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August 2019

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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Adding depth to your backdrops

When I was building my shelf layout, I tried to make it as realistic as possible. I handlaid code 70 rail, built turnouts with operating switch stands, ballasted roadbed, buried uncoupling ramps, detailed buildings, and added a seamless, sky blue, tempered-hardboard backdrop. I also built a fascia with shielded illumination to create the effect of a diorama. The result, however, failed to satisfy me; the 16"-wide by 12-foot long layout still looked like a shelf, lacking the sense of realism I wanted.

I needed a more detailed backdrop to add depth to the layout, but I thought that hills, fields and trees painted with my dip and dab technique would be insufficient. Buildings seemed a simple solution, so I started by kitbashing a couple industrial building kits into flats to act as customers for freight cars. These I detailed and glued to the surface of the backdrop.

Rolling on the river

I live in Appleton, Wis., home of The History Museum at the Castle, which is best known for its exhibit on illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini. Little did I imagine that after my local newspaper ran an article on my N scale model railroad in June 2017, my layout would escape my basement and reappear in that museum. Yet, in 2018, that happened.

Appleton may be a small city, but it’s big in industrial and railroad history. Incorporated as a village in 1853, Appleton built its first paper mill that same year to take advantage of the rich forests in the area. To power the industry, the nation’s first hydroelectric ¬≠station began operation in the city in 1882. In 1886, Appleton had the nation’s first commercially successful electric streetcar company.

Build a steel truss arch bridge

Most railroad bridges have an intrinsic beauty, but I’m a big fan of the steel truss arch bridge. Such a bridge was required on my HO scale layout when one track level crossed obliquely over the level below. The steel truss arch bridge allows an entire gap to be spanned without intervening bents, towers, or other supports.

The inspiration for my project was the Crooked River steel truss arch bridge in Oregon. The bridge was built in 1912 by the Oregon Trunk RR. The 107-year-old span is 340 feet long and 320 feet above the river. Today the bridge is used by the BNSF Ry.

Streamliners through the Southwest

Ron Mei has always had a passion for passenger trains, ever since his childhood years in Chicago when he and his family regularly rode Chicago & North Western (CNW) commuter trains. In 1969, when he was a teenager, Ron and his family moved to Arizona, where his railroading interests soon shifted focus from the CNW to the Southern Pacific (SP) and other southwestern roads, including the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) and Union Pacific (UP). A model railroader since age 7, Ron met a group of like-minded friends he could share his hobby with.

More than 50 years and a few layouts later, those experiences culminated in the HO scale Sunset Route. The layout fills 2,354 square feet with scenes of 1950s railroading through Arizona and California.


On the Web

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From the Editor

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Ask MR

Whether to weather? That's a tough one

Heritage Fleet

Baldwin Model Locomotive Works in the 1960s

Step by Step

Add an interior to a structure

DCC Corner

Keeping Digitrax equipment up to date

On Operation

Try it, you might like it

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

Index of Advertisers
Trains of Thought

'The fishing rod, not the fish'



Layout plans for realistic operation.

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