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Model Railroading: The Ultimate Guide 2019

Model Railroading: The Ultimate Guide 2019 is 84 pages and 18 FREE companion videos packed with all the know-how (and fun!) you find at MR Video Plus! This special issue is full of cool projects and tons of tips and techniques that modelers of all skill levels will find useful.

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Model a 1950s suburban service train

Model Railroader Video Plus producer David Popp designed a track plan based on the Chicago & North Western in Crystal Lake, Ill. A natural companion project was to model a 1950s-era suburban service (commuter) train in HO scale.

One type of unit used on the full-sized train was an Electro-Motive Division GP7. Fortunately, we had an Athearn Genesis HO scale model in North Western colors, complete with steam-generator equipment and head-end power cabinets.


Lake of Plexiglass

Water features are always star attractions on model railroads. Our Canadian Canyons N scale project, featured on, has two rivers and a lake on it.

I'd used two-part resin to make the rivers, but the lake was something of a special problem – it had to span two sections of the layout that needed to be separated. Resin wasn't going to work well here. Enter Plexiglas, a brand of clear acrylic panels. I've used this transparent material before to represent water surfaces, and I thought it might be an ideal starting point for out Kamloops Lake project.


Make a fast forest

When the MRVP team set to work on building our N scale Canadian Canyons, I signed up to work on my favorite part – scenery. The layout models the Thompson and Fraser River Valleys in British Columbia. These are heavily forested regions, so it was clear that I was going to need a lot of trees!

The Copper Basin Railway

Every prototype railroad has a unique character shaped by three things: Its location, its purpose, and its history. The Copper Basin Railway, located in southern Arizona, is no exception.

If you're interested in modeling passenger service, bridge traffic, or a wide variety of freight trains, the Copper Basin isn't the prototype for you. But if heavy unit trains grinding through the spectacular landscape of the Sonoran Desert behind lashups of handsome Geeps appeals to you, read on.


A basement-sized copper mine

Industrial railroading has a charm all on its own. While it can involve Class 1 railroads, it usually comes in the form of a dedicated carrier serving the needs of a major plant system. Such is the case with Arizona's the Copper Basin Ry. This short line, based in Hayden, Ariz., serves one customer, the ASARCO copper mine and smelter.

To fit the ASARCO copper mine at Ray and at least a bit of the smelter at Hayden into the track plan, I knew I'd need something bigger than your average 10 x 12-foot spare room. I designed the Copper Basin Ry. plan shown here to fit the layout room of my former basement. That room connected to two others, so one wall was pretty much left open as aisleway.


Turning spaces into places

There's no bigger change you can make to a layout than adding scenery where there was bare benchwork. Suddenly a model train running on a board is transformed into a railroad delivering goods from one place to another. Only scenery can change spaces into places on a layout.

My current HO scale Bona Vista RR layout had a peninsula that sits directly in front of the staircase that leads into the train room. For visitors coming for a layout tour, the stark L-girder benchwork didn't make a very good first impression, so I set out to change that.


Pre-shading made simple

Light is a funny thing. It casts subtle shadows that belie that an object is as smooth and uniform as it may appear. Pre-shading mimics that effect by forcing the impression of changes in lighting, and it's easy to do with an airbrush.

Q&A with Kathy Millat

If you're looking for a model railroad scenery guru, Kathy Millatt may be your answer. She's known for her YouTube tutorials on model railroad scenery and as the host of Let's Make a Scene on MRVP, where she demonstrates various scenery projects on her HO scale New Haven layout. In this exclusive interview, Kathy talks about her introduction to model railroading, her current project, and her experience as a judge on the telelvision series, The Great Model Railway Challenge.

Super-sized Soo Line

You might say that railroading runs in our blood. My interest in the Soo Line (Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Ry.) stems from growing up in Glenwood, Minn.

It was the first division point west of Shoreham Yard in Minneapolis in the 1940s and '50s. My dad was a brakeman on the Soo, and I had the opportunity to ride the train with him a number of times.


Trackside adventure

The Show Me State. Missouri, like railroading, runs in my blood. Many of my ancestors worked for the Milwaukee Road out of Chillicothe, a small town just over an hour's drive from Kansas City, Mo. My grandparents, both born there, met and married then climbed aboard Milwaukee's Road's Southwest Limited and moved to Milwaukee, Wis. It was there, two decades later, my mother was born, setting the state for my arrival around the time the Milwaukee ended.

Scratchbuild a sawmill

For the past four years, I've wanted to build a sawmill for our Olympia On30 logging railroad, but I was always stuck on how to do it. So after working on everything else I could, it finally came down to just needing the mill.

Along the way, I'd purchased a KMP Models sawmill kit. It's a great little model, but its L-shaped footprint wasn't going to work for the roughly 6" x 19" space I had available. I also wasn't quite sure how a sawmill worked, and if I was going to do the project right, I needed research; so I turned to the internet.


Paper roads

We needed to model a short stretch of Trans-Canada Highway 1 on our N scale Canadian Canyons layout. Highway, as it is most often called, follows the banks of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers in British Columbia, so it was critical that we include at least a small portion of it on the layout.

When working in N scale, it's difficult to get the colors, markings, and weathering to look correct using regular roadbuilding techniques. Plaster, paint, and weathering powders don't always scale well, and the results can look too uneven to be realistic.


A freight car weathering triple play

Powdered pastels have been used for weathering locomotives and freight cars for many years. However, as airbrushes, artist's oils, and even weathering decals have gained popularity, pastels have been relegated to the back of many toolboxes.

But much like vinyl records today, pastels are making a comeback. There are several manufacturers that offer powdered pastels, including AK Interactive, Noch, PanPastel, and Tamiya, among others.


Build a bog

Scenery construction isn't always about building tree-covered hillsides. I wanted a little scenic area alongside a road down a hill. A naturally formed boggy area fit the description, and it was a easy way to model something a little different.


Decoder upgrade for a stalling Geep

Ben Lake and I were having a great time one afternoon running an operating session on our Winston-Salem Southbound HO scale layout. However, our Athearn GP9 locomotive kept stalling on some of the trackwork. To top it off, two of the locomotive's four headlight bulbs were broken. We decided that the time had come for some upgrades.

Off The Rails

Who doesn't like knew model railroading tricks? That's exactly what my monthly show, "Off the Rails," is all about. Here are a few of my favorites.


Freight yard design and operation.

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