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November 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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Bringing large scale indoors

When you think of large scale trains, the first thing that probably comes to mind is garden railroading. And that makes perfect sense, as the size of the equipment requires more space than the typical basement can provide. However, when Roy Allan started modeling the Rio Grande Southern (RGS) in 1:20.3, he brought southwestern Colorado indoors.

How to build a working coal tower

My 3 x 12 foot O scale exhibition layout, featured in Model Railroading 2017, is based on the Union Pacific in Laramie, Wyo., during the final years of the railroad's 4-8-8-4 Big Boy steam locomotives. Because of the model railroad's small footprint and the large equipment I'm running, operations are somewhat limited. Anything I can add to the layout to enhance audience and operator interest during an exhibition is a plus. Enter an operating coal tower.

A place on the Pennsy, circa 1955

For many years, John M. Johnson didn't have the time or space to build a layout, so he focused on building freight cars. Now retired, he finally has his own model railroad, a 9'-5" x 23'-6" HO scale layout set in rural Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) region conventions or similar gatherings often feature of exquisite rolling stock models. For many model railroaders, building and detailing models is the primary way they participate in the hobby. Some modelers are quite content to never build a layout. For others, life may simply not present the opportunity.

Sketchup for backdrops

A common problem model railroaders come across when modeling a specific prototype of a bygone era is that the world changes. Landmarks rise and fall. City skylines change. Factories are torn down.  Paint colors change.

This becomes particularly problematic when modeling a scene that requires landmark structures to grace the backdrop. I ran into this issue when trying to model the train station in Orlando, Fla., as it existed in the late 1980s. Behind the Orlando station was a very large water tower that was torn down in the early 1990s. I was able to find photos of the water tower, including aerial images, but none of the photos showed the angles, time of day, and weather I needed for a good backdrop image. Finally, it occurred to me: I could model the water tower virtually in 3-D to be 2-D printed on paper. I had already modeled the Orlando station in 3-D to be 3-D printed. So I figured, why not apply similar techniques to create the backdrop image?


New York Central River Division in HO scale

Some rooms are made for model railroads. Others, not so much.

Greg Ricciardi's basement room measures 11 x 30 feet, ample for an HO scale layout. The furnace, air conditioner, and water heater, however, sit at dead center. Gas and sewer pipes protrude almost 2 feet from one of the long walls, while the other long wall is divided awkwardly by the entrance to the room. The 7-foot ceiling makes a double-deck treatment impractical. There's a 4 x 16-foot space that extends from one corner – tempting, but too narrow for a turnback curve. Designing an HO scale version of the New York Central's River Division to fit in Greg's space was going to be a challenge.


Two for the price of one

Purchasing real estate and buildings, whether full-sized or scale, is always a risky business. In the scale model world, the issues are a bit less weighty, but it's still good to get the most bang for the buck.

I recently bought a Banta Modelworks O scale "House At The Trestle" kit, based on a Colorado prototype. Through the judicious use of kit parts plus a bit of scratchbuilding, I was able to finish two structures where there was originally intended to be just one. Adding a few details to augment the house and its new addition created in my mind a more New-England type home, and the small shack that resulted from leftovers provided a perfect little building for my waterfront in Albion.


On the Web
From the Editor
Ask MR

How do I make even stripes on handrails?

Step by Step

Weathering without an airbrush

DCC Corner

How to wire reverse loops with DCC

Trackside Photos

Featured layouts from your fellow model railroaders

On Operation

Are switches normal?

Index of Advertisers
Trains of Thought

Rekindling the passions of youth



Freight yard design and operation.

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