Tracks-006, Issue #006 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

March 1, 2020

Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - March, 2020

WELCOME to the March, 2020 issue of 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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Note: √= sponsored link - See disclosure page for details. If you see a √ next to a link on this page or on the site, that signals that the link is an ad. So if you click on it and purchase something, I might get a small (very small, I might add) commission on it. Just so you know.

Requests: If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see in the newsletter, please let us know at [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 as well as previous issues of Tracks.  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 [email protected].

Contributions Encouraged:  If you have a tip, picture, video or an article about model railroading that you would like to share in this newsletter, please let me know.  I'm always looking for more information.

Azatrax: D2T Dual Infrared Model Railroad Detector

For automated turnout control...

This is the stuff that really gets me excited about model railroading - automated operations - making things happen without human intervention.

This device allows you to never have to worry about trains derailing at branch connections.  The D2T is a circuit board connecting to  2 pairs of infrared train detectors (each pair consists of a transmitter and a receiver). The detectors are placed either in the road bed below the tracks, or above and to the side  for across-the-track sensing. 

One pair of detectors is located on the mainline and the other on the branch line.  As train#1 on the mainline approaches, the turnout points automatically line up for that train.  If train#2 on the branchline approaches after that, the points won't change until train #1 has cleared the turnout. Four seconds after train#1 clears the area, then the points will automatically align for train#2.  This can also work for a single crossover.

The turnout can still be controlled manually as well by attaching push buttons to the D2T (not included).

Another nice feature of the D2T is that it also has single pole relay contacts to control track power and/or signal lights.

I decided to get the one with the spring switch simulator ("run-through" switch), which resets the turnout for the mainline automatically as the default alignment after the area is clear of equipment, although you can get the D2T without it if you wish. 

Since I have Atlas turnouts, I got the one that works for 3-wire turnouts. There is another model that works for 2-wire turnouts.  Make sure you choose the right one if you decide to buy one.

For more information, visit the Azatrax website.  The installation instructions are excellent.

Railroad History in Photographs

Old railroad photo just for illustration (not one of John Gruber's)

The NRHS (National Railroad History Society)  Bulletin is a great little magazine that reminds us about our railroad roots, which are so easy to forget in today's era of information overload. 

We need those roots.  They allow us to appreciate the present because of the intelligence and ingenuity of those who came before us and it inspires us to do the same to improve the future.  Railroad photographs are an integral part of railroad history and help us remember what it was like or or what it must have been like before we were born.  This is where we came from.

The most recent issue of the NRHS Bulletin honors a railroad photographer named John Gruber, born in Chicago in 1936 and raised in Wisconsin.  His father had an interest in railroads and family vacations frequently involved trains, often on narrow-gauge lines in beautiful areas of the country like Alaska and Colorado. How could John not develop a love for trains in those settings?  He also took to photography at a young age as a way of expressing himself, since he was somewhat on the shy side and didn't like to talk much.

So for 60 years, he became one of the best railroad photographers of his time, contributing to Trains Magazine with many essays and outstanding photographs exemplifying the art of railroading.  His perspective and eye for detail was amazing.  He could make a pigeon standing on a rail into a fantastic work of art.

He made a lot of friends with railroad workers and magazine editors and became very well-known.  He spent many years with Trains Magazine and became good friends with the editor, David P. Morgan, with whom he collaborated on a number of books and other projects. Much later,  he worked for another magazine, along with his son Dick, called Vintage Rails, which unfortunately didn't last long because it lost its funding from the owners. 

John was also involved in railroad preservation and was director of a railroad museum in Wisconsin, but perhaps his greatest contribution to the art of railroad photography, besides his own great photographs, was that he founded the Center for Railroad Photography and Art (CRPA).  Under his leadership, The CRPA became nationally recognized and contained a number of exhibits by other well-known railroad photographers at the time, like O. Winston Link and Ted Rose.

His last big project was the completion of the book Beebe & Clegg: Their Enduring Photographic Legacy, which sold out almost immediately.  He still had lots of projects in mind, but unfortunately, he died in 2018 at the age of 82.

This was just a brief summary of the life and times of one of the greats. The article in the NRHS is much more detailed and is definitely worth reading if you can get a copy. To become a member and get the Bulletin, go to their website at

Fire Effects 

"House on Fire" - Fake Fire Effects for Your Model Railroad

I haven't discussed this for a while and I thought it might be helpful to others to review and list what types of fire effects are available for model railroaders to use to enhance the details and realism of their layouts. 

The items below are made by Circuitron and are very realistic.  They can be found on page 42 of their PDF catalog.

AW-1 - Arc Welder Circuit  - uses one yellow and one blue lamp that results in a flickering effect that you can attach in front of an arc welder figure in any scale.

AW-2 - Flickering lights for use in front of a frosted window that looks like a candle in the window. Or it can be used to light up multiple windows for a house on fire. Can also be used for a campfire. The AW-2 can control as many as 20 flickering lights at once.

Firelites - similar to AW-2 but perhaps more realistic for flames, barrel fires, structure fires.  The FF3 circuit can control up to 20 lamps. and GRS Micro Liting also make similar products.

**For more details, see the article on the BYMRR site called, "Creating Fake Fire, Arc Welding and Smoke".

Lighting Effects

Railroad Crossing Signal

While  was preparing this newsletter, I had a lot of fun just browsing these sites and seeing all the different electronic devices that are available to model railroaders.  I hope you enjoy looking at them as well.

Circuitron, in addition to the fire effects listed above, offers many lighting effects, including chase lights for marquees, billboard lighting, sequencing strobes, fiber-optics, ditch lighting, vehicle lighting, multiple types of flashers, traffic lights, end-of-train flashers (FRED), signal circuits,and lots of other electronic devices too numerous to mention here. 

Miniatronics has lots of LEDs, incandescent lamps, lighted vehicles, switches, power distribution blocks, wiring, lampshades, outdoor lighting, railyard searchlights, etc.

Cir-Kit Concepts made by GRS Micro Liting has a large inventory of miniature lighting and special effects, including things like lighthouse beacons, vehicle lighting kits, flamemakers, glowing embers, flickering fireplace units, Christmas lights, etc. They make a lot of things for dollhouses, but we don't have to tell our friends that /;) - Another great site with lots of miniature lighting effects, super-tiny LEDs, wiring and soldering aids and other cool tools.  While you're there, check out their Tips and Tricks Page.

**Lots more about this at "Special Lighting Effects for Your Model Railroad".

More Pics from the Layouts We Love:

These are pictures I took when I visited the Chesapeake Bay and Western Railroad in Yorktown, VA a while ago. See the more recent video below as well. I need to go back to see what's changed, but here are some great memories from that visit...

Videos of the Month

Chesapeake Bay and Western

Hoosac Valley

Model Train Crash and Action on the LGB Freunde Niederrhein

Realistic Water Made with Tape and Varnish

Upcoming Train Shows and Events

**Don't forget to register for Gateway 2020: the NMRA National Convention in St. Louis. Missouri,  July 12-18 !!!

Lots of model railroad displays are always available to see anytime of the year.  If you're traveling, make sure you include a train show, museum or even a train hobby store to visit in your itinerary.  The best way to find them is to enter an Internet search in your favorite search engine for "Train Shows" or "Train shows near _____" or "Train stores near _____". 

Or click here to find train shows in your area...

Or train museums...

Or go directly to the website!

This is sure to be great fun for the entire family!

√Model Railroading Books!

Learn even more tips and techniques from these great

Model Railroading Books

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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