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December 2015

Model Railroader has been the leading model train magazine for the past 75 years.  Each month, we bring you step-by-step modeling projects, fascinating photo tours of model train layouts, unbiased product reviews, new product announcements, tips from the experts and much more!

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Part 1: Build an industrial district on the waterfront

In this two-part series, the author shares ideas he used for planning, building, and operating an industrial district on his Baltimore Harbor District HO scale layout. It includes a car float operation.

How to model repaired rolling stock

Oh no – I broke a part off the boxcar!”

For those of us with operating layouts this is a familiar lament, especially given the fragility of the ever-finer details that come on cars made in the last decade.

While a repair may be possible, ­attempting to disguise it by trying to match the existing car can often lead to frustration. We carefully mix paint and try to conceal the fix with precisely ­applied re-weathering. Try as we might, it’s often impossible to make the perfect repair. So rather than endure the frustration, why not embrace this situation and view it as a modeling opportunity?

Freelancing through the San Fernando Valley

Rick Stern was inspired to build his freelanced HO scale Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe layout by a lifetime of railfanning and model railroading. He dabbled in various modeling scales, from HOn30 to 71⁄2" gauge large scale, before moving to Cincinnati and building the layout seen in this story.

The layout is based on a fictional ­Santa Fe branch inspired by Rick’s youth in Southern California. In the model railroad’s history, a line was built through the San Joaquin Valley to compete with the Southern Pacific. The SP blocked the line over Tehachapi Pass, forcing the Santa Fe to climb the steep Coast Range via Cuyama and Oxnard. This terrain resulted in heavy grades and spectacular scenery. Upon reaching the Pacific, the line was extended to Los Angeles to connect with the Santa Fe’s transcontinental main line.


Model a concrete block structure using basswood

A scene in Nebraska inspired the author to scratchbuild a concrete block garage for his Midwestern HO layout. Stepping out of his comfort zone, he used laser-engraved basswood sheets to model the concrete block walls.

New Haven tribute

Back in the 1990s, professional musician Steve Rodgers rediscovered model railroading. For most of that decade, Steve traveled across the country touring with his band, the Mighty Purple. His former childhood hobby, as well as watching prototype trains, proved a relaxing and productive way to spend his down time between shows. He also took many photographs and kept journals of  diverse architecture and abandoned railroad rights-of-way.

“I enjoyed exploring the various abandoned factories and industrial areas all around the country,” Steve said. “We also have many interesting former railroad and industrial areas in the part of Connecticut where I live.”

Steve’s layout, the HO scale Fairhope & Northern, is the culmination of his model railroading efforts since returning to the hobby. His favorite railroad, the New York, New Haven & Hartford, is featured prominently.

Easy turnout control with Touch Toggles

For 12 years, I lived with a single-deck layout that had a tall fascia filled with red and white fishing bobber-like turnout controls (“Easy turnout controls,” May 2003 Model Railroader), miniature reprints of scratchbuilding articles (“Freelancing in the Northland,” Great Model Railroads 2008), and track/town maps (“Magnetic, movable maps,” December 2005 MR). When I started work on my new, multi-deck version of my HO scale Bona Vista RR, I wanted a clean, austere, uncluttered fascia. I was bound and determined to have a simple, thin, black band that would frame the layout above and below it.


On the Web
From the Editor
Ask MR

Road widths and markings

Heritage Fleet

E. Suydam & Co. supported traction fans

Step by Step

How to model a cornfield

DCC Corner

Back to basics: Powering all-live turnouts

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Trains of Thought

Big isn't lots of littles

Index of Advertisers
The Operators

A few of my favorite things



Servicing steam locomotives step-by-step

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