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House and Garage Plans To Download

Plans for 8 Houses & 4 Garages – Click Here

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Starting a Layout with 3 Modules

Steve is planning to build that is divided into three modules and would like some words of wisdom from those in the know:

“At long last, I am going to start an HO layout(s). When I was young, my dad wanted to have a layout – he bought a lot of components, but we never got around to it. My kids are grown and grandkids are coming, so I want to do a layout for them. I would like to do the layout in 3 components so that when the time comes, each of the kids can have a layout. The question(s) are how do I start and do you have any suggestions for 1 large layout that can be set up to be split.  I have an area about 12×15 for the layout(s).”

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Altering Train Layout Configuration

Patricia has an N scale layout and asks:

“I have my dad’s train set which I have had since before his death in 2002.  It is on a 3’x8’piece of plywood with mountains and buildings.  The central part of the display is a mining town and this takes most of the display.  On one end is a very small New England town and the other end has a more modern residential area.  The mountains are along the rear 8′ length. My dad was very creative and he made the mountains. The two residential area are slightly elevated over the mining area and have a Styrofoam base. Because of the space the train occupies, I have been trying to think of a way to make the display take less space, possibly by moving the two cities upward to a higher level, but this would entail redesigning the track.  I have never actually worked on a model train set and I have no idea how to proceed. Also, there may be a time in the future when the train has to be moved again and I would like for it to be somewhat more portable.  We had to rent a U-Haul to move it to my house. Any ideas”

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Reverse Loop Switching

Don models N scale and asks:

“Some time ago I saw a circuit which used a double break in each rail, the small isolated piece of rail would then go live when a metal wheel hit it, which would trigger a latching relay to set the correct polarity on the loop track.  It proved almost impossible to cut and solder to that tiny bit of track. Any ideas or do most people use infra-red train sensing? Any other thoughts?  Thanks.”

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How to Install Guard or Check Rails

Andy models HO and asks readers:

“Guard or check rails are parallel rails on the inside of the wheel carrying rails; they help prevent derailments, especially on bridges and in tunnels.  I seldom see them used on model railroads.  Has anyone found an easy way to install them?  In particular, I’m looking for a way to add them to Marklin C track.”

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Is it a Problem with my NCE Powercab or is it a Problem with the Loco Decoder?

Bryant asks readers this question:

“Hi and Thank you in advance. I am using NCE Powercab and attempting to change the volume in my Walthers Proto loco. I am successful at lowering the volume but at the same time changing the volume also changes how my cab works e.g.(the bell button turns on and off the headlights). Would that be a problem with the decoder or would it be a problem in the Powercab? Thank you for any help.”

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Designing an Oval Helix

Chip is hoping a reader might be able to supply some advice:

“I plan on building a helix for my HO layout. However, instead of building it circular, I am going to build it in an oval. Has anyone got a formula or a plan that would help me plan out what I need to do?”

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Scene Master Knuckle Couplers

This blog doesn’t do buy/sell/swap, but someone might know of a supplier or store where this reader can purchase some Scene Master knuckle couplers – “Where can I get Scene master knuckle couplers. They seem to be non-existent.”

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1960’s Train Tracks

Johnny models HO and asks this interesting question:

“Back in the early 1960s I had some track for my HO scale train that consisted of a wooden bed that had sections (app. 3 ft. long) and rails that were one piece (app. 4 ft. long) that you used miniature spikes to install the rails to the bed. I don’t see this being used anymore. Am I remembering something that is of my imagination or has anyone else ever seen this type of track?”

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Software for CNC

Bart who models N scale asks:

“I have access to a CNC machine that will create a 3D model from a topo map in foam for my N scale train. What I need is the software that interfaces with the CNC unit. Any ideas?”

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Can I Run a DCC Engine on DC?

Henry models N Scale and asks readers:

“I just purchased a DCC switcher for my small Switching layout. My layout is DC. When I try to run the engine it is either to fast or stopped. The engine is a Backmann Spectrum with DCC and DC operation. The engine will not move on DC until I have almost full throttle. Is their any way to lower the starting voltage in DC operation so that I can use it as a switcher for a john Allen Timetable game?”

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Creating a Peat Bog Landscape for a Layout

Ed models HO and asks:

“Have peat loco. I want to landscape an area of my layout to a peat bog. Does anyone have any ideas to achieve this scenic look?”

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Buying Experience on E-Bay Model Railroad Products

I’m now retired and have been researching everything needed to build an HO layout in a 12 x 9 space. I’m new to this E-Bay thingy.

1] What to look for when shopping for diesel Locos on E-Bay?

2] Any reputable E-Bay store recommendations that anyone can share w/me & others.

I live in Philly, and am not sure whether I have necessary skills to build a complete layout from start to finish, so need recommendations for reputable layout designer/builders on the east coast.

I have many more questions and appreciate any advice given.

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Free Model Railroading Calculators

5 FREE Calculators – Click Here

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How To Reglaze Passenger Car Windows

Neill asks readers this question:

“I have some Atlas passenger cars I bought off eBay, but most of the original windows are missing so will need reglazing. What’s the best way to tackle this as I want them to look more realistic if possible?”

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How to a Wire K-Line Crossing Gate

Charles asks readers:

“I forgot how to wire my crossing gate. It has two bolts with nuts in front of the gate. K-line made it. Everything I try it only does two things.

1. It goes without a train going pass.
2. It doesn’t go down at all.

I even tried to insulate the track outer rail as well as the center rail. Still did the same two things. I lost the paper on them how to wire them when we moved three years ago. Please can I get some help on wiring the O gauge crossing gates – thank you.”

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Making a Mining Chute and Old Mining Town

7 Plans for a Mining Town

13 Plans for a Wild Western Town

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Resetting Cab, Decoders

Bryant models Ho and asks readers:

“Every few days my NCE cab quits working (the display is still lit but the buttons don’t work except the Prog/escape) so I can reset it. When I reset the cab and decoder it is back to normal. Why do I continue to need to do this so often?”

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Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers



A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help the model railroader “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.

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Club members access helpful new resources each month: diagrams, video tutorials, articles, track plans and more. Watch the tour videos here.

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N Scale Track Plans

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Scenery Techniques Explained

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SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION

Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

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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Scenery & Layout Ideas

Learn About DCC

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Submit Your Article

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Preference will be given to articles that help others progress in the hobby, maybe suggesting an idea for their layout, a quick tip or two... or perhaps a little bit of good advice based on your model railroading experiences.

We are all in this hobby together, so the more we can do to share ideas and help each other, the better.

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It’s YOUR Railroad!

Your rolling stock and locomotives might actually be the center of attention on your layout, but the scenic features that surround and envelop your layout is what's likely to make your train setup stand proud of the rest. Your selection of scenery and structures will add an element of customization that will make your railroad truly unique.



Scenery, structures, and fine detailing is a fundamental aspect of any good model railroad, particularly if it is intended to replicate a true-to-life railroading scene. How realistic or authentic you make your railroad is entirely up to you... and you alone.

Some enthusiasts like to replicate every tiny detail so as to accurately depict, in every aspect, a miniaturized version of a real life scene.

Others in this hobby adopt a more "free-style" approach and choose to mix and match accessories and features they personally prefer. Even though the purist will possibly be unimpressed with unrealistic or out of context elements, it is YOUR railroad layout so you can make it anything you personally want!

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