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!

Wiring? Boosters? Circuit Breakers?

Aaron models HO scale and asks readers this:

“I am currently building a layout about 5 -6 pieces of plywood (standard size) formed in a horse shoe shape.. with a under ground staging yard to park the locomotives.. my question is how would I wire my system up? How many boosters? What about circuit breakers? Etc”

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Search Railroading Words – New Word Search Puzzle

The feedback from the crossword puzzle on the blog a couple of weeks ago has been very encouraging with many requests for more puzzles. Here’s our first Word Search puzzle with some words that model railroaders might use.

If you would like to download the puzzle and print it out you can do so HERE. There is also a link to view or print out the solutions on the same web page.

word search puzzle model railroads 4Find these words:

AIR BRUSH, CAB, DECODER, FREIGHTYARD, JUNCTION, SCALE, SNAP SAW, TANK DOME

AMMETER, CONSOLIDATION, FLEXTRACK, FROG, MARKER, SCHEDULE, STYRENE, TRACTION

BALLAST, CROSSING, FLYWHEEL, HOMASOTE, REEFER, SLIDE, SUBROADBED, TRANSFORMER

BENCHWORK, CROWS NEST, FOREMAN, INTERCHANGE, ROADBED, FENCE, TAMPER

Print out puzzle and answers at http://www.modelbuildings.org/Puzzle-4-word-search.html

If you would like to see more puzzles like this on the blog, please let me know by commenting under this post.

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Fixing Track Turnout Problems

Marshall models N scale and asks readers:

“I have laid ATLAS TURNOUTS and a lot of my rolling stock jump track when they get to the actual switch housing, so I changed to PECO.  Now, my problem is that the power switch extension arm is too far away.  Q) How do I make the extension rod longer?”

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Tender for Lionel M1a 4 8 2 Steam Loco

Tom models O gauge and asks readers:

“I picked up a Lionel Pennsylvania M1a mountain 4-8-2 steam loco at an estate sale last year. It seems to work fine. The problem is it did not come with a tender. I thought no big deal I’ll get one from Lionel. Well they don’t have any. It was made in 2003. I’ve called all kinds of places with no luck. Does anyone know where I can get the correct tetherless tender for it? The tender has all the sound system in it.Hope someone can help!”

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Planning a Small HO layout – Help!

Delford sent in this question to readers:

“I am trying to plan a layout and was planning to start with a 4×8. I would like a few tracks and a tunnel and bridge and some turn outs. I have a NCE controller so want to go DCC. Would anyone give me some ideas? I know there are many experts out there.”

Delford… the same advice I’d give to anyone in the hobby, is to learn as much as you can… and never stop learning. There are plenty of excellent resources available including several featured on this blog including the Beginners Blueprint and this one on DCC http://www.dccmodeltrains.org.

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War Time Scene at the Shoeburyness Model Railway Show

Dennis sent in these photos to share captured at the Shoeburyness Model Railway Show at Essex in the United Kingdom.

Shoeburyness Model Railway Show essex uk Shoeburyness Model Railway Show3 Shoeburyness Model Railway Show4

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Foundation Material for Model Railroad Layout

John asks readers:

“I am seeking Pros & Cons of using solid 2″ insulation for my N scale layout base please?”

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Loco Stopping Erratically

Paul K asks readers:

“My 8 year old Bachmann engine HO goes ok but then stops or stalls. It’s doing my head in because it doesn’t stop in the same spot so its not the track. It will do a couple of circuits then plays up. Not sure what to do.”

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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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Clever Tips & Techniques

Free Catalog

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.

Model Train Help Ebook

Scenery & Layout Ideas

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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

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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