Tracks, Issue #002 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

November 1, 2019

Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - November, 2019

A Winter WonderlandA Winter Wonderland

WELCOME to the 2nd issue of our new newsletter called Tracks - a monthly 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.

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Requests: If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see in the newsletter, please let us know at [email protected] or [email protected]. Even better, if you have a tip or something you would like to add yourself for the newsletter, please send it in! Use the form in the Comments section of the BYMRR website.

Back Issues: And don't forget, there is a huge amount of information in the 33 issues of the old newsletter called BYMR-Zine. Back Issues are available here.

Thank you for subscribing. We have lots of new tips and tricks in this issue to add to your model railroading pleasure. And please tell your friends about us. The more we can spread the word about model railroading, the better.

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 photos@building-your-model-

Modeling a Winter Scene

Winter is coming soon to the States.  It's already here for some of us weather-wise.  Creating a realistic model railroad snow scene has probably crossed your mind recently. Perhaps you would like to create a display just for the Holidays, or even make an enduring winter scene for your layout. 

The first time I did this, many years ago, my train set was just set up in a double-loop fashion on plywood with no scenery.  I was in a hurry because relatives were coming and it was almost Christmas.  So I just spread a layer of cotton everywhere where there was no track. I had a few non-scale porcelain miniature houses that I put around as structures and that was it.  It was laughable and somewhat embarrassing as I think about it now, especially when I had to actually explain why the cotton was there.  It was about as poorly realistic as you can imagine.  

I've learned a few things since then, and I've found that there really are ways to make a fairly impressive winter railroad scene.

Learn more...

These pictures are from a previous winter scene that I did and some of you might recognize them. 

Winter Scene from the Blue Ridge and Southern RR

These pictures are from my newest winter scene on the BR&S...

Cleaning Tracks and Wheels

Dirty tracks are the number one reason why trains won't run the way they are supposed to. You know what I'm talking about - sudden stops for no good reason otherwise, decoders not working right, etc. Running trains regularly seems to help this, but if you haven't run them for a while and then try to run them, usually when all the family wants to see them, they don't work. Very frustrating!

I have tried everything - and I mean everything - to keep my tracks clean, including expensive cars that you fill with cleaning fluid and with pads that run along the tracks underneath. I've use various types of cleaning fluids that you have to apply by hand which takes forever if you have hundreds of scale miles of track. None of that stuff ever worked very well for me for me and if it did, I kept having to do it over and over. 

Here's how I finally solved the problem:

Cleaning Tracks

I purchased a relatively inexpensive track cleaner kit from Woodland Scenics.  It has a couple different types of pads that you can attach to the bottom of a plastic handle (both pads at the same time) that is long enough to get to areas of track that are difficult to reach by hand. The end of the handle where you attach the pad swivels such that you can easily go around curves.  I don't use the cleaner that the kit provides.  I use Goo-Gone, which is the best stuff in the world for cleaning tracks.  First I put on the eraser pad to get rid of really rough spots on the track or places where glue spray has been inadvertently sprayed on the tracks. Then I put on the soft pad and apply Goo-Gone to that. Then I go over all the tracks with it.  It is much faster and easier to do this with the handle in the kit than it ever was to do by hand with a small cloth that invariably messes up your scenery. You can even get into long tunnels with this.

After that I apply a small amount of transmission fluid to the pad to the most travelled areas of the layout. It doesn't take much of this - even on a small area of track - because the wheels of the train will carry it to the rest of the layout. I don't apply this to any tracks on grades to avoid slippage.

If you do track maintenance every now and then, or when you start to see a little hesitation in your trains responding to your controls, your trains will run as smooth as silk. 

Cleaning Locomotive Wheels

A less frequent problem is if the wheels on your locomotives get too dirty which can also interfere with current getting to engine.  Once again, Woodland Scenics has the answer - with a device called a Tidy Track Roto Wheel Cleaner that you can connect to a powered section of track, then put your locomotive on the top of the device, which has rotating brushes that clean the wheels when you turn the power on to the track.

Photographing Your Layout

Taking great model railroad photos is another one of the many arts involved in model railroading. After you’ve spent so much time and energy building your railroad, you’ll want to spend a little time and effort on getting some really good layout pictures. This is part of the fun of building the layout – so you can show it off to your friends, family, and other model railroaders.

Learn more...

More Pics from the BR&S Layout

BR&S Bird's Eye View. For more detail in a particular scene and to engage the viewer more, an eye level view would probably be better.

Videos for the Month

Rail-fanning - Steam Heaven...

Cass Scenic Railroad

N&W 611 J Class

UP's 4-8-8-4 Big Boy - Close up

Pere Marquette

NKP on the Horseshoe Curve (Open in You-Tube)

Train Songs

Have you ever noticed how many train songs there are out there? There must be hundreds, if not thousands, in all genres of music. It just goes to show you how much trains and railroads have been part of our lives. Airplanes and ships aren't referred to in songs nearly as much as trains. There is something nostalgic and romantic about trains, sad and happy at the same time - taking lovers away and bringing them home. A great website All About Vinyl Records written by a friend of mine, Danny Sandrik, includes a section about train songs. What a great walk down memory lane it is to hear great musicians play these not-so-old train songs! 

BYMRR Survey

√Model Railroading Books!

Learn even more tips and techniques from these great

Model Railroading Books

available through

Model Train Supply Store

Buy all your supplies here!

Trains, tracks, electrical supplies, scenery, tools, paints, weathering supplies, buildings, locomotives with or without DCC, freight and passenger cars.

Available in all scales from 12 major manufactures!

Hope you enjoyed this issue of Tracks. Feel free to pass it on to your friends, family and other model railroaders. If you have a great tip or article that you would like to publish on the website, 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 newsletter for Building Your Model Railroad.

And, as always, thank you for visiting the BYMRR website at We are committed to providing all the newest techniques, tips and articles to help YOU build your own great model railroad!

-Greg Warth

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