Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Turnout Signals

David who models HO asks readers:

“I went to DCC on my train setup. I want to have a signal to let me know when the turnout is not on main track. Can anyone advise me on doing this?”

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What is a Helix Segment Length?

helix calculatorScott asks readers:

“On a helix calculator – what is meant by a segment length?  Is it measured from what point to what point?

There is a free helix calculator tool at here.

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Spot The Difference – 9 Changes to this Fire Scene

Apologies if last weeks spot the difference puzzle was too difficult, but it was in response to a few requests. Maybe I went overboard, however a few still solved the puzzle correctly. Add your answers by using the COMMENTS link below.

This week you can also see the puzzle horizontally (with 9 differences to spot) if that makes it easier to view. Click here.

spot the difference model trains

 

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Problem with Re-assembly of Locomotive

Mark needs help from readers:

“I dis-assembled my Ho AT & SF steam engine to clean. The wheels are connected by two metal strips and the mounting holes are not symmetrical. When operating, the motion of the two bars were an opposing X pattern. I didn’t think to mark them as I never imagined the asymmetry or this problem. I think I tried all of the possible (8) combinations but the wheels lock up every time. Help please.”

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Poll Results: Which of these model railroading technologies have you tried?

335 model railroaders responded to the question: Which of these model railroading technologies have you tried? Obviously multiple answers were allowed:

  • LED Lights (58%)
  • DCC (57%)
  • Downloadable Ebooks (43%)
  • Downloadable Model Buildings (42%)
  • JMRI Software (11%)
  • Arduino Electronics (7%)

Learn about Arduino Electronic on model railroads here.

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Walthers 130′ turntable used with DCC?

Richards questions readers on this:

“I have the older HO Walthers 130′ turntable which is not DCC ready. Do I need to make any modifications to use it on my DCC layout? I am not concerned with the control for the turntable as that can still run off of aux power, but I don’t know if there is common wiring between the motor control for the turntable and the bridge track itself. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!”

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Trestle Kit Question

James has a question he is hoping a reader will help him with. I presume he has contacted the supplier without success otherwise he wouldn’t be asking the question?:

“I have a JV-models HO trestle kit #2014. The instruction say to transfer bent diagram to plywood.  The bent diagram is only 5 1/2″ tall and 3′ WIDE AT BASE. The bents can be built to 18″, is the base 3″ at 18″ hgt or is to be extrapolated out to 18″ which would make them 5 1/2″ wide.”

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Spot The Difference – DCC – Arduino

I keep getting comments from a few that the “spot the Difference” puzzles are too easy. I’ve accepted the challenge and added more complexity to this weeks puzzle. Can you find the 12 differences in these pictures? Post your answers using the ‘COMMENTS’ link below. This will test the brain, eyesight and patience.  Have fun!

To view larger side by side images of this puzzle Click Here

model trains dcc arduino difference

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How To Clean a Locomotive Body

Shaun asks readers:

“At a recent train show I bought a Vintage United Brass 4-8-4 Loco & Tender. I appears to be in reasonable working order but over the years has obviously accumulated plenty of dirt and grime on the shell. I don’t want to damage it trying to clean and restore it. How can I do this WITHOUT damaging the finish?”

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Plastic or Metal Wheels?

James asks this question:

“I want to change some of my rolling stock wheels from plastic to metal. What size 33/36 is the best?”

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Changing Horn Hook Couplers to Knuckle Couplers

Another beginner Larry asks this question:

“I’m relatively new to model railroading and have numerous cars and engines with the horn/hook couplers. I would like to change over to knuckle couplers. The ones I have tried don’t match the height gauge I’m using. They are a little low. Any help is appreciated. “

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Getting Stated in Model Railroading

Steve is starting off in the hobby and would like some words of wisdom from those with plenty of experience in the hobby:

“I am new to model railways having last used one when I was much younger (now 64) …  an RC model aircraft flyer/builder of a number of years who wants to come in out of the cold.

I have an available layout space of 1.7mx0.53m plus a side section of another 2.4mx0.3m. From what I have already read and been advised it would seem that unless I want a basic A-B layout I should really be considering N gauge and not OO ?

I have been reading as much information as I can …. I think I would like to go with DCC system but have no idea which one. A relative has the E-Z one from Graham Farish and he seems quite happy with that. but there seems to be  lot out there. There are a large range of track and  locomotive manufactures out there .. any comments on which to avoid … or go for.

Basically my initial thoughts would be to buy a ‘set’ which has the controller with it (and hopefully instructions) to start me off – I am hoping to only use trains etc that would have been around in my youth i.e. 1955-65 say.

So this is really a call for help and advice on which suppliers of track and trains to go for (and avoid) plus any other pointers you think are important BEFORE I start. Many thanks for reading.”

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Auto Reversing Question

Richards posts this question for readers:

“When using an HO Bachmann EZ Command Control System Digital Automatic Reverse Loop Module 44912 can standard track be used for a non loop run on DCC. Also any way to build in 4 stops with this or any other module?”

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Power To Railroad Yards

Anthony has asks readers this question:

“I want to put side yards on my O gauge set. How do I switch off power too track when train is not to be used?”

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Elevated Switches A Problem?

Daniel models O scale and asks readers:

“Have installed an elevated line using 111 Trestles. I want to add an additional loop using a pair of 022 switches. Has anyone done this? I expect supporting the switch motor would be tough. Any suggestions would be welcomed.”

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Trouble Understanding Curve Radius

Brian asks this question:

“Hi everybody. Hope someone will be able to help. I am 77 years old and disabled I decided that i should have a Hobby so started a train set OO scale,  my board is 11ft X 38 inches.  I am having trouble understanding Radius. I want to have three lines running around can I get away with this what does radius mean.  I  have laid track but feel the curves are to tight for some coaches to go round. Any advice would be Appreciated.”

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Electrical Lighting Question

Gary models HO and asks:

“If I connect a 12v light bulb (GOW or GOR) to a Railpower 1370 powerpack (with 18v of power), is that ok?  Too much voltage for that bulb?”

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Converting Engines To Battery Power For RF

David has this question for readers:

“I had to dismantle my DCC powered HO scale railroad when we moved and am considering RF when I rebuild.  Does anyone have any pro and/or con comments about running on RF?  I’m also told I have to convert my engines to battery power.”

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Help For Beginners

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.

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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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