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Upper Level Track Clearance And Gradient

Shane models HO and asks readers:

“I want to run a double track to a proposed new upper level on my 4×9 setup and want to know how high to make it above the lower level. I don’t want the gradient too steep but still want enough clearance for access and for trains to run under the top level. Sorry if that sounds confusing.”

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Making the most of space on your model railroad layout

Plans for making backdrop structures.

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Changing Snap-In Rapido Couplers to Knuckle Couplers

Graeme operates N scale and his question to readers is:

“Hi guys i recently bought a few Fleischmann carriages with snap in Rapido couplers, I would like to change them to snap in knuckle couplers. I found some but don’t really want to pay $100 for 5 couplers that includes post from England to Australia, I think that’s a bit over the top. Any ideas?”

If you would like to ask a question on this blog (10,000 readers weekly), send it to the Blog Moderator for consideration here.

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Grade Crossing Signals

Bill models HO scale and has this question for readers:

“I would like to place a micro Denver or switch to turn my grade crossing signals, but don’t now what to use, how to do it, or where to buy needed items.”

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Loco Made Using a Stanton Drive 4 Wheel Truck and Dummy

Stanton drive model railwaysReader Robert models HO and asks this question:

“I have made a loco using a Stanton drive 4 wheel truck and dummy. It runs OK on the flat or running up grade, when descending grades it runs with a very jerky motion. Any suggestions on how to remedy the problem?”

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Railroad Crossword Puzzle #2

This is the second railroading crossword puzzle in our new series. You can download and print out the clues and download a bigger PDF version here. On that page click on the Puzzle #2 link where there is also a link to download the answers if you get stumped.

railroad crossword puzzlePrint out the PDF (see link above) to print out the puzzle and answers, or you can post your answers using the COMMENTS link below this post.

ALSO, it would be great to get some feedback on the idea of including the occasional Word Search or Crossword puzzle on the blog (relating to railroading). If you think it is a crazy idea say so. If you would like to see more crossword puzzles – post your feedback using the COMMENTS link below. And, if you have any other bright suggestions, you can post those too.

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Positioning High Buildings Against Your Background Scene

Download the plans for these tall backdrop model buildings here

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Powering LED Lights for Passenger Coaches

Schalk models N scale and asks readers:

“I want to install LED lights in my N Scale (DC) passenger coaches (Atlas, Bachmann, Model Power, etc.) without using power from the tracks. I want the lights to remain on when a train is stationary (waiting for signals, standing in a station). Is there an easy way to install LED’s with their own power source in passenger cars, and most importantly how can they be switched off? Thanks.”

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Using Crushed Limestone Parking Lots and Roadways

Richard sent in this question for readers to comment on:

“I have been using ‘Chicken Grit’ to form side roads and parking areas around grain mills, and other rural buildings. The ‘grit’ is usually mixed with chicken feed since they need a form of ‘grit’ to aid digestion. Grit can be granite, sea shells, etc that is ground, however I have been unable to find small enough grit (HO size) in familiar yellow/brown colors of crushed limestone used here in upper Midwest of USA. Thus I have had to airbrush the grit to the proper color and then when dry (had to spread to paint) then collect and spread on a base of white glue and water to allow it to adhere to the sub-base of lot or roadway. Just wondering if/what others might use to obtain similar lot and road cover in the light yellow/tan color. Most grit is a bit too large and sand seems a bit to fine. Thanks for any comments of suggestions.”

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How’s this for Switching Operations? Amazing!! Monorail in Osaka, Japan

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How Did You Get Started In Model Railroading?

In the 6 April Posting we asked “What Do You Like Most About The Hobby?” and got some great feedback from readers.

This week the question is “How did you get started in the hobby?” Feel free to share your story using the COMMENTS link below. I’m sure others would like to hear what got you started with model trains. Submit your comments to the Blog Moderator using the link below.

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Atlas #205 Connector Wired to Railpower 1370 Powerpack

Gary models HO and asks readers:

“I have an Atlas #205 connector wired to a Railpower 1370 powerpack to control my lights and accessories. Would there be any problem if I connected a 12-position Miniatronics Power Distribution Block to one of the 3 switches on the 205 connector, and then connected the lights and accessories to the PDB? In other words, would it be too much on one circuit if 12 lights/accessories are on that one circuit? I have a lot of wires under my layout and I’m trying to simplify things. Thanks!”

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Returning To Hobby After 40 Years

Steve wants readers ideas for a new HO layout:

“I am getting back into model trains after 40 years (O gauge) before. I have a space in basement for an HO layout that is 12′ by 9′ by 5′. There two doors almost side by side in left corner of room plus electrical panel opposite hall way door. I am stumped an hot to make my layout and still be able to have grandchildren enjoy hobby with me. Any help will be greatly appreciated.”

Add your comment or suggestions below.

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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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Clever Tips & Techniques

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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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Scenery Techniques

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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...

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.

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.

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Scenery & Layout Ideas

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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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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!

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