Model Train Help

 

 

By Robert Anderson

 

 

If you are interested in getting paid for telling people

about this book, please click here:

http://www.model-train-help.com/affiliates.html

 

 

© 2005 Robert Anderson, Market Leaders Ebooks

and www.Model-Train-Help.com

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Table Of Contents

Introduction

6

Freedom To Create Your Own World

6

Patience And Knowing What You Want

7

What's Included In This Ebook?

8

Easy To Read

8

Understanding The Technical Terms

8

Manufacturer List

9

What's The Difference Between Toy And Model Trains?

10

Is Model Railroading Expensive?

10

Start With The Basics

10

Add To The Basics

10

What Are Prototype Trains?

11

Why Have Scales?

11

Know Your Scales

11

What Scale To Choose

11

Why Choose HO Scale?

12

Why Choose N Scale?

12

What About Other Scales?

13

What's The Radius?

13

Why Choose A Bigger Scale?

13

What about G Scale?

13

Advantages Of O Scale and S Scale

14

Helping You Decide

14

8 Steps To Selecting The Right Scale For You

15

Scale chart

15

What's The Difference Between Scale And Gauge?

16

Do Tracks Have The Same Gauge?

16

What is Narrow Gauge?

16

What is Standard Gauge?

16

What About S Gauge or On30?

16

Why The Track Is So Important

17

What Are Tracks Made Of?

17

Explain Zinc-Coated Steel Track?

18

Explain Brass Track?

18

Explain Nickel Silver Track?

18

How Can You Differentiate Between The Different Track Materials?

18

Explain Sectional Track?

18

Should You Choose Roadbed Or Standard Track?

18

How Do The Rail Joiners Work?

19

Explain Other Track Options?

20

What Are The Advantages Of Flexible Track?

20

Which Type Of Track Should You Use?

21

How Does The Power Supply Work?

21

How Does A Circuit Breaker Work?

22

What's In A Power Pack?

22

What About A Power Pack For A Small Layout?

22

What About A Power Pack For A Larger Layout?

23

How Do Electronic Power Packs Compare?

24

Why Build A Main Line Layout?

24

Why Build A Branch Line Layout?

25

Why Build An Industrial Layout?

25

Why Build A Tramway Layout?

26

How Do Locomotives Work?

27

Why Are Wheels And Gears So Important?

27

Buying A Locomotive – Where Do You Start?

27

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Wheels?

28

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Motor?

28

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Weight?

28

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Flywheels?

28

What Are The Advantages Of A Shorter Locomotive?

29

6 Points To Consider When Buying A Locomotive

29

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Where To Start

30

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Which Wheels To Select

30

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Which Couplers To Select

30

How Much Should You Spend?

31

What Should You Spend Money On?

31

What Should You Start With?

32

Why You Shouldn't Skimp On The Essentials

32

Should You Make A List?

32

Should You Set Objectives?

32

12 Steps To Getting Started

33

5 Steps To Building Your Set

39

How Do You Create A Good Layout?

45

Should You Alter Your Layout?

46

Why The Scenery Is Important

46

9 Tips For Creating More Realistic Scenery

47

How Do You Build Scenery?

48

How Do You Use Styrofoam?

49

How Do You Make Rocks?

50

How To Build A Tunnel?

50

How Do You Create A Pond?

51

How to you model a waterfall or rolling brook?

52

How Do You Create Roads?

52

Making Natural-Looking Trees And Shrubs

53

How can I make natural-looking trees? 4 Methods Explained

53

Buildings Add To the Realism

56

How Do You Select Buildings?

56

Are The Roofs Important?

56

What About Other Accessories?

57

What Else Should You Do?

58

How Do You Create A Small Layout?

58

What Are The Limitations Of A Small Layout?

58

Can You Adapt A Small Or Large Scale Layout?

59

What Is LDE?

59

Why Is LDE Important?

59

7 Steps To Make LDE Work Best For You

60

9 Important Considerations When Planning Your Layout

65

How To Repair Problems

68

Solutions to 4 common problems

68

When To Seek Expert Help

69

Questions that you can ask the repairer

70

5 Track Cleaning Methods Explained

70

 

BONUS SECTIONS

 

Frequently Asked Questions

73

What do all the letters stand for when referring to “scales”

73

What's the smallest model railroad I can make?

73

Which rails should I use - brass, steel or nickel-silver?

73

What radius is the curve of prototype trackage?

73

When I buy a track switch, what is meant by 'No. 4 turnout' or 'No. 8 turnout'?

74

Can I keep any scale model railroads outside?

74

Should I replace my horn-hook couplers with knuckle couplers?

74

What is a talgo truck?

74

Are some locomotives quieter than others?

75

What makes the locomotive noisy?

75

Is a larger motor better for my locomotive?

75

If I install a larger motor in my locomotive will I be able to pull more cars?

75

How can I prevent motor burnout?

76

What's wrong when parts of the track do not work?

76

Should I oil my trains?

77

How can I safely clean the tracks?

77

How often should the tracks be cleaned?

77

What should I do if my engine sticks when being fed current?

77

On full-sized railroads what is rust-busting?

78

What is meant by "code," as in code 40 track?

78

Is a locomotive change-over the same as shunting?

78

How can I remove decals without removing the paint from underneath?

78

What is a green wave for freight trains?

79

What wetting agent works best for N scale ballast?

79

How do I move my layout without damaging it?

79

What is a module and is it worth considering?

79

What are the wiring considerations for a reverse loop?

79

What is Hydrocal and what is it used for?

80

Should I always use track underlay (cork or foam)?

80

Why do tracks need ballast?

80

How do I lay and fix ballast on track-work to get a realistic look?

80

What is ground foam?

81

What is the best way to make roads and roads?

81

Is there a simpler way to make roads?

83

What is Homasote, and why do so many modelers use it?

83

What do the three numbers in front of the train stand for?

84

How do I simulate smoke and fire?

84

How do I depict the aftermath of a fire?

84

How do I make plastic buildings look real?

85

Why do some buildings look translucent?

85

How do I figure grades, and how steep can they be?

85

Do I have to solder the track?

85

Should electric feed wires be included regularly or should I solder rail joiners?

86

What were different methods used to turn an engine?

87

What is a bridge rectifier and what does it do?

87

How do you run a loco on a reversing loop?

87

How do I keep my layout free from dust and cobwebs?

88

What are the advantages of using an iron core can motor?

89

What is coreless motor and how does it work?

89

What's a decoder? Can I run an analog loco on a DCC system without a decoder?

90

Can I just put a decoder in my old analog engines?

90

Can I put a decoder in my brass engines?

90

If locos are too small/valuable to be converted, can they run on your DCC layout?

91

Why does my locomotive make a noise when not moving?

91

What do I have to do to my layout to make it DCC?

91

How much are my trains worth?

92

Model Railroad Yard Design Explained Step-By-Step

94

The Need To Compress The Layout

94

Sample Yard Layout Design

95

What Is A Classification Yard?

95

How Classification Yards Work

95

What Are The Yard Options?

96

9 Steps To Creating Classification Yards

97

6 Tips To Make Your Yard Easy To Run

103

Garden Railroads

104

How big is G scale?

104

How do garden railroads differ from indoor tracks?

104

Are the trains left outdoors all the time?

104

How do you choose a suitable location for a garden railroad?

105

What if space is a consideration?

105

What is needed to get started?

105

Which type of roadbed is best for a garden railroad, cement or gravel?

106

Can a garden railway be built in areas that receive snow?

107

How else can snow be cleared from a garden railroad?

107

Won't I get electrocuted if I run electricity outdoors?

107

What's the best kind of rail to use on a garden railroad?

108

What are all those tiny plants, and where do you get them?

108

Can you ride on the trains?

108

What is the maximum grade for a garden railway?

108

Glossary of Important Terms

109

More Model Railroad Resources: Books, Magazines

113

Suppliers

116

Associations and Clubs

117

Model Railroad Simulator

117

Final thoughts

118

 

 

 

All Aboard!

 

The hands-on world of a model railroader is indeed a special experience.  Bring your sense of wonder with you… as this ebook takes you on a fascinating journey… where you’ll learn everything you need to know to make and operate a model railroad.

 

"We don't stop playing because we grow old,

we grow old because we stop playing"

George Bernard Shaw

 

If you ask model railway enthusiasts "what appeals about the hobby?" you'll get a variety of answers. For some, it is a way of re-creating a fond childhood memory. Others; simply enjoy building a world in miniature with all its detail and realism. Then there are those model railroaders who love solving the technical problems of building and operating an electronic control system.

 

It doesn't seem to matter whether you’re 5 or 95... or somewhere in between. The personal satisfaction of building and operating a realistic miniature layout is rewarding and fun… no matter how old you are. Model railroading is a truly rewarding leisure activity that will keep you busy and entertained for hours… if not a lifetime.

 

 

Interesting Fact:

 

Model railroading has been around since 1825, when Joseph Ritter Von Baader built a model railway in the grounds of Nymphenberg Castle. He built it for the King of Bayern in order to encourage him in constructing a real railway project. In London in 1862, Joseph, Myers and Co was the first company to feature a steam-powered model locomotive in a catalog. Since then, model railroading has grown into a hugely popular hobby, enjoyed by millions of enthusiasts worldwide. 

 

 

Freedom To Create Your Own World

 

Model railroading is a fun-filled leisure activity that provides plenty of scope for the creative individual with a technical bent. It incorporates a variety of interesting activities from building, maintaining, upgrading and operating a train set. What kind of world you create, where you create it, and how much time you spend in it…. is entirely over to you.

 

You can build a layout in the solitude of your basement, attic, shed or garage workshop…or you can sit in a sun lounger and watch trains weave around your garden… or you can join a local model-railroading club and share your ideas and experiences with others. The opportunities are endless!

 

Yes! Model railroading is a great way to make friends. There are numerous organizations you can join where you can meet with like-minded people from all walks of life who share your passion for model railroading. You'll have the opportunity to share ideas, get expert advice, attend conventions, build a model railroad as a group project, and even take train trips together. This is a truly wonderful hobby because:

 

·         Along the way you’ll acquire valuable skills in carpentry, electrical wiring, problem solving and design.

·         You'll discover creative opportunities that will bring to the fore your hidden talents when building scenery.

·         You'll develop a hands-on knowledge of geography when making landscapes.

·         You'll step back in time and learn how things operated in bygone days.

·         You'll gain some engineering savvy when designing your benchwork so it won’t collapse, or examine how a level crossing operates, or a bridge is built.

·         You'll enjoy the fun of creating realistic miniature replicas of life that can be enjoyed not only by yourself, but also by friends, family members, children and grandchildren to come.

 

Patience And Knowing What You Want

You don’t have to be a millionaire, or a technical genius, or a brilliant artist to be part of this world. The single most important skill you will require is patience. If you have plenty of patience, then you will thrive in this environment.

The scale you choose to model in will depend on what you want from a layout and the space you have available. You may want to see long trains running quickly through a town or countryside scene, or perhaps you would prefer a small compact layout featuring a branch line terminus and small goods yard with lots of small shunting moves.

 

 

 

 

What's Included In This Ebook?

 

Whether you’re an expert or just getting started, this ebook will provide you with useful information and great ideas to help you get the most out of model railroading.  We have by no means covered every aspect in detail, but we have answered lots of the problems that you will encounter along the way. We have done extra research for you by sorting through websites and including valuable links to sites that offer an enormous amount of genuine information.

 

Easy To Read

 

We won't try and impress you with loads of confusing technical jargon. We will keep it easy to read and clarify confusing terminology and technical terms. We'll help you with equipment choices, layouts and maintenance. We'll answer frequently asked questions and review tips from experts. In short, everything you need to know to get the most from this truly fascinating hobby. Enjoy your read!

 

The conductor is signalling that it’s time to get started. The whistle is blowing … so, all aboard for the trip of a lifetime … and welcome to the amazing world of the model railroad.

 

 

Understanding The Technical Terms

 

The world of model railroading has plenty of interesting technical terms and, concepts, but you don’t have to learn them all at once to have fun with this fascinating hobby. Before getting started we'll quickly outline some of the basic details to help you on your way. Some of the more important terms are included in the glossary at the end of the book, while others will be explained as we progress through this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manufacturer List

 

There are plenty of manufacturers of train sets and parts. Here are the popular ones to check out:

 

Accurail, makers of HO trains:  http://www.accurail.com

 

Aristo-Craft, G models:  http://www.aristocraft.com

 

American Models, S trains: http://www.americanmodels.com

 

Athearn, HO scale : http://www.athearn.com

 

Atlas Model Railroad Co., HO scale http://www.atlasrr.com

 

Bachman, N, HO, On2-1/2, large scale: http://www.bachmanntrains.com

 

International Hobby Corp.HO scale: http://www.ihc-hobby.com

 

Kato USA, HO, N scale: http://www.katousa.com

 

K-Lile Trains, O scale: http://www.k-linetrains.com

 

LGB of America, large scale: http://www.lgb.com

 

Lionel, O scale & accessories: http://www.lionel.com

 

Life-Like, N, HO scale: http://www.lifelikeproducts.com

 

Märklin, Z, HO, No. 1 scale: http://www.marklin.com

 

Micro-Trains Line, N, Z scale: http://www.micro-trains.com

 

Model Power, N, HO scale: http://www.modelpower.com

 

S-Helper Service, S scale: http://www.showcaseline.com

 

Wm. K. Walthers, HO scale: http://www.walthers.com

 

These websites are well worth visiting, as they'll keep you up with what’s available, as well as pricing.

Text Box:  What's The Difference Between Toy And Model Trains?

 

All trains might be referred to as being toys, but not all trains are considered to be models. That's the important difference. Model trains are designed exactly as the name implies, that they are scale renditions of real full size (prototype) trains. Model trains have dimensions that closely replicate the originals or real thing. Toy trains are made without this same attention to detail and accuracy.

 

Is Model Railroading Expensive?

 

Yes it can be, but so too is smoking, drinking, golfing, fishing, driving and most other things in life. Model railroading is an excellent hobby and can be as expensive, or as inexpensive, as you want to make it. If you want the full enjoyment of this enthralling hobby over many years, then be prepared to fork out a lot of money. If model railroading gives you a lot of pleasure and satisfaction, then it is well worth it.

 

However, what you invest is entirely over to you. If you're looking for something simple, then you can stick with a cheaper brand. It’s basically up to you. Just make sure that you know what you want and price out any purchase carefully - your pocketbook will appreciate it!

 

Start With The Basics

 

Whether you are a beginner, or experienced railroader, every train set starts with the basics of a train and some track. Well, there's a little more to it than that. A typical set would include: at least one locomotive, three, four or five freight cars or trucks… and enough straight and curved tracks to make an oval layout. A basic set would also include a power pack (transformer) and some wiring that runs from the track and the power pack. Those are the basics to get anyone started.

 

Add To The Basics

 

The next step is to add more fun and interest with other features and accessories such as: a turnout (or track switch), tunnels, bridges, buildings, telephone poles, shrubs, trees, fences, hills, vehicles and even people. An idea is to make one of the rails a 'rerailer section', to make it easier to put the locomotive and the trucks on the rails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Are Prototype Trains?

 

Generally, model train enthusiasts will refer to the real (full size) trains as prototypes. As the name implies, every track system is a unique, one of a kind system. This explains why the word 'prototype' is a good name for full size trains. If your aim is to create your own "real" system, then it's easiest to refer to full size trains as being the prototypes.

 

Why Have Scales?

 

It goes without saying that model railroads are not the same size as the real thing. They are scaled down replicas of their real world counterparts. For example, an S scale train set is built to a scaled down ratio of 1:64…. meaning that an S scale train is 1/64 the size of the real thing. When building an S scale train layout the buildings, trees, bridges, roads and other accessories would also be replicated to a scale of 1:64.

 

Know Your Scales

 

As a handy reference here is a list of the main scales from largest to the smallest:

O        1:48

S         1:64

HO      1:87

N        1:160

Z         1:220

                                          

What Scale To Choose

 

When getting started, don't get put off by all the different scales on offer.  It is really very simple. When deciding what to purchase, just keep in mind that O, S, HO and N are the most common scales in use. Of those, HO is the most widely used scale.

 

The best way to get started is purchase a 'starter set'. These starter sets are designed to give the beginner everything he or she needs to get up and running. They contain all the basics: a locomotive, cars, track and accessories. As far as cost; starter sets are usually the best value for money, because the manufacturers use them as bait to lure new people and get them hooked on trains.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Think carefully about which scale would best suit your needs and then stick with that scale for your first project. It's that easy!

 

 

Why Choose HO Scale?

 

HO (pronounced “H-Oh”) scale is the most popular model railroading scale and that's why there is generally a wider selection of accessories available including locomotives and rolling stock.  The manufacturers really produce and cater for the large HO market because most modelers prefer a middle-of-the-road size. But, although HO is convenient for most people, it is difficult to run 50-car trains on even medium-sized HO layouts.

 

HO scale is 1:87 size with 16.5mm track gauge and a minimum radius of 15 inches. HO scale is an excellent size to appreciate the detail and running performance without being too cramped. Also, many HO enthusiasts say that HO scale is ideal for running their trains using a digital setup. If you’re looking for trains that require lots of switching operations then HO enthusiasts will generally agree that HO scale is an excellent choice.

 

Why Choose N Scale?

 

N scale is growing in popularity and has the advantage of taking up less space than the HO scale. N scale models are in fact 54.5 percent the size of equivalent HO models. This means that you can build an N scale layout in an area about 30% of that area needed to build a similar layout in HO scale.

 

If space is an issue then N scale could be the answer. N Scale allows for more complex and realistic layouts in limited space. Curves can be made much more gradual. The smaller size of N scale greatly reduces the need to utilize unrealistically sharp curves to reverse the direction of the train on a layout.

 

With N scale a three-foot wide layout could accommodate up to a 213 scale foot radius. The smaller N scale is also more accommodating to larger quantities of cars in a train. So, if you like the idea of long trains going through towering landscape, then N scale models might be what you are looking for.

 

Due to its smaller size, N scale is more intricate. For this reason it can be less suitable for youngsters and the more seasoned railroaders who may find it difficult manipulating the small rolling stock. There aren't as many options in terms of accessories compared to those available in HO Scale but with growing popularity this may change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What About Other Scales?

 

Most model train enthusiasts will focus on one of the scales mentioned earlier. However, without wanting to confuse things, there are two other scales namely OO and TT scales.

 

TT scale (1:120) is an abbreviation for “table-Top” and TT dimensions are about 73% of HO (1:87). They date back to 1945  and the scale is 1:120 which is scaled using an engineers ruler at 1/10th inch to the scale foot.

 

OO scale is 1:76 (4mm = 1 foot) compared to HO at 1:87 (3.5mm = 1 foot).

 

OO and TT scales each have a smaller following of enthusiasts. OO and TT scales are not widely used and are therefore are not as easily obtainable to the average purchaser.

 

What's The Radius?

 

In model railroading you'll hear the term 'minimum radius'.  It simply refers to the tightest curve that most model equipment in that scale can handle. If you are trying to fit a train set into a small space then HO, N and Z scales can cope with the tightest curves and will therefore take up less space.

 

Why Choose A Bigger Scale?

 

It is best to choose a scale that best suits your needs and gives you the effect you are looking for in your train layout. O scale and S scales are large when compared to the more popular HO scale. O scale is 1:48 size with 1¼" track gauge and a minimum radius of 2 foot (24 inches). S scale is 1:64 size with 7/8" track gauge and a minimum radius of 22½ inches. As you can see S scale is smaller in size than the larger O scale.

 

What about G Scale?

 

G Scale is big and is sometimes referred to as "Garden Scale." Much of the equipment made in G Scale is suitable for use outside in a Garden Railroad.  It is also ideal for running around the Christmas Tree.

 

G Scale is very easy for children to operate because the trains are hard to derail. It is big, so G Scale requires even more space than does O Scale.  Quality engines, rolling stock, track, and accessories can get very expensive. There are less accessories available for G Scale. G Scale has not been standardized to the extent of the other scales mentioned.

 

 

Interesting Fact!

 

S scale trains were first made in England during the 1930's. At that time model railroaders were looking for a smaller scale that would take up less space but retain the advantages of detailing and the heftiness of modeling that the O scale afforded. At the time, many felt that the HO scale was too small and that a more desirable gauge would be somewhere in between the larger O scale and the smaller HO scale. That's how the S scale came to be.

 

 

Advantages of O Scale and S Scale

 

O or S scales are suitable for people with plenty of space available, for children and perhaps for anyone who might find it difficult to handle the smaller more intricate scales. However, these scales are not as readily available so the choice of accessories is generally more limited.

 

When buying a train set for a child, consider the bigger scales like O or S scale, because they are easier for small hands (although more expensive). Most experts would agree that the bigger scales seem to stay on the tracks better. Continually placing trains back on the track can be frustrating for children, as can coupling the trains together all the time, when they come apart. So, it is important that the scale size fits the abilities of the user be they young or not so young. 

 

Also, remember that the very popular HO scale (1:87 proportion, 1/87th of actual size) is reasonably easy to handle. It's not too fiddly!

 

Helping You Decide

 

Naturally, your choice of scale will depend on what you want your railroad to do. It is important to remember that bigger is not necessarily better. You can pack more into the scene with a smaller scale.  If you live in an apartment or small house where space is limited, then think about a smaller scale such as Z, N and HO.  For a micro train, try Z, which is 1:220

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Steps To Selecting The Right Scale For You.

 

1.   Measure the area or table where the train set is going.  Consider that it may not be possible to reach more than three feet across a layout, limiting an "against the wall" layout to about three feet wide.

 

2. Think carefully about who will be using the train set and what you want to achieve from the layout.

 

3.  Head to the hobby shop or surf the net for what you want. If you are visiting a store it might be a good idea to take a tape measure. 

 

4.  Visiting a hobby shop is a good idea because you can measure out a few pieces of track in each scale.

 

5.   Do the math if you don't have a tape measure. Sizes are as follows: O track is 1 1/4 inches wide. S track is 7/8 inch wide. HO track is 0.65 inch wide.

 

6.   Decide how much detail you'd like to have on your trains if room is not an issue. Remember; detail is easier to see and reproduce on larger trains. 

 

7.  Consider how extensive you intend your layout to be now.... and in the future. HO scale is the most common and has the widest variety of accessories available. 

 

8.   See whether the trains and accessories you like are available in every scale or only some scales, and choose accordingly. 

 

Scale chart

 

Scale/gauge

designation

Proportion

to prototype

Track gauge

Minimum

radius

Length of 50'

boxcar approx.

Z

1:220

.256" 6.5mm

5¾"

2¾"

N

1:160

.354"

9.0mm

7½"

3¾"

HO

1:87

.650"

16.5mm

15"

7"

S

1:64

.875"

22.5mm

22½"

9¼"

O

1:48

1.25"

32mm

24"

12½"

Gn3

1:22.5

1.75"

45mm

24"

19"

 

What's The Difference Between Scale And Gauge?

 

The terms scale and gauge are two of the most confused terms in the model railroad hobby. The SCALE proportion is expressed as a fraction of a real life-sized railroad. As an example, HO scale is 1/87 the size of real life-sized railroads. For model trains, track GAUGE is the width between the inside running edge of the rails. For toy trains, gauge is the measurement from the center of the two outside rails.

 

Do Tracks Have The Same Gauge?

 

No they don't, but there are two main types: standard gauge and narrow gauge. In the US, Canada and most European countries, trains run on “standard gauge.”

 

What is Narrow Gauge?

 

Narrow gauge equipment maintains the scale, but runs on a smaller gauge of track. It is seldom used on main lines. Narrow Gauge track was generally laid in areas where rail traffic was light, curves may have needed to be tight, and cost was a major issue. Most popular in mining spurs, logging spurs, and scenic tourist rails where low speeds were usual.

 

 

Quick Tip:

Narrow gauge models use the lower case letter "n" to follow the scale and then the track gauge in scale feet. Example: HOn3 means HO scale (1:87 proportion narrow gauge 3 feet between the tracks.). HOn2 would be HO scale narrow gauge 2 feet between the tracks.

 

What is Standard Gauge?

Standard Gauge railroads have a width of four feet eight and a half inches between rails whereas Narrow Gauge railroads have a width of three feet between rails.

 

What About S Gauge or On30?

 

Increasing in popularity, S gauge narrow track makes it possible to have a very attractive, yet complex layout in about the same space as a more modest HO layout. On30 is another alternative to consider. On30 allows trains to run on track the size of HO while still retaining larger buildings and people.  

 

 

Interesting Fact:

 

There are few narrow gauge railroads still in operation. Some have been converted to the standard railroad system. Others have been dismantled and turned into scrap. Even though narrow gauge railroads were inexpensive to build, off loading and on loading became too much of an expense. Each time a narrow gauge railroad met a standard railroad, shipments would have to be unloaded and reloaded.

 

 

Why The Track Is So Important

 

Track consists of two metal rails separated by plastic tie sections. Each rail carries one side of the electrical circuit. To work properly, the two rails should not contact each other and no metal object should contact both rails together. This would cause a short circuit, which could damage your power pack if it happened too often.

 

With this in mind, assemble your track and connect the power pack… and you'll be ready to start operating your trains. It is as easy as plugging in the power pack, carefully placing the locomotive on the track, turning up the throttle…and enjoying!

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Set up your train track on a sheet of plywood, a tabletop,

or other hard surface. Carpet fuzz and floor dirt can

hamper smooth operation.

 

 

What Are Tracks Made Of?

 

Track comes in different types made of brass, zinc-coated steel, nickel silver and steel. Regardless of what they are made of, most track sets come with a terminal section so that you can hook it to the transformer. Brass track and zinc-coated steel track are common in starter sets and, when purchased separately, are usually cheaper in price than nickel silver tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explain Zinc-Coated Steel Track?

 

Zinc-coated steel tracks are another option, but the zinc can wear off. This can expose the steel that can then rust. 

 

Explain Brass Track?

 

It is generally accepted that brass is the best conductor of electricity, but it does need a regular cleaning to keep it in good condition. This is because brass forms an oxide when in contact with the atmosphere, which creates a barrier to the current.

 

Explain Nickel Silver Track?

 

Nickel silver track also forms an oxide, but still makes for a good conductor on nickel silver tracks. The oxide that forms on nickel silver happens to be electrically conductive whereas that which forms on steel and brass is not. What this means is that after a while on steel and brass rails the trains tend to run erratically. This means you'll need to clean the rails frequently to avoid this problem. Using nickel silver rails means you will have better running trains and less time spent cleaning rails. That's why many train enthusiasts favor nickel silver tracks.

 

How Can You Differentiate Between The Different Track Materials?

 

The different rail materials are easy to pick. Steel is a silver color (or rusty if not looked after properly). You can also use a magnet to find out if it is steel. Brass has its own distinctive color/s. Nickel silver is silver colored, but has a slight gold tint to it.

 

Explain Sectional Track?

 

Model railway track comes in sections for convenience and ease of use. You can purchase track in different lengths and shapes, straight and curved.  Some snap together, and some are made on plastic roadbed sections.  Sectional track is what most model railroaders start with simply because it's easy to use and it's what usually comes with the train sets.

Text Box:

Should You Choose Roadbed Or Standard Track?

 

Again the choice is over to you and your personal preference. The plastic roadbed sections look like real railroad ballast and feature interlocking tabs that help hold the track sections securely in place.

 

                Roadbead (left) and Standard Track (right) è

 

Roadbed track has the advantage of having a more realistic appearance without the mess involved in adding loose ballast and then having to glue it. The disadvantage is that it is more expensive than standard track. Another drawback is that the various makes are not always compatible with each other. Also, you are limited by the modular set track nature of the pieces.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

When laying 'loose' ballast, be very careful while distributing it around point blades. Also, when laying 'loose' ballast never run the trains until the glue has fully dried and the track has been vacuum cleaned to ensure no loose ballast remains.

 

Roadbed tracks are particularly good on temporary layouts because they are generally more stable. If you intend to set up a train set on the floor (not recommended), then roadbed track is the better option because it is slightly raised up. If standard track is put on the floor, especially on carpet, then no matter how clean you think it is, grit, hairs, fluff, cotton and things you never knew were on the floor will get inside and ruin the mechanism.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Ballasted track adds more scenic realism to a layout. However, you need to make sure that the electrics are all sorted out and that all the rail joiners are tight fitting before you start ballasting. Otherwise you may find that after you have ballasted your track, some sections of track wont work properly.

 

For yards you may want to use a finer grade of ballast to give the impression of more lightly laid lines, while on the mainline you might want more coarse ballast.

 

How Do The Rail Joiners Work?

 

Sectional track comes with a rail joiner that is a slotted clip. Its function is to keep the track lengths together and also conduct the electricity.  This is why the tracks need to fit snugly together.  These joiners can wiggle loose when the train goes over the track, which can cause a derailment.  To stop this happening you can nail the tracks down through the little holes in the middle of the ties. 

 

Quick Tip:

 

When assembling sectional track do not force the pieces together. Make sure both ends of the rails are lined up with the metal rail joiners and fit snugly with little or no gap. If your track has molded roadbed make the tabs lock securely between sections. Make sure there are no gaps at the end of the rails when assembling the track.

 

 

Explain Other Track Options?

 

Apart from straight and curved sections, other track options include tracks for crossings and tracks made at different angles (so that tracks can cross each other or make figure eights). There are also turnout (switch) sections for sidings. A quick tip: on turnouts you might need to straighten the points occasionally with needle-nose pliers.

 

You'll also find that in all the popular scales there are shorter fitter sections available. Shorter fitter sections, such as half curves and 1/4 straights, are needed to complete any plan more complex than a basic circle or oval layout. Many enthusiasts simply cut a section of track to fit.


 

 


Quick Tip:

 

When using flexi track, it is important to remember that if you make the bend too tight in your layout you’ll need to use shorter trains, otherwise your trains will be prone to derailment.

 

 

What Are The Advantages Of Flexible Track?

 

Flexible track (often referred to as flex track or flexi track), as its name implies, can be bent to any shape you want. It usually comes in three-foot lengths. It has the advantage of being bendable which opens up new options when planning your layout. Flexible track can be curved or laid straight or any combination you wish. With flexible track there are usually fewer connections to worry about.  It does however need to be nailed down to a board and the rails need to be trimmed to length as you bend the track.

 

Flexible track also enables you to go into a curve more gently and make the track fit your layout without the constraints of fixed sections.

 

Which Type Of Track Should You Use?

 

It does not matter what kind of track you use - it is entirely up to you. You can even use both kinds together. Most model railroad enthusiasts have their preference. Flexible track is more work to set up, but the extra time has the benefit of less joins. The curves can be more realistic too. Depending on where you live, flexible track is usually cheaper than the equivalent length of set track.

 

How Does The Power Supply Work?

 

Most model trains run on low voltage. Unlike the AC electrical circuit in your house, the electricity that moves your locos is DC, ie. Direct Current. The supply to your layout comes by plugging a power pack (also called a transformer) into a wall socket that takes the AC supply, steps it down to  the 12-15 volts needed to run the trains and up to 18 volts for the accessories.

 

The transformer converts the output to DC, filters the DC to purify it, then outputs the supply from the terminals on the back of your controller, along a couple of wires to the tracks where it is picked up by your locomotives wheels, turning the motor within. The throttle control varies the voltage to the rails, changing the speed of the motor and consequently the rate your locomotive moves down the track.

 

DC electricity is directional, so the electricity flows along the wires in a certain direction, and the locomotive moves in the direction set by the directional switch on your controller (or left and right if your controller has a centre off type control knob).

 

 

These lower step-down voltages are not usually dangerous, but it’s safest to attach wires to the terminals when the power pack is unplugged from the wall.

Regardless of how simple or complex the layout is, all model train operation follows one basic principle. You control the train speed and direction by varying the voltage and polarity of the electricity reaching the motor. You are in control!

 

How Does A Circuit Breaker Work?

 

The circuit breaker, if it has one, provides protection by opening the circuit when there’s too much current being drawn from the power pack.  The output terminals are low voltage a.c. for providing power to the accessories and variable d.c. for the tracks.

 

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP:

 

Electrical currents are not the same in every country. It is important that you know what voltage system operates in the country where you reside. If you are at all unsure, contact your local electricity supplier, or a local electrical contractor. The high voltage circuit in the wall socket can cause injury or death. Also, carefully read any safety instructions that are included with most train sets before getting started.

 

What's In A Power Pack?

 

There is a big choice when it comes to power packs. They come in all shapes and sizes depending on your requirements. All power packs contain a few basic components, including a transformer to provide the 12 volts, a throttle to vary tile output voltage, and a direction switch to control the polarity of the circuit. Power packs also have screw terminals for the track (which is DC) and AC accessory connections.

 

Larger units may include a larger power supply as well as additional electronic features such as: operating modes, pilot lights and meters, and multiple terminals for accessories such as add-on walkaround throttle units. These units make it easier to operate your train, enabling you to follow it as it moves around the track, rather than standing in one spot and watching it.

 

What About A Power Pack For A Small Layout?

 

Small layouts can get by with the basic power pack that comes with many starter train sets. Remember, that a starter set power pack probably doesn’t have a lot of extra power, and may not have a circuit breaker to prevent burn-outs. If however, you’ve purchased a locomotive that doesn’t have a strong engine, then this type of power pack may be all you need to get started.

 

The pack that comes with a typical starter train set (rated as low as 7 volt-amps, or just 0.7 amps delivered at 10 volts) will run one (maybe two) locomotives at the same time.

 

What About A Power Pack For A Larger Layout?

 

Larger layouts or those with lots of accessories will require power packs with a larger power output. You can upgrade your power pack as your layout grows, using your older units to power accessories and powered turnouts.

A more powerful pack will be able to run more locomotives. If the amperes drawn exceed the pack's capacity, the pack begins to overheat. A 14 VA pack will easily power three or four locomotives.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Don't throw away that tiny power pack in starter train sets. It may come in handy for powering accessories separate from your main power source, freeing the bigger pack to run just locomotives.

 

 

Have the power you need. If you have a lot of accessories then you'll need to get a larger power pack or use multiple packs that can deliver powerful 18 volt amps of current. There's nothing more frustrating than not having the power that you need.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

When buying a power pack, it’s better not to skimp on quality

at the expense of price, especially if you’re planning to buy accessories as well. You want to ask yourself just how much current draw will the power pack provide.  Aim at least for a one-amp pack, with two amps being the best choice.

 

Remember these handy rules when purchasing a pack:

 

Amperes determine the amount of power.

 

Voltage determines speed.

 

Electrical rating (measured in voltamps, VA, meaning volts x amps) is what matters. Any pack will work on a big layout if enough feeder wires are attached to reduce electrical resistance and the resulting voltage drop that slows trains down as they get farther from the power source.

 

How Do Electronic Power Packs Compare?

 

Electronic packs (or solid state) are another option. These packs give better control at lower speeds, especially when the train starts up.  That's not to say that flywheels with heavy locomotives won't perform a similar function.

Acceleration is completely smooth when using an electronic pack. To get the motor started a simple burst of power is given out. The power bursts increase in frequency until straight d.c. is being fed through the motor.

 

Throttle changes continue to occur until the desired speed is reached.

With electronic packs it's possible to simply set the throttle at the speed you wish the train to reach and it’s all done automatically. Electronic packs provide a momentum, similar to the starting and stopping of a real train. An added feature is a brake switch that allows you to stop your train more quickly, rather than allowing it to coast to a standstill.

 

Quick Tip From A Veteran Model Train Hobbyist ...

 

“If street lights or other accessories are dim or move slowly, it is most likely a transformer/power pack problem. There may be too many things drawing power. The solution is to invest in more powerful transformer/power pack to run the trains, or buy an inexpensive unit and use it only for accessories.”

Ralph H. Model train enthusiast for 32 years.

 

 

Layout Options Explained

 


 


Why Build A Main Line Layout?

 

What you build is really over to you and you may want to build a combination of main line and branch lines. There are however, a few important things that need to be considered. Main line layouts tend to be larger than average and more expensive to build. By definition they are busy layouts and so you'll need more rolling stock. If modeled well, they are without doubt, spectacular and well worth the effort.

 

Why Build A Branch Line Layout?

 

Branch lines are a popular theme for small layouts. A branch line is a quieter alternative to a main line layout and can be fascinating to build and operate. Although not always the case, a branch line layout generally requires less rolling stock. It can also mean greater flexibility in the complexity of your track plan depending on what you want to achieve.

 

Building a branch line is a favorite for many railroaders, because it can allow more opportunities to include small dioramas within the layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A branch line will commonly have a small station where trains can pass. The station has some shunting possibilities, e.g. serving a freight shed. To make the operations more interesting a "shadow station" or passing loop can be added.

 

Many branch line layout designs consist of an oval shaped line, though on a shelf-based layout an out-and-back format is also reasonably common. The branch line theme often includes mixed freight and passenger trains running to a timetable-based operation.

 

Most branch lines run through countryside giving the possibility for creating some truly amazing scenery. But, when creating a small layout branch line, you'll need to accept that it can be hard to depict the wide-open space of the countryside on a small layout. One option is to use forests to "box-in" the scene. Another option, which works well, is to depict a branch line in a cityscape. This makes sense considering that most branch lines start off in a larger town. That way you can build a small station located in this larger town. The buildings will have the same effect of "boxing-in" the theme. Plus you can add connections to several industries, although this does conflict with a countryside theme.

 

Why Build An Industrial Layout?

 

If space is at a premium building an industrial line may be the answer. Industrial lines are the ones that feed industries. This kind of layout is ideal if you want to run unusual stock and enjoy scenic modeling.

 

There's no passenger traffic on an industrial line, but if you model the present day, you could run a nostalgic steam museum train on the layout. However, you'll need to be aware that the more modern freight trains are longer with more cars. Older cars are shorter and you can store more of them on a length of track…so that is an important consideration if space is an issue.

 

The operation of an industrial line focuses on shunting, shunting and more shunting. Some layouts have a continuous loop to allow the trains to run uninterrupted. However, true shunting layouts do not offer this possibility, which is more realistic.

 

When building an industrial line also think about the types of industries your line will service. To add variety and interest to your layout it usually pays to include several different industries. In real life some industrial areas are tightly packed, busy working areas, so you'll want to squeeze in a lot of track. That's one reason why industrial layouts can be fascinating to build and operate. A quick tip to get more shunting without overloading the scenery, is to give a single plant more independent connections.

 

Why Build A Tramway Layout?

 

If you are a tramway fan then consider building a tramway layout. The cramped space of an old town with a tramway is perfect to recreate on a small layout. Also, older tramways did offer some kind of freight service feeding local industries; so there is potential to develop the tramway theme. However, most modern tramways only offer passenger services with uniform rolling stock. This is why many railroaders find tramway operations a bit boring and opt for branch lines instead. It is really over to you – do what you enjoy doing - it's your train set!

 

 

Interesting Fact:

 

Lionel is a well-known name associated with O gauge trains. Joshua Lionel Cowen started the firm in 1900, later developing Standard gauge (2 1/4-inch gauge) and helped to popularize O gauge. Lionel became a major model train manufacturer during the late 1940s and '50s. In 1969, General Mills secured the rights to manufacture Lionel trains under the names Model Products Corp. and Fundimensions. Richard Kughn acquired those rights in 1986 and formed Lionel Trains Inc. In 1995 he sold the company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do Locomotives Work?

 

A Locomotive runs by picking up an electrical current from the metal rails through metal wheels that ride on the rails. The electricity is transferred from the wheels to the motor, which causes the motor to run. The motor connects to the wheels through a mechanical drive system. When the electricity turns the motor, the motor turns the gears that turn the wheels and push the locomotive along the tracks. Simple!

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

The contact point where your locomotive wheel meets the rail is extremely small. That's why; it doesn't take much in the way of dirt, dust, or debris to obstruct the wheel-to-rail contact. Dirt can build up, so it is important that you keep the wheels clean and free of accumulated dirt. If the wheels of your locomotive become dirty, they may not make good contact with the metal rails, and your train will stall. Remember, plastic wheels don’t conduct electricity.

 

Why Are Wheels And Gears So Important?

 

As you've probably gathered by now, a good locomotive needs lots of wheels and lots of gears. The electricity flows through the wheels transferring the electricity to the motor that turns the gears that turn the wheels. This all needs to work efficiently for best results. A poor performing locomotive is often because of the gears and/or the wheels. Although in saying that, some locomotives with only a few wheels work surprisingly well... although it is considered to be unusual, rather than the norm.

 

 

Buying A Locomotive – Where Do You Start?

 

You can buy train accessories over the net, but there are advantages in buying from your local hobby shop. Many shops have a model track set up for you to test out locomotives etc. If they do, then without exception, try the locomotive out in the store before buying. 

 

A good-quality model diesel locomotive will pick up electrical power from all eight or 12 wheels and will be geared on all wheel-sets, or “trucks,” for the best pulling power.

If you’re buying a steam locomotive, make sure it picks up power from as many wheels and drivers as possible. The best option is for the tender to assist in power pickup (if it has a tender).

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

No one wants a locomotive that you have to push to get it going. You don't want one that suddenly speeds up and falls off he tracks. If you want your train to run well, be prepared to pay good money for a good quality locomotive. Buy the best locomotive you can afford. Buy a high-performing workhorse and it will pay for itself in no time with the pleasure it gives you over many years.

 

 

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Wheels?

 

Check out the wheels. If the wheels are not connected to a gear, then they'll move easily when you push them with your finger.  If the wheels move just a little and then go stiff, they’re connected to a gear. That’s a good sign. If the locomotive is slow to start, then consider buying something a bit better. A good locomotive is worth the investment!

 

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Motor?

 

The motor is also important and needs to be of good quality, to turn smoothly, using the least amount of electricity.  

 

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Weight?

 

The weight of a locomotive is crucial to ensure that the wheels connect with the tracks. This is achieved through solid metal frames. 

 

Buying A Locomotive – What About The Flywheels?

 

Flywheels are solid-metal cylinders mounted in line with the motor. Flywheels at one or both ends of the motor ensure a smooth take-off by slowing down the initial rotation of the motor. Flywheels help achieve a smoother stop when the electricity is turned off. They also help the locomotive operate more smoothly and negotiate dirty track better.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Diesel locomotives should have all-wheel electrical pickup and at least eight-wheel drive. Steam locomotives should pick up electricity from the drivers and the tender wheels.

 

 

What Are The Advantages Of A Shorter Locomotive?

 

Diesel locomotives are generally shorter than steam locomotives. As a rule, shorter locomotives are less prone to derailments, especially when going around a curve. If you are just starting out, or if the train set is going to be used by a child, buying a short locomotive could be the best option.  The same point applies when choosing rolling stock.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Avoid traction tires as these contribute little to performance. They're little rings of rubber around some locomotive drivers and wheels and are intended to overcome poor adhesion. However, traction tires can contribute to an irritating wobbling and also can’t pick up electricity. The cure can be worse than the problem.

 

 

6 Points To Consider When Buying A Locomotive:

 

1. Choose a locomotive that has a good quality motor

2. Choose one with plenty of metal wheels

3. Choose one with plenty of gears connected to the wheels

4. Choose a locomotive with a heavy metal frame

5. Choose one with flywheels

6. Buy a locomotive that will meet your requirements now and in the future. A low price may result in poor performance and quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Where To Start

 

The cars that come with many starter train sets are not highly detailed. You get what you pay for and the starter sets are lower in price to get you started.

 

When purchasing the cars separately, look for the most realistic and reliable cars that fit with your budget. You can buy cars and rolling stock over the internet if you know exactly what you are looking for and what you are getting. There is however an advantage in buying through a local hobby store. You can pick up the cars and have a good hands-on inspection before buying.

 

 

Interesting Fact:

 

The American Flyer Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1907, and made windup and electric wide gauge (the competitor to Lionel's Standard gauge) trains. The A. C. Gilbert Co. bought the firm in 1937 and offered O and HO trains. After World War II, Gilbert switched from O to S gauge. Lionel purchased the rights to produce American Flyer trains after Gilbert went out of business in 1966.

 

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Which Wheels To Select

 

Examine the wheels first.  See how well they spin.  Avoid wheels that only turn once and then stop. Avoid wheels that wobble, because that’s not a good sign.

 

Wheels can be made of either plastic or metal; the important thing is that they have a metal axle. For the wheels to sit on the rails correctly they must be the same distance apart on the axle. Plastic wheels can sometimes be adjusted to the correct distance apart on the axle.

 

Buying Cars or Rolling Stock – Which Couplers To Select

 

Most starter train set cars come with truck-mounted “horn-hook” couplers. At some stage you might want to replace the “horn-hook” couplers with more realistic looking and better-operating knuckle couplers. Knuckle couplers are less likely to unhook. Your local hobby shop can show you some inexpensive replacements and how to easy it is to install them.

 

 

Interesting Fact:

 

Marx offered affordable trains for the masses since the time its founder, Louis Marx, began making inexpensive windup and electric trains in the early 1930s. The Marx brand remained strong well into the 1960s and was popular with consumers looking to purchase inexpensive yet attractive metal or plastic toy trains. Although the original company went out of being in 1975, a new Marx Trains Inc. was established to make Marx trains under license.

 

 

How Much Should You Spend?

 

Model railroading can provide an enormous amount of pleasure, so for that reason it is hard to put a value on how much someone should invest. It is really up to the individual and what you want from a train set.  Some people are happy to just stick with a basic layout, whilst many enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars a year and derive thousands of hours of pleasure and satisfaction in return.

 

What Should You Spend Money On?

 

How much you invest and what you purchase will also depend on your personality. If you are someone who prefers more realism, then it is likely you'll have different goals and different needs to someone who focuses mainly on maintaining and operating the trains. Both people could invest just as much money (and time), but on different things. So, there are no hard and fast rules… we're all different!

Text Box: Interesting Fact:Before Lionel entered the scene, Ives Corp. dominated the toy train manufacturing in America. Founded in 1868, this toy firm developed a mechanical clockwork locomotive giving its trains the edge of self-propelled motion. Around 1900, Ives faced competition from European toy makers. Ives then produced colorful electric locomotives with the first automatic reversing units. Heightened competition from Lionel and American Flyer led to Ives declaring bankruptcy in 1928.
Text Box: Interesting Fact:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Should You Start With?

 

We've already agreed that you'll need a locomotive, running stock, track and a power pack (transformer) to get started. You'll need to set aside an area in a spare room, basement or attic and provide a surface on which to place all this gear. And then there are all those exciting accessories to consider!

 

STOP! Before you go crazy with the credit card, think carefully about how much time and money you want to spend on this hobby. You may want to start off slowly before getting too committed in what can become an absorbing hobby… even an obsession. Maybe you had a train set when you were a kid and you can remember those times with great fondness. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to mortgage the house right at the start.

 

Why You Shouldn't Skimp On The Essentials

 

If the objective is to maximize your pleasure from this enthralling hobby, then don’t skimp on the essentials, like a decent locomotive and a good power pack. You don’t have to spend megabucks but you do need to get something that will meet your needs and be functional. You can always add to your set or upgrade as you become more involved in the hobby. So, it’s not a problem if you can’t afford the state of the art stuff from day one.

 

Should You Make A List?

 

Absolutely! Surf the net and read up on the different options available. Then write down your wish list. Set yourself a budget and work out what each item will cost. Then prioritize your list and decide on some alternative choices that might be worth considering depending on your budget constraints. Talk to the staff at your local hobby shop as they may have some alternative suggestions. They are the ones who should be able to advise what's new, what’s good…and even what to avoid.

 

Should You Set Objectives?

 

It is always a good idea to set some objectives and goals. Begin with the end in mind. Apart from providing pleasure, what else do you want from your layout? When you think about it, you'll probably decide that is has to be functional and as realistic as possible. Write down what you want to achieve and then you can get started on the exciting part where you can combine your vision and attention to detail with your creativity, technical, and problem solving skills.

 

Ask yourself: How will your layout operate? Do you want several trains to be on the move at the same time? What type of rolling stock do you want to run? Do you enjoy shunting wagons around a goods yard? Maybe you just want to switch on and watch your train go round and round a circle of track. Do you want to run to a timetable?

 

Get the idea? You won't know the answer to every question you come up with, but it will help clarify your thinking as to what you really want to achieve.

 


 


12 Steps To Getting Started

 

It is a fact that many modelers begin their interest in model railroads without having a specific interest in any one particular railway line or company. The trains that they start out running have either been given to them as a gift or chosen because they look nice or are priced within the budget.

 

Mistakes can be costly so take your time and work through the process carefully, logically and thoroughly. After all, buying a train set or building a layout is not a race. It is better to think things through carefully and then do things the best way to achieve your goals. 

 

Here is a valuable list of steps that will help you on this exciting journey. You don't necessarily need to work through them in this order, but you will want to cover each step:

 

Step 1: Make Small Mistakes First

 

We all make mistakes especially when we are learning. So, with this in mind it's usually best to start small. Then hopefully, mistakes can be small too. You will probably want to purchase only a small amount of track to start off and maybe some plugs, switches, an engine or two, and a few cars. A small track layout of 4x8 or less might be a good place to start. There is no point in being intimidated (and maybe discouraged) by a large or complex set when you are learning the basics. With a smaller set it will be easier to fix mistakes or make changes.

 

A 4x8 layout is large enough to fit the 18-inch radius curves that come with many train sets. With a 4x8 layout there is also room for an oval with 18-inch radius ends and a few sidings.

 

You can always add accessories and upgrade your set as you go along.

 

Model railroading is the type of hobby

that will progress as you progress.

 

By not going overboard at the beginning, you give yourself a chance to see what you need to make it even better.

 

Step 2: Buy A Kit (Starter Set)

 

Kits have everything you need to get started in one complete package… and they're usually very reasonably priced. Starter kits are a wonderful entry level for beginners. They include: enough tracks for a basic layout, a locomotive, some rolling stock and a power pack. Those are the basics to get up and running.

 

Talk with the staff at your local hobby shop because they can advise you on the best selection to meet your needs. Buying a starter kit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise on quality. There are a number of really good kits out there to choose from.

 

Step 3: Know Your Budget

 

Model train sets can run from a few dollars to several thousands of dollars, so it is important to decide how much you want to spend. Set a realistic budget and stick to it.

 

Thanks to the internet and sites like "e-bay" you can pick up some real bargains in the secondhand market. Make sure you know exactly what you are buying.

 

When you're in the hobby shop it can be very easy to blow your budget so it's best to decide your limits before you shop. This will ensure that you don’t blow your budget when you spot that perfect (but very pricey) train set or accessory. Again it is matter of balancing ambition with realistic objectives. The same considerations apply to how much time you can allocate to building your layout. Many a layout has gone unfinished due to lack of time and money.

 

It is all about getting value for money without going overboard. When starting off you won't need the most expensive... but nor should you buy a poor quality cheap set from a discount store. You want pleasure from running your trains… not frustration.

 

Talk with model railroading veterans about this hobby and many will tell you they still have their very first train set. They'll also tell you how much fun they've had with it. So choose carefully.

 

Step 4: Research What's Available

 

Before purchasing a train set do your own research to familiarize yourself as to what's available. Surf the net (there are lots of useful sites listed in this ebook) and read hobby magazines or train books. Search for information on the models that most interest you.

 

Surfing the internet you'll see that a lot of sites specialize in certain aspects of model railroading or different scales such as HO, N or Z. Many of these sites offer in-depth information and excellent tips and ideas that will help increase your knowledge and stimulate your creative juices.

 

Step 5: Where Is Your Set Going To Live?

 

Before you purchase your set think carefully about where you’re going to display and built it. Select a space where it won't get damaged… and where you have room to enjoy the set… and work on… and operate the trains with ease. And, if possible, room enough to expand onto your set. Yes, that's something to consider – is it going to be permanent, or is the layout going to put away after each use?

 

Locate your layout with care. The amount of available space you have will influence what you end up modeling. There is no point in trying to build a layout with several stations, goods yard, bridges and villages etc., if it needs to be cramped into the corner of the spare bedroom. Not that you can't be ambitious as long as you are realistic.

 

A table or a simple raised platform usually works well. You can make a platform by placing some plywood on a pair of saw-horses or some other raised support. The train will run a lot better if it’s secured to a hard surface like plywood. It is also better to be raised to a comfortable height above the floor.

 

It's usually best not to display your set on the floor. Carpet and rails don’t mix because being low to the floor your set will attract pet hair, dirt, dust and debris that can stick to the tracks and get into the engine. The floor is not a good location, because pets, or children might damage the set, it may even cause someone to trip and/or injure himself or herself.

 

Keep in mind that it's likely the railroading bug will bite you. It is contagious! So, you'll need to have you room for expansion.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

When locating your train set make certain that the site has a good electrical supply for running the trains and lighting your layout. It must be dry and comfortable to work in all year round.

 

 

 

Step 6: Select Your Scale Carefully

 

Choose the scale you want to work with carefully. Make sure that you have enough room to accommodate a layout in that scale size. Also, decide how big you want your layout to be now and in the future.  If you think you might want to expand your layout in the future, then you may want to start off with a scale that takes up less space.

 

Many people get started with HO scale, but what you choose is over to you. If space is an issue, then N scale might be a better option than HO scale. N scale takes up less room than HO.  As a comparison, you can fit as much detail into an N scale layout using a door as your platform, as you can on a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood with HO.

 

Step 7: Select A Theme

 

Model railroading offers so many different options, that it sometimes pays to stick with a theme. Perhaps select an historical era that you are interested in and then select your trains, building and scenery from that era. For example: a layout depicting California logging railroads in the 1920s might interest you. Researching a theme can be particularly enjoyable by adding to the fun and also making the layout seem more realistic.

 

Okay, assuming you have a favorite period in railway history, then you might want to base your layout around that. The alternative is to cover a wider time frame. Think carefully about what time scale you want to model.

 

 

Text Box: The most popular time frame is the steam era. A wide range of rolling stock and scenic accessories are available in both the new and secondhand markets. One thought is to build your layout to cover the transition period from late steam to early diesel. This would give you the best of both worlds. You could run the very latest rolling stock, along side steam if you include a branch preservation line in your layout.Text Box:  Step 8: Do Even More Research

 

Search the internet for model train retailers and find out as much information as you can online. Re-visit the hobby shops in person (spend an hour or so in each) and ask more questions. Shop around and then shop around some more.

 

The more you know about model trains, the less chance that you'll be taken for a ride (excuse the pun!). Some shop assistants and internet retailers just want to sell… and others may misunderstand your needs and sell you the wrong thing. However, in saying that, in general hobby shop staff have a wealth knowledge and are happy to share their ideas. Also the more research you do, the better you'll get to know your train scales, styles and which manufacturers you prefer.

 

Toy stores sometimes carry train sets, but often they specialize in the lower end or battery operated market. Hobby stores are generally more specialized and cater more for the experienced enthusiasts. They sell more challenging electrical model trains sets and offer choices from more manufacturers than do most toy stores. Specialist hobby stores usually carry a full range of accessories, as well as railroading books, magazines, DVDs and videos to help you get started. The other advantage is that hobby shops typically service what they sell. Although there are exceptions, hobby stores generally have shop staff who are knowledgeable about model trains.

 

Step 9: Join A Club And Network

 

Another advantage of buying from a specialist hobby store is the advantage of networking. They probably have contacts at the local model railway club and may be able to put you in touch with the members. Most model railroad enthusiasts are more than helpful and gladly give you the benefit of their experience and introduce you to others with a similar interest in the hobby. This way, you can learn insider secrets and tricks.

 

Don't think that everyone in a club is experienced. Most clubs enjoy a mix of long-time experienced railroaders and new members. It is a good place to learn, because most clubs encourage the exchange of ideas between members. They swap photos, show films, discuss techniques, network with other railroad clubs and even have guest speakers from time to time. Joining a model railroad club can be truly rewarding experience in terms of what you can learn, the people you meet and the fun you have.

 

Also, if possible, take a look at some of the magazines that are available on model railroading. They make for good reading! (see list at end of book)

 

Step 10: Start With The Right Tools

 

For collecting trains, no tools are really needed, although a few screwdrivers and needle nose pliers are useful for securing parts. Anyone planning to build a layout should obtain clamps, drill, electric saber saw, hacksaw, hammer, hot glue gun, measuring tape, motor tool, pin vise, safety goggles, soldering iron, utility knife, and wire strippers.

 

Step 11: Plan To Expand

 

As already mentioned, you don’t need to start off big. You can expand your train set as needed. Take your time and add your own personal touches along the way.  Building a small layout to start with, will give you a chance to assess your strengths and weaknesses. You'll learn what you can do with ease and what is more of a challenge.

 

Some people get put off by attempting difficult projects too early and become overwhelmed by a vast array of details, choices and problems.  It is much better to start with something you know you CAN do to get immediate results and instant gratification. You can develop your skills and your layout from there by adding new features, extra rolling stock, new accessories, maybe some additional track and another locomotive.

 

Step 12: Enjoy Yourself

 

Don't lose sight of the objective of the whole exercise i.e. to enjoy yourself and have fun! Model railroading can be more than just a hobby – it can become an addiction and you don't want to get so involved in the process of problem solving that you forget to have a good time.

 

 

Interesting Facts:

 

Flemington in New Jersey is home to "Northlanz", which has 8 actual miles of HO track and 100+ trains running at one time. 25 years went into sculpting 35 foot mountains and building 40 foot bridges. It features thousands of handmade buildings and over 10,000 freight cars. Incredible!

 

Another place worth a visit is the Pasadena Sierra Pacific Club, located in Pasadena, CA, which operates the Sierra Pacific Lines. This is one of the largest HO Scale operating model railroads in the world covering almost 5000 square feet. The railroad has over 30,000 feet of hand laid steel rail. The 1700 foot single to quad track mainline with ten cabs allows for operating of up to ten 30 foot trains (up to 60 cars long). Yard panels throughout the railroad allow for operation of another 15 to 20 trains. Worth a visit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

If you need to store your electric trains long or short term then here's what to do.  Wrap unboxed items in newsprint (blank), butcher paper, or a thick layer of  white paper towels.  Avoid printed newspaper or any colored paper as the inks and dyes can run if moisture forms.  This can ruin the paint and decals of your models.

 

Place wrapped items and/or outer carton in a plastic storage box.  This will prevent garage floods and attic leaks from soaking a cardboard box and rusting any metal parts.  This is especially important for owners of tinplate trains as water/moisture damage can happen.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Plan your layout to be easily accessible, so that you can quickly and easily fix problems. What can go wrong? Regardless of how good your trackwork is - derailments still happen. Sometimes it's caused by a super-light flatcar being shoved behind a heavy boxcar, or a hopper with out-of-gauge wheelsets somewhere waiting to pick a switchpoint or be forced off the track.  S-curves are a hazard for  passenger cars. As well as derailments, locomotives stall on spots of dirty track, or on turnouts that have insulated frogs.

 

None of these things are much of a problem as long as you can reach the spot of the accident.  The trouble starts when you locate tracks and turnouts outside your reach.  On paper the placing of a critical turnout 36” or more from the layout edge doesn’t seem like a problem, but once the yard starts to operate, it can become your biggest headache. 

 

5 Steps To Building Your Set

 

By this time you will have an idea of what you want to create? The question now is; do you just launch in and make a start on building it, or do you take your time, or should you think some more about it, or perhaps you're just wondering where to make a start? Well yes, it is important to get started, but it is really important that you go about things in a logical manner to avoid many of the mistakes that "newbies" to this hobby are known to make.

 

There are definitely things that you should and shouldn’t do, so it's better to do it right the first time. With this in mind, here’s our checklist of 5 important things to consider when building your set:

 

Important Point #1. Don't Rush Things           

 

Work carefully through the process of building your train set. Do things logically and thoroughly. It takes time to build a great set – it is NOT a race!

If you rush doing things then you’ll get stressed especially when things don't go as planned. Mistakes can be costly and frustrating. It is better to think things through carefully step-by-step in a logical order.

 

Start by drawing some sketches and writing some notes on what you want to achieve. That's a good idea because you'll then have something to refer to and keep you on track (oops another pun!). Take your time and read any instructions carefully before you get started.

 

Important Point #2. Take One Step At A Time

 

This might sound a bit strange, but don’t try and do too much at first. It is a common mistake. For example, there is no point in purchasing an expensive train set, setting it all up…only to have the base that supports it collapse under the weight of the set. That would be disastrous!

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Determine the required dimensions for a variety of track layouts before deciding on what size to build your train board(s). Depending on the space available, you can modify the dimensions or create a larger modular unit by joining two or more boards together. The tracks for today's smaller-scale trains need to be precisely and firmly attached to a train board that won't warp or bend easily.

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Install Surface Protectors or Legs: You can lay the train board on a table or the floor, rest it on saw-horses or, for a more permanent setup, use metal folding legs. If you intend to lay the board on a table or wood floor, install six to eight floor protectors on the underside. To guide the positioning of saw-horses and to prevent unwanted collapses, tack strips of wood to the underside of the train board to create channels. Or, attach folding legs to boards firmly screwed to the underside of the train board.

 

 

The previous two tips are a good example of the basic, but important, steps that need to be carefully thought though from the start. It is best to start small and then work your way up as and when your skills improve. Model railroading is all about doing what you are capable of doing and what you enjoy doing…WITHOUT getting stressed out from attempting too much, or doing things that are overly complicated when starting out.

Important Point #3. Complete Each Step           

 

Finish the entire sequence of construction, including any detailing and scenery before proceeding to the next step. In other words, "always finish what you start." Some people try to do too many things at once, but they fail to complete jobs and sometimes do them poorly.

 

DO IT ONCE – DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

 

It is the secret to creating a reliable and outstanding layout… and besides, it will provide you with an enormous sense of accomplishment. It is tempting to jump ahead and skip out on the different stages of construction. Don't do it, because it's all part of the jigsaw and the all-important learning process.  The skills you acquire at this level will help you master more complex projects as you progress with this enthralling hobby.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Having a separate shelf for your transformer and switch controls can be a good idea. There are different ways you can do this…here's one:

 

With a piece of plywood approx.12x24" and 1x4 and 1x2 pine, you can make a detachable shelf for your transformer and switch controls. Cut the plywood to length so that the support arms will be spaced exactly as far apart as the train board crosspieces.

 

Decide where you want the shelf and clamp it in place while you bore four 1/4-in.-dia. clearance holes through the shelf supports and train-board crosspieces. Then, attach the support arms to the underside of the train board with bolts. Determine where you want the shelf and clamp it in place so that you bore four 1/4-in.-dia. clearance holes through the shelf supports and train-board crosspieces. Attach the support arms to the underside of the train board with bolts.

 

 

Important Point #4. Fix Mistakes           

 

Most layouts are a combination of ideas and compromises built over a period of time. Above all, don't be afraid of making mistakes, because they can always be rectified. Even the most experienced railroaders make mistakes at times. And, in reality, it's likely that only you will notice that the mistakes even exist.

 

It's better to fix your mistakes as you go along, because it's no fun to have to start over from the beginning. Care in design and testing is essential at each stage of the process because, at times it can be extremely difficult to make alterations or correct mistakes. But, in saying that, you shouldn’t be afraid to making mistakes, because that's how we learn.

 

For instance, if your train makes it around a curve only 80% of the time, then why not rectify the problem?  That's not to say you don't enjoy watching a locomotive and cars derail (some people do!). To fix the problem it may mean taking the track apart and realigning the curve so that it isn't so sharp.

 

Why settle for annoying little omissions and mistakes when often they can easily be fixed?  If your hillsides are the wrong color why not repaint or touch them up? If the telegraph poles look lopsided, then straighten them. If a light does work fix it. After all, you’re aiming for realism here…and besides, repairs and maintenance are part of what makes railroading such an absorbing and fun hobby.

 

There’s nothing wrong with making and fixing mistakes. In fact, when you’re just starting off, you will make mistakes. This is a given but you have to learn from your mistakes and then move on, as failure is only feedback. Creating the perfect layout takes time and there’s no pleasure in rushing the process. You’ll be glad you took that time to get the detail just right especially when you stand back and look at the excellent results.

 

Important Point #5. Keep An Open Mind To New Ideas        

 

Think outside the square, expand your horizons, keep an open mind and be prepared to try new things. This is important, because model railroading is a creative hobby and there are always new ideas and techniques to explore especially when it comes to constructing layouts.

 

Talk with other model railroad enthusiasts, read magazines, books and surf the net for ideas and contacts. Subscribe to model railroading newsletters and e-zines on the internet to keep up-to-date with the latest techniques. Use the net to join model railroad newsgroups and forums.  They can be a wealth of information and ideas and a great way to have your technical questions answered. You can also help others and share any clever ideas you have.

 

The important thing is to keep

an open mind and keep learning!

 

 

 

The following is an excellent article I came across written by successful small business entrepreneur Noel Peebles. It's not specifically on the subject of model trains, but it does relate very well to what we've just been talking about. It's short and to the point, so enjoy it!

 

Keep An Open Mind Because

Life Is A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

 

By Noel Peebles

 

If you haven't got an open mind that's prepared to accept
a different way of doing things, then stop reading right
now. Buy a novel instead.

 

The game of life is real and is played between the ears.
The way you think determines the decisions you make.
The decisions you make determine what you do.

And what you do determines how successful you will become.

Your present life is the result of the decisions

you have made over the years and the same

will be true of your future.

 

You have a great power under your control - the power

to take possession of your mind and to direct it to whatever

ends you desire. What you choose to focus your mind on is

critical because you will become what you think about most

of the time. I remember making that comment to a friend of

mine and he raised his eyebrows and asked

"Does that mean I'm going to become a woman?"

Maybe that's taking things too far but…

 

Life is a series of thoughts and you can become what you
think about most of the time. You have the power of choice
and you can create the life you want by choosing what to do
and what to think about.

 

What do you really want? That question is at the foundation
of all success. Wanting it badly enough... that you will
work through problem after problem, and failure after
failure, to get what you really want.

 

If you think you can, or you think you can't,
you're right!

 

What's holding you back from achieving

what you really want?

 

What's stopping you from developing

those brilliant ideas?


 What's stopping you from turning

your dreams into reality?

 

Is it your current circumstances or is it what
you are choosing to believe about those circumstances

and your power (or lack of) to change them?

 

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You create the life
you live through your choices and your thoughts.

You don't always get exactly what you want, but in

the long run you will get what you expect.

Text Box: Quick Tip:To accommodate a growing train set, join two train boards together by installing two or more 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 hinges across the joint between the two pieces. Simply remove the hinge pins when you want to take the sections apart. Once you begin to attach tracks and run wiring, don't fasten down the length of track that joins the two sections. It's best to install electrical connections so they can be taken apart between the two sections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How Do You Create A Good Layout?

 


What you create (or recreate) is really over to you. You ideas can and probably will change and evolve as your knowledge expands. That's why you need to be prepared to make changes and add new elements as you go along.

 

Regardless of whether you are replicating a modern day section of railroad or a scene from yesteryear, it's best to research the section of full-size railroad that you will be modeling. Document it physically and operationally, and then scale it down to fit in a reasonable space. The section could be almost anything: shunting yards, a horseshoe curve, engine terminal, industrial theme, town scene, or even an important location from history.

 

The objective is to then closely replicate the originals or real thing in terms of dimensions and authenticity. In other words, creating a scale rendition of real full size (prototype) trains and surroundings. The huge advantage in this approach is that it can help you to do a better job. By replicating a section, or all of a model railroad, you'll know it will look and operate just like the real thing.

 

Research the era and location of the scene you are modeling. Take a look at magazines that feature sets from that time period to get your creative ideas flowing. Select the time setting in which you’re most interested. The steam era, the transition era from steam to diesel, or maybe a modern day theme…what is your passion?

 

Whatever you choose, the interesting aspects that caught your eye in the first place can be scaled down - selectively compressed - simply by following the full-sized (prototype) example.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Sometimes real full-sized railroads have unusual features and things are not always arranged in a way that you would expect them to be. Despite your research, you may not be able to find out why the track and buildings were arranged as they were. Nevertheless, if that's the way the thing are (or were), then proceed to model it in the way it is (or was) in real life.  As you learn more, you'll simply confirm that what you already decided to model can be operated realistically.

 

 

Should You Alter Your Layout?

 

Layouts, like full-size railroads, aren't cast in concrete. You can construct them using relatively easy-to-change materials like wood, plaster and foam. You need to allow for future growth. It is usually best to start off small. That way you can test as you build, and make changes when needed to improve operation or appearance of your layout.

 

Layout design and construction are both continuous learning processes. In reality, most model railroads are the result of an ongoing series of changes and additions to the original design efforts. Some even undergo an extreme makeover and are completely rebuilt from the ground up to embrace a new theme.

 

So, it's best to learn as much as you can so that you can make well-informed decisions during the planning and building process. In this way you'll be able to build a layout in the knowledge that you can still adapt and improve on it as time goes on.

 

Is The Scenery Important?

 

Trains don’t just run through an empty landscape, so the scenery (geographical setting) is a vital part of any train layout. Constructing the countryside and cityscape through which your train will travel can be tremendous fun. You need to consider the era, geographic location, and relative prosperity of the area being modeled.

 

 

 

 

 

9 Tips For Creating More Realistic Scenery

 

1. Choose geographical area for your train to travel through and select a time period.

 

·         Don't mix eras - putting 1970s building in a turn-of-the-century Western theme. Or putting a 1980's Honda model automobile in a fifties-era scene.

 

2. Hunt around for a locomotive and cars from that period and location.

 

3. Study the architecture of the buildings from that time period.

 

·         A book from the library or surfing the internet will give you some ideas.

·         Ask at your local model shop about buying suitable buildings.

·         You may prefer to construct them yourself with balsa wood and paint.

 

4. Find out what kind of shrubs and trees are likely to be found in that area. Little details can add to the realism. Get model trees that look like native species from your hobby shop or make them yourself.

 

Text Box:  5. Select a season of the year. Depending on the geographical location, you might need deciduous trees and snow in winter, colorful foliage in fall and beautiful flowers in spring and summer.

Text Box: 6. Add excitement to the scene. ·	Tunnels and a bridge will add interest to a layout. You'll need a rail station too. ·	Put operating signals at crossings. Use either a set of crossing flashers or a flasher and drop-arm combo. Kids (and adults too) are mesmerized by these 'lights and action' items.·	Other ideas like a working grain elevator, water tower, coal loaders, or a control towers help complete a scene. Be creative, but specific, with your scenery.

Quick Tip:

 

A scrap yard can make an interesting addition to a layout. No scrap yard would be complete without a pile of old tires stacked up. Automotive vacuum hose (from an auto parts store) can be cut up with a modeling knife to represent tires. The hose can usually be purchased in short lengths and comes in different diameters... and it's cheap to buy. Cut the tires, glue them together and pile them up. They'll need to be weathered a bit and perhaps plant some weeds in some of the outer tires for added realism.

 

7. Add realism.

 

·         Make sure any vehicles and rail crossings are from the right era. One idea is black washing the grilles and hubcaps to add depth and realism. Using a small brush you can also paint taillights, parking lights and door handles if needed. Then consider taking the cars apart and install drivers and passengers. Nothing looks more fake on a layout than vehicles seemingly driven by invisible ghosts! You can purchase miniature figures in male, female and child variations all molded in 'flesh' color. The arms must be attached by gluing. Then the figures can be painted. Sometimes, the figures won't fit between the steering wheel and the seat. It sounds a bit cruel but you simply cut the legs off with pliers and they fit just fine. Use flat (rather than glossy) model paint to make painted clothing and hair look real.

·         Keep things to the right scale relative to the trains.

·         Also remember to include figures in period dress. You can never have too many people on your layout. Put them everywhere - on streets, station platforms, walking out of shops, etc. Buy a few from different manufacturers to add variety.

·         Use darker colored ballast in middle of your track. Most real railroads have ballast that is naturally darkened in the center of the track - from oil drippings. Use dark ballast around tunnel entrances, too.

·         Buy tunnel portals. They look much more realistic at a tunnel entrance than a rough-cut hole. You can 'weather' them with gray-wash, chalk, etc.

 

Quick Tip:

 

To add realism to a scene make it look like a car has driven through the dirt or grass. After you have put down the grass, take an eraser and rub off some grass to look like tire tracks.

 

8. Cover most of the scene with greenery.

 

·         Slopes and inclines always seem to add interest to a scene. Vary the shades of green for your grass, bushes and trees.

·         Add roads and buildings or colored gravel.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Sawdust can be an inexpensive material for making ground cover. Buy some fabric dye from the supermarket or hobby store. Mix up the dye according to the directions and start adding your sawdust. Keep adding the sawdust until all the liquid is gone. Then put the colored sawdust in a baking dish and put in a warm oven for an hour or so to dry it out. Once it's dried and cooled, bag it up to store it until you're ready to use it. You can apply it to the ground with white glue and to trees with spray glue or hairspray.

 

Quick Tip:

 

To model weeds, hay, straw, and grass get some "binder twine" from a farmer/horse owner. The twine is a natural (unlike the new plastic stuff) material that takes paint/stain well. It also weathers naturally. Hang some outside for a year and it will look like fall weeds, let it lay on the ground and it will get a grayish color. The twine can be cut in very short lengths and used as some ground cover.

 

9. Add detail.

 

·         Blacken the insides of tunnels. Use flat black on all interior surfaces - walls, ceiling and floor. There's nothing worse than a beautiful layout with a plywood-colored tunnel interior. Tunnels should be dark and mysterious.

·         Make grade crossings look real. Use black painted balsa wood, plastic strips (or even tongue depressors) as inserts to cover the railroad ties at road crossings - giving the crossing a more authentic look.

·         Add some period advertising signage. Scan old magazine ads and resize them with a graphics program to create one-of-a-kind, realistic billboards and signage. You may also want to consider adding eye-catching animated neon signs.

 

The more detail the better but avoid making it too busy. Too much activity is distracting and ruins the image of your train traveling great distances. Don't leave open spaces where, in real life, there would likely be activity. Always keep in mind that you are trying to re-create a scene from history or real life. You're not just creating a mix of elements for your train to move through.

 

How Do You Build Scenery?

 

Landscape features like hills, valleys, small canyons, rivers, meadows, mountains and even tunnels can be constructed using a variety of materials, such as foam, plaster, Hydrocal and paper maché. White styrofoam board (also known as beadboard and polyfoam) is a popular material with many railroaders because it is easy to handle and inexpensive. A 4' x 8' sheet of 1 ½" thick sheet is a good size to work with. It is easily cut and shaped and releases no chemicals or odors when cut. 

 

How Do You Use Styrofoam?

 

It's time to get artistic! Get the hacksaw and electric knife and cut the styrofoam creating a rolling shape. You can make small canyons, valleys and even shape rivers and ponds. Save the scraps and carve them into smaller bumps or rock shapes. Glue the styrofoam together with white styrofoam glue. You can also use a hot wire foam cutter. This can be a big help if you are building a large layout.

 

The styrofoam can then be colored with acrylic paints or sprinkled with simulated grass to add to the realism of the scene.  When applying simulated grass, use a clean dry paintbrush to move the grass around. It is best to use a stippling action with the brush. Push it into all the cracks. For best results - don't skimp with the grass.

 

How Do You Make Rocks?

 

Rock outcroppings will add a lot of detail to your landscape. Take a small piece of foam and carve it into shape with a hacksaw blade or shape knife. Use acrylic paint to get the desired brown/gray color and paint the foam. While the paint is still wet add some contrast color like a light tan or light gray to the high points of the rocks. Then add a darker color such as black to the cracks. Clean your brush by dipping it in water and gently brush over the surface to blend and settle the colors into the crevices.  This will add to the realism. When dry, brush on some glue and sprinkle on some grass.

 

Remember, rocks are not always perfect in shape, so irregular shapes may look best.

 


You can also buy rock molds. They are durable, flexible and well-detailed and easy to use. Lightweight Hydrocal is used to cast small boulders, rock outcroppings, top rocks for fields and creeks, or entire rock faces. Plaster castings release easily and completely.

 

How To Build A Tunnel?

 

Depending on what materials you use there are different ways to build a tunnel. Here's an easy but effective method.

Text Box:  

Text Box: Make a template of the size tunnel you want. To do this slide a piece of paper under the track and mark it out. Cut out your template and recheck its size. Transfer the pattern to a piece of the styrofoam and cut it out. Unless you have really thick foam, you will need to make at least 3 identical foam cutouts and stack them one on top of another to get the proper height of the tunnel. Once cut, glue and stack the three identical pieces of foam as mentioned above.

White glue or any type of Styrofoam glue will work. If you want to secure the pieces together while the glue dries, push some long nails into the foam or use some temporary tape.

 

Take another piece of Styrofoam and cut out a lid or top for your tunnel. You don't need to be too fussy about exact fit because you can shape these pieces to fit later. Let the glue dry, then shape and paint the foam.

 

Quick Tip:

 

To build fences, there are lots of materials that can be used as a complement to the plastic fences you can buy in the model railroad shops. For example: wire-mesh, mosquito net, fiberglass, matches, sewing cotton and small branches from real trees.


 


How Do You Create A Pond?

 

Ponds are very easy to make when you have styrofoam as your base. The first step is to get your vacuum cleaner handy as this results in a bit of mess. Just mark out the shape you want and wire brush the foam until you get a depth of about 1/4".

 

Brush the pond base and surrounding area with glue. Sprinkle simulated grass carefully to the area surrounding the pond. If you spill the grass into the pond, remove as much as you can. If you leave it there it will look like a swamp.

 

To add the effect of water to the pond, begin by brushing brown acrylic paint from the center of the pond outward to about an inch of the shoreline. Then dilute the color a bit nearest the shore by thinning the paint. Let the brown paint dry, then put a small amount of black paint in the area where you want the water to look the deepest. Dip your brush in water and blend the edges of the black into the brown. Let dry completely.

 

If you want to create the effect of a still, clear pool, begin by modeling and painting the underwater landscape. Then, using a sheet of clear acetate you can simulate the water effect. You sandwich the acetate between the landscape material layers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to you model a waterfall or rolling brook?

 

Crumpled cling film or clear plastic wrap is an option to mimic moving water. Stringy glue can be used to simulate a waterfall. The trick is to pull the strings from the top of the falls to the bottom to simulate water falling. Using a hot glue gun is one option worth experimenting with, as the glue can be stretched out using the gun (be careful not to touch the glue to your skin as it is hot and will stick).

 

Dark water presents fewer problems, as it can be sculpted to shape and then painted the most appropriate color.

 

Another idea is to use Envirotex®, a two part epoxy-like coating used for craft projects. This is excellent for a making realistic water effect. It is available from most craft and hobby stores. Mix equal parts in a clean container and pour it into the pond. It will level itself but you can help it out with a small brush if you like. Leave it overnight to dry.

 

There are also several craft products available from your hobby shop to create very realistic looking water. One such product is called 'gallery glass' which used for making stained glass hobby items. It comes in several colors. The crystal clear color can be worked to create a surface that looks like moving water. The greens and blues look great too. Remember, always test new products on a sample piece of the material, as products (like styrofoam) react differently when they come into contact with certain substances.

 

How Do You Create Roads?

 

Roadways and pavements are also fun to make. Mix dry plaster powder into gray base paste. Stir in the plaster until you get a thick, but still brushable, gritty looking mixture. Then simply brush it on the pavements and roadways. You may want to mask the area if you are an unsteady painter. It's a good idea to let the roadways/pavements dry before applying grass as the grass may stick to the road.  (more details in bonus section)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Making Natural-Looking Trees And Shrubs

 

Most hobby shops will stock an interesting range of accessories including trees and lichen. Some enthusiasts even use real twigs. Trees are very easily 'planted' by poking a small hole with a nail and inserting a tree with a dab of glue. It's best to use a variety of tree sizes, types and shapes to add realism.

 

How can I make natural-looking trees?

 

Natural looking trees will add realism to any layout.  You can either buy them ready-made…. or save yourself some money, apply your creative genius and make them yourself. Making trees and shrubbery is not too difficult and can be a lot of fun. Here are some different ideas:

 

Method 1. Trees & Scrubs

 

To make your own trees you’ll need some 3/8 inch balsa wood dowel. It usually comes in three-foot lengths.  You'll probably get two or three trees out of one length of dowel depending on the height of your trees. Simply saw the dowel to the lengths you want, then use a rasp to shape each dowel to resemble a tree trunk. Spray the trunks a matt brown color and leave to dry. 

 

To make the greenery, use artificial fern. It normally comes in packs of 10 from a craft/hobby shop or artificial flower specialist. The branches can look really good.  You can paint them any color you wish, using a brush or spray can. Remember to let them dry overnight.  The next thing is to cut off several of the fronds, leaving a little bit of stem on each. To add realism vary the lengths. Then arrange them according to size for easy assembly.

 

The next things you'll need are: some scissors, tube of glue and a drill with 3/8 inch drill bit. Start at the top of the trunk and drill a hole through the dowel. Then insert the stem of one of the small fern branches into the hole with a dab of glue. Give the trunk a quarter turn, and then about a quarter of an inch lower, drill another hole and glue in another fern branch.  Continue this process down the trunk, gradually making the branches longer as you make your way down the truck of the tree. For 3 or 4 turns do the same size, and then increase it to the next size for another 3 or 4 turns… and so on.

You can then spray the tree with hairspray (use a cheap brand) followed by a sprinkle of woodland scenics ground cover at the base.  When using hairspray use only a light coating. Any more will cause an ugly 'frosting' effect that spoils your work, so be careful.

 

Using the same dowel and glue method you can use other dried floral materials such as baby’s breath. To mimic a deciduous tree in autumn spray the tree a golden brown color, and then add some Heki Flor to give it an individual character.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

There is a temptation to make trees too small. This probably because many people live in housing developments that were built less than 40 years ago. In real life mature trees can be huge with some trees being 80-100 feet or more in height.

 

If you are modeling conifers or other large trees here's what to do. Take your longest passenger car, turn it up on end, and make the trees taller, up to half again as tall.

 

 

Method 2. Trees & Scrubs

 

Conifers always look good. So here is another method you could try, this time making conifers:

 

Start by splitting cedar shake shingles into 1/4 to 1/2 in wide pieces lengthwise (with the grain). Use a belt sander with a coarse grit belt to rough them out round and taper them to a point. Be careful because this can be a bit fiddly. Leave some grooves in them to mimic the bark texture.

 

Get a 'cut to fit' reusable (washable) furnace filter (sometimes called a "horsehair" filter) – it is very coarse with no cardboard frame. Then cut it into several different size squares, ranging from about 5 inches square to 1 inch square. Trim them to rough circles. Pull them apart (make them thicker and less dense) and spear them on the cedar shake trunks in from large to small sizes.

 

Spray the branches heavily with the hairspray and sprinkle liberally with extra-fine ground foam ground cover (dark green). Woodland Scenics fine turf is ideal and comes in a suitable color called 'weeds'. Hang the trees upside down and plant them when dry.

 

 

 

 

Method 3. Trees & Scrubs

 

Here's another method you might want to try. Get some wire, preferably steel, but copper strands from electrical leads will do. Start by cutting 12 to 18 lengths of wire 4 to 6 inches long. You then twist the wires into a basic tree shape (trunk and branches). The next thing is to apply some glue on the trunk and the base of the branches.

 

Get some thick cotton thread (not a bright color). Wind the cotton thread around the trunks when the glue is still wet.  Wait overnight for the glue to dry. Then paint the branches (including the ends of the branches) and trunk.

Leave this to dry. Put some glue on the trunk and stick brown 'turf' or ground bark to the trunk. Leave to dry again (approx 24 hours). Use Woodland Scenics foliage for the leaves. Finish with a light misting of hairspray.

Make your trees in batches of 5 to 10 trees at a time. This batch size is large enough to make several trees at once without getting bored with repetition.

 

 

Make Realistic Trees Using These

Tree Profiles

 

Method 4. Trees & Scrubs

 

The most inexpensive idea of all is to search your garden for twigs and other things to use to make trees and shrubs. Little twigs are great for this (Ones that are not green on the inside). Cut them up into little pieces and make cordwood, or logs or fire wood for your not so obvious scenes. These twigs should be coated with a clear wood preservative, found in any hardware store. Simply drill a hole in the board and glue in the tree.

 

You can make a thousand or so trees for next to no cost when you consider common weeds and plants as the source. Things like: sedum, yarrow, oregano, snakeweed, ragweed and other plants.

 

 

 

 


Buildings Add To The Realism

 


It's usually easiest to buy kitset buildings from a hobby shop, unless you want to build your own. There are numerous kits you can assemble; the easiest ones are the snap-together plastic models. Apply thin washes of acrylic paint to these buildings to give them an interesting patina of age and weathering. This will add to the realism of the scene. Use an up-down motion to simulate the way nature would do it.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Buildings can make even the smallest layout seem much larger. Even in a town scene buildings should have some space between them. Giving buildings breathing room makes the layout appear to be more realistic and it requires less effort!

 

 

How Do You Select Buildings?

 

Buildings can say as much about the scene you're modeling as the trains. So, it is important to select buildings that match the era and geography of the theme. For instance; the architecture of buildings in New Mexico would look very different from those in the coastal Carolinas or in the Dakotas. Wood is the preferred choice for construction in the Eastern and Northern areas of the USA, whereas in the desert Southwest, stone, clay and concrete are common construction materials.

 

Non-modelers often pick up the clues given by buildings and structures, even though they know nothing about the railroad elements. So don't get caught out!

 

Are The Roofs Important?

 

YES! Roofs are a visible part of model railroad structures, so it's important to pay attention to them. Roof pitch and overhang seems to differ significantly from one region of the country to another. For instance, buildings in the 'snowbelt' have steeper roof pitches as a rule to help shed the snow, while buildings in warmer regions tend to have a shallower pitch to the roof. Also, the type of roofing material used tends to vary, depending on the region and the value of the building.

 

Quick Tip:

 

An easy way to make windows on buildings. Look for some clear plastic packaging strips and cut them to fit a window. Place two drops of glue above the window and place the window on top. Let Dry. Then you can put masking tape or colored paper partly on the plastic to make blinds! It is an easy and inexpensive way to make windows.

 

What About Other Accessories?

 

You can add all sorts of accessories to your layout, but don't get too carried away. The whole purpose of accessories is to add realism. Automobiles and figures can enhance a layout, but they need to be from the same era and of the same scale if you are after realism.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

You don't need to pay retail for everything. Think about what you could use from around your house. Many household items that normally go in the bin can be used on your layout so next time you throw something out; think again. For example, tea leaves, saw dust and even cardboard tubes. Try crushing an old brick into small pieces and scatter the pieces around to look like small rocks. Those styrofoam meat trays you throw away can be carved to make realistic cliffs and walls. And, even though you will need to buy things, you don't need to buy everything at once. You'll get more enjoyment when your railroad is a developing work-in-progress.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Kitty Litter is worth experimenting with. It is cheap to buy, so some people use it as an economical form of ballast roadbed. You can use it for gravel roads, or put it by your cement plant to be used in concrete. 

 

Another idea is to use kitty litter as carloads for gondolas and hoppers. You can mix it with watered-down white glue. Try to shape it into little piles for more realism. You can also paint it black  to represent coal. Kitty litter can be a bit rough to use, however it is economical and worth a try depending on what you want to create.

 

 

 

What Else Should You Do?

 

Attention to detail is important when creating an accurate reconstruction. Keep good records and create an effective plan in the building of your model railroad. Include information on why the original full-sized railroad was built. Keep records on the type of customer it served, or materials that were hauled, or the passenger fares charged etc. This all adds to the enjoyment of your hobby when you aim to recreate a particular railroad in a particular era. In a way, you almost become a time traveler… and it is a great talking point with visitors.

 

How Do You Create A Small Layout?

 

If you only have a small space in which to set up your layout, then you are not alone. There are a lot of people around in apartments and small houses with only limited space at their disposal. In this situation H0 scale (1:87) is a possibility, but the smaller N (1:160) or Z (1:220) scales may be more feasible. When you use a smaller scale or narrow gauge, you'll need less space, or can use the available space to achieve smoother curves and switches. Many enthusiasts that have small layouts use sectional tracks, because they find it easier than bending flexible track to a smooth but narrow curve.

 

What Are The Limitations Of A Small Layout?

 

When you plan a small layout, it's important that you know the limitations the small space imposes on you. Although the space you have available might limit your choice of scales, the major limitation is usually in the choice of themes you can model. In most cases main line themes wouldn't fit.

 

Whereas, given that you only have a limited space available, industrial, branch line and tramway themes are possibly the best options to consider. If you must have a mainline theme, but don't have space for it, then you'll probably have to scale it down.

 

If don't want to compromise, then don't start a small layout. There are a number of differences that you will need to accept or adapt yourself to: the curves may be too sharp, the angles of the switches may be too steep, and the sidings too short. With a small layout everything is compressed to the max. But when you think about it, although a small layout may not be your first choice, it is better than no train set at all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Adapt A Small Or Large Scale Layout?

 

It's not just people with a limited space who build small layouts. Most railroaders who want to build a large-scale layout, soon discover that their large space is smaller than they thought. Some people say that for a small layout you can use elements from larger size layouts. In theory there is some truth in that, but when you think about it, some large size layout themes cannot realistically be used for their small size variants. On the other hand, using small layout designs for large size layouts usually works. This is because; you can simply blow-up the designs to achieve a more realistic layout with smoother curves and switches, longer tracks for more cars and create possibilities for more realistic scenery.

 

There is no one "best way" to design a model railroad, but there are certainly proven methods that should be considered. LDE is one such method and will help you achieve realism and functionality (if that is your aim). It is a form of discipline, because it stops you from making assumptions about what should look right and operate well. It takes away the guesswork of how a full-size road operates and in arranged the track.

 

What Is LDE?

 

LDE is short for Layout Design Element and is a term you will hear a lot when model railroading. It basically refers to elements in a layout design. It is when you base your model train layout on a real full-sized railroad (prototype), document it physically and operationally and then scale it down accurately to fit into a reasonable space. In doing this you focus on just one aspect of the full-sized railroad at a time. It could be a town, engine terminal, shunting yards, horseshoe curve, or an industry with which the railroad is connected.

Why Is LDE Important?

 

The "Layout Design Element" can help you do a better job of designing part or all of a model railroad, because you are focusing on just one element of the full-sized railroad at a time. By doing this, you will get to know how the real thing looks and operates, before you begin construction of your scaled-down model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Steps To Make LDE Work Best For You

 

Running just anything on a model railway with scenery that was just thrown together because it looked nice is nothing like duplicating the real thing with LDE.

 

1 Choose Your Prototype

 

Choosing a prototype, whether a specific station on a specific day or just a general region over a period of years, gives you a purpose for everything on your model railway.

 

You could model your prototype from a section of full-sized railroad that is currently operating, or you may have a favorite period in railway history that you could select from. The first thing that you need to do in choosing a prototype is to choose the location. First select the state, country, or continent to base your model railway on. The locality can then be further refined as far as is necessary. You may want to focus on a particular company or group of companies to define the location of the layout more closely. The availability of ready to run models and kits for the various localities in your chosen scale will probably influence your choice.

 

For instance; if you are modeling North American and choose the DRGW then you perhaps decide that the layout is based somewhere near Denver. Choosing GWR places your location somewhere in the south west of England perhaps in Devon.

 

For these examples you make a different decision as to precisely how the layout is being located. Each has defined a locality, so with attention to detail you could recreate a far more realistic model than could otherwise have been produced.

 

The next thing to choose about your prototype is the time period. This will already have been decided to some extent by your choice of Railway Company, because the company may have only existed between or after a particular date.

 

Research is needed to get accurate details. A bit of detective work on your part is required to gather this information from magazines, books, watching DVD's, surfing the net, visiting museums, talking with fellow railroaders, and even attending historical society gatherings. It can all help to piece the jigsaw together. And, researching your prototype can almost become a hobby itself as you strive to learn all about it.

 

Quick Tip:

 

When researching your prototype look for the distinguishing features of the railway company. Did they try to avoid using facing crossovers? Did they like using single slips wherever possible? Were the platforms normally directly opposite one another, or did they like to stagger them? What style of station buildings did they use? Were their signals upper or lower quadrant and what style of post and signal arm did they use? What colors were various parts of railway property painted? What construction materials were used?

 

While reading about your chosen prototype you will also find information regarding train formations. Which locomotives pull what trains? Which wagons run directly behind the locomotive? This information is also useful because it will help you to better decide on how you will assemble your trains for greater realism. By doing this research early, you'll get an indication of what rolling stock is needed and you'll then be able to research if it is readily available or not.

 

 

2. Accurately Define The Layout Space

 

Make accurate measurements in all three dimensions. Define the layout space and be really detailed about what you would like to include. Be sure to allow for all projections into the space, especially overhead objects such as beams, ductwork, and piping that people (you included) could knock their heads on. This is especially important when designing multilevel or mushroom layouts, as these place greater emphasis on using vertical space.

 

3. Use Templates For Drawing Turnouts

 

Using software templates will help the progress run more smoothly. Making mistakes is easy when estimating the length of track required, or the angles of turnouts, especially when trying to do it in your head.  Using templates can eliminate the guesswork and subsequent disappointment. You can make your own templates, or you can use computer software.

 

CAD software enables you to produce quality prints and makes everything easier, for layering, ease of making changes, to 3-D rendering.

 

There are a variety of commercial design programs available. Most of them can perform amazing functions, especially if you are prepared to invest the time to master them.  They can be a bit of a steep learning curve, but unless you have a really small layout, they're well worth mastering.

 

 

 

 

4. Properly Align Your Straight Tracks With Easements For Curves

 

Easements help align the straight track (or tangents) with the curves and make it easier for trains to go around curves. They may also help where space is tight, as it's often better to include easements even if this forces you to reduce the curve radius slightly to accommodate them. Easements are also required in vertical curves at the top or bottom of grades.

 

You can plan out an easement by creating a template or using the CAD software. The easements can be as short as 1.25 to 1.5 times the length of the longest car or locomotive to be operated.

 

5. Make Your Layout People-Friendly

 

Model railroads are always constructed, operated, and maintained by people. It is therefore important that you plan your railroad in a way that it makes it easy for you to maintain and operate. You'll get more enjoyment out running, or working on a layout, if everything is within easy reach. 24-30” is about the realistic limit for most people to reach and manipulate objects with ease.

 

When people need to lean over a layout cars on tracks near the front of the layout can get knocked over and scenery can get damaged.  If you must have tracks that extend past 30” deep, make sure the turnouts leading to them are in reach, since that’s where most problems happen.

 

For maintenance purposes you'll need easy access to the layout. You will want to make sure that you can get around easily and handle any needed repairs. You can be absolutely certain that the most difficult section of track-work to reach will be the toughest to build and always cause you the most grief.

 

If you are tall, remember that your friends or visitors may not have the same arm span as you do. Layout height makes a difference too, as does distance between decks on multi-level designs.  And, not forgetting when there’s more than one engineer on duty… you won’t want a collision of people, or trains.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

If manual uncoupling is used, yard ladder tracks should ideally be aligned so that the uncoupling locations on each track are easily visible. Track spacing should also be sufficient to provide access for manual uncoupling - 2 1/2" in HO and not much less in N (fingers don't get smaller) is usually about right.

 

If you're using automatic uncoupling then tracks can be closer together. Uncoupling sites can be out of direct view, but uncoupling devices will still require some sort of visual markers. A pole, or a dab of paint on the side of the rail will do the trick. Also, keep in mind that automatic uncoupling requires higher standards for coupler installation and maintenance.

 

 

6. Build With Flexibility In Mind

 

Circumstances chance, so at some stage in the future you might find yourself moving house. For this reason it is a good idea to design a layout to facilitate moving it. Aim for flexibility, so that the layout can be moved easily, with a minimum of disruption or damage. Consider modular construction.  It works well as you can disassemble the sections and put them together again when you relocate to a new location.

 

Most modelers make track-work changes once their railroad is built. After completing your initial layout, you too may want to alter or expand your track and include other features. For this reason, it is a good idea to allow for flexibility and change in the building process. This way it will be easier to accommodate any design modifications that may be necessary or desirable.

 

7. Avoid sharp S-curves

 

Create straight track (tangents) of suitable lengths between curves in opposite directions. This will help you avoid hidden “s curves”. They are the ones that are created by crossovers between adjacent tracks and turnout arrangements. By adding an appropriate tangent you’ll prevent reoccurring derailing accidents that can happen when using longer cars and less flexible "stiff-legged" steam locomotives. Hidden "s curves" can easily catch you unawares and become a major problem when you encounter them. Adding easements, and/or increasing the curve radius do help to avoid these problems.

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

The easy, inexpensive way to create telephone lines on a layout, is to get some 6lb fishing line from your local tackle shop. Measure out enough fishing line to run a length of the line from one end of the telephone pole route to the other. Add 10% to this length and cut the line. Get a black felt tip marker pen. Hold the fishing line in one hand and pull it between the felt tip and your thumb to mark the fishing line until it is black. Put the line in the sun for about 30 minutes to dry and soften it a little. Tie a knot in the line to attach it to the first telephone pole insulator. Once the line is tied put a drop of glue over the line and insulator.


 


Then, at the next pole simply put a drop of glue on the insulator and position the line in the adhesive at the base of the insulator. This should hold it in place so that you can  do about 3 - 5 feet in one go. If you want to create high tension type lines then use a 10lb line. You may want to experiment with different sizes. Also, don't forget to run lines to buildings... after all they need electricity too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another 9 Important Considerations

When Planning Your Layout

 

1.  Think About Your Wiring Requirements

 

From a planning, safety and reliability point of view it is best to think through your wiring requirements as early as possible in the building process. Most layouts have three main wiring requirements:

 

·         Track power, which includes wiring for switch motors and structure lighting

·         Command control bus lines

·         Signaling

 

With most train sets there is always the potential for interference between wires carrying relatively high voltage and current needed to run the trains and those carrying low-voltage control signals. This explains the need to separate them.

 

Identifying these routes in advance helps prevent interference if electronics such as command control and logic circuitry for signal systems are added at a later stage.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

When wiring your layout to operate points, lights, power feeds, etc. always use different color multi-stranded flexible wires. Plan first with a diagram and record the colors used for each function for future reference. You will find this invaluable when checking for faults later.

 

It is true that, the advent of Digital Command Control systems has helped alleviate interference problems. In saying that, it is best not to ignore such concerns by haphazardly group wiring.

 

 

2.  Stay In 'Walk-Around' Control

 

Gone are the days of sitting in a central control pit and watching the trains go around. Now it is all about operation. The engineer needs to be able to follow alongside the train, so 'walk-around' control is an important consideration when building a layout. But even 'walk-around' designs can be compromised when a track cuts through the base of a peninsula, keeping the engineer from following the train.

 

Command control has made 'walk-around' operation much easier to achieve. Radio and infra-red wireless throttles, which avoid "plug-and-chug" crew movement, are becoming increasingly popular.

 

3.  Be Comfortable

 

Don't skimp on comfort because you'll probably spend a lot of time at your layout. Any operating session can easily run for 2-4 hours or even longer, so comfort is important. Standing for long periods on concrete floors is not desirable so consider carpeting where possible. If your feet get really tired try some pliable rubber matting. And not forgetting the off-duty crews that will need a comfortable crew lounge so they can rest in comfort and prepare for the next shift.

 

4.  Railroads Don't Operate In Isolation

 

Very few model railroads depict an isolated part of a countrywide or statewide rail network. Most railroads connect end-to-end or cross. So, depending on your layout, you may need to allow for moving traffic between your railroad and one or more railroads.

 

5.  Railroads Need Interchanges

 

Where railroads cross, interchange tracks are usually constructed. This is so that cars can be delivered and received from each other. Interchange tracks offer more traffic variety, because almost any type and number of cars can be found there. An interchange track is often a quarter circle (more or less) in one quadrant of the level crossing.

 

To simulate the work of railroading you'll want to operate a car-forwarding system. Having a car-card-and-waybill system is for efficiency in forwarding cars to their proper destinations.

 

6.  Think About Your Traffic Control

 

Small layouts can get by without a dispatcher and/or train-order operators, but these are typically the most challenging and realistic jobs on any railroad. This is especially so, now that timetable and train order operation is becoming more popular.

 

7. Include Lots Of Switching

 

Industrial switching and yard work can present a lot of interesting challenges for modelers. That's why most modelers enjoy a lot of switching. So, unless you prefer hauling heavy freight trains up steep grades, you might want to consider building in lots of yard and local work…and incorporating lots of switching.

 

8. Add Large Industries

 

Large industries can add enormously to a layout because of the workload they generate. Smaller industries aren't usually as busy, and more than likely won't even fill one semi-trailer a week, let alone several boxcars or covered hoppers per day. For this reason it can be more interesting to model one large industry that can generate a lot of rail traffic using a variety of rolling stock. For instance: a brewery, steel mill, lumber yard, or a paper mill.


 


9. Add Sound

 

Sound was at one time considered a novelty for modelers, but now thanks to technology, the possibilities are endless. Digital Command Control (DCC) sound allows for phenomenal realism. Operators can now use whistle or horn signals to support operations such as sending out a flag or alerting a train being met or passed that another section is following.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Level crossings always seem to look far too clean out of the box. Consider  applying a small amount of dark wash (a thinned down black paint). Apply it only to the hinge and connecting rod areas of the gates. These were the parts that were greased regularly and would usually look greasy. Avoid over weathering as it can make the gates look "grimy" and "uncared for". Also try this wash effect on older freight yards etc.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Also use subtle visual effects to add realism like dripping and pitted rust.

 

For instance, forklift operators will sometimes use their forks to open or close the box car door, thus creating big scrapes along the sides of the doors. Simply determine where your gash, scrape or dent is likely to be located. Then, with a fine tip brush, apply rust color paint in a downward motion from your gash, scrape or dent. For best results you may need several shades of rust color and you may need to apply several strokes.

 

Pitted rust or smaller marks can be the result of kids throwing rocks at a passing box car. With care you can simulate those effects by stippling tiny marks on the car using your fine tip brush and rust color paints. Be careful not to overdo the effects. The more random, the more real.

 

 

 

Text Box: 	 How To Repair Problems

What do you do when your locomotive or cars derail or breakdown? Well, the first bit of advice is not to panic. Usually the fault is in the track, the wheels, or the couplers, and it is likely that you can fix it yourself.

 

Here are solutions to 4 common problems:

 

1. Are you experiencing derailments?

 

Check to see if something is tilting the track in the area where derailments occur? Any abrupt changes in the angle of the track can cause derailments. Also check to see if there is something on the track level that is striking the train and causing the derailment? A flashlight will come in handy when examining the track. Look vertically down on the track and horizontally across the track. If you find even a small amount of debris, carpet fuzz, pet hair, floor dirt, or dust… then, clean the track. Surprisingly, small bits of debris are big enough to be the culprits, particularly with N and Z scale trains.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Ensure all loose track pins have been removed from the track before running trains, as the magnets will attract the pins into the motors and potentially cause damage.

 

 

2. Is one section of track out of alignment?

 

Make sure all sections are firmly pushed together, and that the joints between sections align smoothly without any kinks.

 

3. Is a wheel defective or broken?

 

Dropping a locomotive is not recommended, but can happen to even the most of experienced modelers. Accidents like that are common causes for a broken flange. A wheel on a locomotive or car with a broken flange won't work and must be replaced. The same goes for a wheel that is twisted, or one that looks like it has been forced too close together or too far apart. The solution is always the same – replace the affected wheel.

Text Box: Quick Tip:Never pick a locomotive up with your finger tips touching the running gear on the sides of the locomotive because it can damage the alignment of the running gear.

4. Is there a defective coupler in the train?

 

Is your coupler broken or stuck? Couplers must be free to swing from side to side (some are sprung to one side, or made so they return to center). Broken or stuck couplers can force cars off the track. If a coupler won't budge when you try to move it from side to side, then don't force it. More than likely it will need professional repair.

 

 


 


When To Seek Expert Help

 

Depending on the skills you acquire, you will be able to fix most day-to-day problems if and when they happen. However, there are times when it is best to seek outside help, particularly when the cause of the problem is not obvious, or if you risk doing damage to your set. In those circumstances it is usually best to call on a professional. There may be someone in your local railroad club that you could trust with the repair job, but be careful not to ruin a friendship if the repairs don't go as planned. Sometimes it is better get an independent person to do repairs for you. It's more businesslike and that way you insist on a guarantee or dispute anything that you are not happy with. It is not easy arguing with friends, especially when they are just trying to be helpful.

 

If you are looking for someone to do repairs, then your local phone book is usually a good place to start. Look under the category “Hobby and Model Supplies.” The other option is to ask at the hobby store where you purchased the set. The set (or locomotive) might still be under guarantee, or the store might offer repairs, or they might be able to suggest someone who could help.

 

Fixing model trains requires considerable knowledge and experience, so it is important that the person carrying out the repairs knows what he or she is doing. You wouldn't want your best locomotive (your pride and joy) damaged beyond repair. So, it is important to check the credentials of your repairer carefully. If a fellow modeler recommends the repairer to you, then ask your friend why he or she recommends the person.

 

Here are some questions that you can ask the repairer:

 

·         Do you offer free, no obligation consultations?

·         Do you do in-house repairs or contract them out?

·         How long have you been in the model railroad repair business?

·         Will you provide a written quote?

·         How long will the repairs take?

·         Do you stock the replacement parts or will you have to order them in?

·         Do you offer a written guarantee?

 

 

5 Track Cleaning Methods Explained

 

Keeping the track clean takes just a few minutes on the average model railway. Keeping tracks clean makes for trouble free running and helps keep debris from your locos wheels and motors, ensuring good electrical pick up and hassle free operating sessions. If any of these parts are dirty then electricity can’t do its job and the set will fail to run efficiently. If your set is running poorly (or not at all), it could be a sign that the track needs cleaning.

 

Cleaning the track is not usually difficult but it is important. It is over to you which method you use as modelers seem to have their own preferences. Here are some methods that can make a big difference to the smooth running of your set:

 

1. Use A Pink Eraser.

 

A pink eraser (typewriter eraser) is probably the most commonly used method for cleaning track. They are cheap to buy, easy to use and generally work well. You simply lightly rub the tops of the rails with the eraser. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. Erasers tend to leave behind a dirty rubbery mess, which can eventually get into the locomotives mechanisms.

Erasers can be particularly troublesome around point-work, because the rubber gets into every nook and cranny. This can cause the point blades not to make contact on the rails and result in unreliable running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

There is little point in cleaning track if you don't clean all loco and rolling stock wheels at the same time.

 

 

2. Methylated Spirits Or Industrial Alcohol

 

Some model railroaders prefer meths for cleaning. It can work well, but the colored dye in it can sometimes remain on the rails after cleaning. An industrial alcohol is probably as good as anything if you wish to use a liquid.

 

Just lightly soak some some meths or industrial alcohol into a rag and lightly rub away the dirt that has accumulated. Make sure the room is well ventilated and DO NOT SMOKE while using this method. Likewise, do not use this method if there is a naked source of heating in the room. And, store it safely away from children, pets or heat…and carefully dispose of any cleaning clothes etc.

 

3. Use Brand Name Cleaners

 

Use an organic-based cleaner such as Goo Gone (US/Canada)…it uses citrus oils of some sort, and works very well. Goo Gone is great for removing dirt and oxidation from the rails without harming any of the plastic parts. Use a track-cleaning car of the roller type, or else a lint-free rag. Use a dry rag to wipe up the remaining dirt after wiping with the cleaner-wetted rag.

 

Commercial products available for cleaning include: Formula 49, Bright Boy, Goo Gone and Wahl Clipper Oil. Wahl Clipper Oil has been around for a long time and not only cleans the rails but also improves conductivity.  

 

4. Attach A Pad To A Car

 

Because the pads aren’t permanently attached to the car, you can remove them at any time. These pads won’t clean the track if it’s especially dirty, but they help maintain track already cleaned. The pads have to be sanded clean before each cleaning (or operating) session, otherwise they end up just spreading dirt.

 

Another way to maintain clean track is make your own inexpensive track cleaning car using a small piece of Masonite hardboard (or similar). You then attach (glue with epoxy) it to the bottom of a car (wagon) with a couple of nails or pins so that the pad can slide up and down, and slides along the track. The pad should have rounded edges. The weight of the pad is enough to hold it to the rails, so it polishes the rails as the car moves along.

 

 

5. Avoid Abrasive Cleaning Blocks

 

Abrasive cleaning blocks can scratch the rails. Never clean the track with wire wool as it will leave strands, which will cause a short across the track and trip the controller. Also, never try to clean the wheels or electrical contacts with 'wire wool'. Being made of steel the wire wool is attracted by the magnet and will cause damage. It also causes electrical shorts within the locomotive.

Text Box: Quick Tip:Running your trains at least once a day helps keep the rails from getting dirty in the first place, so that's a fun way to keep rails clean, and feels less like work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Quick Tip:If your loco stops or slows down in the same spot on the track frequently here's what to do: 1. Thoroughly clean section of track 2. Check for "dead spots" a bad track connector or glue from scenery can disrupt power flow. 3. If problem persists track may be too large for the size of transformer/power pack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip from model train hobbyist for 28 years...

 

“Here's a quick and cheap way to make evergreen trees and shrubbery that is perfect for an N scale layout. Get a green fiber scouring pad. Tear it apart in varying sizes and thicknesses. Paint round toothpicks either dark brown or gray and set aside to dry while you tear up the scouring pad. With a hot glue gun place a dab of glue where you want the lower limbs to start. Then quickly slide a wide piece of torn scouring pad down the trunk and into the hot glue. Add more pieces of scouring pad (getting smaller as you go), by sliding them down the trunk. They will be held in place by the friction of the trunk. The top piece is again set in place with hot glue and shaped into a peak. Trim to shape with scissors and you're finished.”

Jamie M, model train enthusiast for 28 years.

 

Coming up - Bonus Sections....

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

In writing this bonus section we did a lot of research and asked modelers from around the globe to submit questions that they wanted answered. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

 

What do all the letters stand for when referring to “scales”

 

The letters can be confusing so a brief summary of what they stand for:

 

·         S stands for “scale”. The S scale was developed for modelers who wanted exact realism.

·         HO stands for “Half O” although it isn’t exactly half the size of O.

·         TT stands for Table Top and is smaller than HO

·         N stands for 9 as in nine millimeters. That is the distance between the rails in N gauge.

·         Z doesn’t stand for anything; it is the smallest commercially available size.

·         G is said to stand for "garden" because that is where most of these trains operate. Others claim it was picked because most of the good letters were already taken.

 

What's smallest model railroad I can make?

 

Micro layouts are the smallest and yes, there are enthusiasts who specialize in small layouts. The internet is the best place to get information and make contact. One website with a lot of ideas on micro layouts is http://www.carendt.com

 

Which rails should I use - brass, steel or nickel-silver?

 

Nickel-silver rails would be our first choice. With nickel-silver rails you will have better running trains. With steel and brass rails the trains can tend to run erratically after a while. Nickel-silver rails also require less cleaning; they provide better electrical conductivity and tend to look more realistic. To work efficiently, brass rails must be kept very clean as the oxide that forms on them creates a barrier to the current. Zinc-coated steel tracks are another option, but the zinc can wear off. This can expose the steel that can then rust. Steel is also more difficult to cut.

 

What radius is the curve of prototype trackage?

 

The prototype doesn't actually measure their curved trackage in terms of radius. They measure it in "degrees", meaning how far the track has to bend off the tangent.

 

Nonetheless, prototype curves generally end up being about a radius of 575 feet. For instance, with an HO, this would equal to about 75 inches.

When I buy a track switch, what is meant by

'No. 4 turnout' or 'No. 8 turnout'?

 

The term 'Turnout' can be a bit confusing. It is the British term for a 'switch'.

 

Yes, there is an important difference between a No. 4 and No. 8 turnout. The smaller the number, then the smaller the radius that comes off the switch.

 


The smaller numbers are ideal for yards or industrial spurs, but not for high speed. So, if you want to run at high speeds or want to cut over from one mainline to another, the higher numbers will suit you best.

 


In railroading terms the turnout usually refers to all the components that move a train from one track to another including: the 'switch', point rails, closing rails, frog and guard rails.

 

Can I keep any scale model railroads outside?

 

Yes, within reason. Any railroad that can stay on a floating roadbed does reasonably well. HO trains are too light to stay on floating roadbed (the way LGB trains do), so you must use some type of solid or concrete roadbed, like concrete, that the track can be rigidly fastened to.

 

If you are planning an outdoor railway, you should paint the track to protect it from weather damage. Also ensure that you clean it regularly to slow down the oxidization process.

 

Should I replace my horn-hook couplers with knuckle couplers?

 

The two reasons why you might consider replacing your horn-hook (HO) or Rapido-style (N) couplers are for realistic appearance and operation. Manufacturers of magnetic knuckle couplers include: Bachmann, Accurail, InterMountain, McHenry, Kadee, and Micro-Trains.

 

What is a talgo truck?

 

A talgo truck is a freight or passenger car truck with the coupler mounted on the truck frame instead of on the car-body itself. Truck-mounted couplers are common on train set rolling stock. Advanced railroaders often modify or replace talgo trucks and instead use body-mounted couplers for realism and reliability.

Are some locomotives quieter than others?

 

Yes they are. An all-metal gear train will generally make more noise than one with plastic gears.

 

What makes the locomotive noisy?

 

If you hear a lot of noise, then the probable cause is improperly meshing gears. The reason is that most model gear trains have a worm that is attached to the motor shaft. As the worm spins, it rotates the worm gear. There is supposed to be a small space between the teeth of the worm and the worm gear. Too much space results in the drive train being noisy.  For best performance the worm gear should be made of plastic and the worm should be made from metal.

 

I have connected my new train set and the locomotive

sits and hums but will not move?

 

Power supplies usually have four connection screws on the back. These are labeled "AC Accessories" and "Track or Variable DC". Use the "Variable DC" connections to enable your train to move. There are, however, exceptions to using DC for trains... if you have Lionel or Marklin, they operate on controlled AC power with 3 rail track.

 

If you still can't get the locomotive to go, check that the power is plugged in, the connection to the track is correct and that the two rails do not touch each other, as in a reverse loop, (the outside rail meets the inside rail in a diagonal track connection across an oval circuit)

 

Is a larger motor better for my locomotive?

 

A larger motor tends to be smoother running. In most cases they can withstand more heat and so are less likely to burn out.

 

If I install a larger motor in my locomotive

will I be able to pull more cars?

 

The weight of a locomotive is the key factor in pulling power. If your locomotive isn't pulling well, and assuming there is space spare inside the shell, you could try filling it with lead. The most effective place to add weight is often above the driving wheels.

 

 

 

 

 

How can I prevent motor burnout?

 

When your locomotive is climbing a grade, or pulling too many cars, the motor has to draw extra current to do the work. If the motor is drawing more current than it can dissipate - it will heat up. If the motor gets too hot, either the motor brushes, or the windings melt.

 

It pays to monitor how warm your locomotive gets under various loads. You can do this by holding the bottom of the frame to your cheek.  If it feels hot enough to cause discomfort, then give your train a rest or lighten the load. Please be careful because you don’t want to burn yourself if the loco is really hot.

 

A more accurate way, of monitoring what current your locomotive is drawing, is to install an ameter and voltmeter to your control panel. They are easy to use and will help determine the limitations of your engine.

 

What's wrong when parts of the track do not work?

How do I go about fixing it?

 

You will need to think what you might have done or what might be causing the problem, because there could be any one of a number of things wrong with the wiring. Start by asking yourself questions like: “Was the layout working before the last wire was connected?”

 

The problem is that single conductor wires may break and are difficult to find. Stranded wire may be shorting at screw terminals if not properly managed. Perhaps one wire is connected to the incorrect rail.

   

Also, check for obvious loose wires and connections under the layout. Have you ignored a reverse loop? Are you using a new type of turnout?

 

One option is to disconnect all the feed wires at the control panel and methodically work through every connection, testing its operation as you go.   Check the location and polarity of all insulating rail joiners and the associated supply wires.

 

Locating an electrical short is not always an easy process. However, it can be done. The best method, however, is to use a multimeter across each connection to check the contacts. You'll also need to visually inspect everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should I oil my trains?

 

Yes, oil locomotives, but not usually freight and passenger cars.

 

In modeling, the primary purpose of oil is to reduce wear and tear on moving parts, particularly those subjected to intense friction. Locomotives are under constant stress to transmit power and will eventually break without proper lubrication applied to the motor bearings and gears. (It is important to use the correct lubricants on those parts for maximum performance).

 

It is true that freight and passenger cars have friction points too, but they're generally under far less stress than locos. Modern day models reduce friction by using acetal plastic side-frames and needlepoint axles. Oiling is unnecessary, because when the oil becomes dirty and breaks down, it actually increases the friction.

 

How can I safely clean the tracks?

 

Cleaning the track is not usually difficult but it is important. Keeping them clean makes for trouble free running and helps keep debris from your locos wheels and motors, ensuring good electrical pick up and hassle free operating sessions. The thing about cleaning the rails is that you have to make sure that you don’t damage the electrical contact.

 

Avoid abrasive cleaning blocks. Instead rub the rails with either a pink eraser or using a chemical (or organic) treatment. Rubber erasers can be a bit messy, but they are inexpensive and do a reasonably good job. Chemical methods cost a bit more but can really do a good job of cleaning away the hard debris. Another option is to utilize Goo-Gone, which you'll find in the supermarket, or Wahl Clipper oil, which is often available from beauty supply stores.

 

How often should the tracks be cleaned?

 

Running your trains once a day helps keep the rails from getting dirty in the first place. At least run them once a week. Running your trains is fun way to keep the rails clean, and it feels less like work.

 

What should I do if my engine sticks when being fed current?

In this case, try cleaning the engine and the tracks as previously mentioned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On full-sized railroads what is rust-busting?

 

Sections of track that have not been used for some time (mainly in railway yards) form a thin layer of rust. This can disrupt electrical contact between the train and rails. Rail Traffic Control therefore diverts trains over these stretches of track at certain times. Heavy freight trains are usually perfect for this job, as they clean the rails better than passenger trains.

 

What is meant by "code," as in code 40 track?

 

The "code" is simply the rail's height in thousandths of an inch, so code 40 rail is .040 inches high, regardless of the modeling scale it's used in. The term is not used in prototype railroading, where rail size is typically expressed by to by pounds per yard instead of height.

 

Is a locomotive change-over the same as shunting?

 

No. Shunting involves splitting up the train into separate wagons or sets. These are then led via an incline to various sidings. They are then combined to form new trains.  During shunting, the separate wagons or sets are often led over kilometers of siding lines, a process that can easily take up 1 to 2 hours.

 

In the change-over of a locomotive (as carried out at frontier stations), only the locomotive is uncoupled from the train and its place is taken by a new locomotive. Once the brake hoses have been reconnected, only a brake test need be carried out before the train is ready for departure. The entire procedure does not take up more than 10 minutes.

 

How can I remove decals without removing the paint from underneath?

 

You're probably not expecting this answer, but Formula 409 works well. Simply put a drop on the decal that you want to remove and then wait a few minutes. You can watch as the decal wrinkles up and comes off. If that doesn’t work, then try a decal remover such as Walther's decal remover or Joe's Gel Paint & Decal remover. Be careful because decal removers can sometimes remove paintwork as well as the decal. So, if you use a decal remover, work quickly and wipe off the decal before it attacks the paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a green wave for freight trains?

 

A green wave for rail traffic is similar to that for road traffic. The routes are set up in such a manner that a freight train traveling at a certain speed can continue running, without encountering any red signal lights. This is done because, a heavy freight train can lose a huge amount of energy, and also a great deal of time to stop and start again. This is time in which tracks are unnecessarily occupied, while obstructing other rail traffic. Green waves save time and energy, whilst also enabling improved use of the track capacity.

 

What wetting agent works best for N scale ballast?

 

Don't use water and detergent for an N scale, because it won’t penetrate the finer sand used in those layouts. Instead, use alcohol and water for best results.

 

How do I move my layout without damaging it?

 

Moving a layout is always going to be a problem unless you build it with flexibility in mind. Try using open-grid bench-work sections that can be moved easily, with a minimum of disruption or damage. This way you can disassemble the sections and put them together again when you relocate to a new location.

 

What is a module and is it worth considering?

 

A module is a sectional layout in with each section only fitting in a specified place. They are great for those who live in apartments, condos or small houses, or for those who move house frequently. Modules are usually 4 to 8 feet long, 24” wide, 40” high with a 8” to 14” sky-board attached to the back. Modules are reasonably inexpensive and don't take long to make.

 

What are the wiring considerations for a reverse loop?

 

Wiring reverse loops often confuses people because the track folds back on itself, and in the process can create a short circuit.

 

If you are building a reverse loop, you’ll need feeders to the rail every 3 to 6 feet from a common buss.  If you have a DCC (Digital Command Control), you could separate your layout into segments for the distribution of power. This could also help with troubleshooting.  Otherwise, if the whole system shuts down when you have several trains running, you won't know which train is responsible for the short.

 

 

 

What is Hydrocal and what is it used for?

 

Hydrocal is a trademark product of U. S. Gypsum (USG Corp). Hydrocal is often used for making scenery shells and is incredibly durable. To make a remarkably strong scenery shell dip paper towels in a soupy mix of Hydrocal and apply to a structure of balled paper or interwoven cardboard strips.

 

Another advantage of Hydrocal is that it picks up detail very well when cast in rubber rock molds. The main disadvantage of Hydrcal is that, unlike softer molding plaster, it is more difficult to carve and detail. Modelers often prefer the softer molding plaster as a topcoat on plaster scenery.

 

Should I always use track underlay (foam or cork?)

 

Track underlay definitely reduces the noise levels. Scenery can also act as a noise absorber or noise buffer. If noise is an issue then a combination of foam and cork together will definitely lower the noise levels. Some modelers find the foam quieter than cork. The big advantage of foam over cork is that it can be profiled using a foam-cutting tool. 

 

Why do tracks need ballast?

 

On a prototype railroad track the ballast is for drainage. The track consists of two rails spiked to wooden ties resting on a bed of ballast. This ballast may be gravel, or any of several kinds of crushed rock, usually limestone or granite. In model railroading, we add the ballast to the track-work for increased realism. Many modelers think this type of track-work is too difficult to build, but it doesn't need to be difficult.

 

How do I lay and fix ballast on track-work to get a realistic look?

 

Step one is to decided where the track is to be laid. Using a pencil, draw two parallel lines on the roadbed where the ties should be positioned. Using diluted glue, paint the roadbed in two-foot sections then, lay the ties in place. Set the ties in position the full length of the painted section. Ties are spaced about 3000 to the mile. This converts to about 36 ties per foot in S scale standard gauge. Space the ties a little further apart if using narrow gauge.  Ties should be a tie width or less apart on mainlines, and 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 tie widths apart on branch lines.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Modern train tracks are very even and perfectly straight, whereas for older lines had imperfections. On older lines, sidings, branches and yards, you’ll achieve a more realistic effect by varying the ties somewhat. A typical stretch of track will have ties in all stages of weathering because old ties are replaced only a few at a time.

 

 

With the ties in position, sprinkle on the ballast. A saltshaker or teaspoon works well for doing this. After the glue is dry excess ballast can be brushed or vacuumed away. If you are careful, excess ballast can be used again.

 

While this section is drying, you can move on to the next section. There will always be spots where the ballast does not adhere, so you can go over any bare spots again. Also, make sure the ballast isn’t above the tops of the ties. 

When everything is dry, begin laying the rails. Lay the turnout first followed by the rail laid to the turnouts. Use needle nose pliers to push the spike in under the rail, at a slight angle under the rail.

 

Place the turnout on the ties using the frog as a center guide, positioning it first with the spike down.  The stock rails can then be spiked in place. You can use two three-point track gauges to get the rails approximately in place, followed by a NMRA Stands gauge for final spiking.  Always check and recheck the gauge with the Standards gauge.

 

What is ground foam?

 

Ground foam just as the name implies: ground up pieces of foam dyed to represent grass, weeds, soil, shrubbery, and tree foliage. The material can be applied with diluted matte medium or white glue. Ground foam can also be applied directly to wet paint. Manufacturers that supply ground foam (or similar products) include: Woodland Scenics and AMSI.

 

What is the best way to make roads?

 

Roads are usually an integral part of the scenery on any model railway.  Often the roads are not modeled as well as the other scenery, and when this occurs the entire effect suffers. Yet when you know how, modeling roads is easy, fun and reasonably inexpensive.  In fact, you probably already have many of the materials to model a realistic road or freeway.

 

The main ingredient to use is joint compound or it's sometimes called drywall mud. Get the 'lightweight' version because it works better. It has less shrinkage which results in fewer “mud” cracks when it dries.  Lightweight joint compound can sometimes be hard to find at the hardware store, so you can use regular joint compound as an alternative. Joint compound works better than plaster because it takes longer to dry, which gives you more opportunity to form and smooth out the road before it dries.

 

You'll need some white bead-board Styrofoam (also called polyfoam) for the base surface of the road.  Styrofoam is inexpensive and easy to carve out features like culverts and ditches.  Using this material it is easy to make natural dips and rises just like on a real road.

 

Decide on the width of the road and mark it out before laying the road surface. Remember that not all roads are the same. Rural roads are not usually as wide as the roads in the city, so keep that in mind when planning your road layout. It is a good idea to position some scale vehicles alongside the road you are building. This will help you determine the width. A two-lane road in HO scale would normally be 3 to 3.5 inches wide as a bit of a guide.

 

Now you’re ready to apply the joint compound directly to the base using a trowel that is approximately as wide as the road. Spread the joint compound to a depth of ¼ to ½ inch. A light mist of water sprayed on the joint compound helps to spread and smooth the road surface. If you spread the joint compound too thick it is more likely to crack, so don’t lay it on too thick. However, you will need to make the road thick enough so that a small crown can be sanded in the road later.

 

The joint compound takes two to three days to dry depending on the thickness. When it no longer feels cool to the touch, it’s ready for sanding. Start with a coarse grade sandpaper (No. 60), and shape the crown.  Then use a finer grade sandpaper, No.150, to sand out any rough marks left by the coarse paper. 

 

The finishing off is usually done with No. 220 fine grade sandpaper. It is a messy so you'll need to vacuum up the dust and expose any air bubble holes, cracks and any other irregularities in the surface. The next step is to repair these with a small application of joint compound. Let it dry and then sand to a smooth finish No. 220 sandpaper.

 

Road colors do vary depending on what they are made of, how much they are used and the weather conditions they get exposed to. Asphalt roads tend to lighten in color as they age. Concrete roads tend to turn a bit darker with age. So, to keep it simple, duplicating an asphalt surface is the usually the easiest option. Flat latex in gray is probably your best choice, and use a darker or lighter shade to match the look you want. Floquil’s  “concrete” or “aged concrete” gives a good effect.  Colors tend to dry a different shade so it pays to test a small area first.

 

Don’t forget to add the centerline to your road and any painted parking bays.  Scale Scenics make several different styles of self-adhesive road stripes in HO scale, or check with your local hobby store if you are using a different scale. Although the stripes come with a self-adhesive backing, a light coating of spray adhesive helps them stick to the road. Take care not to peel the paint if you have to reposition the stripes. Laying the stripes in 2 foot lengths will be easiest.

 

Another method is to use brass stencils, available at your hobby shop, for the road markings. Hold them down with wax paper. You could use masking tape, but it is more likely to lift the paint. Spray light mists of paint, rather than one heavy coat, to prevent leakage under the stencil. If paint does lift, sand the spot gently with wet-dry No. 600 sandpaper. Then touch up the area with a fine paintbrush. Tar lines can be added using a fine black ballpoint pen, but try it out on a scrap piece of road first.

 

That's your road finished, or you can take it a step further. To add more realism you can weather the road to make it look like there’s been some traffic on it. Use an airbrush filled with Floquil grimy black diluted with paint thinner (1 part paint to 4 parts paint thinner.)  You can also utilize the same paint to create a darker stripe down the middle of the road.

 

Use an airbrush to achieve subtle tonal effects. Remember, it’s easier to add more paint than to take it away if you’ve overdone it. So, go lightly on the weathering process and have fun creating a amazingly realistic road that will enhance your layout wonderfully well.

 

Is there a simpler way to make roads?

 

Yes, there is, although it's not as effective. Simply glue sandpaper to the painted baseboard. Use an extra, extra fine grit sand paper for paved or concrete roads and coarse grit sandpaper for dirt or gravel roads. Once painted, the sandpaper looks really good and does the job, although the earlier option does look best because the sandpaper doesn't contour as well as Styrofoam and paint.

 

What is Homasote, and why do so many modelers use it?

 

Homasote is a pressed paper product made by the Homasote Corp. It's recycled newsprint and comes in 4 x 8-foot sheets that are a half-inch thick. It's usually used as wall-insulating material. The main advantage of Homasote is that its density allows it to hold spikes well. Yet Homasote is soft enough that they can be driven in with a pair of needlenose pliers. This is an advantage for those who hand lay their track.

 

The disadvantage of using Homasote is its poor dimensional stability, as it tends to expand when exposed in humid conditions. One solution seal the product with paint or shellac. Homasote is also difficult to cut without producing a lot of dust and dulling saw blades. One solution is to use a knife-type blade (no teeth) in a saber saw. If you don't want to use Homasote, other roadbed options include Vinylbed and cork.

 

What do the three numbers in front of the train stand for?

 

This is the Whyte Classification System. It is a classification system to describe the different types of steam engines based on the arrangement of their wheels.  The first number refers to the number of wheels on the pilot.  The second number refers to the number of drive wheels, and the third number refers to the number of wheels on the trailing truck.  So 2-8-4 means two pilot wheels, eight drive wheels and four trailing truck wheels.

 

How do I simulate smoke and fire?

 

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

 

One idea is to light a flickering 12 volt, 110 amp lamp to simulate flames. You can also add a small fan and some silky material. The material is cut into a tapered shape, similar to the look of a flame. You mount several of them over the fan so it flaps them around, then the light shines up from below. The light flickering on the moving material looks like flames flickering.

 

If you don't want to use a mini fan, then try just setting up some rapid firing yellow and red LED's to get a flicker. Some careful placement of crumpled aluminum foil with regard to visibility through windows, doorways etc. will give a very realistic flame appearance.

 

Insulated steel wool makes good smoke. Thin the steel wool out and shape it to look like smoke. Position it coming out of the top windows and the roof in a building. Make sure you have some fire trucks at the scene too to add even more realism to the scene.

 

How do I depict the aftermath of a fire?

 

Sometimes it is easier to model the aftermath of the fire. One idea is to show a damaged building with blackened framework. You then add some fire trucks and pumps positioned to dampening down the embers. They can be releasing streams of water made from fiber optics aimed at points where you've embedded the electronic LED lights to simulate hotspots. You can also buy smoke generator kits and smoke generator fluid to use when you have visitors.

 

Another idea is to include a vehicle for the arson investigators, a police car or two and police patrolling the yellow tapes to keep the onlookers at a safe distance. The flashing lights on all the emergency vehicles would add to the drama. Don't forget to simulate plenty of water in the street gutters as runoff from the fire. Another nice idea is to include a Dalmatian dog investigating the fire hydrants.

 

How do I make plastic buildings look real?

 

Here's the trick to make plastic buildings look real. First, paint exterior surfaces with a mixture of hobby paint (flat white, flat gray or flat black) and hobby thinner. Let sit for ten minutes then wipe off. This removes some of the glossly look from the plastic and will "color in" any depressions or marks, bringing out tiles, siding, shingles and bricks. To "mortar" the red brick walls of buildings apply white paint and then wipe it off. Another way to apply mortar is by rubbing the surface vigorously with white chalk, brushing lightly and sealing the chalk dust with matte fixative or clear hairspray. (do this in a well-ventilated space).

 

Why do some buildings look translucent?

 

Plastic buildings can become translucent when internally lit. The trick is to get light to shine through the windows, not the walls. The answer is to cut aluminum foil into properly sized panels and glue them to the interior walls. You can use an ordinary glue stick (or Goop). You can do the same for plastic roofs, too. You can even create frosted windows using onionskin paper glued in place. Simply draw curtains, or blinds, on the onionskin for added detail.

 

How do I figure grades, and how steep can they be?

 

Expressed as a percentage, grades indicate how steeply tracks climb. A 2 percent grade means a rise of two units for every 100 units of travel (or simply a rise of 2 inches for 100 inches). Even at that this small rise, a locomotive loses roughly half its pulling power. Each additional percent increase reduces the pulling power of a locomotive consist pulling power by half again. The key to determining how steep to make a grade is to decide how many cars you plan to pull and what's practical in the available space. Realistically, anything greater than 5 percent is asking too much from your models.

 

Do I have to solder the track?

 

Soldering track has two advantages: it allows for better electrical conductivity and reinforces rail joints to stand up to stresses such as wood expansion, layout moving, and rail shifting. The trick to good soldering is to start with a clean surface. Use a non-acid core solder and a liquid resin flux, and use a hot iron to avoid melting the plastic ties. Don't add too much solder; a little soldering at the joint is all you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should electric feed wires be included every

couple of feet or should I solder rail joiners?

Text Box:  Text Box: To ensure proper electrical continuity, all DCC connections should be soldered. At rail level, feeders are directly soldered to the rail. This diagram shows how wrapping one wire around the other makes a junction between wires before soldering them. All non-insulating rail joiners can be soldered and separate feeder wires be installed every 3 ft of track.

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

To avoid problems later, thoroughly check every section after it is completed. Follow these 3 steps:

 

1.     Check continuity and insulation of the new wiring, using a Volt/Ohm meter.

2.     Turn on the Command Station and put an engine on the newly wired track section to check for correct operation.

3.     Short the section (with a metal part) and check that the Command Station detects the short.

 

 

If you detect any problems during these tests, then it is an indication that something is wrong in the wiring. The problem should be fixed before going any further (remember that, with DCC, all track sections are wired in parallel and insulating a problem later will be much more difficult). When all sections are correctly wired, your layout will be ready for DCC control of trains.

 

Here is a method used by many modelers. Purchase some doorbell wire and cut it into 6" to 9" lengths. Strip the last half-inch on both sides of the wire. Flattened the end of the wire using some needle nose pliers and pull the wire downward to form a 90 degree bend just before the flattened end and then clip the end short. If you do this correctly you'll end up with a piece of wire that looks like a track spike.

 

The next thing is to drill a small hole next to the outside of the rail through the roadbed and base. Use a soldering iron to put some solder next to the feeder hole, then a dab on the flattened end of the wire (the part that looks like a spike).  You then feed the straight side of the wire through the feeder hole. The trick is to align the spike side so that it is hanging off the bottom of the rail.  You then simply solder the joint. 

 

Using this method, you'll have a feeder and reliable power transfer that resembles a rail spike. It should be almost impossible to detect at a glance.

 

What were different methods used to turn an engine?

 

Real railroads used three methods of turning engines or trains, wyes, loops and turntables. The turntable was by far the most widely used method for turning an engine. Wyes were also widely used for turning engines, or even whole trains, as they were more space efficient than loops. Loops are still are used in some instances but there are relatively few examples of loops in prototype practice.

 

In model railroading the opposite seems to be true. Reversing loops are the most common as they allow "continuous" running. Wyes are also a common feature with model railroads and turntables are less common. Each of these methods requires some special power routing to prevent short circuits, which are a consideration with any reversing scheme.

 

What is a bridge rectifier and what does it do?

 

Text Box:  Text Box: A bridge rectifier will permit the trains to go around it in one direction either clockwise or counterclockwise. Converting AC to DC is done with a bridge rectifier, or with four diodes configured to make a bridge rectifier (a diode is a device that lets electricity flow in only one direction). So, when four diodes are configured as shown here, the rail's AC power is converted to DC.

 

How do you run a loco on a reversing loop? 

Do you have to stop the train on the loop and throw the switch?

 

A common method of wiring reversing loops uses a bridge rectifier to set the polarity of the loop so that trains can run around the loop in one direction only. A bridge rectifier should be rated for several amps and have four inputs, two marked ‘AC’, with one marked '+' and one marked '-'.  The first thing to do is connect the ACs to the mainline power feeds, then connect the '+' and '–' to each wire that feeds the reverse loop. The bridge rectifier will keep the train running in the same direction … either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending upon the + connection being hooked to the right or left rail. When the train exits the loop, the track polarity outside the loop has changed to match the rails at the exit of the loop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Quick Tip:When your train enters a reverse loop from the mainline, you'll need to reverse the throttle direction switch. That way, when the train goes back onto the mainline, the polarity will be lined up.  If you have two reverse loops, each loop will need to be wired with its own bridge rectifier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do I keep my layout free from dust and cobwebs?

 

Dust and dirt, are any model railroad's biggest enemies. The first step to keeping track clean is to eliminate the sources of dust and dirt. Among the best ways to do this is to put your layout in its own room (if possible). To cut down on dust and dirt, finish the walls and ceiling. If your layout is in a basement or attic, consider installing a suspended ceiling in the entire room or just over the layout to reduce the amount of dust and dirt that gets on the rails and scenery.

 

A vacuum with a slit end works well for cleaning away dust. To avoid sucking up any parts of your layout try putting a piece of nylon over the end of the vacuum hose. A brush attachment can be used for removing dust from fixed structures. Also, sweep the surrounding area regularly to keep dust down.

 

Keeping windows closed also helps, as open windows let in a lot of dust and dirt. If possible, it is best to keep your layout and workshop areas separated to reduce contamination. Also, a no smoking rule is a good policy, because cigarette smoke can leave a buildup of grime on the track.

 

Running trains is the goal – not nudging stalled engines. By cleaning track regularly, you can keep your trains running smoothly. Dirty track is the result of dirt and dust that accumulates on railheads. Also, an oxide forms on both brass and nickel-silver rail over time. The oxide on brass rail inhibits electrical contact, whereas the oxide on nickel-silver rail is conductive. For this reason nickel-silver rail are preferable.

 

Dirt and dust are less of a problem with pre-molded roadbeds.  The roadbeds hold the sections securely together to help prevent dirt from reaching moving parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the advantages of using an iron core can motor? 

 

Their major advantage is that they are rugged and cheap. The can motor gets its name from the formed steel can it is built in. These are permanent magnet DC motors and usually come with the armature wound on an iron core. Iron core motors can generate an amazing amount of power in a small physical size. Can type motors are not usually designed to be disassembled for repair. If a motor wears out or burns out, buying a new one is usually the cheapest option. Most of the motors found in Large Scale locos are iron core can motors.

 

What is coreless motor and how does it work? 

 

Coreless motors are so named because there is no iron core in the armature. A coreless motor consists of a rotor with coils of wire resembling an open basket. A magnet is located in the center of the coils. A brush gear transfers the electrical current to the rotating coils. The outside of the motor has a can that encloses all the parts, so it may still look like a can motor.

 

The advantage of the coreless motor is that it can be made smaller and lighter than a cored design. Since they run slowly, a lower gear ratio can be used than with the more conventional iron-cored motor.

 

The downside; is that the coreless motor doesn't have the thermal stability of a cored motor. An overworked motor will heat very rapidly. If it gets hot enough, it can breakdown the adhesives holding it together, and the armature will simply come apart.

 

If treated properly, coreless motors will last a long time.

 

 

Quick Tip:

 

Too much current can damage coreless motors, so it is probably best to use a controller specifically designed for them. If you’re running DCC, you will need to get a decoder to smooth out the current. You should not use older (over a year old) decoders with coreless (basket wound) motors (usually found only in LGB G scale).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a decoder and can I run an analog locomotive

on a DCC system without a decoder?

 

The first thing to understand is this; an analog train refers to a locomotive without a decoder chip installed in the locomotive.

 

Decoders are sometimes called receivers, but in reality, they are more that just receivers. Decoders decode the DCC signal and control the engine's speed and direction. Decoders let you program locomotive characteristics like acceleration, deceleration and, starting and mid-point voltages. Some may have built in light and function controls as well.

 

There are other decoders that include sound and motion control in a single unit. You can even build decoders yourself from a kit.

 

The two main components of a DCC system are the controller and the decoder. The controller (some systems also require a booster) has the throttles and other controls to operate your trains as well as accessories.  The decoder is installed into the locomotive and as instructions are sent from the controller through the tracks to the decoder it “decodes” the instructions and responds accordingly which may be to turn a light on, move forward, or stop, etc. Each decoder has to have a unique address so that the controller can individually identify it.

 

With most DCC systems you can run one analog locomotive (without a decoder) along with the digital ones. This allows you time to gradually convert your fleet.

 

Can I just put a decoder in my old analog engines? 

 

Yes you can, but you probably don’t want to.  If the motor pulls over an amp at stall then it will burn up the decoder.  The other issue is that most of the older analog engines require a fair amount of work to isolate the motor from the frame.

 

Can I put a decoder in my brass engines?

 

Again, the answer is basically yes, as there are very few engines that cannot have a decoder in them. But you may not want to because of the motor, load, etc.  Again, the stall current could burn out the decoder. Be careful not to do any damage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if the locomotives are too small or too valuable to be converted, but you still want to run them on your DCC layout?

 

If you have an unconverted locomotive to run on your layout, then your DCC system will probably be able to handle it. No more than one analog engine at a time on Digital for the whole layout.

 

And, if you want to run your DCC equipped locomotive on a regular DC layout, many DCC decoders automatically convert to DC operation if there is no DCC signal present. The important thing is to check with your manufacturer about the availability of this feature.

 

Why does my locomotive make a noise when not moving?

 

Analog locomotives tend to "sing" when sitting still on DCC layouts. This noise decreases when the analog locomotive runs and accelerates. The noise is caused by the DCC track signal. Using conductive brush lubricants (such as "Conducta") can significantly reduce this noise. It is also a good idea to ensure that there is no vibration inside the locomotive that will add to the noise generated.

 

Text Box: Quick Tip:It is best to park your analog locomotive on an un-powered section of track when it is not running to cut down on heat build up inside the engine.

What do I have to do to my layout to make it DCC?

 

Well, if you have one loco that has a decoder in it then you are already doing DCC. If you already have a working layout, then usually, it is just a case of removing the two wires from the transformer to the track and putting in the computer (Command Station/Booster) between them. DCC doesn't need to be complicated or difficult. It can be as challenging as you want it to be.  It is entirely over to you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much are my trains worth?

 

The simple answer is that they're worth what someone is prepared to pay. They may have sentimental value, but be worth far less to someone else than they're worth to you. On the other hand if they are in mint condition, or particularly rare, or in high demand, or short supply … then you might be pleasantly surprised at how much you can get for them. Here are some ways to find out what your trains are worth:

 

·         One of the best ways to assess value is to attend swap meets or a model railroad show and ask some of the knowledgeable and experienced enthusiasts who attend events like that.

·         Check with hobby shops that deal in model railways. If you decide to sell to a retailer, remember that you're selling at wholesale. You probably get about 50 percent of the value listed in price guides. The retailer has rents, wages etc to pay and will expect to make some profit on the transaction when reselling your trains. For you it is a hobby – for them it is a business.

·         Consult price guides, which can be purchased at hobby shops and from publishers.

·         Do some research on eBay and other auction sites to see how much similar sets are selling for, or more importantly, have sold for.

 

There are a number of factors that can affect the value of your trains and determine what someone might be prepared to pay for them. Before approaching a dealer, going to a swap meet, or searching eBay, you will firstly need to accurately identify your trains. You'll need to know what their gauge is (measure the distance between its wheels), which company made them, and what number was assigned to them (look for names and numbers on the sides and bottom of models).

 

Secondly, you have to realistically assess the condition of your trains. Here is a guide for you:

 

Mint Condition: Brand new, often in its original, unopened packaging with all original paperwork included.

 

Like New Condition: As the name implies the original condition throughout. Free of any blemishes, scratches or nicks. All boxes should be in pristine condition as they are often are sold with them.

 

Excellent Condition: Means exceptionally clean, maybe with minute scratches or nicks but definitely no dents or rust.

 

Very Good Condition: They'll be clean, possibly with a few noticeable scratches. They will otherwise be free of dents, rust, and warping.

 

Good Condition: Signs of use, possibly with some scratches and small dents and dirty spots.

 

Fair Condition: Definite signs of use including lots of scratched, being chipped, dented, rusted, or warped.

 

Poor Condition: Sometimes bought for parts or restoration. They will be particularly beat-up or worn out.

 

Having determined what your trains are worth, you'll then be in a better position to decide whether to keep, give them away, or sell them.

 

Quick Tip:

 

Cutting track the right way is important for a good fit and to prevent derailments. If you cut track on your layout and fail to remove all the shavings, then they will eventually find there way into your engine gears and moving parts. This will create additional headaches for you later on.

 

Using a hacksaw will create metal dust which is hard to clean up. Wire cutter pliers will save you the shavings, but will create angles on your ends which you'll need to file square to prevent rolling stock from jumping the track. You can buy special track cutting tools with a flat edge on one side so that the resulting cut is straight instead of tapered to a point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Model Railroad Yard Design

Explained Step-By-Step

 

Most model railroaders have far more cars (rolling stock) and locomotives than they can possibly operate at once. One option is to simply store excess cars and locomotives in boxes or on display shelves or cabinets. It is possible, however, to store all of your extra equipment on tracks in a yard that may or may not be part of the visible operating portion of your layout.

 

However, design mistakes are a common feature of yard layouts. Yards don't always work out as well as they should. A major cause is the lack of available information on how to design a good yard layout. Without the resources, model railroaders are forced into a lot of guesswork. Hence the reason for this bonus section.

 

Apart from the lack of available information on the subject, another cause for less than satisfactory yard designs, is the need to compress a layout into the space available. 'Compression' is the model railroaders enemy, but in most cases, necessary. Here's why...

 

The Need To Compress The Layout

 

Take for instance the average layout which might include a yard, a main line and perhaps a branch line. Most model railroaders have limited space available to them, so can only hope to include a few scale miles of track to represent a 100 or so miles of full-size (prototype) track.

 

In reality; something has to be left out in order to fit into the average layout space. On most layouts it's usually the long, boring miles in between the interesting spots that get cut out. For the same reason, yards are often rationalized in some way.

 

Like it or not, it's often necessary to compress the essence of the operation down to a manageable and modelable level. So, it is not uncommon for model railroaders to compress three yards into the space of one, forcing one or two tracks to do the work of many miles of prototype track. One downside is that this imposes more pressure on anyone operating your yard. The operator will often have to do nearly as much work as a prototype crew to get through a session.

 

 

What Is A Classification Yard?

 

In simple terms, 'Classification' is the sorting of railroad freight cars

into groups bound for one or more similar destinations. This is the most common type of yard found on model railroads, and when well executed, is fascinating to operate.

 

How Classification Yards Work

 

Let's start by looking at the make up of real classification yards. Generally, they are huge. They often consisting of many smaller special-purpose yards, that collectively, add up to a complex array of track.

 

It is commonplace for there to be three separate double-ended yards strung one after the other. These are designed to move traffic efficiently and usually comprise: an arrival yard, a classification yard, and a departure yard. Let's look at these separately:

 

·       The arrival yard is where arriving trains drop off the cars of their train.

 

·       The cars are then moved to the classification yard, being switched back and forth as necessary to get the right cars onto the right trains. 

 

·       The trains are then built out and moved to the departure yard. After getting a new caboose and locomotive, they then proceed to their next destination.

 

Trains moving in the opposite direction are often served by an identical set of yards on the other side of the main line.

 

What Are The Yard Options?

 

The possibilities are endless, depending on the types of jobs that need to be done. Here are 4 common options:

 

1.  Small branch line yards where the main track is the only lead.

 

2.  Industrial yards used to store and move parts and materials.

 

3.  Coach yards where passenger trains and cars are serviced and lay over for their next scheduled journey.

 

4.  Sprawling division point freight yards with humps that take up many square miles. 

 

Each is different and designed to do different jobs. So, when designing a yard layout it is always important to carefully consider the purpose and operation of the yard to be built and what is expected from it. Understand the reasons why things work the way they do, then apply the knowledge to the specific needs of your layout. Some aspects will need to be adapted, or compressed, so in most cases compromise is inevitable. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Steps To Creating Classification Yards

 

(Note: these are guidelines only and some variation may be needed depending on the type of yard layout you are creating.)

 

Step 1: Make Your Yard Easily Accessible

 

You'll get more enjoyment out of running, or working on your layout, if everything is within easy reach. 24" to 30" is about as far as most people can reach without having to overstretch themselves and risk knocking over trains or scenery.

 

If you want to make your yard wider than you can reach from one side, then  

consider including a shallow operators’ aisle on the other side of the yard.

To do this you need about 16” of aisle, and a few feet to either side allowing the operator to reach the critical points around the turnouts. A yard operator usually stays in one place during a session so it could be a crawl-under without access to the rest of the aisles.

 

By doing this you can then split the yard into two manageable halves. This works well with double-track layouts. Having two switching crews has its benefits too.

 

Step 2: The Main Line Deserves Priority

 

It is easy to overlook that the main line is a part of the yard... it is the most important track in it, or around it.

 

Prototype railroads go to great lengths to keep the main line clear. The same rule applies to a model railway. The main line is the artery that carries the life blood of the railroad, passengers and freight. Just like the arteries of a human body, the main lines need to be kept clear to allow for the free-flow of traffic. Obstructing the main lines causes major problems to the railroad system.

 

Ideally the main line should only have two turnouts leading to the yard, one at each end. And they are only used when complete trains either enter or leave the yard.

 

However, in saying that, it isn't always necessary when planning a small stub-end terminal yard, or a yard for a lightly used branch line. If the branch line only supports one or two trains a day, and trains should proceed at restricted speed and be ready to stop for any obstruction. There usually isn't a problem with using the main line, even as a lead track.

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Have A Dedicated Lead Track

 

The lead is the backbone of the yard. It is the next most important track in the yard after the main line. The lead is the track all others either connect to or branch from. The lead can be disguised as a branch line or another kind of track depending on your layout. However, the real purpose for the lead track is an important consideration when planning a yard layout.

 

The yard switcher should always be able get to any track in one forward move, and to escape back to the lead from almost anywhere in the yard in one reverse move. Therefore, where possible, most (if not all) turnouts off the lead should be facing-point turnouts.

 


 


This might not sound important, but it is. Here's why... any track on a trailing-point switch that has to be served from the lead requires the switcher to do one of two things. Either run around a car (or cars), or to make a reverse move off of the lead to serve that track, and leave the lead. This usually causes delay with two additional moves... and gives limited access to the track(s) being worked... and there is the possibility of fouling moving traffic across other tracks.

 

Here is an example to illustrate the the point. In the diagram the switcher would experience a problem serving the trailing-point turnout on the left. When building trains, the switcher should never have to leave the lead track under any circumstances and should almost always work cars from only one end (the front).

 

The lead must be as long, or longer than, the longest yard track, because the switcher uses the lead to move cars in and out of the body tracks.  This avoids the need for the switcher to "double" a cut of cars to move from one track to another. Although it isn't always possible to have a full-length lead, having one will alleviate a lot of headaches!

 

Step 4: Keep The Yard Lead Clear

 

Let's review the progress to date. In step one we made the yard accessible. In step two we cleared the main line. Then, in step three we gave the switcher a track of it's own to work from.

 

The next step is to keep the yard lead clear at all times. In reality, this is easier said than done, but with careful planning a yard, many potential problems can be avoided. For instance; try to avoid including crossovers or other trackage arrangements that interfere with the yard lead or the ability of the switch crew to do an efficient job. Frequent delays and chaos are a characteristic of yards with active tracks that cut across the lead.

 

keep the yard clear can't always be avoided, but careful planning at the design stage can minimize or eliminate potential problems.

 

Step 5: Use Arrival/Departure Tracks (A/D Tracks)

 

The next logical question is how do you get trains on and off the main line and into the yard, without obstruction the main line or the yard lead. To do this you include a special track(s) called arrival/departure (A/D tracks).

 

In simple terms the A/D tracks are sidings off the main line with a connection to the yard lead. This is where trains are stored for a short time while they are broken down or built up.

 

The A/D track is a temporary holding track off the main line and should never be used as an extra classification track. The problem is, that when

another train arrives, you have nowhere to put it. So avoid using A/D track as classification track.

 

The yard switcher should be able to cross over from the lead, grab a cut of cars from the A/D track and pull it directly onto the lead to classify it in just two moves. Easy!

 

Having more than one A/D track can be useful especially if you have the space available. This way you can make or break more than one train at a time. The key is to always make sure that you can get to each one via the yard lead in just one move. A good idea is to place the A/D access track from the lead on the near end of the first A/D track (this is near where it joins the main line). You then build a ladder track just beyond that for all your other A/D tracks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6: Include A Run-Around

 

At times the yard switcher will need to run around other cars. So, it is a good idea to include a short siding or set of facing crossovers to an adjacent track. This could be on or off the lead.

 

As a minimum, you'll need enough space to run around one long passenger car. If you have more room then the longer the run-around the better. You may also want to add more than one run-around.

 

Having a run-around has its advantages. Without a run-around it can be frustratingly difficult to tack a caboose onto the back of a departing freight train. The engineer would need to back his whole train into the caboose track. A run-around is also helpful if you have yard or industry tracks with trailing-point switches within yard limits.

 

Step 7: Include A Caboose Track

 

There needs to be a place in the yard to store cabooses out of the way while you are classifying trains. They still need to be easily accessible, so it could be a double-ended siding, or a stub. If you're using a stub track,

make sure it is easily accessed from the yard lead and that it is from a facing-point turnout.


 


The logical place for a caboose track is off the A/D track, because that's where you are building or breaking trains. However any easy to access location will work. A caboose track could therefore be located off either the yard lead, yard ladder, or one of the A/D tracks as already mentioned.

 

A caboose track is an ideal way to display your caboose models and will improve the efficiency of your yard. 

 

Step 8: Add Auxiliary Yard Track

 

Yard operation is not just about classification. Some of the best local operation in a yard comes from the auxiliary yard tracks: ready tracks

for wreck trains or snowplows, a cleaning track for house cars, icing tracks for reefers and RIP (Repair In Place) track. Auxiliary track doesn't necessarily need to be immediately alongside the yard.

 

 

 

 

 

RIP track (Repair In Place) is worth considering as it is an integral part of many prototype classification yards. Several cars each day are directed to the RIP track for minor repairs like: replacing worn brake shoes, fixing dragging equipment, or changing a cracked air hose, or a damaged wheel bearing. After repairs are completed each car is sent on its way.

 

A classification yard set can operate at a crew change or division point. It can be a busy place (especially when steam locomotives are involved). This is where engines spend time in the yard laying over... waiting for trains to pull out, getting much needed service, or just on standby. This is why you need a place to hold them out of the way until they are needed.

 

Locomotives need to get away fast and easily, so your engine service tracks should allow direct access to and from your A/D tracks. These tracks can look really impressive with the addition of services like: water towers, diesel fuel racks, coal docks, sand towers, ash pits and cinder conveyors etc. Remember, locomotives are generally serviced as they arrive at a yard, not as they leave... so if you have more than one service track, concentrate the services along the inbound lead.

 

Step 9: Avoid Unnecessary Congestion In The Yard

 

The purpose of a classification yard is to collect incoming cars, rearrange them and get them on trains that will take them to their destinations.

 

Now, it's true that most yards have busy times. Several trains can arrive in quick succession and overwhelm even the best yard crew. The regular arrival of new cars can cause a bottleneck and the yard can quickly clogg-up. This is frustrating for all concerned especially when it brings the railroad to a complete standstill.

 

No yard can run efficiently when put under too much pressure. To continue to function well, all yards have a certain threshold number of cars they can hold. Go beyond this threshold amount and the yard quickly clogs, making it very difficult to work with.

 

The yard size and physical restrictions will determine what the threshold number is. Efficiency in classification is particularly important at busy times. Another factor, is whether the train schedules (timetables) allow the yardmaster to move cars regularly on outbound trains, as quickly as they arrive. With this in mind, the schedule becomes a key determinant as you start pushing things to the limit of the yard threshold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as a physical threshold there is also a human threshold. There is a limit to how many cars a yardmaster can classify in a set period of time. The situation can quickly deteriorate when more cars are coming into the yard than the yardmaster can handle. When the thresholds are pushed to the limit, the yard can quickly become unworkable and all movements can grind to a standstill. 

 

For instance; a big yard might have as many as 200 to 400 cars through it in a four hour operating session... but if everything converges on the yard at once, or if there is little movement for a couple of hours... then no yard or yardmaster is going to be able to cope with the resulting congestion. Careful scheduling is therefore critical to avoid overwhelming the yard or crew.

 

The main thing is to plan the layout design of your yard carefully, then run it efficiently and keep cars moving to schedule. It's when yards get congested that problems occur. Even with the best of intentions, there will be occasions when surges in traffic will drive the number of cars beyond the threshold. In these situations it is important for the yardmaster to clear some cars out of the yard as quickly as possible to prevent the problem from escalating out of control.

 

How full is full? Well, generally a half full yard.... is full!  As a rough guide you simply calculate how many average length cars you can hold in the body of the yard when all tracks are full... without fouling any of the turnouts. You then take that number and divide by two. The resulting number is your threshold amount. It could be slightly higher or lower depending on your yard design. 

 

If you have followed each of the preceding 9 steps, then by now you will be well on your way to designing an excellent yard layout. The steps will not only help with the smooth operation of your yard... they will also minimize any level of frustration. So, please read and reread them carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Tips To Make Your Yard Easy To Run

 

Even with the best yard design... and the best intentions... the yard won't get used if it's not user-friendly. Therefore; it is important that your yard is easy to run, not just for you, but for anyone else who is called upon to operate the yard. Here are 6 ways to make things easier:

 

1. Poor trackwork can lead to ongoing problems and frustration. It is well worth spending extra time to get the trackwork just right.  It is no fun when trains keep derailing every time they go over a bad turnout, or over a spot that's out of gauge. Despite your best efforts derailments can still happen, so it is important that every part of the track is easily accessible, either from the front of the layout or from an operators aisle behind. 

 

2. Color code the track lines to differentiate what each track is for and install a large, easy-to-read schematic control panel. As an example, you might want to make the body tracks white, the yard lead blue, the A/D tracks red, etc. The next thing is to label anything that might be confusing. Physically separate adjacent tracks with different purposes to emphasize their difference.

 

3. Problems can occur when a new operator takes control, so it pays to train each new operator before he or she is let loose in the yard. A flow diagram of the yard is a good staring point. It could be prepared as a handout and include a brief explanation of the different functions of each track. It is a good way to avoid any confusion, save time and minimize potential errors. The handout would also be of interest to spectators as it is easy way to explain how things work.

 

4. For the yard crew to organize their work efficiently they need a schedule of arrivals and departures. It needs to describe the anticipated movements during each session, the approximate arrival and departure times, and what type of freight or passenger equipment each train will drop off or pick up. This schedule needs to be in place before the start of each operating session.

 

5. Where possible avoid making things too complex. For instance; wherever you have a crossover where two turnouts always operate together, control them with one toggle switch. Use a diode-matrix panel or similar control structure to automatically throw turnouts in a yard ladder for a particular arrangement.

 

Although this might sound complex it makes a stressful job easier when in full operation.

 

6. If there are distinct groups of turnouts more than 2-3 steps apart, then consider breaking the panel into two or more sub-panels. This will reduce the complexity of the main panel.

 

 

Garden Railroads – Questions Answered

 

Garden railroads are becoming increasingly popular, so here are some answers to questions relating specifically to Garden Railroads (commonly referred to as G scale or Garden Scale). Some garden layouts are complete with buildings, people and tiny plants, whilst others have a track going through a full-size garden.

How big is G scale?

 

G Scale trains are larger than 0 scale (1:48) but smaller than the trains that are large enough to ride on. G-scale, is approximately 1:24 (varying from 1:19 to 1:32, actually). Most large-scale trains run on No 1 gauge track (45mm between the rails). They are ideal for garden settings and because they are large they are generally hard to derail. Some people also run O-scale (1:48) Lionel trains outdoors.

 

How do garden railroads differ from indoor tracks?

 

The difference between a traditional indoor layout and a garden railway is the difference between realism and reality.

 

With indoor railroads, the goal is to create the illusion of reality through the use of artificial materials. For instance; trees are often made of synthetic materials, mountains are made of plaster, rivers are made of plastic resin, etc.

 

A garden railroad is different. Being outdoors, you are dealing with real life. Trees are growing living plants, mountains are made of dirt, rivers are made of water, rocks are made of stone. And, they are exposed to the weather!

 

Trees, branches, leaves and dirt can blow onto the track, rain can cause washouts, snow can stop trains... even animal life can be a factor. A garden railroad can be constantly changing with the seasons, the weather, and even the time of day.

 

Are the trains left outdoors all the time?

 

Many G-scale locomotives and cars are built to be waterproof, so trains can be run when it's raining or snowing. Most brands can withstand prolonged exposure to the elements, but G scale trains are expensive and you won't want them to get stolen, or let them deteriorate unnecessarily. For this reason, most people bring their trains indoors when they are not running.

 

One option is to build tracks that run into a shed, or even indoors through the walls of your house. This way the train can be stored safely when not in use. Some of the more fragile buildings might be stored inside during the winter months. However, most other things like track, bridges, and buildings stay out year round. O-scale trains are not designed to get wet.

 

How do you choose a suitable location for a garden railroad.

 

Careful planning is important to ensure that your garden railroad operates efficiently and stands the test of time.  When choosing a location question whether or not it is secure. You don't want any harm to come to your railroad or trains.

 

Assuming you are happy with any security issues, then check to see how level the site is. Will you have to dig out parts of the garden to make it level (or maybe bring in additional earth). Will you need to build retaining walls, or bridgework? Will the railway fit in with an an existing garden, or will the garden need to be  redesigned to fit with the railway? Are there things in the way like fences, clotheslines, dog kennels, buildings, paths, or swimming pools. What will need to be removed and what can be worked around?

 

What if space is a consideration?

 

How much space you need will depend on the type of railway you want to create. Decide whether you want a passenger line that connects small towns  or maybe a line that will haul only freight. They will have differing space requirements as will an traditional narrow-gauge steam railway, or a modern, standard gauge, diesel-powered line. The space you have available will be a determining factor and will help you decide what will look and work best for your situation.

 

If space is a major consideration then you may be best to opt for a small industrial line, with smaller engines, short cars, and tight curves. This type of line will fit better into a limited space. If you have more space available, then you might want to consider a modern mainline track. It will require broader curves and longer straight stretches to look right so plenty of space is necessary.

 

What is needed to get started?

 

This question really relates to how elaborate you want your garden railway to be. An indoor railway is generally complex and whereas the rule of “less is more” generally works best with garden railroads.

 

With a garden railroad you don't need complicated track layouts, shunting yards, and hundreds of pieces of rolling stock. To get started, all you need is a single locomotive and three or four pieces of rolling stock (freight or passenger). A single-track mainline is usually enough, with sidings at stations, industries, and points of interest, and perhaps a branch line to an outlying terminal. You are dealing with the outside elements, so too many tracks and accessories can become a maintenance headache.

 

 

Which type of roadbed is best for a garden railroad,

cement or gravel?

 

If you’re planning a G scale or garden railroad there are a couple of options to consider.

 

1. Cement works the well because it is not only weatherproof but also permanent. It does take a bit of time to do the job, but when compared to gravel roadbeds, it lasts almost for ever. The other advantage is that you won’t have to worry about washouts.

 

Ready-mix cement makes the job much easier than it was in the old days. If you’re not sure how to go about pouring concrete or using read-mix, you may prefer to hire someone to do the job for you. Alternatively, ask a friend if they can help you, as a lot of people lay concrete around their homes.

 

2. Another material to use is chicken grit available from feed stores. Dig a four-inch deep by 5-inch wide trench and fill it with chicken grit. Compact the chicken grit and lay the track on top after leveling the track. You can ballast the track with more chicken grit.

 

After a heavy rain you can re-level the ballast as required. After the first couple of years it doesn't take a lot of time, or grit, to level things. If using chicken grit - make sure you are getting grit NOT chicken "crumbles" which is a type of feed. Some modelers even ballast their indoor layouts with chicken grit, glued with equal parts white glue & water.

 

If there is a gravel pit near you, then "crusher fines" is a lower cost material to use. Crusher fines work just as well and look good too.

 

How do you keep the track clean?

 

A popular option is to add a sweeper car which is designed to sweep dirt, leaves, bark, small rocks, twigs, and other debris away from the track and out of flangeways and switch points. The sweeper brush is motor driven powered by an onboard battery mounted on a drop-center car to keep the battery weight low for good tracking. It can have a replaceable non-abrasive rail cleaner to aid in maintaining electrical continuity for track powered railways. The car is designed to be pushed by your locomotive during track cleaning.

 

A sweeper car clears nearly anything off the track above the ties, and a  cleaning pad polishes the tops of the rails for good conductivity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can a garden railway be built in areas that receive snow?

 

Yes they can and the snow can add to the visual effect. A garden railway should be built to withstand the elements and natural hazards just like as with a full-size railroad. It needs to withstand: rain, sleet, hail and even snow. Some people even have a working snowplow to clear their lines. It can be a gondola car pushed ahead of the engine, or a simple wedge plow mounted to a locomotive's pilot. A more elaborate setup may include working rotary plows that will toss the snow 8' or more to one side. That can be impressive and a lot of fun to watch!

 

How else can snow be cleared from a garden railroad?

 

Sometimes it's easiest to get out a shovel and scrape the snow away yourself if you want to run trains. A moderate 6" snow scales out to 12' in 1:24 scale. Keep this in mind when expecting your plow to clear the track. Light, powdery snow is much easier to clear away than the wet, heavy stuff.

Another winter hazard is ice on the track. Some days all you can do is go back indoors and wait for improved weather conditions.

 

Won't I get electrocuted if I run electricity outdoors?

 

Depends on the voltage you are using. Garden layout, like those in the smaller scales, generally run on low-voltage DC, usually 18-24V. It should therefore be perfectly safe to run your trains outdoors, even in the rain or snow. Trains generally run on the same voltage that garden lighting uses. The two systems can usually be successfully integrated, creating a wonderful night show. But, if you are in any way unsure, always talk with an electrical contractor and have him or her inspect the track before turning anything on.

 

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP:

 

The power pack should always be kept indoors. It should be connected to the mains via a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), which is available at your hardware store. That way, should something malfunction within the power pack (which is unlikely), the breaker in the GFCI will trip to avoid a problem. Again, if you are in any doubt, have the system installed or inspected by an electrical contractor.

 

Perhaps the biggest problem in running electricity through the rails is maintaining continuity across the joints as the rails expand and contract. One solution is to solder jumper wires across the joints. You can also get clamp-on rail joiners that aid in continuity. Your local electronics supply store will sell electrically conductive grease which can also be used in the joints.

 

Do garden railroads need to run on electricity?

 

No, some people find running electricity through the rails to be a big hassle. That is one of the reasons for the increase in popularity of  battery-powered, radio-controlled trains. There are systems that can be fitted to existing track-powered trains.

 

Another popular alternative to electricity is live steam. These locomotives burn either alcohol or butane gas, and are a popular feature in some garden railway layouts.

 

What's the best kind of rail to use on a garden railroad?

 

Rails for garden railroads come in: aluminum, steel, brass, nickel silver, and stainless steel. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages and your decision will depend on a number of factors including: your local climate, budget and personal preferences.

 

You are best to talk with garden railway enthusiasts in your local area. They are sure to have an idea of what will work, and look best, considering your local conditions. Talk with your local hobby shop or make connections through garden-railway societies or model railway groups in your area to find modelers who are willing to share their experiences. There are many forums, and bulletin-boards on the Internet where you can ask questions.

 

What are all those tiny plants, and where do you get them?

 

Many garden layouts utilize low-growing thymes and Scotch moss to mimic grass; small-leaved sedums look like shrubs. Boxwoods can be trimmed to look like deciduous trees; dwarf Alberta spruce can be trimmed to look like a conifer forest.

 

There are many low-growing varieties of plants in local nurseries these days. Around the country, there are nurseries that specialize in plants that are appropriate for garden railways. Many plants found in rock gardens are small enough for us to use.

 

Can you ride on the trains?

 

No. The smallest model train that you can ride on is 1:18 scale, and that size train requires a 40-foot radius track. That's a bit large for most of our back yards!

 

What is the maximum grade for a garden railway?

 

For most garden railroads, the grade should not to exceed 2%.

 

 

 

Glossary of Important Terms

 

Accessory: An item intended to complement a model train set but generally not included with it, such as a switch, a building, or a trackside light. Some accessories, such as tunnels, billboards, and many buildings, are static…while other accessories such as coal loaders, gatemen, or control towers, have an operating feature.

 

Airbrush: A small paint sprayer that gives a controlled application of thinned paint. They are fun to use but require some skill to get the best effects. Airbrushes are fun to use but there is a bit of a learning process. You need to ensure that you fill the airbrush paint bottle about ¼ full to prevent any spraying through the air vent hole.

 

Articulated: Refers to a locomotive with a jointed frame that is flexible in at least one direction.