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January 2021

January 2021 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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Conrail SD50 no. 6712

Modeling forbidden spaces

Dave Abeles shares some of the "forbidden spaces" on his layout, and how to model and photograph them. Building a layout gives you access to places you may not be able to visit in real life.

Add real rocks to your scenery

Model Railroader contributing editor Lou Sassi shares his techniques for adding real rocks to your layout's scenery. Nothing looks more like the real thing than the real thing, when it comes to rocks!

track, ballast, and soil

Using grout to model soil

Lance Mindheim shows you how to use tile grout to create earth textures on your model railroad. This material is inexpensive and readily available in a broad range of earth tones.

Two Tortoise motor switches

The care and feeding of Tortoises

Some installation and repair tips can keep these switch motors thriving under your layout.

Into canyon country

How the Florida Scale Rails club extended its HO scale Denver & Rio Grande layout.

Creating better layout photos

Frequent contributor Brooks Stover offers suggestions for improving your photographs of your model railroad.

Installing fiber optic lighting

This wiring-free solution allows you to add illuminated scenes to your layout without any soldering.


From the Editor
Railway Post Office
Ask MR

Why are some tank cars "sway-backed"?

Rehab My Railroad

Roadbed and track for Jones Island

DCC Currents

Intro to the Wiring tor DCC website

On Operation
Train approaching traffic control signals in a snowy scene

When green means go

Trackside Photos
Pair of HO scale Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe General Electric C44-9Ws leading a doublestack train out of a tunnel on John Vavra's model railroad.

Photos from your fellow model railroadersIssue Item

Trains of Thought

Scenery color palette



Freight yard design and operation.

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