About Us

At Golden Spike Artisans Group (GSAG), we strive for the highest quality of design, construction and reliability as possible in every layout we build. We work with every client to assess their needs and desires with regards to level of completion. Many models have great experience in completing scenery or construction of structures and we have often used their skills in constructing their layout. Due to the client’s available time, some feel their railroad would never be completed if we did not build a complete layout with scenery and buildings.

André Torres

André Torres

I remember my dad setting up his Lionel train around the Christmas tree when I was very young. Little did I realize the impact it would have on me later in life. I got my very own train set when I was 10 years old. It was a Tyco figure eight with a Santa Fe engine, a Domino Sugar car, a flat car with 3 concrete pipes and a couple of other cars. That is what really started the love of trains to me. I remember trips in the car and we would pass by trains and I said to myself, “I sure wish I had a ray gun that would shrink those real train cars down so I could use them on my layout. In Cub Scouts I saw and article in “Boys Life” magazine about building a layout. I then proceeded to by turnouts and brass flex track, you know the kind with the paper ties, and proceeded to cut all the lengths of track as described in the article and build that layout.

Here we are 45 years later and I am still enjoying building layouts, my own as well as for other railroad enthusiasts! For over 20 years, I have been part of a team that has been building model railroads for people around the country, literally from the east coast of Florida to the west coast of Washington. My teachers have been recognized by having Master Model Railroader status as well as others who are just as skilled but have not gone through the process of accreditation. I have seen the evolution of the hobby through the advancement in technology and technique and try to be innovative in design and construction on each new layout that I am involved with.

Dave Vago

Dave Vago

Like many model railroaders, I grew up with things that influenced my passion for trains. One of my favorite uncles was a locomotive engineer on the N&W, and I loved listening to his stories about life on the railroad. Our family often travelled by train to visit relatives in Ohio and Michigan. Even if we drove, I loved watching out for trains, railroad facilities, and the great industrial complexes of the Ohio Valley. We had a former Pennsylvania Railroad commuter line in our backyard in Philadelphia, and dad and I would watch the trains go by after he got home from work. He was a model railroader too, and when I got my first train set at age seven, we’d work on it together. That evolved from toy-like plastic HO trains on a sheet of plywood to Athearn blue box kits to cast-metal steam locomotive and Campbell building kits. Eventually I went away to college, got a career, and traveled the country, but my passion and knowledge of model railroading has continued to grow.

My interests are diverse—I model passenger and freight operations on the Boston and Maine in 1946, I am a collector of brass locomotives, craftsman structures, and freight cars, and I enjoy scenery modeling and scratch-building. As a professional museum exhibit developer and a seasoned research historian with a background in industry and transportation, I help clients to achieve the right look in finished layouts, rolling stock, and structures. Working on other clients’ projects is great fun because it gives me opportunities to build things that I wouldn’t build on my own, and I get to meet great people in the process. Researching and planning a project to get a good-looking, prototypically-accurate result is challenging and rewarding, and no two projects are ever the same. I’ve been a paid professional model and layout builder for over ten years, and feel lucky to have had the opportunity. My business partners and coworkers make it a pleasure to be a part of Golden Spike Artisans Group.

Fabian Beltran

Fabian Beltran

I am a retired research associate at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and grew up next to a trackside, coal-fired power plant in Ann Arbor where I watched the trains roll by from my sandbox—which also happened to be the storage box for locomotive sand.

My first Lionel train set arrived at Christmas, 1953, when I was five years old. The small set moved from the floor to an old ping pong table in my home’s parlor. By the time I reached 15 years old, it had grown to a 12’ by 12’ layout. A visit to the HO scale Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club in 1964 got me interested in the scale model railroading hobby. After college I joined the club, and I am now the oldest continuously- active member. I also have a small 12’ by 12’ HO layout in my home which I designed and built using the skills I have learned being a club member since 1970. Before I got married in 1975, I used a rail pass to make a 7,000 mile trip over nearly the entire Amtrak system, which was almost brand-new at the time. I also have three NTrak modules and enjoy live steam activities. I enjoy teaching club members and visitors about layout design, scenery techniques, and realistic operation. I am the Boy Scouts’ merit badge instructor for our local council and assist in Operation Lifesaver presentations at train shows and events.

In the mid-1970s, I volunteered to help build a layout called the Hempstead and Marysville, which appeared in a Kalmbach publication, the N-Scale Primer. This helped lead me to professional model railroad work. I have built layouts for others through my contacts at the model railroad club ever since. While working with the guys at Golden Spike since 2011, I have been able to share my talents at layout design, scenery, and operations.

John Brock

John Brock

I grew up chasing trains with my brother and dad in California. Starting from those roots, I have enjoyed discovering all different types of trains and railroads throughout the world. Modeling has been a long-time hobby and passion of mine for over forty years. After a long career in photography, an opportunity to work as a model railroad builder suddenly presented itself shortly after I joined a local model train club.

Teaming up with other talented modelers who showed me the tricks of the hobby helped me to earn many additional skills and talents. I built 20 or so layouts as an independent contractor, until the group of us decided to form Golden Spike Artisans Group in order to combine our talents and skills. The layouts we have designed and built since our founding in 2011 have been some of the best I have ever worked on.

Keith Heathcock

Keith Heathcock

He remembers as a child, going to a friend’s house and setting up his Lionel train set in the basement on the hard, cold, concrete floor. They would have hours of fun running trains on track plans they would assemble. After a time of running trains, they would decide to build a better, more exciting plan. They would tear apart the layout they were just running and do it all over again. He also enjoyed watching the aging steam locomotives of the Grand Trunk railroad whose mainline trains ran through downtown Royal Oak, Michigan. These tired old locomotives gave way to the new diesels which began rumbling through town which only increased his interest in trains.

For about 40 years, he did industrial machine controls, designing, wiring, and troubleshooting electrical controls. In 2004 he joined a model railroad club where he met a group of outstanding railroad modelers. It was there that he learned more and more about model railroading.

In 2012 he retired and was asked to join 4 individuals at GSAG in building custom layouts for other model railroaders around the country. He enjoys wiring layouts with the latest DCC technology and seeing the final outcome. He also does a significant amount of work around the country for GSAG in adding and enhancing features to layouts previously constructed and installed by GSAG.