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June 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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7 ways to add operating interest

Operations have become a big part of model railroading. With timetables and train orders, car cards, and fast clocks, among other items, we can run our layouts in a prototypical manner. But over time, running a train from Point A to Point B and occasionally setting out cars can become routine. With a bit of research, you can add scenarios that will enliven your operating sessions.

Rewriting history on the Kaw Valley RR

Mike Fyten found the almost perfect prototype for his S scale model railroad in the Kansas City, Kaw Valley & Western Ry. Founded in 1914, the 37-mile short line ran through an idyllic Midwestern setting between Lawrence, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. However, the line was an electric interurban, and Mike wanted to model steam and diesel locomotives. The railroad also steadily declined from the Great Depression, when it eliminated passenger service, until its ultimate demise in 1961 when it had to pull up tracks to make room for Highway 32. So what should a model railroader do when history doesn’t quite fit his plans? Rewrite it, of course!

Athearn blue-box car

A new look for a ‘blue-box’ car

The market in the last decade has witnessed the growth of highly detailed ready-to-run models and kits. As new models come out to tempt our pocketbooks, these great models populate our layouts and push classic kits to the back, or even into storage.

Returning to model railroading after many years’ hiatus, I discovered some old Athearn freight car kits in various conditions, many of which were inherited from my grandfather. Not wanting to toss them or leave them in storage, I set out to give them a new lease on life. 


Narrow gauge logging in less than 4 x 7 feet

The Bachmann Shay and Climax were what first attracted me. At the time, the Shay model had recently had excellent reviews, and I started researching the prototypes of the diminutive On30 [also called On21⁄2 – Ed.] locomotives.

The locomotives, combined with an interest in Western logging railroads, led me to build my small layout, which I call “The Deuce,” after the name given to the Michigan-California (Mich-Cal) Logging Co.’s Shay no. 2.

arch through-truss bridge

‘Scratchbashing’ an arch through-truss bridge

The western approach to the yard at Grande Rivière on my HO scale Athabaska RR features a dramatic leap across Athabaska River Gorge. Since this is the first thing that a visitor entering the basement sees, it called for an imposing and unusual bridge.
Conrail mountain branch

Track plan for a Conrail mountain branch

Model railroaders are a nostalgic lot. Through modeling we can revisit — or even reinvent — the past. Nor surprisingly, many of us wind up adopting a prototype that was operating when we first fell in love with trains.

Mike Stine is a fan of Conrail, the mega-merger that operating up until 1999. He was quite specific about the era —1996 — and the area he wanted to model when he asked me to design a layout to fit his 11'-4" x 27'-4" space.


How to make and wire realistic-looking utility poles

One feature that draws favorable comments on my current On30 Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes RR, and did on my former HO scale West Hoosic Division RR, is the power and telephone lines that serve the miniature homes and industries.

I first saw such pole line detail on the beautiful HO scale Hoosic Valley RR of my good friend Dick Elwell. Dick worked for 45 years as a lineman for New England Telephone Co., and spent most of those years installing and maintaining pole lines in northeastern Massachusetts. He’s been the “expert advisor” I’ve turned to when working on my own miniature pole lines.


On the Web
From the Editor
Information Desk
passenger and freight station

How a local agent ran a typical small-town station

Workshop Tips

Choosing car sizes, curves, and turnouts

Step by Step
how to model industry signs

How to model industry signs

DCC Corner

Use DecoderPro to simplifiy programming

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Trains of Thought

Overnighting in a ‘caboose motel’

Index of Advertisers
The Operators

A good pre-session checklist

Great Scenery Tips

Great Scenery Tips

Realistic creeks and streams.

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