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BYMRR-Zine, Issue #024 -- Model Railroading Newsletter
January 01, 2013

Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - January, 2013

WELCOME to the 24th issue of BYMRr-Zine - a newsletter published by Building Your Model Railroad, devoted to providing breaking news and tips to model railroaders of all ages and all scales in a quick and easy-to-read format. Resources are always credited where appropriate.

Thank you for subscribing. We have lots of new tips and tricks this month to add to your model railroading pleasure.

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Send in Your Tips/Comments/Suggestions: Let me know if you have any tips to pass on to other model railroaders. Just type them in on the Comments Page of the website or send me an email directly to [email protected]. In addition, if there is a particular topic you would like to see appear in the newsletter, let me know about that as well.

Photos: We're always looking for new photos for our Gallery pages. If you have photos of your layout that you would like to share with other model railroaders, I'd love to post them on the site. Send them in to [email protected]

Renew Your Layout

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I know I did. I find myself being very thankful for my friends and family and also for all of my readers who make this newsletter and website possible.

But now with the New Year fast approaching, I am beginning to look at my layout with the words "renewal" and "refurbish" rumbling around in my head. I'm asking myself questions like, "What can I do to bring new life to my scenes?" Or even, "Should I start a new layout?"

The first thing I want to do is some troubleshooting. There are some turnouts that don't work as well as they should, and I have a couple of locomotives that have stopped running for some reason. The turnouts I can do myself, but if the locos require more than cleaning to get them going, I'm probably going to have to send them in for repair.

I'll be re-cleaning the track using some of the methods that I mentioned in prior newsletters. [There is one correction, by the way, to the section on cleaning track in the last newsletter. One reader wrote in to remind me not to use sandpaper for cleaning track since it will cause scratch marks in the rails which can collect dirt and grime and result in even dirtier track than you had to begin with.]

Then, once again, I'll try to make sure that all the tracks are getting power and that all the trains are able to run without derailing or stalling.

Next, after I've completed all the usual maintenance tasks, I can focus on refurbishing some of the scenery that looks a little dull. or boring. Maybe I'll redo one or more of the scenes to add some color, humor or more interest. Lots of areas need more trees. I have one area called "Gavin Mountain" that I named after my grandson, that I would like to change to a winter scene, complete with snow drifts, icicles, a skating rink and maybe even a ski lift.

Then, I want to improve my layout lighting - not so much the overhead lighting, but rather the lighting within the structures and the scenes themselves. I'd like to add fire and smoke to one of the buildings, some welding effects in the machine shop, put a campfire in a hobo camp. And I'd like to add some lampposts to the walkways in town. I also have some luminescent signs I would like to install on some of my business buildings in town.

Speaking of electronics, I need to add lighting to my passenger cars. I also need to install some crossing grades and more working signals. Oh, and I need to install a few magnetic uncouplers. And what about that new train cam? Also on the list and when I'm really energetic, I want to computerize my whole layout.

I want to take new pictures of my BR&S Railroad from different perspectives - newer areas that I have completed but haven't photographed before - and learn to take better photos, using better lighting and filtering effects.

Sometime this year, I would like to improve my backdrop - either by repainting it myself, or by purchasing a vinyl backdrop from one of the several vendors who sell them. My current backdrop is very simple - I painted a blue sky and blended in some white near the horizon. That has served me well for a while, but now I would like to do it better.

Last, but definitely not least, I want to work more on renewing and updating the website, adding even more information, pictures and interesting articles. I would love to add YOUR layout to the Showcase section.

There's always something new to do, even if the empire looks complete. I know I'll be busy this New Year. I hope I've given you some ideas, too.

Tips for Laying Flextrack

I like to use flex track for a couple of reasons - one is that you're not limited to a particular radius as you are with sectional track, and, second, there are fewer joints to have to worry about as points of potential derailments.

However, there are some important guidelines to remember as you put down flextrack:

1. Try to avoid joints of flex track in the middle of a curve. If it can't be avoided, solder the railjoints connecting the two adjoining pieces of flex track together while they are laid out straight before laying the track on the curve.

2. Cut off two plastic rail ties at the ends of each piece of flex track to allow the rail joints to slide fully on to the ends of each rail to be sure of a good structural and electrical connection between them. Save the rail ties so that after your track is laid, you can slip them back in under the rails where they are missing and glue them in with some white glue before you start ballasting.

3. Note that when you curve flex track, one rail slides to allow the track to curve, and one rail doesn't. When laying on a curve, you should keep the sliding rail on the inside and the fixed rail on the outside. [Otherwise, you will waste a lot of track that will have to be cut off.] This way, you will only have to nip off a short piece of one rail to even up the track so that it will join up properly with the next piece of track.

4. When laying flextrack on a curve, since I use foam sheets for my layout surface, I have to use a lot of long foam pins to hold it in place while the the glue dries. If you're laying the flextrack on roadbed that has wood directly underneath, you can nail it down as you go, and you don't have the worry about the glue not holding or waiting for the glue to dry.

5. When space is at a premium, you will be tempted sometimes to curve the flex track too tightly to get around a curve. (You can do this with flextrack whereas sectional track won't let you.) However, if your radius is too tight, your trains won't look right on that curve and you will probably have derailments. It would be better to redesign your trackplan so you don't have such tight radii ("givens and druthers").

New Overview Page

I have added a new page to the website, particularly for those just starting in the hobby, who may need a better step-by-step overview of how to build the layout of their dreams - Or at least it will show them what they are getting themselves into;)

All the paragraphs on that that page are basically a summary of the steps that people usually go through as they design, plan and build their layouts. If you know someone who is just starting out and might benefit from having all the steps outlined on one page, you could just print it out and show it to them or direct them to the site at

2013 NMRA Convention

Two of the best gifts I received for Christmas this year were tickets to the 2013 National NMRA Convention to be held in Atlanta. It's called the Peachtree Express, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I love going to railroad shows, museums, conventions and restored railroad stations. It's one of the ways I'm able to connect with others in the hobby, see what's new out there and what other people are doing.

I hope to see you at the Peachtree Express Convention, but if it's too far away or if you can't make it for other reasons, try to go to at least one local convention in your area, and get out to see as many railroad museums as you can. It helps put your hobby in perspective and gives you a dose of reality and history, not just of the railroads, but of the whole country as well.

Another thing you'll find at conventions is camaraderie - friendly people with common interests. You may even establish friendships that last for years.

Short Tips

~ For making barns, outbuildings and lumber yard structures, consider using wood from fruit and vegetable crates or old baskets. Make strips of wood from this material and put them together for a rustic, weathered, aged structure.

~ Make a coal mine by cutting a small toy tunnel in half and placing the cut end up against a mountain. Use Sculptamold or other landscaping material to cover the joint, apply paint and scenery to make it blend in. Then place track going into the mine tunnel. Place a sign over the entrance that depicts the name of the coal mine. Finally, place piles of coal on either side of the track, add some coal trucks, bulldozers and workers shoveling coal to complete the scene.

~ For a more realistic tunnel portal, add some soot over the top of the portal by grinding up a piece of a charcoal briquette and spreading it on the top area of the portal where soot from the engine would collect. Afterwards, spray on a little Testor Dullcote spray to secure the effect.

~ To make a dimmer for your structure lights, wire them to the track terminals of an old small transformer like the kind you get inside most of the train sets. Then you can adjust the power to the lights simply by turning the power knob one way or the other.

~ If you're lacking in buildings (and space) for your layout, especially in the background, try cutting one or more buildings in half and placing each half against the backdrop in different areas. If you look at the scene from eye level, there's no way to tell you've only installed half a building. It'll make your cities look bigger than they are.

~ Speaking of making your layout look bigger, try using smaller scale structures in the background of your layout. For example, use N scale buildings in the background of an HO scale layout. This forces the viewer's perspective and makes the area appear deeper than it is.

~The clever use of mirrors can also make your layout look much bigger than it is. You just have to be careful to hide the edges of the mirror with scenery or structures. You could have a bridge running along the back of the layout with a mirror underneath it that makes it look like there's another whole world of scenery and/or buildings on the other side of the bridge!


This section is used to focus attention on outstanding model railroading websites or layouts.

This month's spotlight is on D. Ferguson's Wheeling and Lake Erie - a fantastic HO model railroad with superior craftsmanship. Very inspiring!

The link to the You Tube video is here...

Make sure you watch it to the end. You will be rewarded by some beautiful brass steamers that populate this layout.

If you have a layout that you think would qualify for this spotlight or if you know someone who does, please send me an email at [email protected].

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Hope you enjoyed this issue of BYMRR-Zine. Feel free to pass it on to your friends, family and other model railroaders. If you have a great tip that you would like to publish here, please let me know - The more, the better. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome. Don't forget to send in YOUR tips! You can either go to the Comments/Contact Page and enter your suggestions there or contact me directly at [email protected]

Thank you for your support and for subscribing to the free BYMRr-Zine, the newsletter for Building Your Model Railroad.

And, as always, thank you for visiting the BYMRR website at

-Greg Warth

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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