Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Converting Lionel Engine To DCC

Clayton asks readers:

“I am a newbie… I have a Lionel O scale Engine 16vac system, that I want to change to DCC? Help!”

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Caculating Parts List for Track Plans

Anna asks readers:

“Hi! I am making my first N scale layout from a drawing that I found in an old train magazine. There is only a picture with a graph. The layout is 2′x2.5′ and I was thinking about adding more to make it 3×3. How do I make a shopping list for the tracks and such from just the picture?

Robert comments: Anna, The N Scale Track plans ebook includes 69 plans COMPLETE with parts list. The HO/OO scale ebook has another 18 plans COMPLETE with parts list.


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Johnson Bar Locomotive

Charlie asks readers:

“I stumbled across this phrase ‘Johnson Bar’ in one of my train books could someone please tell me what it is. Thanks a lot.”

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Why do some Trains Hesitate or Stall on Track?

Article contributed by Club Member Andrew Wilkinson

locomotive HO scaleHaving a train that stutters and jerks is a common problem raised by model railroaders (especially beginners in the hobby). Believe me, there’s not a lot of fun in having to prod and push a train along the track. However, these problems are often easily rectified, but first the cause(s) needs to be diagnosed.

Obviously keeping the layout (track) and rolling stock (wheels) clean and free from dust and grime is essential, and is more often than not a factor in poor operation.

Humidity can affect track too. Using a dehumidifier can assist in keeping the room humidity to 50-55% range. A tarnished rough track can be problematic as it is likely to have a highly electrical resistant surface. Apart from reducing engine performance, tarnished track can cause wear on the pickup wheels if they become oxidized or dirty.

How to Fix Rail Joints

The same goes for rail joints, they need to operate efficiently. The connection between the each piece of track could provide enough electrical resistance to cause a train to slowdown or pause momentarily, especially on track that is at the other end of the layout. The solution in this case could include replacing worn (or loose) fish-plates and to electrically connect track pieces together using a track-power booster cable.

Fixing Locomotive Problems

Any number of other faults can result in erratic operation. With consistent use, washers, insulating bushes, and other electrically devices could show signs of wear and no longer be properly insulating the locomotive chassis electrical parts. Damaged or loose drive gears need to be fixed and properly secured to their shafts. Also watch for any wheels that work loose on their axle shaft.

Poor Power Supply Can Cause Trains to Stall or Stop

In a nutshell; model trains rely on the track rails for power. A train will slow down, or even stall, if that connection is inconsistent or broken.

Trains need enough consistent power throughout the course of the journey, whether they are close to the power source or on the other side of the layout. Erratic running could be an indication the trains are not receiving enough power, so you might need to improve the power flow. A drop in voltage can usually be fixed up by including more connections.

A drop in voltage is a likely cause if the train slows or stops just in a certain spot on the track. The distance from the power supply and the track section joints can weaken the power flow. Consider the solutions already mentioned to tighten any loose rail joiners and if needed, run another set of wiring from the power supply directly to the problem section of track. Obviously care needs to be taken to ensure each wire is connected to the correct rail.

With large model layouts, and also with most DCC systems, utilizing a bus wire (with feeders) to multiple track sections is the preferred option. The use of heavier wire (No 14 to No 10 gauge) depending on the scale and run length, is generally more productive than the rails. Smaller (No 20 to No 18) feeder wires can be joined as often as required between the rail and bus. These feeders are often connected at 6 to 12 foot intervals.

Rail joiners can also be soldered. This can definitely reduce the voltage drop, as well as helping to eliminate any rail kinks that could cause a derailment. Leaving a few joiners open will provide some room for expansion and contraction over the course of the year.

I would be interested in hearing other suggestions from readers.

If you would like to submit an article for publication please contact us here.

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POLL RESULTS – Do you ever read the comments, or add a comment, under postings on this blog?

422 readers voted in our last poll which asked: Do you ever read the comments, or add a comment, under postings on this blog?

Results were as follows:

YES – I usually read the comments, but haven’t posted a comment yet (69%)
YES – I usually read the comments, and have also posted a comment(s) (14%)
NO – I’ll leave it for other model railroaders to read or post comments (8%)
NO – but now I know, so will read and/or post comments in the future (5%)
NO – I didn’t know I could read or post comments on this blog (4%)

So, the invitation goes out to everyone to get involved and post your comments. This blog is for everyone in the hobby regardless of the scale you work in, your railroading brand preferences, or whether you prefer DC or DCC.

This blog has the highest readership of any railroading blog on the internet (with thousands of visitors every week), so there will be plenty of other readers who share your particular interests in the hobby.

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Track Selection – Nickel Silver or Steel Track?

JD has a question for readers:

“I like the HO ez track by Bachmann, but I’m not sure what the difference is between steel track and nickel silver track. Any help would be appreciated.”

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How to Make Space For More Track in Rail Yards

With prudent use of available space, a model railroader can sometimes find room to add more track.

The solution can be as simple as replacing large foreground buildings with ‘low relief’ buildings positioned along the background. So, instead of the buildings being somewhere between 4 to 8 inches in depth, the background buildings need only be 1 to 2 inches thick. They will still look like real full-depth buildings, especially with the careful placement of support scenery props like trees, weeds, background sky and hills.

Done well, the scene can give the illusion it stretches far off into the distance, making the layout appear to be considerable larger than it actually is in reality.


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How to Build a Transfer Table

Skip asks readers:

“I would like to build an N scale  transfer table. I would like to know what motors I should use. Just to start somewhere even if it’s just a manual or drawing. It doesn’t need to be DCC.”

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Using Staging Yards For Train Storage

Jim asks readers:

“I am looking for fiddle yards (staging yards) that use cassettes for storage of rolling stock instead of loops, traverser’s and sector plates. Can any one help telling me where to get drawings/plans or the like?”

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Can I Combine Code 80 and Code 55 on the Same Layout?

Warren asks readers:

Can someone please explain the difference between code 80 and code 55 tracks – I’m confused?  And, can I combine both on my layout?

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POLL RESULTS: Will you use the free online model railroad calculators at modelbuildings.org?

Our last poll asked readers: Will you use the free online model railroad calculators at http://www.modelbuildings.org/free-calculator-tools.html?

The results were:

>> YES – they will be handy (77%)

>> NO – I don’t need to calculate anything on my railroad (9%)

>> NO – I prefer doing formulas and math equations (3%)

>> I don’t have a layout yet (11%)

Total Votes – 286

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How to Select The Right DCC Decoder

Len has an HO scale layout and asks readers:

“I am about to convert over from DC to DCC, but I don’t know which decoders to buy for my locomotives. How do I match the loco model with the right decoder and sound system?

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How to Read and Post Comments on this Blog

For those who don’t already know, it is easy to read the comments and answers to questions posted on this blog. It is also easy to add your own comments or answers to questions. You don’t need to register, but to maintain a high standard; ALL COMMENTS ARE VETTED BY THE BLOG MODERATOR PRIOR TO PUBLICATION. This to ensure relevance, and to eliminate the kind of SPAM and ABUSE that is unfortunately so prevalent on the net.

To Read or Add Comments

Just click on the blue wording under any posting to read or add comments. If no one has already posted a comment, the wording will read “CLICK TO ADD A COMMENT”. If comments have already been posted the wording will read “1 comment”, “4 comments”, to indicate how many comments have already been published.

The Blog Moderator receives all comments and will publish them if they are relevant, well thought out, and free from SPAM or ABUSE. This can happen within minutes, or at least within 12 hours (depending on the time zones).

How to Post a Question

There is always a link in the right hand column where readers can post questions for others in the hobby to answer. To be approved for publication by the Blog Moderator, a question needs to be well thought out and provide enough information, so that other readers can provide quality helpful answers. The old saying “Garbage In – Garbage Out” applies. The best questions usually get the best answers! Questions are usually published on the blog within 12-72 hours after approval.

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Radio Control of Trains

Geoffrey asks readers:

“Has anyone had any experience with radio control of a model railway. I was thinking of battery power so as to avoid problems associated with dirty track.”

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How To Fix Train Malfunction

Vince asks readers:

“My O27 locomotive moves along the track in some area’s fine, but then it slows down and stops. Would the problem be the tracks or the transformer? These trains are from the 1950′s and haven’t been used in decades.”

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At Last! Monster-Value Packs of Model Railroad Buildings Released… Save almost 80%!

The feedback on the “photo-realistic” high quality of the downloadable model buildings has been excellent, and many who have never constructed this type of building before have been more than impressed. It’s been very encouraging. Thank you. I lot of intricate detailing has gone into designing each building to achieve the natural aged appearance complete with rust marks, peeling paintwork, moldy concrete etc.

There have also been several requests for bigger pack offers with more buildings at discounted prices, so 3 MONSTER-VALUE packs are available today at http://www.modelbuildings.org/monster-value-pack-save.html

model buildings on sale

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Model Hill Making

Miles asks readers:

“I was wondering if anyone has any tips about model hills that I can have a train go around.”

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Engine Stutters and Derails on Curve

Jeff asks readers:

“My engine is now stuttering and when my loco hits a curve it derails. Tracks are clean. Does someone know what I should do?”

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Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

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