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February 2018

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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February 2018 Model Railroader issue preview video



Build the Tar Branch

A successful model railroad begins with a foundation of sturdy benchwork and smooth-running track. A compact layout like the 2'-9" x 8'-2" Winston Salem Southbound Tar Branch provides the perfect place for a model railroader to hone his or her benchwork-building and tracklaying skills. In this installment of the series, Model Railroader Video Plus producer David Popp demonstrates some of the techniques used on the HO scale project layout.

The layout’s benchwork centers on classic L-girder construction. Basically a 1 x 2 attached to a 1 x 4, these engineered beams provide rock-steady support. The 1 x 2 flange also makes it easy to attach joists that support the layout’s 1⁄2" plywood subroadbed.


Embedding rails in concrete

My HO scale Union Pacific Daneburg Subdivision has just two rail-served industries, one of which is the Safety-Kleen oil-recycling business I wrote about in the January 2018 Model Railroader. Since the prototype business in Grand Island, Neb., is served by both trains and trucks, its rail siding is embedded in a concrete lot.

Only the styrene foundations for the structures were done at the time when I made the scenery on the Safety-Kleen section of the layout, including paving the lot with its embedded rails.


Mountains and coal

I grew up two blocks from the Baltimore & Ohio tracks on the former Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton line. The Procter & Gamble yards were less than a mile from my house in the Cincinnati suburb of Winton Place. As the trains left the yard, they would sound their whistles and their wheels would slip on the steel rails as the locomotives tried to pull their heavy load through the Estes Avenue crossing. This told me I had just enough time to run down Mitchell Avenue to the crossing to watch those huge locomotives belch smoke into the sky.

Like many model railroaders, I started out with Lionel. Perhaps I should say “we,” as I shared the trains with my older brother.

Sometime, I don’t remember just when, the trains disappeared as my interest turned to girls, rock ’n’ roll music, and cars. Then came art school, college, the military, my career in graphics, marriage, and children. I still loved trains; I just didn’t think I had time for them.


A big splash of California sunshine

The sprawling Sacoma Terminal fills an approximately 20-foot-long peninsula at the entry of Steve Mahan’s HO scale Pacific Coast Lines layout. That’s fitting because, as Steve says, he’s partial to passenger trains.

“We have a yard that not only includes a passenger yard, but also a head-end facility for the express cars, a postal annex, and a Railway Express Agency (REA),” says Steve. His crew can do everything needed from servicing a train at the terminal to assembling a new train from the coaches, sleepers, lounges, and diners, plus the head-end cars, in the coach yard and postal annex.


A fresh take on modeling hills

There are many techniques for modeling rolling hills on model railroads. Popular methods include a cardboard web covered with plaster-impregnated gauze strips, layered and shaped pieces of extruded-foam insulation board, and packing peanuts covered with masking tape and plaster gauze, among others. These methods have served the hobby well over the years. I’ve used some of these approaches in the past. But when it came time to build hills on my HO scale model railroad, I asked myself if there was a better way. Then an idea popped into my head: Cover an extruded-foam insulation board frame with weed-blocking fabric.

To see if the idea would work, I made a trip to my local home improvement center to get the supplies. The key ingredients are a 4 x 8-foot sheet of extruded-foam insulation board (I used a 3⁄4"-thick sheet, but any thickness will work), a roll of weed block, and foam-safe adhesive.


On the Web
From the Editor
Ask MR

Seeking the Reading's "banjo" signals

Heritage Fleet

O scale economic woes in the early 1970s

Step by Step

How to detail, paint, and decal a locomotive

DCC Corner

Reverse loops, turntables, wyes, and DCC

On Operation

Spice up a schedule with sections

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Index of Advertisers
Trains of Thought

Modeling the photo line



Five compact track plans.

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