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December 2020

December 2020 cover of Model Railroader magazine
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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A look back at MR&T's heritage fleet

Believe it or not, Model Railroader magazine’s freelanced HO scale railroad, the Milwaukee, Racine & Troy (MR&T), is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2020. During the course of those four-plus decades, the magazine’s staff has enjoyed two model railroads. The first was located at Kalmbach’s downtown Milwaukee headquarters at 1027 North 7th Street. The current layout is in a neatly appointed room at our offices in Waukesha, Wis., a western suburb of Milwaukee.

As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the MR&T heritage fleet. Though these locomotives have been around for six years already, they help tell the history of our railroad.

Applying snow to a grassy areas on a model railroad scene

Add some chill to your next scene

When planning my HO scale Norfolk & Western layout, I wanted to set the season in late fall/ early winter. This time of year seemed to be when many of the 1950s railfan still and motion photography was done. I also wanted to model a portion of the model railroad with a light dusting of snow.

One of my previous layouts, the HO scale Missouri, Kansas & Quincy, had a small snow scene that was done with a significant amount of snow covering most of the terrain and track. The effect was nice, but keeping the snow dust-free was difficult even though I covered it with a plastic drop cloth when I wasn’t operating trains. Cleaning the track also presented problems, not to mention occasionally getting some snow material on the locomotive wheels. Further, the heavy snow prevented many small details from being seen or added.

More than 50 years of fun

When Rolf Plachter started work on the HO scale Midwest Lines back in 1966, he was looking for a hobby to enjoy with his sons, Fred and Richard. The layout started innocently enough, occupying just part of the family’s basement. Fred eventually became more interested in slot cars, and Richard participated in the hobby through his early teens. But Rolf’s interest in the hobby kept growing.

In the ensuing 54 years, the layout has been expanded six times, now measuring 33 x 52 feet and filling the entire basement plus a crawl space. Richard returned to the hobby in his late 20s and has been working side-by-side with his dad ever since to help shape the Midwest Lines into a sprawling model railroad depicting the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q); Rock Island (RI); and Union Pacific (UP) during the mid-1960s.

Vistas from the new Bone Valley

Peer inside one of the gallery windows and see the lightning strike near the Tampa Bypass Canal bridge as a phosphate train passes. Inside another window is the Amtrak Silver Meteor arriving at Orlando station. A total of six windows showcase the scenes of my gallery-style N scale Bone Valley model railroad. Each scene celebrates railroading through central Florida in the late 1980s.


From the Editor

Having a little fun with history

Ask MR
TTX flatcar

What do different TTX marks signify?

Heritage Fleet

Master custom builder Bill Lenoir

Rehab My Railroad

New life for an old building

DCC Corner

A look at the new Digitrax DT602 throttle

On Operation

What's behind all this?

Trackside Photos

Photos from your fellow model railroaders

Trains of Thought

A tale of two covers



Freight yard design and operation.

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