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August 2017

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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Model a large station using 3-D printing

My adventure in 3-D printing was prompted by necessity, not curiosity or a wish to try a new technique. The signature structure in my HO scale Mojave Desert scene is Union Pacific’s Kelso, Calif., station.

The Spanish-style structure has a front colonnade with 14 arches. I’d initially planned to make the arches from styrene sheet. With photos and measurements in hand, I prepared detailed sketches for the model. However, I realized that the 18"-long styrene front wall was going to be delicate. Laser-cut acrylic would hold up better during the cutting process, but subsequent handing could still be problematic.


A Z scale piece of the USA in France

I’ve always been fascinated by model trains, but I never had any at home growing up. On summer holidays, I visited my cousin, who had an HO scale 4 x 8-foot layout with an oval of track. My cousin and I would spend our days running the trains at full throttle.

The years passed, and my engineering studies, focused on micro-technology, didn’t leave me any time to think about building a layout. But in 2009, after I built my house, the idea came back. Fascinated by small things and not having much room, I started drawing track plans for an N scale layout.

I’m not a fan of the local French or European railway equipment, and I love big U.S. diesel locomotives. One day when doing some internet research, I discovered Z scale, which I hadn’t heard of before. It was love at first sight.


CSX up on Rocky Top

Sometimes in track planning, things just work out right. I wasn’t sure that would be the case when my client Brian Moore asked me to design a track plan for his 15'-0" x 22'-3" space. Along with an Eastern Tennessee location, Brian’s requirements were a steel mill, an engine terminal, a helper district, a bridge over a river, a power plant with a rotary dumper, a flood loader at a coal mine, and room to run long drags behind modern motive power.

Brian didn’t have a particular prototype in mind. But I always like to start track planning with a prototype. There’s a degree of realism that comes with replicating a real railroad line, even when latitude is left for additions and subtractions to meet the modeler’s preferences; plus, a real location makes it a lot easier to think of names for towns.


50 years and 2 houses

A common model railroad saying is that a layout is never finished. Back in 1979 when I first met Dick Elwell and visited his HO scale Hoosac Valley (HV) RR, the then-26 x 40-foot layout sure looked finished, with its detailed scenes, scratchbuilt structures, and operating focus. However, the HV has undergone major renovations since Dick started building the layout in 1961, including a move to a new home that required a reconfigured design.
The layout’s theme remains the same.

The Hoosac Valley RR is a freelanced 1950s bridge line that runs from Pittsfield, Mass., to Essex Junction, N.Y., passing through an area where Dick has lived his entire life. The HV interchanges with three prototype roads: the New York Central (Boston & Albany); the New York, New Haven & Hartford; and the Delaware & Hudson in Whitehall. The HV main line also interchanges with two other freelanced model railroads: the Adirondack Northern and the Greylock Terminal.

Adding onto a second deck

Constructing new benchwork and laying track above an existing layout is a daunting proposition, so my decision to expand the narrow gauge portion of my Santa Fe New Mexico Division layout (June 2011 Model Railroader) wasn’t one I made lightly. When I planned the railroad, the “Chili Line” was a minor interest, included just to have a bit of narrow gauge.

A couple of factors drove me to undertake this project. First was a growing interest in the narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western RR, which crossed the mountains of New Mexico and my home state of Colorado. Second was the desire to create a few more jobs for my ever-growing operating crew.

Model a MOW boxcar

Kitbashing is one of the most effective techniques in the modeler’s arsenal. As our hobby continues to evolve toward a ready-to-run format, some say kitbashing has become a lost art. Yet it often remains the easiest way to create a unique car, locomotive, or structure.

Sometimes, kitbashing can involve no more than making a single, distinctive change to a model. On a recent trip trackside I stumbled across a car ideal for such a project – a maintenance-of-way (MOW) supply car. This obsolete boxcar found new life assigned to a mechanized track gang with only one major change evident to its exterior – the plug door on one side has been replaced with a combination personnel and roll-up door. Join me as I demonstrate just how easy it can be to re-create a unique car for your roster.


On the Web
From the Editor
Railway Post Office

Send a letter to the editor

Contributor guidelines

Ask MR

What's on the front of an NKP Berk's stack?


When O scale traction was popular

Step by Step

Making better-looking foreground trees

DCC Corner

Seven tips for better solder connections

On Operation

Dispatching with track warrants

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Index of Advertisers
Trains of Thought

Multiple deck design, or 'rinse and repeat'



Five compact track plans.

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