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Do you enjoy prototypical operations on your model railroad?

The results of our latest reader poll are (in my opinion) somewhat surprising with 56% not really interested in applying prototypical operations on their layout. I thought that figure would have been lower, so it seems I was wrong in my assumption.

429 readers voted in our recent poll which asked “Do you enjoy prototypical operations on your model railroad? (with switchlists, waybills, regulations, timetables etc.)”

Results are as follows:

–> NO – that’s not really me (56%, 242 Votes)
–> YES – sometimes I do (15%, 63 Votes)
–> YES – definitely (10%, 45 Votes)
–> YES – most of the time (7%, 28 Votes)
–> I haven’t got a layout yet (12%, 51 Votes)

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Planning Your Dream Layout From Start To Finish

There are plenty of things to consider when planning and building a model railroad layout and it pays to take your time considering the numerous options and possibilities before getting too advanced with your project. In fact it’s usually best to begin with the end in mind by visualizing what you want your finished layout to be like before you get started with anything.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be flexible throughout the construction process… you should! After all, you might discover a better way of doing things, or think of a great addition that could make your layout even better. You might even decide to eliminate a facet of your layout that isn’t really contributing to the overall design or operation.

I liken the planning and building of a layout to a long railroad journey. You start at Station A with the intention of arriving at your destination Station B (which represents the ultimate layout you dreamed of having).

planning a layout

Now along the way you can take different routes, or pause on a siding for a while, but the end goal should always be to get to Station B.

If on your journey you get diverted and decide to head in a different direction, then that’s okay as long as you eventually end up at Station B (your ultimate layout). What you don’t want to do is suddenly head in a different direction and never actually reach your ultimate goal (Station B).

If you want time out from your project then pause your journey on a siding for as long as you need, before recommencing your journey to Station B.

If you do decide to take a completely different route such as changing scales, then that’s okay (because it’s your layout and you get to decide), but you will need to accept you’ll likely arrive at a different destination (Station C). So, don’t be disappointed if you never actually get to where you originally intended. You might be happy with a different destination, because your ideas and goals may have completely changed. The decisions you make are entirely over to you. You’ll eventually end up somewhere, and as long as you enjoyed the journey, well that’s what really matters.

Planning and building a layout will require compromises along the way, so it’s not a bad idea to write down and prioritize what you really want (and what you could do without). Ruling up three columns on a sheet of paper like this is a good idea.

layout planning

So many things can influence how a layout looks and operates. That’s why it makes sense to draw up a list of things to consider such as: benchwork designs, control systems, operating schemes, and scenic features. Include any other special wants, likes, dislikes, or desires such as “must be child-friendly,” “plenty of tunnels,” “lots of switching.” These are all worthy goals to consider at the planning stage.

I guess what I am saying is this:

–> Building a layout requires careful planning from start to finish

–> Begin with the end in mind

–> Although you will need a disciplined approach to keep on track, you may need to compromise on some ideas in order to get where you want to go. Time, budget, space, and your skill levels will affect what can be achieved.

–> Apply some flexibility to adapt and improve along the way. Be prepared to take different routes if necessary to get you to the same destination. There will be many options available, and multiple ways to get you where you want to go. You might not be able to alter the key elements of your layout plan, but that shouldn’t stop you from being creative in the way you work within the constraints you have. You may need to frequently revisit your list of priorities as you proceed along the journey.

–> If you want to throw the rule book out the window then that’s your choice. It’s your layout so do what you want to do.

–> Most importantly…. have fun along the journey!

Click here for more ideas on planning your dream layout.

Tell readers all about your layout here. Send in one good photo with a caption so readers can see what you created.

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Joe’s HO Layout

Joe sent in this photo of a Sunday Concert taking place on his HO layout.

figures on model railroad

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Model figures Add Life To A Scene

model railroad figures

Model figures of people and animals can be used to give a realistic look when designing a railroad system. A layout doesn’t usually look complete until figures are added. My opinion is you can never have too many people on a model railroad layout. You can have people positioned on station platforms, working on farms, walking the streets, coming out of shops, working alongside the track… and not forgetting, driving vehicles. After all, a vehicle driving down a road without a driver looks a bit strange, and sometimes it is the little details (or lack of them) that can be the difference between a realistic looking railroad scene and one that just looks like an artificial model.

Figures are available in many types and forms. They can be made out of plastic and sometimes wood. Some of them are painted in a factory, some are hand painted and some are just unpainted so that you can choose your own colors. The passengers, ticket man, traffic controller, driver, guards and all others are available from various model railroad suppliers at reasonable prices.

The figures are manufactured according to common scales such as HO scale (1:87). Some companies also sell figures in non-standardized ratios.

model railway people

Click Here For More Scenery Ideas

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Try the New ZOOM Tool

Try the new ZOOM tool to have a close-up view of these photo realistic model railroad buildings.

 

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Waybill Systems

The purpmodel railroad platformose of any railroad (real or model) is to transport freight and/or passengers efficiently from one place to another be it a port, railway station, or a rail yard where the freight can be delivered directly to a local industry.

There are various car forwarding systems available for railroad modelers to use, ranging from simple colored tabs attached to the cars through to to electronic waybill systems. There are advantages and disadvantages for each system and much depends on personal preferences. Some systems will allow for a “random flow” of cars whereas other systems work to maintain a “disciplined flow” of a specified car numbers in or out of particular zones as a way of balancing the traffic.

The system you use is really over to you, so it is best to choose the system that best meets suits your railroad or your own preferences based on what interests you most.

A waybill and car card system is very easy to set up. The basic steps are as follows:

–> Start by making a complete inventory of all your rolling stock
–> Print the car cards
–> Draw up a chart listing the various interchanges and industries
–> Decide the capacity of your layout and the best way of balancing the rolling stock
–> Print your waybills
–> Set up the car cards and waybills
–> Get the system working and start operations

Try and create a system with records you can keep and maintain through the time you have your layout. This is because when you buy new rolling stock, or alter the layout track work, it will potentially affect the dynamics of the system you have in place. Record any deletions, additions, or changes and change your waybills accordingly to ensure the system continues to operate efficiently.

A simple computer spreadsheet is suitable for listing the details. If you don’t have a computer spreadsheet you can draw up some tables on paper and keep them in a ringbinder. Keep accurate records and a system you can continue to use in years to come.

You can record the road name, road number and initial, the car type and description, along with any additional information such as the manufacturer, the cost etc.

If you prefer to use a more automated system, there are switch list systems that generate lists of freight and passenger cars to switch to allow you to achieve realistic train operations.

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Model Train Collection

Manfred sent in this photo of his layout to share:

model train collection

I have a Marklin layout 4 feet by 8 feet. Most of it dates back to the 1950′s ,but I have engines from the 1930′s . They run on AC on a three rail system as I grew up with it.  I also have a large Lionel O collection – old and new. My oldest train is a Bowman live steam from 1902. It runs perfectly on a straight track. This winter was a perfect winter to operate the trains and I find it a fun hobby.

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If you would like to have a photo of your layout published, then please write a short article telling readers about your layout. Use the form at http://www.model-train-layouts.net/Submit-An-Article.html

 

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Tips for a Successful Mainline Operation

Tony W sent in his ideas on operations:

It is easy to spend days or weeks designing a railroad layout, but the key is not to just get carried away with planning the scenery. From my experience successful operation is critical if the railroad is to function effectively. A few tips for managing operations and meeting scheduled target are given below.

–> Locate your stations close to the passengers and storage places, which will be using the service.

–> Link adjoining stations through straight tracks. This minimizes the running time.

–> Use simple siding if the train has to load and unload cargo.

–> Use fiddle yards to store trains, which are not being used for the time being.

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Laying the Rail Road Track

Club member Larry sent in this tip:

Laying the track is one of the most important aspects of building a railroad model. Design the entire track on paper first. Once done, loosely place the sectional and curved pieces to get the whole idea of the layout. Do not join any pieces at this point. For curved tracks, choose a radius that is bigger than the size of the train.

You can now proceed with joining the track. Start at one end and work on small sections at a time. Fasten the track down. Soldering is a good option to finish off the track because it prevents derailments.

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Frankford Subway Elevated Line – South Eastern Pennsylvania

Frankford Subway Elevated line of the South Eastern Pennsylvania

This photo kindly supplied by Fred was taken in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Fred says, “It the Market -Frankford Subway Elevated line of the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) aka The Blue Line. This line’s track Gauge is 5 ft 2 1/4 Inc Gauge. Its aka is Keystone Gauge. The line is not far from where I used to live back in the day when parts of this line was captured in the Movie “Rocky” Sylvester (The Italian Stallion) Stallone.”

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Advantages of Using Nickel-Silver Tracks

nickel silver track

Supplied by club member Warren:

Nickel – Silver is a composition of copper and nickel, with copper being the dominant metal. It is similar to brass but has added advantages. When brass oxidizes, a layer called rust is formed. Rust does not allow electrical conductivity. Consequently, if brass tracks are used, trains may not run smoothly. Regular cleaning and removing of rust is essential.

Nickel-Silver tracks also oxidize after a time. The difference is that nickel silver track has a higher current flow resistance than does brass track. This can necessitate more wiring to adequately feed the track.

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Hopper Cars Add Character To A Layout

model train hoppers

Hopper cars are cargo trains, which are used to transport materials like coal, ore and crops. Hopper cars are distinguished from other freight trains because they are automated. An opening at the bottom allows them to load and unload cargo easily. The opening trap door is angled and uses gravitational force to deposit goods. No extra mechanisms are required for the purpose.

Hopper cars are classified into two broad categories; open car and closed car. Open cars are used when the weather does not have an adverse effect on consignments such as coal. Closed cars are used when goods need protection from rain and water such as sugar.

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Fred Shares His Loco Photos

diesel locomotive

Fred sent in these photos to share and says:

“I have been a rail enthusiast or train spotter as you guys call us since my draft bait days or as you refer to it as National service in my travels I served in Vietnam and Germany I now reside in The Orlando Florida area I used to live in Philadelphia PA. If you ever visit Philly Bring a lot of memory cards or plenty of film or both I have been doing 35 mm photography since my active duty days Color Slides for the most part a lot of my been there and done that’s are Boston Atlanta Ga, & Savannah Ga. Plant City Florida Steamtown USA in Scranton PA. Black River & Western IN Ringoes N.J. Atlantic City N.J and San Diego  I really want to share some of my back in the day stuff I hope you guys like these These are at Frankford Junction in Philly I used to live a 10 minute drive 20 minute walk from his location I hope you guys like these.”

locomotive

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Weighting Rolling Stock

Shaun asks readers:

“I operate N scale trains. Is the weighting scale 1/2 ounce and then 1/4 per inch?”

And Shaun also wants to know where he can purchase American bogies or wheel sets.

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5 Questions From Readers

Although a couple of these questions provide few details, hopefully a reader might be able to assist.

1. John asks readers:

OO Scale Tender Keeps On Spining

Why does my tender keep on spining? It is tender driven and sometimes it runs okay, then it stops then spins like mad. Is it the cogs? It’s brand new. Any ideas?

2. James asks:

HO Bachmann DCC Control

“I turn on the power and I get blinking red lights, but the engine will not run. I checked my wiring and can’t locate a problem. What would be the cause?”

3. Bernie asks readers:

L-Girder Tables – N Scale

“Does somebody out there know where I can get a diagram of how to cut a 4×8 3/8 plywood to make a table as well as directions on how to assemble and a part list of bolts nuts washers screws glue height adjusters?”

4. Denny asks readers:

Airport Ideas

“I want to add a local airport to my HO layout. Where can I buy 1:100 scale single engine aircraft?”

5. Jean asks readers:

Derailment at Point on Curve

I have a point at the beginning of a curve and the OO engine derails at this point every time – any suggestions – unfortunately I have had the pints wired up and are fixtures. Help please?”

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Tips to Avoid Model Train Derailments

Derailments are frequent and very annoying when you are trying to build a perfect railroad track. Here are a few tips to avoid them.

model train derailment

–> The joints must be well aligned and the gap between them must be kept to a minimum. The track should be smooth when you rub a finger over it.

–> Solder your sectional pieces in the end so that they remain fixed at one position.

–> The track gauge should neither be tight nor wide. If the track gauge is too tight the wheels could ride up and cause a derailment. If it is too wide the wheel flanges won’t span the track correctly, potentially causing a derailment. Heating the rail with a soldering iron can allow for the rail to be adjusted into position.

–> Make sure the switch points don’t grab the wheels. This sometimes happens with new switch points. A file can be used to carefully smooth the points (moveable parts) to achieve a smooth transition. Inspect the rail gauge when in each position.

–> The wheels must move freely and contact the rails evenly.

–> Ensure couplers don’t snag and are properly centered.

–> Check the length of your longest car if you are making an S-shaped track. It needs to be able to enter and exit the S curve without derailing.

–> Add additional weight to cars if they are too light. Aim for a low center of gravity with the weight in the towards the centre of the cars.

–> Lubricate frequently. If wheel sets are incorrectly aligned, out of gauge, or not rotating freely, they could cause a derailment. However, use oil sparingly as it does attract dust.

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Model Railroading – Then and Now (infographic)

model railroading infographicIf you have never heard the term “infographic” it basically refers to information that is presented as a graphic. Infographics are an easy and interesting way to learn new things.

Here is an example of an fascinating infographic about the changes in Model Railroading through the years. It shows the trends and how the hobby is developing. It makes for interesting reading and is well worth sharing with friends.

Click here to view the infographic full size.

Also, if you have a website, facebook page, or blog you can publish the full size infographic provided it is not altered in any way. Details are on the webpage when you click the link above.

Enjoy!

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Rewiring Locomotives

Brent from the UK sent in this tip:

I have a roll of magnet wire I use for rewiring locomotives and on rolling stock. This type of wire is normally used in the coils for twin solenoid switch machines and in motors. You will need to scrape away the enamel coating prior to using it. I find that small flexible wires are best on rolling stock.

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