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Helix Construction

Reader Bob models S scale and asks:

“I have an open helix to a shelf at the moment.  I would like to cover the core of the helix and make it look like the train is climbing a mountain.  The helix has a flat circular top to finish off too.  What would be a couple of methods to accomplish this?”

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How to Identify Train Cars

Kathy asks:

“I have three N scale cars. 2 say 176-290 E8/9-B. The 3rd says 176-292 E8/9-B. All 3 are yellow and say Union Pacific on them. How can I ID these to be sure they are in correct boxes? Thanks again.”

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What the Best Way to Clean Track?

Roy posted this question:

“What is the best way to clean track – a track cleaning wagon, a rubber, or white spirit please?”

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Problems Laying Flexi Trax

HO hobbyist Andrew asks readers this:

“I am having problems laying the flexi track especially curving it… and using the flexible track underlay. How do I lay the flexi track on the underlay on corners?”

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Building a Scale Model Dam and Power House

David is hoping someone can help with this:

“I am working on building a 1970’s HO Badger paper mill on the Peshtigo river. This particular project includes a dam, gate control house and a hydroelectric plant besides the papermill. I am looking for a source of plans with measurements for a dam. Can be any scale, All my photos have zero info regarding the measurements. From what I can determine from the state’s highway department that the bridge crossing the river a little-ways away is 500 feet long. There are no pictures, that I can locate, of the dam itself. There are snippets of the gate house and powerhouse, but none of the actual dam with the gates or mechanisms. Reference sites would be helpful.”

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Problems Lionel Fast Track on Christmas Layout

Wes sent in this question for readers:

“I’m having an issue with my Christmas lay out. My O gauge Lionel fast tack loses power in one spot. I did a voltage drop test but there is conductance. I have 2 power wires hooked to a MTH Z1000. It will only run at half throttle or higher. But if you have fast track you know how loud that can be. I think I may add 7 more power wires to help with this. I tried the bending the prongs and that did nothing. It’s only 7×7 layout. Besides the additional power wires and maybe taking the track off and  insulting the track. Any other ideas?”

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Fixing a Digitrax Problem

Billy asks readers:

“I just replaced my Bachmann EZ command system with a radio equipped 8amp system from Digitrax.  My many HO engines ran fine on the ez command system, but I couldn’t run many at a time.  I bought the Digitrax system so I could.  But the only engine I can get to run properly is my sound equipped Proto 2000 SD-40-2.  All others either don’t run or run erratically and a lot of functions don’t work.  Anyone ran into this before?  I am new to Digitrax and would like any ideas.”

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Make Your Own Scale Model Old Wild West Town or Mining Town

13 Wild West Plans

7 Mining Town Plans

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Running Locos on Bluetooth

Paul has HO and posts this question”

“A few years ago, I saw a video of a beginners HO set with a Bluetooth loco that could be controlled by any phone or tablet.  It ran on standard DC rails and they said it could do anything DCC can do.  The video said you could run several different locos from the same “controller.”  I called my local hobby shop and they never heard of it.  Has anyone else heard of, or used something like this?”

Learn about using micro controls for your model railroad

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MTH Real Track 0 54 Isssues

Alan has O gauge and posts this question to readers:

“Have been setting up two tracks under the tree for 18 years, outer loop 072 curves for premier engines and o54 with switches for inner loop. For the life of me, cannot get the O54 loop to match up with even numbers of curves and straights. Feel retarded.”

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What does “Elektrolok E-lok” mean?

NRC has this question for readers:

“What does Elekrolok E-lok mean? I see this all the time from European sellers.”

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Converting Pantograph Powered Locomotive To Rail Power

Noel has this question for readers:

“Can, and if so, how easy is it to convert a locomotive from power from the pantograph to power from the rails – DC?”

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15 Inch Track Curves

Jim models HO and asks:

“I have a curve in my main line that is only 15 inches so are there any passenger cars that can handle that? And if so where can I buy them?”

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Helpful Tools for Planning Your Perfect Layout

One of the keys to success in creating your perfect layout  –  the one you always dreamed of owning, is knowing exactly what you want… or more importantly, what aspects of the hobby give you the most pleasure.

Is it building magnificently realistic scenery, planning and laying track, or managing realistic train operations? Given the choice; would you prefer more yard switching, or mainline operations? There is no right or wrong answer  –  we all look for different things.

For most layouts you can’t really treat each of the above in isolation. To a certain extent they interrelate, and the emphasis you place on one aspect of your layout will potentially affect what happens to another aspect of your layout.

It is a case of knowing what YOU want, and what YOU enjoy most, and then deciding the “Relative Emphasis” you’ll place on each aspect of your railroad.  After all most of us have limited space available, so prioritizing each aspect of the layout is a necessary part of the hobby.

For example; if you like a lot of track work, then you might need to limit the space allocated to scenic features like rolling farmland, or maybe a harbor scene, or mountain range.

Here’s where these two sliding cursor drawings will come in handy to help define and clarify your ideas.

How to Use These Charts to Create a Better Layout

Lomodel railroad chartoking at the first drawing (the blue one), imagine you could move the cursor to the left or right. Moving the cursor to the left would place more emphasis on having more scenic realism on your layout; and moving the cursor to the right towards the track / operation end will potentially be at the detriment of scenic realism. On your perfect layout, where would you place the imaginary cursor  –  at number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or maybe at number 10?

model railroad question

Similarly, on the orange drawing, imagine you could move the cursor to the left meaning your ideal layout would include more switching operations; or you could move the cursor to the right indicating you would prefer more mainline running. The imaginary sliding cursor won’t actually move, but it will help you get your operating balance right.

model trains chartThis is a great exercise to help clarify the mind, and decide which direction you want your layout to take.

model train poll

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When To Use Magnetic Couplers?

HO fan Andy asks for comments:

“I am installing eastbound and westbound track for building trains in my yard.  I intend too have magnetic uncouplers at each end of the two tracks.  Should I do so and should I have an uncoupler in the middle of the track for the convenience of those building a train?”

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What Do Locomotive Numbers Stand For?

Donald wants advice from readers;

“I’m looking for a new HO Bachmann steam locomotive engine and I ran across engines with these number 2-8-2, 2-8-4 or 2-6-0. Could someone tell me what these numbers mean. Thank you.”

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Will a Loco with Digital Installed Run on Regular Analog DC Track?

NRC asks readers:

“Will a loco with digital installed run on regular analog DC track?”

Add your answer using the COMMENTS link below.

If you have a question you would like to be considered for publication, please send it to the Blog Moderator using the “ASK A QUESTION” link below any post on this blog.

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Choosing the Right DCC Decoder

Vernon seeks advice from readers:

“I have some older HO engines and would like to convert them to DCC. How do I find the right decoder for my engines?”

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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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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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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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