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How Wide Should I Make The Station Platform Clearance?

Larry has an HO layout and asks readers:

“I have just made a passenger train station (got the plans from this site) and I’m really happy with it. My question relates to positioning the train platform close enough to look authentic (I don’t want my passengers leaping across a gap to safely board the train), but far enough away so the cars don’t hit the platform. What is the correct clearance?”

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Sileby Model Railway Exhibition Photos

Sam H sent in these photos to share from the Sileby Model Railway Exhibition in the UK (between Loughborough and Leicester).Sileby Model Railway Exhibition 1.Sileby Model Railway Exhibition6

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Submit A Question Or Answer A Question

If you have a question to ask others in the hobby, or if you want to answer or comment on a question, or if you want to publish a photo/description of your layout… then this is the place to do it.  The Model Train Help Blog is read by around 10,000 railroaders each week.

train platformTo Ask a Question simply use the “Ask a Question” link found under any posting. There is also a link to “Submit Your Question” in the right hand column.

To answer a question click on the title of the posting and you’ll be redirected to a page where you can add your comment or answer. Or, you can simply click the COMMENTS link under any posting. By doing that you can see what others have to say.

To add a photo/description of your layout, or add a tip for others, use the “Submit Your Article” link in the right hand column.

PLEASE NOTE: All questions and comments get submitted to the Blog Moderator for approval prior to publication. Please spell check and proof read what you write before submission, as only the best comments, questions and answers will be published. We get a lot of questions and comments that don’t make sense so aren’t published. Poorly thought-through questions lacking in specific details run the risk of not being published or answered.

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Solving DCC Programming Problems

Barry poses this question for readers:

“I am having an issue with trying to program HO locos on my DCC system. I am using a Hornby ‘Select’ controller. I understand that cleaning of track and locomotive wheels is very important to ensure a signal can get through to control unit. I have cleaned the track with a cleaning rubber block and wiped the wheels using a cotton bud with a medical alcohol base. What else should I be checking, cleaning or other actions to the message through?”

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What’s Best – DC or DCC?

John asks readers about DC or DCC:

“I think I posted a while back. I am getting into model railroading (My age 60 plus years) after being out from my childhood. I have bought some DCC on board locomotives on EBay. I get mixed opinions from the only hobby shop in this area. Some say go with DC only as it is much simpler, others say go with DCC. Need opinions since I am getting back into this hobby. Am looking at setting up a 4ft x 8ft with 3 different locomotives. Thanks for any input/advice.

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Adhesives and a Parts Lists for Old Locos

A couple of quick very basic questions for readers:

Dave asks  –  “What glue holds track to an HO atlas bridge?”

Craig doesn’t specify brands or model numbers in his question –  “Can anyone tell me how I can get replacement parts lists for older HO locos that I’m trying to get back together?”

Dave and Craig you might like to add more details using the COMMENTS link below, as this might help readers suggest solution.

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Railroad Crossword #1

Following a suggestion from club member Phil, here’s something new for blog readers.

Our first railroading crossword puzzle. You can download and print out the clues and a bigger PDF version here. There is also a link to get the answers if you get stumped.

Railroad Puzzle1-unsolved

railroad crossword clues1

You are welcome to add your answers using the COMMENTS link below this post.

ALSO, it would be good to get feedback on the idea of including the occasional Crossword or Word Search puzzle on the blog (relating to railroading). If you think it is a stupid idea say so. If you would like to see more – post your feedback using the COMMENTS link below.

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Wall Weathering

Andrew sent in this photo he shot at the Pontefract Model Railway Exhibition in the UK. He was very impressed with the moss and weathering of the wall.

wall weathering scale models railways

Plans for walls to make yourself

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Simple DIY Ideas

Delru sent in these ideas to share:

“I would like to let folks know how easy it is to add many ‘accessories’ to your table without the train store pricing.  For example, we wanted 6 spotlights to highlight various fair rides. Train store cost? $78.  We took some small bells, clipped out the ringer, spray painted them flat black, and ran an LED light thru them.  Set them upside down (wide bell facing up). Cost? $2.99 for a pack of 24. Just want to encourage people to think outside the box. Now looking for O scale swans to use as rides on an HO Tunnel of Love.  Trains are expensive, but your layout accessories don’t have to be.”

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Making a Base for Pouring Realistic Water

Ernie models HO scale and asks readers:

“What’s the best way to use Realistic Water?  I’ve tested it by pouring a small amount on course and fine styrofoam and even acrylic painted the bottom and it ate right through it. I tried a thin layer of plaster but that didn’t work either.”

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Amazing Dioramas Instead of A Model Railroad

Gary from Alberta in Canada sent in these photos to share:

model railroad dioramasI’m not planning to build a large train layout, as I would prefer to build very detailed dioramas instead, mainly because I model in several different gauges…HO, Hon3, Hon30, On30 and G scale. Attached are some photos of some dioramas I’ve completed in HO and Hon30 scale.  One of the photos shows a very small diorama on a black turntable. The size of the model is 4″ x 6″ (10.16cm x 15.24cm) and is in Hon30 scale.  It was a challenge to the members of our club to build a scene on a block of wood that size.

dioramas for model trainsI also built an HO scale diorama that had nothing to do with model trains.  It was of a turn-of-the-century house that was constructed to fit into an enclosed case.  It was built as a wedding present for my granddaughter, who lives in Melbourne, Australia.  My wife and flew down there for the wedding in November and had to hand carry the diorama from Calgary, to Melbourne, via Los Angeles.  I had to wrap it to fully protect it, and still be able to open it up for security and customs checks. Thankfully, I was able to get it to the wedding in one piece.

Gary – I couldn’t open the file you sent with captions, so perhaps you could add some comments using the COMMENTS link under this posting.

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Connecting Turnout Signals

David asks readers:

“I’m trying to hook up HO turnout signals with atlas #200 snap relay and Tomar two light vertical signal. Is there difference way from D.C. to Dcc?”

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Would you like to see more “Funny Caption” posts like this one?

That’s the question we asked in the recent poll and over 90% selected “Absolutely – it’s great to read so many clever captions from readers.” There were also nearly 100 funny captions submitted by readers, so I do my best to find some more to include on the blog. Here’s 4 that made the grade (sorry about the pun!).

steam trains captionYou can see more of the captions submitted by readers under the earlier post.

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Problem With Track Expansion

Andrew asks readers:

“I have a 6×4 foot, HO scale, DC layout with 3 separate tracks. Throughout the hot summer my tracks have expanded under the heat and are taking a while to contract back to the right position. Is there anyone out there who can suggest a way to stop this from happening all together or at least not as severe? “

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Turnout Power Supply

Tom asks readers:

“I’m new to the hobby and I just set up my first HO layout. I’m ready to wire it. I have ten Atlas Snap Switches that need power. Atlas recommends an AC power supply that puts out 15 -16 VAC @ 2 – 3 amps. Such a supply seems impossible to find. I’ve seen many people recommend an old computer supply, cellphone charger, etc. . . . but these all put out a DC current. Is there any reason I can’t use DC on the Atlas Snap Switches? (I have two old computer supplies, one puts out 32V @ 3.5 amps, the other 20V @ 11 amps.) Will either of these work without burning out the Snap Switches?”

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Modifying Atlas 6910 Turntable to S Gauge

Dennis asks readers:

“I want to modify an Atlas 6910 Turntable from O to S.  Has anyone done this modification?”

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Locating HO Scale Engine Wash Racks

Gary asks readers:

“I’m looking for HO scale model engine wash racks used around service terminals for both steam and diesel era. If anyone  can please let me know who might be a manufacturer. Thanks.”

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Old Train Set

Bob asks readers this question:

“My mom just gave me a big box of HO train stuff that I know nothing about. A lot of the cars are dated early 70’s to early 80’s. There is one engine that appears like it was built in the 30’s. I want to set it up for my grandson. It has several engines and lot of track but I don’t see any power supply. What do I need to make it go? Thanks.”

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Free Catalog

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.

Submit Your Article Here

Scenery & Layout Ideas

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