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March 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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An industrial area in 4 x 12 feet

My HO scale Agawa Yard layout is set in a fictional suburb of Vancouver, B.C., in the spring of 1969. It’s part of a single-track main line that zig-zags through the suburbs and provides rail access to the area’s dwindling towns and industries.

My layout is based on 1960s photos of the Canadian Pacific (CP), and it’s fair to say that the railroad was in pretty rough shape at the time. I’ve tried to convey this in the rolling stock, locomotives, and buildings by weathering them heavily.

Up against a wall

Some model railroaders are lucky enough to design their layout, then build their train room around it. Most have the opposite problem: we design our layouts to fit into existing bedrooms, basements, dens, attics, and outbuildings.

That’s the sort of problem I encountered when we moved to a new home several years ago – a home that had a two-room finished den officially designated as the model railroad area. While designing a track plan around existing obstacles was a frustratingly fun exercise in itself, it did present several challenges, the largest of which was trying to gracefully blend the layout into two existing living spaces while doing the least amount of damage to either. One of the main obstacles was a bookshelf built into the wall that separates the two rooms.

Rock Island in the 1960s

Growing up in the 1960s, I got hooked on the Rock Island Line. At that time I lived in central Iowa in the small town of Nevada on the Rock Island’s Mid-Continent Route that ran between St. Paul, Minn., and Kansas City, Kan. This line is also called the Spine Line, and is still operated today by the Union Pacific RR.

In the 1960s the proposed merger of the Rock Island with the Union Pacific RR was under prolonged review by the Interstate Commerce Commission. The merger never happened, contributing to the Rock’s bankruptcy in 1980. Even though its physical plant was in decline when I started watching trains, to me the Rock Island of the 1960s was always “a mighty fine line.”

Build the N scale Canadian Canyons Part 3

As Model Railroader Video Plus producer David Popp explained in the first installment of this project layout series in January, the raison d’etre of the N scale Canadian Canyons is railfanning. The model railroad is designed to reproduce scenes seen by Drew Halverson, Kent Johnson, and Charlie Conway on a train-watching trip they documented in a series of videos for MRVP. [See “Drew’s Trackside Adventures,” episodes 29 through 31. – Ed.] So as important as scenery usually is to a model railroad, it’s even more important on this one.

The Fraser and Thompson river canyons that are the focus of this project feature rugged mountain terrain that can only be described as spectacular. Starting with a skeleton of extruded-­foam insulation board, Kent, David, and Drew used three methods to model the different kinds of rock strata visible in the canyons of British Columbia.


On the Web

The latest features on our website!

From the Editor

The first instinct was the correct one

Ask MR

How do I build a bridge on a curve?

Step by Step

Modeling a maintenance-of-way car

DCC Corner

Automating routes and ladders with DCC

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroader

Trains of Thought

Coming home again

Index of Advertisers
On Operation

Complying with restricted speed



Freight yard design and operation.

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