Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - May, 2012

WELCOME to the 17th issue of BYMRr-Zine - a newsletter published by Building Your Model Railroad, and 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.

Sign Up: If this has been forwarded to you by a friend and you have not yet subscribed, click here to get your own version sent to your email box free of charge every month.

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]

The NWSL S-Cab: A Breakthrough for Command Control

This handheld unit promises to simplify installation and operation of the command control system for your layout. It requires no rewiring of your layout and will work with any current system of DC, AC or DCC power - even battery power.

Instead of sending signals through the track as most other systems do, this unit sends the DCC signals directly to a radio receiver attached to a DCC decoder inside the locomotive. The power to the locomotive can come from the track or from the optional 12V battery that you can install within the loco along with the receiver.

You can learn more about this new device at or www.nwsl.

Reference: Model Railroad News, April, 2012, p.67

Woodland Scenics Pre-Fab Kits

I painted and assembled two of these new pre-fab structure kits recently. Using acrylic paints and two high quality brushes - one thin and one not-so-thin - I painted the main structure (which was already assembled) and all the detail parts while they were still attached to the sprue. Each building required about three coats. I then attached all the detail parts using liquid styrene glue. It took about a week of evenings for each building, but the end results were excellent.

Cleaning Brushes

When you clean your paint brushes after use, clean them the way you usually do with either water or paint thinner depending on the type of paint you used. Now do one last step before you put them away to dry. Dip each brush in Windex window cleaner fluid and then shape the tip. This will keep your brushes in good condition and will allow them to last a lot longer than they would otherwise.

Reference:Model RailroaderLetter from Nate Gerstein, June, 2012, p18.


If you have a lot of curves in your track plan, laying traditional purchased cork or foam roadbed can sometimes be tedious, expensive and time-consuming. Trying to get these strips of roadbed to lay flat around tight curves is a real challenge.

One solution to this problem is to cover your layout surface with sheets of either cork or foam before laying your track. After the track is placed and connected the way you want it, then you can use a sharp hobby knife to cut out the sections of the sheets that are not lying under the track and are therefore not needed. The remnants can be used for other parts of the layout or can be used to make roads.

Follow up on Cookie Cutter Layout

Well, as you can see from the picture, I'm far from finished with the small layout as I had planned when I presented it in the last newsletter, but I've made a little progress. The mountains are formed with newspaper wads covered with plaster cloth. The bridge has been installed. Most of the track joints have been soldered and plastic rail gaps have been inserted where appropriate.

Next I plan to add roadbed, glue the track down, add ground-goop and rock outcroppings to the mountains, use diluted washes to paint the rocks and the mountain-sides, create a small creek or river to go under the bridge, create some roadways, then add ground cover, bushes, trees, structures, and other details. Should be done in no time - Right? Well, I don't really want to rush it. It wouldn't be as much fun then.


I love it when a new product comes along that helps to solve an age-old problem for model railroaders - simply, efficiently and inexpensively.

Rerailers are specially designed track sections that help to get your cars back on track when one of the wheels has been riding along off the track. Most track manufacturers have their own version of this, and some of them, like Atlas retailers actually double as road crossing grades, which is nice.

But what if you've already fastened down all your track, rail joints have been soldered, and you find a problem area where one of your cars keeps jumping off the track every time it travels through there. You could try to troubleshoot the problem, do a little filing here and there, check the gauges of the track and the wheels, etc., and maybe you'll find the problem, maybe you won't.

One solution might be to add a rerailer. But you don't want to pull up the track you've already fastened down.

Enter Jiffy Rail. A neat little product that you just fasten to the inside of straight track that you've already laid, and presto, rerailer installed! Problem solved.

For more information, check out the website at

A New Type of Helix

An interesting article appeared in the June, 2012 issue of N Scale Railroading by Mark Runyan, entitled "The Wedding Cake Helix", which describes a new take on an old concept.

Say you want to have 2 levels on your layout, you need a helix but don't have the room for a hidden helix, or you don't really want to hide it. Consider a "wedding cake" helix right in the middle or on one end of your layout - right out in the open.

This is an oval-shaped helix beginning at the bottom with a long, wide oval, which gradually rises into a smaller oval, which then gradually rises into an even smaller oval, and then ends up on an oval platform on the top. On this upper platform you can create a small town or yard or industry which then connects to the mainline on the second level.

This is easy to build using a "cookie-cutter" pattern with either a 1 inch thick foam sheet or with plywood.

Basically, you would draw an oval spiral line-pattern on the plywood, starting with a long, wide oval and continuing the spiral inward into smaller ovals (about 4 inches in from the outer oval) until you have drawn about 3 or 4 spiraling ovals, each one a little smaller than the previous one. You should then have an oval platform in the center that will eventually be the top of the helix when completed.

Then take your jigsaw and cut the spiraling line. When you're finished cutting, you should be able to prop up the center platform and the helix will take shape immediately. You can then create supporting structures - 2 for each side and one for each end of the helix - by drawing and cutting out stairstep patterns on the plywood with each flat, horizontal part of the step being about 4 inches . Install these supports under the spiraling helix in the appropriate places at the appropriate height that would follow the incline of the helix.

You could then use plaster cloth, rock molds, retainer walls and other various scenery techniques all around the helix to create an interesting terrain through which your trains will travel as they climb to the next level.

If you are interested in doing this, you should really pick up a copy of the magazine and check out the article on page 44. The pictures there will help you understand how to do it.

Learn How To Scratchbuild

Buying structure kits for a model railroad gets pretty expensive after a while, especially if you have two or more towns or cities on your layout. Furthermore most of these kits are common and are seen on everyone's layout. Also, sometimes the kit just doesn't fit in your track plan. Sooner or later in this hobby, you'll want to try scratchbuilding - making your own unique structures that no one else has and that fit perfectly right where you want them to.

Watch this free entertaining introductory video about scratchbuilding from an expert at Red Earth Railway – You'll soon find out that you don't need expensive tools or expensive materials, and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to make your own buildings, bridges or other details for your layout. It's easy to do, but you'll need to know how to get started. This introductory video shows you the way. More details can be purchased inexpensively in the form of a DVD containing a huge amount of information put together in one resource that can be referred to again and again. I purchased the DVD myself and can vouch for its authenticity, its quality and its content - all presented in an entertaining, easy-to-follow format.

Introductory Video into Scratchbuilding - Making structures out of ordinary, inexpensive materials using ordinary tools and an ordinary workshop. Lots of good information and tips that will save you ten times the cost of the DVD and will help you create unique and realistic structures for your model railroad empire.

build your own trainset

Learn even more tips and techniques from these great
Model Railroading Books
available through

Hope you enjoyed Issue #17. 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 2012. All rights reserved

New! Comments

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to what you just read? Leave me a comment in the box below.