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May 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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Upgrading streamlined passenger cars

Today, you can make an HO scale streamlined passenger train from a wide variety of state-of-the-art plastic models as easily as placing the cars on your layout. These passenger cars come ready-to-run and are decorated in a variety of roadnames and color schemes.

However, most of the less expensive passenger car models come with only basic details. Walthers offers an affordableselection of Budd prototype streamlined passenger cars in its Mainline series. These completely assembled full length cars will negotiate 18" radius curves, come with interiors, and have sprung diaphragms and metal wheels. In addition, the cars are designed to accept easy-to-install upgrade kits that modelers can add as time or budget permits.

A scenic showcase

A pair of spectacular bridges, a roaring river, soaring mountains, and frequent Canadian Pacific and Canadian National trains are some of the highlights of Cisco, British Columbia, nestled deep in Canada’s Fraser River Canyon. Cisco was a natural source of inspiration for my new 7 x 10-foot N scale Canadian National Ashcroft Subdivision layout. As a CN modeler, I knew from the beginning the centerpiece of my layout had to be the “high” Cisco Bridge, a combination truss arch over the Fraser River with an approach on the east bank.

The high bridge was built in 1914 by the Canadian Northern Pacific Ry., a predecessor to CN. The engineers had to contend with both a difficult river crossing and locating the new line over the existing CP right of way. The result was two bridges that cross the river within sight of each other, yielding an iconic Canadian railroad scene. My goal was to re-create this magnificent scene by focusing on long sight lines and big scenery.

Model stock pens along a fascia

Few model railroaders have enough space to fulfill all of their modeling wishes. When designing my O scale Proto:48 depiction of the Colorado Midland Ry., I faced this problem at multiple levels, but there were always solutions.

Two questions in particular came up, and one solution solved both. First, what prototypical industries or freight generating facilities could I model along the main line of my Colorado Midland between Leadville and Basalt, Colo.? Second, what could I fit into the limited space between the track and the edge of the layout or between the track and the transition to the backdrop?


Capturing the Midwest in HO scale

We all have our preferences when it comes to model railroading. Some like operation most, some like collecting trains, and some specialize in modeling structures, locomotives, or cars. Others are experts in scenery, weathering, or electronics. And then there are the generalists who do a little of everything, which is the category I belong to.

Over the years, trains have almost become secondary to me. They are my excuse to create scenes in 1:87.1 scale that capture the essence of an area. My joy is in the construction, so I tend to lose interest in my layouts when they’re finished. To me it’s the journey, rather than the destination. Operation has never really appealed to me. I’ve participated in operating sessions and found it entertaining, but it has been on much larger layouts than I have room for.


Making a multimedia highway overpass

Originally my assignment for the Model Railroader staff’s HO scale Beer Line addition was to build a modest roadway that went up a hill and across a short highway overpass above a set of tracks. However, the more I looked at the mock-up, the more I thought we could come up with something better. Why not make the viaduct cross the entire 4-foot width of the layout? Editor Neil Besougloff agreed and handed me a thin plywood sheet from our workshop scrapwood pile. The plywood ended up being just the first piece of a multimedia project that would also involve styrene, resin, foam, and white metal parts.

My model would loosely represent the North Avenue viaduct. The prototype was a 1,385-foot-long reinforced concrete bridge that carried its namesake roadway across the Milwaukee River and some of the industries along its banks. The bridge opened in 1921 and was demolished and replaced in 1990.


Make a tripod holder for your smart phone

One day while working on a keynote presentation for my local National Model Railroad Association Division, I decided to use the video capabilities of my cell phone and incorporate them into the presentation.

I usually end my clinics with a still photo of a train pulling away from the camera. It seemed much more interesting to finish with a video of a trackside run-by of one of my On21⁄2 Sandy River trains. But after a couple attempts of taking a video, it was apparent that handholding the phone was not an option. It was just too difficult to hold the phone without shaking it. It was even more noticeable when shooting small-scale subjects.

Since I had a camera tripod, I decided to mount the phone to its head. This way, I’d only touch the phone to turn it on and off. The only problem was my phone has no accommodation for tripod mounting. So I decided to make my own phone holder to work with my tripod.


On the Web
From the Editor
Ask MR

Spotting differences in tank cars

Step by Step

Replace warped handrails on an HO scale diesel

On Operation

Train Orders and Form D's

DCC Corner

Getting the most from automatic functions

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Index of Advertisers
Trains of Thought

Pragmatic prototype modeling



Two great beginner layouts.

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