico, Virginia in 1959, a series of articles and plans in Model
Railroader captured Tom's interest, and he decided to scratch build his
first 1/4" Scale brass locomotive. He purchased a Unimat SL lathe
and began work on a Union Pacific S Class 0-6-0 switcher. As he started
construction he made the decision to build the model using "fine scale"
standards, with true to prototype wheel treads and wheel thicknesses,
using a prototype track gauge of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches - standards that
are now defined as Proto:48. During the construction of the UP
0-6-0, Tom taught himself to machine drivers and axles, punch rivets,
and to solder.
While at Quantico
Tom was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, and after
graduating from Officer Candidate School, he was assigned to Marine
Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California. While on his way
to his new assignment, he stopped to measure and photograph a preserved
Union Pacific 0-6-0. After examining the prototype, he decided that
the model he was constructing had a number of mistakes that needed to be
corrected. His study of the prototype for his first "Proto:48"
model established an overall modeling approach that to this day includes
research, accurate construction, and exact detailing. These
characteristics are inherent in all of Tom's models. His reliance on
proper research is reflected in his large library of reference books,
prototype plans, photographs, and materials. One of the important
characteristics of Tom's modeling is his ability to infuse the "look and
feel" of the prototype into his models. He does this using a
variety of modeling techniques and materials and a dedication to
prototype design and detailing.
Tom continued his
modeling throughout his career in the Marine Corps. He achieved
the rank of Captain and retired in October of 1972. Tom and
his wife moved back to Denmark after his retirement and lived there for
ten years. While in Denmark Tom modeled in On3 fine scale, and
scratch built several On3 locomotives, including a Colorado & Southern
2-6-0 and a Shay. While in Europe Tom learned to use nickel sliver
as a primary material in his modeling, and the combination of brass and
nickel silver is a distinguishing characteristic of his scratch built
While in Copenhagen
Tom purchased a Sunset USRA Heavy 2-8-2, and proceeded to modify it
into an accurate Proto:48 CB&Q Class O-4 Mikado. Converting the O Scale
model to Proto:48 required the construction of new cylinders and
machining and re-gauging the drivers to fine scale standards. Tom
scratch built a new CB&Q cab and oil tender, and added a complete Elesco
Feedwater Heater system with the requisite piping and detail. With
the completion of the O-4 Tom decided to model exclusively in standard gauge, with a
concentration on the CB&Q. The CB&Q O-4 2-8-2 was Tom's last steam
locomotive conversion from O Scale to Proto:48. Given the extra
work required to correct or scratch build key components to meet fine
scale dimensions, Tom decided it would be more efficient to completely
scratch build his future models.
Tom and Bente
moved back to Colorado and settled in the Colorado Springs area.
He added to his shop with a new lathe, mill, and precision drill press.
He researched and scratch built a number of CB&Q steam locomotives of
different classes, and added Proto:48 diesels, rolling stock, and
structures to his collection. All of his models were built from
actual prototype drawings, which required no dimensional compensations
for Proto:48. Tom's locomotive models feature scale dimensioned materials and
include such innovations as DCC controlled miniature computer motors to
activate working valve gear reverse mechanisms. His rolling stock
models have included scratch built fully detailed brass trucks, and his
structures have been detailed to the point of including scale birds on
the roofs. Tom's models and construction techniques have been
featured in several publications, including the Proto:48 Modeler and O
It is easy to see
the parallels in Tom Mix's USMC and modeling careers. The
principles of disciplined effort, learning to do things correctly, and
striving for overall excellence are always evident. Tom's models
are a part of his legacy, and he trusts that future owners of his models
will enjoy not only how well they depict the prototypes, but also what
they ultimately represent.
Tom Mix - Capt.,
August 28, 2017