Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - July, 2011

WELCOME to the seventh issue of BYMRr-Zine - a newsletter published by the author of the website 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.

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Layout Skirting

One of the things that we model railroaders forget about is how our layout looks to family and visitors. We’re so busy with making sure our trains run well and perfecting our above-the-benchwork scenery, that we don’t pay much attention to all the clutter in the room, the boxes and the old magazines that we store under the layout, not to mention all the wires hanging down from below the layout. All this stuff under the layout really detracts from the appearance of the layout itself. I solved this problem with my layout, the BR&S, by buying some sheets of paneling, cutting them to fit, and loosely attaching them with Velcro or hinges to the benchwork under my layout. I can easily remove a panel if I need to get to the storage area underneath. I plan to put these panels on grooved wooden sliders so that it will be even easier to slide them back and forth.

There is an easier and less expensive way to do it: You can go to your local department store and buy some plain color, flat (not fitted) bedsheets. If you get the queen size, you can cut them down the middle when you get home, which will cover a lot of area. Measure the dimensions of the area you want to cover and cut the sheets so they will be about 2-3 inches shorter than the height of the layout. (That way people won’t be stepping on the bottom of the sheet pulling it down.) Then tack the top edge of the sheet to the undersurface of the plywood that hangs over your benchwork (assuming it hangs over). If the plywood does not have a lip that hangs over the front of your benchwork that’s okay – just attach the sheet neatly to the top of the benchwork. To make it look even better, you could later attach a strip of corner molding to the top edge of the layout where the top of the sheet meets the plywood.

(“Easy and Inexpensive Layout Skirting, by John Pursell, The Local, the newsletter published by the Mid-Eastern Region of the NMRA: May-June, 2011 issue)

Small Project: A Simple Switching Layout

If you don’t have the room or the money or the time for a room-sized model railroad, have no fear. You can still get incredible enjoyment out of a small easy-to-build simple switching layout. All you need is a 2x8’ section of sturdy plywood and some track and turnouts. Add a power pack and you’re ready to go.

Draw your own point-to-point track plan that will allow you to pick up and drop off cars at 2 or 3 related industries that can support each other – like a lumber yard and furniture store, for example. You don’t even need the structures: You can just put up a folded index card to represent an industry, until you decide to add the building later. Make the track plan interesting and perhaps a little challenging but not too complicated, at least not for your first project. You can always expand on this one or change it to a more complicated one later. With this in mind, when laying your roadbed and track, you may want to tack it down rather than glue it so that you can change it later if you want to.

You can operate your railroad with a 1 or 2 man crew. If you have a friend come over, one can run the trains and the other can operate the turnouts and uncouple cars that are being dropped off.

This type of project can get you to the fun of operating trains really fast, doesn’t take much money or work and can be a lot of fun. You could also use it to test locos and rolling stock for your larger layout if you have one. Or this could be the start of something big. You never know.

(“Keeping Something Running”, by Eric Hansmann, Railroad Model Craftsman, July, 2011, p.46.)

Electronics Catalog and Wiring Guide

Wiring and electronics may be two of the more challenging aspects of model railroading to some of us. That’s why I devoted quite a few pages to these topics on the BYMRR website. I recently discovered a tip in Model Railroader that Dallee Electronics has published an electronics catalog and wiring guide that may also be helpful to you as you make your layout come alive electrically. You can get it in print for $26 (717-661-7041) or as a free download from

Model Railroad Software

If you’re looking for a software program to help you with operation of your layout, consider using Ship It! by Albion Software - now available in version 8. This Windows-based program helps determine where your products will be shipped. You just enter your products and industries and the software will tell you which cars to use and where they should go - from producer to receiver and back. This is a great way of further developing and executing the purpose of your railroad without having to create a lot of paperwork. It contains a program that helps to maintain the proper balance between the producers and the receivers so that there is not too much of one type of movement to one versus the other.

It also contains an inventory section called Railbase where you can keep track of all your equipment – rolling stock, locomotives, etc. – including a place to store information and pictures. The whole program with Ship It! and Railbase included is a little on the expensive side at $109.95 for the downloaded product, but the reviewers all say it’s well worth it.

Another program that is just for inventory of your locomotives and rolling stock is called YardBoss 3.0, made by DCC by Design. The download sells for $14.95.

Look for other model railroad software programs on the BYMRR website.

(Model Railroader, Aug, 2011, p.16)

Floor Finish for Windows!?

A tip on p18 of the Aug, 2011 issue of the Model Railroader, by Jared Harper, suggests using Pledge Future Shine, Acrylic Premium Floor Finish for gluing “glass” into the windows of locomotive cabs and structures. You know how regular plastic model glue often causes an irregular stain on the edges of the “glass” that you are trying to glue into the window openings? If you use this product, that won’t happen. The “glass” will remain clear. You can also use it for applying decals.

Bipolar Wiring for Turnout Switches

If you have a fairly large layout with more than 12 turnouts, activated by slow-motion switch machines like Tortoise from Circuitron, you may want to consider using bipolar wiring for activating your switch machines. Bipolar wiring means that you use 2 separate but equal DC power packs wired in series (one wire connecting the negative terminal from one DC pack to the positive terminal of the other). A bus wire that is connected to this joining wire, between the power packs, goes to all areas of the layout and connects to the common ground terminal of each switch machine using short feeder wires.

Then use the free (unused) positive terminal on the one power pack to serve a connecting wire to the end terminal of one SPDT switch and daisy-chain it from there to one end terminal of all the other toggle switches on the control panel.

The free negative terminal from the power source goes to the opposite end terminal of each toggle switch on the control panel in the same way.

Then, for each switch machine, you only need to run one long wire from the other (positive) terminal of the switch machine back to the center terminal of the appropriate SPDT switch on your control panel at the front of your layout. (With unipolar power (one power pack), you would have to run 2 wires from each switch machine, rather than just one, back to the control panel. Also, all the switches on the control panel would need to be DPDT which requires several more wiring connections than the SPDT switches require.)

For further details and schematics refer to the article entitled “Better Turnout Control”, by Thomas Hunt in Model Railroader, August, 2011, p.58.

Also, if you are interested in a better way to operate yard ladders on your layout, see the following page on the Model Railroader website, entitled “Design Procedure for Yard Ladder Control Using Slow-motion Switch Motors”, by the same author.

Track Planning

A new track planning book published by Kalmbach is now available containing 43 of the best track plans you’ll find anywhere in one place – small and large – including N and HO scales – shelf layouts, bedroom layouts and multi-level layouts – derived from the plans previously published in Model Railroad Planning. The book is called 43 Track Plans from the Experts

There is also a large, free track plan database (sponsored by Atlas) that you can search and download in PDF form available from the Model Railroader website. See other great track planning books at the bottom of our Track Planning page or at Amazon.

Looking for a great book to put on your coffee-table?

This one is awesome!

Model Railroading With John Allen, Expanded Edition, by Linn Westcott, Bob Hayden and John Allen

Hope you enjoyed Issue #7. 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. 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 2011. All rights reserved

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