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November 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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Not quite a drop-in decoder

For our 2016 project railroad, we needed two General Electric U30B locomotives. Cody Grivno searched the internet and came up with a pair of Atlas Master Line locomotives in the popular undecorated scheme. Neither had Digital Command Control (DCC) decoders, and we wanted at least one to have sound.

We had a SoundTraxx Tsunami AT1000 decoder, which is intended to be a drop-in, board-replacement decoder for Atlas diesel locomotives. But our models were earlier production versions than what the decoder was designed for. We also had a 16 x 35mm oval speaker that would fit the locomotive, and a gasket set for the speaker here at the office.


Big and busy on the Pennsy

My car catching fire got me into O scale model railroading. On March 22, 1987, I decided to drive my vintage Jaguar E-type to work. After starting the car, I left it to warm up while I took out the trash. Then I noticed something flickering. Few things are as attention grabbing as one’s own car burning up in the garage.

I spent the next 31⁄2 years restoring the car. By then my wife and I had our first child, and she suggested I delay HO scale modeling in favor of a more kid-friendly Lionel O gauge layout. Over the years my hobby grew from postwar Lionel trains running on three-rail tubular track on the floor to three-rail O scale (high rail) trains running on a scenicked layout to the O scale two-rail model railroad shown in these pages.

Shoot photos like this with an iPhone

I recently purchased my first Apple iPhone, an iPhone 7. One of the first things I did was bring the phone to my train room to test the camera. Apple placed the camera lens off center, which, from a model railroader’s perspective, is ingenious. The lens position makes it possible to take pictures from a low angle, similar to the perspective of an HO scale figure.

Taking layout pictures is quite different with an iPhone than with a digital single-lens-reflex (DSLR) camera. With a DSLR camera, the exposure time, white balance, aperture, and focal point can be set in manual mode.


Take your best shot

Over the years I’ve had a lot of photos published in the model railroading press. So when I meet hobbyists, I get many questions about how I shoot my photos.

The first question is usually “What camera should I get?” The answer is the brand really doesn’t matter, as long as it has some basic features: manual focusing, manual aperture control, and variable exposure.


Z scale in a closet

A train set under the Christmas tree, girls, and cars. You all know the drill. I was an active modeler in HO scale from age 10 to 18. During the mid-1960s, I’d send for the Arnold Rapido N scale catalog each year and wear out the pages. Then I saw the April 1985 issue of Model Railroader on a newsstand. The cover featured the Pennsylvania & Pacific, a 2 x 3-foot Z scale layout. Inside, Jim Kelly’s article “Some ABCs of Z scale” included the track plan and construction tips for the model railroad. Jim did a fine job of reeling me in. I was hooked on Z scale.

I spent the next few years gathering locomotives and cars, scratchbuilding structures, and planning. The Cale, Bear Mountain & Harrisonville represents a branch line of a Milwaukee Road predecessor that ran through Martin County in southern Indiana. The branch line was to leave the main at Cale and serve a mineral spring resort hotel at Harrisonville, later renamed Trinity Springs.


A Railroad You Can Model: British Columbia Ry's Fort St. John Sub

While normally I surround myself in Florida’s railroad history, I found I had a substantial interest in modeling the British Columbia Ry. The railroad started life as the Pacific Great Eastern in 1912, was acquired by the provincial government of British Columbia in 1918, and became British Columbia Ry. in 1972. A restructuring in 1984 saw the name change to BC Rail, which it remained until it was acquired by Canadian National in 2004.

What drew me to this unique Canadian railway, on the exact opposite end of the continent, beats me. But I quickly found myself fascinated by the operations on the north end of the BCR after reading about Timothy Horton’s branch line to Dawson Creek in Model Railroad Planning 2009.



Two great beginner layouts.

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