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Is Block Wiring a Good Idea when Running DCC?

Ben has OO and asks readers:

“I heard block wiring is not necessary for DCC, whereas with DC it was essential. Although that makes sense, surely on DCC it would still be sensible to isolate electrical problems by isolating one block at a time?

I know people use multiple drops with DCC as a way of evenly distributing power and increasing reliability. So maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree? Feedback appreciated.”

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What’s the effect of power routing on decoders?

Online train club member Colin models N scale and asks:

“I am using NCE DCC Power Pro and my question relates to the problems I am having with installing Switch-Cats on my layout. I am wondering if the power routing affects the accessory decoders? I am unable to get the turnouts to work.”

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Hard To Find Loco…If It Exists?

This website doesn’t do Buy/Sell/Swap, however Tom more interested in information on a specific HO loco that he thinks he has seen as some time:

“I am looking for a particular model engine that may or may not have been made by someone. The original engine is a Lima 51-ton Consolidation-type 2-8-0 purchased in 1905 by the Cranberry Lake Railroad [a/k/a Rich Lumber Co.] in Wanakena, NY . The build number is 1015.

I realize that it is a longshot to have that exact locomotive modeled by someone. If there is, SUPER! If not, would you know of something close that I could modify?”

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1960’s – 1970’s Diesel Engine. Which Model and Manufacturer

Club member Daniel has this question for readers:

“I would like some suggestions to help me select my next locomotive to run on my 1960’s – 1970’s DCC HO layout. Any suggestions on the best manufacturer or model? I understand this is a very wide ranging question, so I’ve thought a bit about what I really want:

  • Price – maybe $150 to $250USD range.
  • Reliable performance needs to be a priority as I would would rather have fewer, better engines that can do the job and won’t cause me headaches.
  • Style of diesel is not so important. It just needs to fit the era of my US railroad.

Any ideas please?”

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Planning a Super Elevation

Club member Lawrence has this question for readers:

“How much should I super-elevate my curves? My plan is to use 1/32 inch thick basswood for my super-elevation at the outer end of the ties. I calculate that at around 3 scale inches in HO scale. Is that sufficient to make it worthwhile, or is it too much? I’m just not sure.”

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Write A Funny Caption For This Photo

funny train photo

Add your funny caption to this photo by using the COMMENTS link. You can also see what others had to say in the COMMENTS section.

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Should I have a Isolated (non-powered) Track?

Brock asks:

“On my HO scale layout should I have a isolated track to store my locomotives?”

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Locomotive Cleaning, Lubricating and Maintenance

Club member Cameron asks this question:

“I have a number of steam and diesel HO scale locomotives of varying quality from different manufacturers. I’d really appreciate some hints on cleaning, lubricating and correct maintenance procedures of engines before I stuff things up. Thanks.”

Add your comments below.

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Scratch Building A Critter… and What is a Critter?

The term “Critter” is one of those not so common model railroading words that confuses many in the hobby.

It is hard to put an exact definition on what a “Critter” is, but generally it could be any self propelled locomotive that runs as a support engine to move other cars around as opposed to being in regular mainline operation. Critters are often reasonably small (3 tons or less) with a small cab, or in some cases no cab at all. Most have a x-4-x wheel arrangement but some in the hobby would argue there are no hard or fast rules on what defines a locomotive as being a “Critter” or not. Some would say a double trucked locomotive of any construction could fit the definition whereas others might disagree. Could a small lightweight piece of MOW equipment that is not considered to be a “locomotive”, but is still capable of pulling cars on a mainline, be a Critter? Would a “Shay” fall under the definition, or would only a small Shay fit the definition? When is a critter, a critter, or not a critter?

Over the years I have heard people define a variety of locomotives as being “Critters” when others might disagree, so it is one of those railroading terms that perhaps we could do without? You might disagree. Anyway, it would be interesting to here what others think, and how you might best define a “Critter.”

critter scratch build

That brings me to a question posted by William who asks others:

“Howdy, this is William and I have been busy with trains again. I have this project…an On30 mechanized bugger. Here is a photo of it that I found on-line. The driver sprocket is covered by a plated cover. I have seen this part and want to purchase one and can’t remember where I saw it. Please help with identification: manufacturer, item#…thanks in advance!”

If you would like to answer the question from William, or give your thoughts on what defines a loco as a “Critter”, then used the COMMENTS link to have your say, or to see what others have to say.

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Distance Between Rail Height and Lighting Above

Wayne posted this question and is hoping for some help from others in the hobby:

“I am building an HO shelf layout. What is the recommended distance from the top of the rail to the valance above where the lighting source will be located? The shelf will be approx. 28″ wide. I am thinking of bringing the valance out 14″ from the wall? Thanks.”

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Auto Forward/Reverse Circuit

Gopal models in N scale and asks:

“Can any of your readers help me? I need Auto forward /reverse circuit, with pause at both ends for my N scale ROCO layout. Does anyone know where I could purchase one online please?”

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Tamper Track Machine Question

tamper track machine model trains

Sam posted this question for readers:

“I recently purchased an n gauge tamping machine Hobbytrain. Does anybody know how to fit a DCC chip into it?”

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Mixing India Ink With Isopropyl Alcohol For Weathering

Koot posted this question:

“The India ink I use for a wash with india inkIsopropyl alcohol separates and black sediment settles at the bottom of the container. On the label it says that the ink can be diluted with distilled water. Why the separation?”

Add your COMMENTS below or post your own question using the ASK A QUESTION link.

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You Can Make the LONGEST Background Building in the World with these Plans for just a few $$!

Download the plans just once and you can print out several copies to make a VERY LONG scale model backdrop building in OO gauge, HO, or N scale. Just extend the backdrop building as far as you want. You can even join the red brick building to the gray brick building (both are the same size) to are variation. Easy to follow construction diagrams included.


long warehouse background structure ho scale

plans backdrop scale models structures model railroads


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Problems Setting DCC Address For Locomotive

Roy has this question for readers:

“I have an HO steam loco with sound and am having a problem setting a long address. I use NCE Power Cab. I reset the address from 3 to a long address of 5063 and it runs well on that address. I turn the layout off but next time I run the loco in question the address has reverted to 3. I have tried to change it several times on the main but after turning the system off it still reverts to 3. Any suggestions to solve this annoying problem? Thanks in advance.”

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How to Make a Sandy Desert Scene

sand australiaDennis from Brisbane in Australia sent in this question for readers:

“I am planning my layout around an Australian theme and thought I would include a Aussie desert scene. Has anyone any ideas for making realistic looking reddish sandy scenery like in the Australian outback. Could I use real sand? If you have any thoughts then please tell me the answer. Ta.”

If you would like to have your question on this blog (10,000 readers weekly), use the ‘Ask A Question’ link below each posting.

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Trains Stopping Intermittently With Peco Switches

Club member Marcus J models N scale and poses this question for readers:

“My Peco switches is causing me problems with trains stopping at times when they seem to short out. I fix it by slightly moving the throwbar on the switch to get the train running. It happens intermittently, so it’s not a constant problem but annoying enough to know I need the problem solved permanently. I’m sure someone out there will know what to do. Thanks in advance.”

Add your COMMENT or view the comments below.

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What’s The Best Couplers For Superliner, AMFLEET and Viewliner Cars?

Buford models HO and posted this question:

“I need to replace all my couplers on my Walthers Superliner and AMFLEET and Viewliner cars. Can someone please recommend the best couplers for these types?”

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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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