Digging into better tunnels
by Jim Richards
Four tips to improve an often necessary scenic feature
Tunnels help solve a number of track planning issues. Jim Richards wasn’t only concerned with making the tunnels on his Athabaska RR look better; he also wanted to improve performance. So, in addition to making his own portals and tunnel liners, Jim also experimented with hiding his sound-equipped locomotives sonically as well.
N scale Gauley Shavers Fork track plan
Power pickups for rolling stock
by Jon Fruth
Phosphor-bronze wire makes areliable electrical pickup for interior and exterior car lighting systems
Adding interior lighting or end-of-train markers to a caboose or other car adds realism. Rather than using an onboard battery, I prefer to use track wipers that conduct electricity from the rails to power the car’s lights. I use low-friction phosphor-bronze wire as wipers that ride against the metal wheels of my illuminated rolling stock to pick up track power. Fine magnet wire leads, soldered to the phosphor-bronze wire, carry the electricity to the interior and exterior lighting circuits.
Backdating Quisling, Calif.
Adapting a 1980s modular layout to represent the 1950s
In the December 2018 Model Railroader, I was pleased to present my 24-foot-long HO scale modular layout, Quisling, Calif. Living in Plymouth, England, I wrote the article in part to showcase our model railroad club’s small part in the ever-growing international interest in modular modeling.
Quisling, Calif. (1954) track plan
Kitbash a fishing fleet
by Jim Richards
Ship models in various scales provide the raw materials for this HO scale project
Model railroaders are drawn to waterfront scenes like bees to nectar. A wharfside setting with boats, freight cars, and industry can’t be surpassed for atmosphere, a sense of bustling activity, and visual proof of the link between two different freight-handling systems.
Building the Wingate in O scale
by Tony Koester
PART 1: Choosing a prototype and developing a plan for a compact one-town railroad
Let’s face it: For many model railroaders, the cliché about not getting any younger is no longer a laughing matter. Contrary to the laws of physics, smaller scale models are shrinking before our very eyes. Detail that used to pop out has mysteriously vanished. Hands that were steady enough to do neurosurgery now automatically stir our coffee. And eyes that could read the road number on an N scale boxcar at 10 paces now require reading glasses just to sign checks. Doesn’t sound like you? Your time will come, probably sooner than you think.
O scale Wingate track plan
Scratchbuild a big-city station
by Thomas Oxnard
Kansas City Union Station inspired this freelanced HO scale structure
In 2018 I attended the National Model Railroad Association National Convention in Dansas City, Mo. Across the street from the convention hotel was Kansas City Union Station. The structure, opened in 1914, was designed and built in the Beaux Arts style. It was a hub for freight and passenger service. After a period of decline and closure, it was restored in 1999. Today, the station is served by long-distance and regional Amtrak trains and is also home to restaurants, museums, and a large ballroom for events and exhibits.
Build a working water tower
by Donald M. Deuell
Plans from a 1950s Model Railroader article were modified to change scales and add an operating spout driven by a slow-motion switch motor
This is a story about a water tank. It began more than 60 years ago, with an excellent article featuring scale drawings titled “Water Tank” by Eric Stevens in the March 1952 Model Railroader. Over the years, I’ve built several HO versions that still reside on my layout.
How to model a chain link fence
by Pelle Søeborg
Create an HO scale fence in just a few steps
One of the rail-served businesses on my HO scale Union Pacific layout needed a chain link fence to keep trespassers off the property. I used the Walthers chainlink fence kit as a starting point, but combined it with Detail Associates .019" brass wire and Scale Scenics brass mesh to obtain a more sturdy construction.
Appalachian Bridge Line on a shelf
by Lou Sassi
Bob Ferguson's N scale Gauley & Shavers Fork features interchangeable scenes and a 1960s diesel-era setting
Miracle in Monterey: The restoration of G-D Line no. 10
by Charlie Getz
Rumors of a missing stash of John Allen's HO scale locomotives turn out to be true
For many, especially long-time readers of Model Railroader, the name John Allen doesn't need an introdution. Considered by some as the greatest model railroader of all time and called "The Wizard of Montery," John, through his seminal model railroad the Gorre & Dahphetid, was innovative, inspiring, and ahead of his time.
Building Wingate in O scale
by Tony Koester
Part 2: Constructing the layout while keeping weight and complexity under control
Wingate is a 1⁄4"-scale railroad. It also happens to have the rails spaced at the prototypically correct 4'-81⁄2". The rails in almost all other scales are also spaced at that distance, but not O scale. I chose to correct this minor error, as I’ll discuss shortly, but please feel free to ignore the slight gauge difference or even build Wingate in another scale or gauge. After all, the rails through the prototype location were originally 3-foot gauge.
Going home on the Piermont Division
by Howard Zane
This 60 x 70-foot HO scale masterpiece gets a major revision and a new Northeastern focus
My HO scale Piermont Division has continuously evolved over the more than 35 years since I began building it. Virtually every scene has been redone at least once. I’ve xpanded the railroad with two major additions to my home. The original 26 x 26-foot basement layout space (section 1)gained 1,200 square feet (section 2) in 1995 and another 800 square feet (section 3) in 2001. Today, the model railroad fills about 2,850 square feet and features a 1,400-foot mainline run, which is 23 HO scale miles.
HO scale Piermont Division track plan
Big trains through the Southwest
by Cody Grivno, group technical editor
The 20 x 30-foot Four Corners & Five Lakes features contemporary railroading in N scale
The American Southwest and the Great Lakes are two regions seldom associated with each other. But John Tindall’s freelanced Four Corners & Five Lakes (FCFL) serves as a link between Milwaukee and San Diego. The 20 x 30-foot model railroad depicts modern day railroading with long manifest freights, unit trains, and Amtrak trains rolling through the arid landscape of the Four Corners region.
N scale Four Corners & Five Lakes track plan
Building Wingate in O scale
by Tony Koester
Part 3: Scenery, structures, and rolling stock
No matter the scale or gauge you opt to model in, you have some homework to do before finalizing your choice of location, era, prototype (or base prototype from which to freelance), and so on. We discussed site choices in part 1 of this series (January 2020).
Now it’s time to consider the structures, scenery, locomotives, and rolling stock needed to model that time and place. Do we have enough information to scratchbuild accurate models of the key structures? If not, are there good candidates for kitbashing?
Taking scenery to the aisle
by Dave Bigge
Fascia-mounted extensions add realism to this HO scale layout
In layout planning we typically like to use as wide of a radius as possible. Often this means pushing the track centerline close to the edge of the model railroad. Because of this we have to foreshorten the scenery, leaving little room for rocks, grass, and other vegetation between the edge of the ballast and the fascia. The lack of foreground scenery can be especially troublesome if you want to take realistic photos of your models, as the fascia always appears in the image.
There are many opinions on layout fascia. I’m in the camp that thinks that the fascia should be simple and not attract attention. On a previous layout
I painted it a reddish-brown color, which matched the scenery color. As an experiment, I repainted the fascia a dark chocolate color. The color minimized the importance of the fascia, shifting the focus to the layout, where it belonged. On my HO scale Cajon Pass layout, shown here, I used a semi-gloss color called Ghost Story. While the color was pleasing, it was distracting in photos. To remedy this situation, I attached scenery extensions to the fascia.
Model an abandoned right-of-way
by Lou Sassi
A problem S-curve had to go, but its remains presented an opportunity to add some visual interest
Add interest with mini-scenes
by Don Ball
These details help set the locale and era of your model train layout, and can tell a short story as well
Fireballs and Alpha Jets
by Paul J. Dolkos
Brian Wolfe's HO scale Blue Ridge Division modles the fast freight of the 1970s on the Western Maryland Ry.'s east end
How to model white birch trees
by Cheryl Sassi
Natural material, craft store supplies, and paint are all you need to add these realistic trees to your model railroad scenery
Modeling a modern-era rail hub
by Pat Hiatte
John Schindler's 30 x 60-foot HO scale St. Louis Junction RR features action on both sides of the Mississippi River
A half century on the Virginia & Truckee
by Dave Rickaby
For many baby boomers, the path to model railroading started with a Lionel or American Flyer train set under the Christmas tree. But Donn Tolley's hobby journey started in 1963 when serving in the U.S. Air Force in Japan. He went into a store and stumbled upon a selection of brass locomotive next to the jewelry counter. After looking over the inventory, he purchased a brass HO scale Porter 2-6-0 Mogul for $10.
When Donn returned to stateside in 1964, he built his first HO scale layout on a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. Another 4 x 8-foot sheet of plywood was added when Donn and his family moved to Wisconsin two years later.
Modeling space-saving industries
by Tony Koester
If there's a common characteristic shared by almost every model railroader, it's lack of space. Whether we have a small shelf layout or a basement empire, there's never enough square footage to do justice to everything we'd like to model.
Among the most important items on our must-have list are those that support the purpose of our railroads. A scale model railroad should reflect the characteristics of its full-size counterpart. That includes its reason for being, its sources of livelihood, and the industries that supply or use the carloads that make running trains worthwhile.
Celebrating steam's last stand
by Gary Hoover
Noted railroad photographer O. Winston Link dubbed the Norfolk & Western Ry. of the late 1950s "The Last Steam Railroad in America." That moniker was also the title of a book published by Harry N. Abrams in 1995, that republished many of Link's iconic, mostly night photos of the waning days of N&W steam power. Those photos, along with the charm of railroading through the Appalachian mountains, inspired me to plan and build my latest 24 x 49-foot HO scale N&W model railroad.
Building Wingate in O scale
by Tony Koester
Part 4: Maximizing the play value while operating in a confine area
You're called for the KC local, second-class train No. 45, at Frankfort, Ind. It's marked up for its usual 7 a.m. departure and due to arrive at the other division point, Charleston, Ill., at 1 p.m. But that won't happen today or any other day. The law allows 16 hours to make the run, and it may take close to that again today; even the passenger trains, Nos. 9 and 10, with only three scheduled stops between division point stations, require almost three hours to cover the Third Subdivision.
Make a right-of-way fence
by Lou Sassi
I've been building my On30 Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes RR for nearly a decade. During construction and for many years prior, I read books and watched videos of the prototype. One thing I kept noticing was rough-hewn wood fencing along the railroad right-of-way. The fence both delineated the railroad's boundaries and kept people and livestock off the tracks.
I decided a stretch of similar fencing would look good on the south end of my layout. Here, Main Route 145 from Strong to Kingfield passes in front of the Mountain View Hotel while paralleling the SR&RL main line.
Rolling along the bluffs
by Joe Visintine
The East Bluff Terminal RR (EBT) in my basement in St. Peters, Mo., isn't my first layout set along the bluffs of the Mississippi River. My previous one, built in Salinas, Calif., was a 10 x 10 double-decker with a helix and duckunder. But even that wasn't my first.
My first East Bluff Terminal was two 6-foot modules I built and displayed at train shows with the Monterey & Salinas Valley RR Club. I enjoyed that club and the Bay Area S Scalers for many years. The BASS group has an S scale modular setup that's exhibited at O Scale West and the S Scalers' convention in Santa Clara each year.
Meeting the scrapper's torch
by Kim Nipkow
A while ago I stumbled across an interesting picture of an HO scale diorama featuring an Electro-Motive Division (EMD) F unit being torched apart. I liked the idea so much I was inspired to build a similar model myself.
I got on the internet and started looking for parts. First, I needed a decent-looking locomotive model. It didn't have to be superdetailed; I didn't want to spend big bucks on a model I was going to cut apart. I was lucky to find a Life-Like F3 for $60 on eBay.
Mountains and Minute Men
by Thomas Oxnard
Known as the Route of the Minute Man, the Boston & Maine (B&M) has been the focus of my model railroading efforts for more than 20 years. My HO scale layout was originally featured in the December 2009 issue of Model Railroader. It's a freelanced version of the B&M inspired by scenes of Boston, coastal New England, and the towns and mountains of northern New Hampshire.
As I've continued to work on the railroad, I've written numerous articles for Model Railroader and other hobby publications. Since my first layout story was published, I've expanded it to 18 x 28 feet, featuring more scenes and better prototype-based operation.
Readers Choice Awards
You voted. Here are the winners!
Conquering the Cascades
by Lee Marsh
When I was kid in the 1960s, I first saw photos of John Allen’s HO scale Gorre & Daphetid in the pages of Model Railroader. Since then, I dreamed of building my own mountain railroad. The journey to achieve that goal started with a Christmas layout, progressed through several more “plywood Pacifics,” and then endured a 20-year hiatus from the hobby.
My interest in mountain railroading and Pacific Northwest scenery was also fueled by participating in mountain sports, which my wife and I immersed ourselves in when we moved to Washington in 1985. Our activities often took us to the Stevens Pass area, where we encountered the Burlington Northern RR main line over the Cascades. My railroad interests resurfaced, and after reading Charles Wood’s Lines West (Superior Publishing Co., 1967), a book that chronicles the Great Northern Ry.’s construction and operation of this main line, I was hooked on building a GN-themed mountain layout.
Subscriber bonus: Great Northern Ry. Cascade Division track plan
Model Spring Creek Trestle in N scale
by Dan Lewis
At over a quarter-mile long, Spring Creek Trestle on the Milwaukee Road’s North Montana Line is one of the longest wood pile trestles in the Big Sky State. Located nine miles northwest of Lewistown in the central part of Montana, the full-size bridge was built jointly by the Milwaukee Road (MILW) and Great Northern (GN) in 1912 to cross Big Spring Creek. Since I model the North Montana Line in N scale during the steam-to-diesel locomotive transition era, I needed to model this signature structure.
The full-size bridge is 1,391 feet long. Though largely constructed of wood, there are two steel sections with deck girders. In its early days the bridge had a gantlet track so the MILW and GN could each have its own line between Spring Creek Junction to the west and Hanover to the east. The gantlet track was later removed in favor of a single-track arrangement. The Spring Creek Trestle isn’t used today, but the structure still stands.
Ride the Frisco to St. Louis
by Patrick Hiatte
From John Peluso's home in suburban St. Louis, you can hear trains passing on BNSF Railway’s line between
St. Louis and Springfield, Mo. Inside his basement, though, the trains are HO scale versions of those that ran over the same line when it belonged to the St. Louis-San Francisco Ry., also known as the Frisco.
John’s layout is a collection of familiar scenes in the St. Louis area and along the line, such as the Arsenal Ave. overpass that cuts through the middle of Lindenwood Yard, the gasworks and McCausland Ave. underpass at the west end of the yard, and the Meramec River bridges and limestone bluffs, which were so much a part of the Frisco that the railway featured them on its timetables.
Subscriber bonus: Frisco Lines track plan
A winter's project
by Andrew Dodge
The rotary snowplow was probably the most important piece of maintenance equipment a railroad needed during winters in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. In 1888, one year after beginning operations, the Colorado Midland Ry. bought a rotary snowplow from the Leslie Brothers Co. of Paterson, N.J. The brass hats in the main office had realized after the first year they couldn’t solely rely upon what would become known as the “Midland Snowbirds” to shovel the snow by hand.
The plow had a 9-foot rotary blade with a shroud extending out an additional foot on each side. At 11 feet across, the machine would clear a path wide enough for any Midland equipment. An interesting aspect of the Leslie design was that the carbody resembled a greenhouse, with large windows along both sides and in the operator’s area just behind the rotary and impeller blades.
Narrow gauge switching action
by Lou Sassi
Mike Tylick's fascination with model railroading started with his exposure to the real thing. His father, who worked for the Erie RR on tugboats in New York Harbor, would occasionally bring young Mike to work, exposing him to the bustling activity of the Erie yards around the city. Those childhood experiences led Mike to build numerous model railroads not only for himself, but also for others, while working for companies that built custom layouts. He still does layout design, railroad graphics, and custom model building under the name RailDesign Services.
Make a mortar rubble wall
by Steve Miazga
When I expanded my N scale Missabe Junction Ry. ["Missabe Junction revisited," September 2018 – Ed.], I wanted to add structures that were representative of rail-served industries in Northern Wisconsin. A little field research came up with a candidate: potato warehouses. The Starks, Wis., are used to be a producer of potatoes, and that's where I found a row of warehouses on a siding along the Soo Line. Several of the buildings were simple steel-sheathed structures, but one was unique, being constructed with mortar rubble walls.
Pulling together at the Coshocton Model RR Club
by Lou Sassi
The Coshocton Model Railroad Club began in 1972 when the Rev. Robert Kleesattel put his business card in all the model railroad magazines on the newsstands and store shelves of Coshocton, Ohio. The reverend also included a note about meeting with anyone interested in starting a model railroad club. Many people attended that initial meeting, with 26 of them becoming charter members.
As of writing this, the club, also known as the Associated Model Railroad Engineers of Coshoction, Inc. (AMREC), has 52 members. The club's HO scale Toledo, Walhonding Valley & Ohio RR (TWV&O) fills a 50 x 150 foot space iside a dedicated building at the Coshocton County Fairgrounds.
Enhance figures with decals
by V.S. Roseman
Painting scale figures for your layout is a great way to make them different than those on other model railroads. Using a brush to add basic details like shirts, pants, and shoes is easy. But even if you have steady hands and a fine paintbrush, adding patterned clothes to figures would be difficult at best. To add greater variety and detail to figures, try using decals.
"Wait, you mean decals like you put on locomotives and freight cars?" Yes! Virtually any figure can be enhanced with decals. Follow along as I share my techniques.
5 tips for trouble-free turnouts
by James McNab
Since turnouts play a prominent role on model railroads, they deserve attention before and after installation, as well as during routine maintenance. Taking the time to ensure turnouts perform well will guarantee more reliable, and therefore more enjoyable, operation.
Freight cars of the '70s
by Eric White
So you want to model the 1970s. Now you have to figure out what equipment is appropriate. Aspects of the whole world touch on our modeled landscape, so there' a lot to consider. For now, though, I'm going to focus on freight cars.
The '70s were the era of my youth. Like many modelers, I want to model what I remember. For me the draw is the combination of the traditional and the modern.
by Dale Martell
Representing locales ranging from Michigan to North Carolina, my HO scale Midwest & Southern Atlantic RR (M&SA) is freelanced, letting me celebrate a variety of my favorite railroads. I chose 1954 as the era of my layout so I can plausibly run both steam and diesel locomotives. I also chose that year because there's a wide variety of commercially available structures and details for modeling that time period.
How to model a concrete retaining wall
by Lou Sassi
Retaining walls are a common trackside feature, especially when an industrial spur rises a few feet above grade. The elevation change and the wall are also easy ways to add visual interest to a model railroad scene.
All you need to know, in four square feet
by Lance Mindheim
Life often has a way of pushing our dream model railroad into the future. Depending on your circumstances it may be years or even decades until you're in a situation where you can have the layout you ultimately want. the question is, how do you best prepare for "the day" when you finally have the time, space, and money for a model railroad?