Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - September, 2011

WELCOME to the ninth 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.

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Benchwork Without Legs

A nice short article within an article written by Lou Sassi (referring to modeler Dil Huey’s layout) on page 42 of the October, 2011 issue of Model Railroader describes a somewhat unusual way of constructing benchwork using arc brackets made out of three-quarter inch plywood which are fastened to exposed wall studs. If you wish to make your layout about 40 inches high, then one side of the bracket would be 40 inches long and the other side of the bracket could be 30 or 36 inches which would then be the width of the layout surface. The inner aspect of the bracket is cut in the shape of a 1/4 circle arc which serves as a very strong support for the plywood “shelf” layout on top.

If the wall you are attaching this to already has wallboard covering the studs, you may have to remove the wallboard, according to the article. However, I don’t see why you couldn’t use 40” long 2x4” boards nailed or screwed into the hidden stud through the wallboard to provide a support for the arc bracket. This would save the trouble and the mess of removing the wallboard.

Foundations for Your Buildings

Most of us spend a lot of time putting a model building kit together, but when it comes to placing this treasure on our model railroad layout, we just plop it down without much thought about the foundation or how it integrates with the rest of the scenery in the area.

A nice article by Bob Walker in the August, 2011 Railroad Model Craftsman, titled "Foundations, Bases and Footprints", on page 56 showed many ways to create a foundation for your structures. You can use a Micro Marks' Typhoon cutter or even just a wire brush to distress the surface of bassword or balsa to create a rustic foundation for an older building. You could also use brick sheets made of either paper or plastic to place around the bottom of the structure on the inside to look like a foundation.

Make sure to avoid gaps between the bottoms of the structure walls and the layout surface and make sure you use your ground-cover and bushes etc. to integrate the building into the rest of the scenery.

Entertainment Junction

If you live anywhere near Cincinnati, you may want to visit this fantastic 80,000 ft.² model railroad center in G scale. The freelanced railroad includes 3 different eras from the 1930s to the present with track heights from 2 to 12 feet and with a track distance of 10,560 feet. It contains more than 75 operating trains traveling through detailed, beautiful scenery. This is a great experience that the whole family can enjoy.

For more information visit"

Reference: "Entertrainment Junction”, Model Railroader, August, 2011, p. 36, by Jim Hediger.

Creating Fences Inexpensively

An article in Railroad Model Craftsman, September, 2011, on page 74, written by Randy Laframboise, describes a great way to create fences for your model railroad using a fabric called tulle, which you can buy at your local fabric store. You can use toothpicks or twigs for your posts. Cut the fabric to the width that you prefer corresponding to the height of the fence that you wish to create and stretch it along your fence posts using white glue to attach it. The article describes using small plastic clamps or small clothespins to hold the fabric to the posts while you're waiting for the glue to dry.

You can even use the same fabric to make a barbed wire fence by cutting the fabric into individual strands and then cutting the nubs close to the line to look like barbs.

Command Control for the Future

A new method of command control was reviewed by John Sipple recently in Model Railroad News, p.48. The system is called Rail Pro, manufactured by Ring Engineering, Inc. ( It requires 3 basic components–the power supply, the hand controller and the locomotive module.

This will not work with DCC. It works primarily by radio control, and requires a module to be installed into each of your locomotives, which appears to be a relatively straightforward process. The article describes how to install the module into various types of locomotives made by several different manufacturers. The handheld controller is about one and a half times the size of an iPhone, has a color touch screen and is very intuitive and easy to use without spending hours reading the manual.

So if you want something more futuristic and more up-to-date than DCC or DC control, you may want to give this a try.

Small Layout: Keep It Simple

One great way to get started in model railroading would be to make a small simple inexpensive switching layout. For HO, all you would need is a 2' x 8' piece of plywood on which you could design your own point-to-point switching layout with branches to 2 or 3 industries. This could provide many hours of operating fun for one or 2 railroaders and could serve as the basis for expansion later. (For N scale, you would only need a 1’ x 4’ section of plywood.)

Once you have your plan and design set up, you can determine how much track and how many turnouts you will need. You will also need a transformer and, of course, 2 or 3 switching locomotives and several various kinds of freight cars. It could be wired as either DC or DCC and could be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it. You could do it without scenery and just have mockups for the buildings or industries and just leave the tracks tacked to the plywood in the beginning in case you wanted to make changes to the track plan later.

Your point-to-point track plan could be very simple involving only one or two connecting branches on either end, or you could make it into somewhat of a “puzzle” such that it would be challenging to get a particular freight car from one industry on one side of the layout to the recipient industry on the other side.

This helps to avoid the frustration of planning and designing a huge layout that may take years before you can run the first train. With this approach, you can start running trains right away!

Reference: "Keeping Something Running", Railroad Model Craftsman, July, 2011, page 46.

Using Legos for Modeling

An interesting and fun article about this was written recently by Bill Gill in the September 2011 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, P.56, titled "Thinking Outside the Blocks".

There is a huge selection of Lego products available many of which could potentially be used for modeling. The author describes how he used them to create buildings, even details like soda fountains for the drugstore. They could be used for mockups for structure locations and for checking track clearances for buildings. You can even use some of the Legos as tools to make a jig particularly if you combine them with clamps and rubber bands. They could even be used for casting.

Hope you enjoyed Issue #9. 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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