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Atlas Turnout Wiring Problems

Scott models HO scale and has this question for readers:

“I’m venturing back in to model railroading after a 50+ year absence, and I’m stymied with a very basic problem. I’m using Atlas Tru-Track for my layout, which is a simple double oval with DC control. My turnouts are Atlas Tru-Track Remote Snap-switches. The wiring from the switch machine seems to be smaller than 22 AWG (that’s as small as my wire stripper will grip). The amount of stripped wire that comes on the switch is not much more than 1/8″. So far I’ve used up about an inch worth of wire on one of the turnouts trying to connect it to a longer wire running to it’s controller. I need suggestions as to how I can get such a small wire stripped so I can make connections to my controllers.”

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Can You Mix Brands of Track and Turnouts?

Tonif models HO and has this question for readers:

“I’d like to use curved turnouts to save space on my layout. I have Micro engineering flex track but they don’t make curved turnouts. Can I use Atlas or Peco turnouts or will that cause problems? Thanks.”

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Building a Locomotive

For those who have never heard the term ‘Cab Forward’, it basically refers to various rail designs that place the driver’s compartment further forward towards the front than is usual practice.

Peter is building a loco and asks readers:

“Does anyone know where I can purchase a cab for an HO/OO  ‘cab forward loco’ as I am building a cab forward loco depot.”

As I’m sure Peter understands, we don’t do Buy, Sell, Or Swap on this blog, but readers might be know of some online or local stockists who could supply the item.

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Looking for Great Northern Woodside Caboose

Gerry wants help locating a retailer or online stockist:

“We recently received a very nice G read Northern (GN) Mikado Steam engine but can’t seem to locate an era specific Woodside Caboose to go with it. Does anyone know where we could buy one”

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Lights a Problem on Loco

Club member Joel asks readers:

“I have a Bachmann DCC ready engine with new decoder and I can’t get the lights to work. Do you have a suggestion?”

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Layouts in a Loft or Attic

In 2013 The Daily Mail in the UK ran this story “End of the line for model railway fan as housing association demands he dismantle £10,000 train set in attic on health and safety grounds”

Retired builder and father-of-three, Robert Burdock (61 at the time), had been into model railroading for 40 years. His model railway which had been in the same location for 15 years had 70ft of track with 63 locos.

Whether Robert Burdock was right or wrong, it does highlight the importance of safety when constructing layouts in roof cavities. Obviously the weight of the finished project including benchwork, scenic features, rolling stock, structures, electrics, accessories etc. as well as the weight of the engineer and any visitors all needs to be taken into consideration.

Results of a recent poll I ran showed that 5% of layouts were to be located in roofs/attics/lofts. When space is limited in the family home, model railroaders of try and think outside the square when locating layouts. A lot of people decide that a loft is a great ‘out of the way’ place to set up a model train set.

Yeroof truss model railroads, a loft can be a good solution, but be careful and do your homework first. Unless the loft has been properly converted there is a danger that you may overload the ceiling joists (resulting in cracked ceilings in the room below). There could also be the possibility of overloading the entire roof trusses resulting in a collapse… far worse scenario. Always seek professional advice, because some roofs cannot be modified safely to accommodate a load bearing down from “inside” the roof. If in doubt consult an engineer before locating your train set in a loft.

Randall, a reader to this blog also sent in this advice:

1. Consult a structural engineer, not an architect. The architect is about use of space and how humans and buildings interact, but knows very little about structural loads.

2. If you use a loft or “attic”, make sure it’s inside the insulated envelope of the home. If it isn’t, two things can happen:

A. In the summer it can get hot enough to deform plastic parts (shells, couplers, track ties, etc.)

B. In the winter it can get cold. The problem isn’t the cold itself, but what happens when the warm air of spring (or that comes through the trap door) comes up against cold materials: condensation. The water will condense wherever the warmer air can get to, not just on the outside of the model or box. This can happen in unheated garages, as well.

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Hythe Pier Railway Hampshire UK

Hythe Pier RailwayJohn has an unusual question:

“Has anyone completed a model of the historic pier train from Hythe in Hampshire? We are hoping to put together an exhibition to celebrate the engines manufacture in 1917 and would like to borrow a model if possible. Alternatively does anyone have any suggestions as to which kits could be used to form the basis of creating such a static model? Any advice would be much appreciated.”

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What Do You Like Most About The Hobby?

Oakley Green at Wigan Model Railway Show5We’re all in this hobby because we enjoy it, but each of us probably enjoys different aspects of the hobby more than others. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback on what it is that readers most enjoy about model railroading. It will be interesting to see where the common ground is.

Post you thoughts using the COMMENTS link below.

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Using Shredded Cloth on Railroad Scenery

John sent in this request hoping a reader might be able to help:

“I was at the Amherst show several years back and there was a lady selling this scenery material. I believe it was made out of shredded cloth but I am not sure about that. All you had do was mix with water and apply.
It was nice material, if you wanted to re-work an area all you had to do was wet again and you could work it. I am hoping somebody is familiar with this product as I can not remember the name, I have tried searching the web for it but no luck.”

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Wiring? Boosters? Circuit Breakers?

Aaron models HO scale and asks readers this:

“I am currently building a layout about 5 -6 pieces of plywood (standard size) formed in a horse shoe shape.. with a under ground staging yard to park the locomotives.. my question is how would I wire my system up? How many boosters? What about circuit breakers? Etc”

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Search Railroading Words – New Word Search Puzzle

The feedback from the crossword puzzle on the blog a couple of weeks ago has been very encouraging with many requests for more puzzles. Here’s our first Word Search puzzle with some words that model railroaders might use.

If you would like to download the puzzle and print it out you can do so HERE. There is also a link to view or print out the solutions on the same web page.

word search puzzle model railroads 4Find these words:

AIR BRUSH, CAB, DECODER, FREIGHTYARD, JUNCTION, SCALE, SNAP SAW, TANK DOME

AMMETER, CONSOLIDATION, FLEXTRACK, FROG, MARKER, SCHEDULE, STYRENE, TRACTION

BALLAST, CROSSING, FLYWHEEL, HOMASOTE, REEFER, SLIDE, SUBROADBED, TRANSFORMER

BENCHWORK, CROWS NEST, FOREMAN, INTERCHANGE, ROADBED, FENCE, TAMPER

Print out puzzle and answers at http://www.modelbuildings.org/Puzzle-4-word-search.html

If you would like to see more puzzles like this on the blog, please let me know by commenting under this post.

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Fixing Track Turnout Problems

Marshall models N scale and asks readers:

“I have laid ATLAS TURNOUTS and a lot of my rolling stock jump track when they get to the actual switch housing, so I changed to PECO.  Now, my problem is that the power switch extension arm is too far away.  Q) How do I make the extension rod longer?”

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Tender for Lionel M1a 4 8 2 Steam Loco

Tom models O gauge and asks readers:

“I picked up a Lionel Pennsylvania M1a mountain 4-8-2 steam loco at an estate sale last year. It seems to work fine. The problem is it did not come with a tender. I thought no big deal I’ll get one from Lionel. Well they don’t have any. It was made in 2003. I’ve called all kinds of places with no luck. Does anyone know where I can get the correct tetherless tender for it? The tender has all the sound system in it.Hope someone can help!”

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Planning a Small HO layout – Help!

Delford sent in this question to readers:

“I am trying to plan a layout and was planning to start with a 4×8. I would like a few tracks and a tunnel and bridge and some turn outs. I have a NCE controller so want to go DCC. Would anyone give me some ideas? I know there are many experts out there.”

Delford… the same advice I’d give to anyone in the hobby, is to learn as much as you can… and never stop learning. There are plenty of excellent resources available including several featured on this blog including the Beginners Blueprint and this one on DCC http://www.dccmodeltrains.org.

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War Time Scene at the Shoeburyness Model Railway Show

Dennis sent in these photos to share captured at the Shoeburyness Model Railway Show at Essex in the United Kingdom.

Shoeburyness Model Railway Show essex uk Shoeburyness Model Railway Show3 Shoeburyness Model Railway Show4

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Foundation Material for Model Railroad Layout

John asks readers:

“I am seeking Pros & Cons of using solid 2″ insulation for my N scale layout base please?”

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Loco Stopping Erratically

Paul K asks readers:

“My 8 year old Bachmann engine HO goes ok but then stops or stalls. It’s doing my head in because it doesn’t stop in the same spot so its not the track. It will do a couple of circuits then plays up. Not sure what to do.”

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Clever Tips & Techniques

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help hobbyists “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.



Micro control technology can be used for:

Rolling stock and scenic lighting effects, street lamp lighting, lighting up of structures, emergency vehicle flashing lights, replicating a campfire or arc welding, tall structure tower lighting, block occupancy detection, turnout operation, motors/servos, solenoid, infrared, right-of-way signal lighting, current sense, crossing gate & signal operation, semaphores, flashers, turntable control, gate arms, draw/lift bridge control, fast time clock, DCC testing, scenery sound control, wireless controls, and lighting fixture day to night control. Read more...

The good thing is; a micro controller can be programmed to perform one, or just a few, simple tasks over and over again.

N Scale Track Plans

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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).

Submit your model train questions here.

Scenery Techniques

Watch the video now.

Why DCC is so popular

A simple DC (Direct Current) transformer will give you a nice chugging locomotive going one way on your model train track, however, with a DCC unit you can have the flexibility of having an entire train-switching yard happening right in front of your eyes! That is the adaptability that is available with this coming-of-age technology in the hobby!



By using the Digital Command Control, you are opening up a whole new range of possibilities. A continuous electrical current is sent to all of the many things you have installed on your train layout, however, now you have a digital receiver installed in each various items. You can therefore control each and every one of them with the selectable controller and enhance the operation and, more importantly, the look and feel of your system.

The technical side of the DCC is, actually, not as complicated as you might think. In reality, a DCC system is usually easier to wire than a straight DC system.

More dcc ideas...

Deciding the Era and Location

The choice of scenery you decide on all depends on what era and location you are depicting with your layout. You will need to do some good research on the railroad and its surroundings to make sure you get the scenery perfect (if that’s what you want).



If you are depicting a historical train setting or a certain era, you will want to use old photographs to determine how the scenery should be built and laid out. Remember to think through all aspects of the scenery. This is one of the best areas to really showcase your talents, so take your time.

More scenery ideas...

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!

Watch These Club Videos

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

Model Train Help Ebook

Submit Your Article

Would you like to write an article and have it published?

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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Scenery & Layout Ideas

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