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Model Railroad Planning 2019


This 2019 issue features more small and mid-size layouts along with doable how-to projects. Year after year, Model Railroading Planning is the go-to source for the latest tips on design, construction, and operation.

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Modeling a sense of place

Decades before I became seriously interested in building a scale model railroad, I spent a number of years pursuing my passion for railfan photography. Over the years, I had come to see photography as a means of self-expression.

In model railroading I’ve found an equally powerful art form with which to express myself. I’ve learned that to capture a sense of place in my model scenes or photographs, I need to truly “feel” those scenes or places.

A multi-deck railroad in O scale!

I became interested in prototype modeling while working in HO scale. I had some success with duplicating structures, bridges, locomotives, and rolling stock, but I lacked a specific time and place. The main line included parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. The layout was in a room over the garage, and I struggled with dust issues. I spent too much time cleaning track and wheels and not enough time building and operating.

The Lehigh Valley in N scale

Choosing the Lehigh Valley RR (LV) as a modeling subject came easily for me. I grew up in Hughestown, Pa., which is near the LV’s former Coxton Yard. The Lehigh Valley and Delaware & Hudson (D&H) main lines both ran past my grandparents’ home in Avoca, Pa.

I could see both railroads from the picture window in their living room. My interest in railroads was sparked early, as I went right to that window and waited for action with every visit.


Modeling an Ohio Classic

My long-lasting interest in the Akron, Canton & Youngstown (AC&Y) can be attributed to visits to grandparents in northeastern Ohio. They lived near the AC&Y in Fairlawn/West Akron. The chime of a Nathan M5 air horn was my incentive to bicycle to trackside.

At the time, the AC&Y’s locomotive roster consisted entirely of Fairbanks-Morse (FM) road switchers. Passing trains dispensed the characteristic blue-gray FM exhaust and a distinct sweet aroma of newly minted tires from Akron’s many rubber plants.


Same railroad in a smaller space

The 18.6-mile Buffalo Creek & Gauley (BC&G) has been the subject of my research and modeling for about 40 years ( This West Virginia coal-hauling short line, and the sister logging operation of its parent Elk River Coal & Lumber Co. (see “Two railroads, one owner” on page 42) have been the subjects of the three S scale (1:64, or 3⁄16" per foot) model railroads I’ve built.

An hour of operation in 13 feet

I’ve always had a passion for model railroading. I live in Belgium, and I’ve spent many years modeling European railroads, especially German and Swiss narrow gauge lines.

Some time ago, however, I decided to try a new modeling challenge. I’ve always been attracted to North American railroads, which are very different from the railroads we see in Europe. The many North American prototype Class 1 railroads, as well as regionals and short lines, offer an inexhaustible source of inspiration, and they open a lot of what are for me unexplored horizons. It was time to discover this new world, so I built my first U.S. switching layout in HO scale.


Modeling the Linden Street Freight Station

Marine operations in and around the Philadelphia waterfront weren't as extensive or complex as those in New York City, but they were no less interesting or diverse in their functions and activities. The Baltimore & Ohio, Reading Co., and Pennsylvania RR were the major participants in the Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., waterfront areas.

The Reading's Linden Street freight station was located at the end of Linden Street in the shadow of the Ben Franklin bridge on the Delaware River in north Camden, N.J. It was the only Reading property retained by the railroad in southern New Jersey after the formation of the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines in 1993. Constructed in 1891, the line resembled and functioned like compact railroad facilities along the New York waterfront that were isolated and served only by car-float operations.

Moving a masterwork

With apologies to Margaret Mead: Never doubt what a small group of thoughtful, committed model railroaders can accomplish.

Brian Pate is an interesting man. A nuclear scientist with many professional achievements to his name, he is also an accomplished modeler whose models have won the National Model Railroad Association National Convention’s Best of Show Gold Award – twice! Brian’s passion is researching and reproducing in miniature the machines and environment of Canada’s far north, specifically the railways, sternwheelers, dredges, and structures used by the miners of the Klondike gold rush.

Enough switching for two layouts

My client had a simple wish list for his HO track plan: Southern Pacific in the mid-1990s (just before the Union Pacific took over); a straightforward switching layout built on prefab benchwork sections; and stock or modestly kitbashed structure kits. Add a fascinating prototype: an industrial switching area in Clackamas, Ore.

The case for cameos

Comparing a cameo layout to a regular model railroad is like comparing a Mini Cooper to a full-size sedan: Both have a motor, four wheels, seats, and doors, but there the resemblance pretty much ends. A cameo layout likewise has much the same basic ingredients as its full-size counterpart: track, scenery, a structure or three, and, of course, trains. It’s just the overall size and the intent that differ.

Two layouts in one

I don’t want to disillusion anyone, but not all of us in the model railroad industry have large, fabulous home layouts. As much as we love the hobby, there are various reasons why some of us don’t have model railroads. It’s as simple as not having the space or desire to build one. Or we may prefer devoting some of our free time to family or other pursuits that are important to us.

Making a good yard design better

Steve Williams built a wonderful HO model railroad. It was largely finished when it was featured in Great Model Railroads 2012. But a couple of years later, Steve and his wife moved into a larger home. Preparing for the move, Steve first considered dismantling and simply reassembling the railroad.

But it was likely he would have a larger space and different footprint than the 300 square feet the lower floor of his townhouse provided. So while he planned to stick with the Baltimore & Ohio branchline theme and use the same rolling stock and structures, he would need to create a new track plan. He would not only have the features he liked, but also work to avoid some issues he had with the former railroad.

7 more things not to do

Most modelers I know derive a great deal of pleasure from our hobby. Like me, a large number of their good friends share their interest in scale model railroading. Many of them regularly attend several National Model Railroad Association and prototype modeling conventions each year, and it’s like a family reunion. Even the non-modeling halves of these teams have found ways to get together and have a good time.


Freight yard design and operation.

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