Tracks-009, Issue #009 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

June, 2020

Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - June, 2020

Early Morning Train - Photo from the Blue Ridge & Southern Model RailroadEarly Morning Train - Photo from the Blue Ridge & Southern Model Railroad

WELCOME to the June, 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.

Whitelisting the email address of this newsletter is important. It assures that it doesn't end up in your Junk or Trash box every month. Please right click on the email address of the sender, copy the link and then go to your contacts program and paste it there as a new contact. You only have to do it once.

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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]. Even better, if you have a tip or something you would like to add to 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.

RailTown, USA  - Southern Branch of the BR&S Model Railroad

Master Model Railroader

If you are new to the hobby, you may have seen this designation, Master Model Railroader (MMR) and wonder what it's all about.  The MMR is like the Holy Grail of model railroading.  If you have that designation after your name, it means that you have achieved at least seven out of a possible eleven awards showing expertise in various disciplines of the hobby. It is not easy to accomplish this, but anyone can do it if they put forth the effort and if they want to be recognized as one of the experts in the hobby. 

The MMR was initiated by the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) to inspire model railroaders to not only learn the standards of the hobby, but also to establish expertise in the field and ultimately to teach others about it.

The Achievement Program serves as the process through which one can become a MMR.  There are eleven disciplines for which one can apply and receive awards, called AP Certificates.  As mentioned, if you can achieve at least seven of these awards, four of which are mandatory, and three of which are electives, then you have become a Master Model Railroader.

The first thing you have to do is join the NMRA, which has a number of benefits and doesn't cost much to join. 

The second thing to do is start going to the local, regional and/or national meetings, which is where you can meet many like-minded individuals and learn more about the hobby.  The meetings are not mandatory and no one takes attendance. (Many of these meetings have been put on hold for now, unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic.)

The third thing to do is to choose which AP certificate you want to start on first...

You must have at least one from each of these four areas:

A. Railroad Equipment:  

         1. Motive Power

          2. Cars

B. Railroad Setting:  

          1. Structures

           2. Scenery

           3. Prototype Models

C. Railroad Construction / Operation:  

            1. Civil Engineering

            2. Electrical Engineering

             3. Chief Dispatcher

D. Service to the Hobby & NMRA Member:  

              1. Association Official 

               2. Association Volunteer  

               3. Model Railroad Author

Then choose three more of the above eleven individual items - whichever ones interest you the most. 

For example, I might want to choose Cars, Scenery, Civil Engineering and Model Railroad Author (one from each area) for my "core curriculum", so to speak.  Then I might select Structures, Electrical Engineering and Association Volunteer for my "electives". 

After you have applied for and received your 7 total AP Certificates, then you submit a Statement of Qualification Form (SOQ) to the NMRA to finally receive your MMR designation.

As I said, it isn't easy. If it were, then achieving the MMR would not mean much. As it is, the MMR designation clearly identifies those individuals who have become experts in the hobby and are respected as such.

This might be a good time to get started in the process to become an MMR.  Some of you probably have already become experts in many facets of the hobby, but never really applied for the awards. Now that I've got you thinking about it, you should do it! It would be something you could really be proud of.  You would meet a lot of friendly, helpful people along the way.  And it would be a major accomplishment as a goal in your life to be the best you can be.

For more information and details, go to the website.

NMRA-X: Virtual Convention - April, 2020

Many of us model railroaders are shut-in right now due to the pandemic.  The NMRA Convention and almost all of the local, regional and national train shows have been cancelled.  Thank goodness, we have a lot of educational and interesting model railroad videos to watch.  Here is a collection of clinics and layout tours that the NMRA put together to actually create a virtual convention!

Tips from the Past

Bridge over the Royal Gorge in ColoradoBridge over the Royal Gorge in Colorado

Falling Trains - If some of your track is a little too close to the edge of the layout, you may have already had the experience of one of your expensive locomotives falling off the layout onto the floor and ending up in four or more pieces. Some have proposed putting up a wall of Plexiglas along the outer edge of the layout, but that often detracts from the view of your trains and scenery at eye level, which, of course, is the best vantage point. One way to get around this is to either raise your fascia board up about ¼ to ½ inch above the track level or add a strip of molding trim√ to the edge of the layout to bring it up by about the same amount. This may not prevent every fall, but it will prevent most, and it won’t ruin your ability to enjoy your trains and scenery from eye level. (Reprinted from BYMRR-Zine, March, 2011)

"Painting" Laser Wood Kits - The next time you think about painting your laser-cut wood kit, think about using √weathering powders instead of paint. These colors are much more realistic for wood surfaces – more dull, less shiny, and more variable - than paint. It's also much less likely to warp later. You can still use paint for your window frames and doors if you wish (Airbrushing is best for this job). ("Yard Supervisor’s Residence Kit", by Dennis Murphy, N-Scale, March-April, 2011, p56)

Paver Sand for Ground Cover - You can buy large quantities of paver sand√ (decomposed granite) in home and garden stores that can be used for applying ground cover, riverbeds, track ballast, at the base of larger rocks and in many other areas. You can use it right out of the bag, or you can use a strainer to separate out the larger pieces from the finer sand that you may want to use separately for different applications. You can further refine it by sifting it through a piece of nylon. The refined sand would be good for making roads, parking lots and dirt paths. (“The Scenery Clinic: Pt.XIV: Paver Sand and Ground Cover”, by Paul Scoles, Railroad Model Craftsman, March, 2011, p50)

Free Rollers - One nice thing about the railroad trackage in this country is that the widespread creation of interchanges and junctions have allowed for a lot of sharing of railroad equipment, particularly freight cars, including boxcars, hoppers, gondolas and tank cars. Although many of these “free rolling” cars are supposed to be returned home after being borrowed by other railroads, they generally are not and nobody seems to care much because all the railroads are using other companies’ equipment.

Therefore, at any given time, at least 50% of the consist of most trains will be made up of cars from different railroad companies from all across the country. So if you like the looks of a freight car from Union Pacific, it’s entirely prototypical if you want to use it for your Norfolk Southern layout. I don’t think the same idea applies to locomotives or passenger cars so much, but it’s probably okay to have a variety of freight cars on your pike.

(“Interchange Takes Freight Cars Anywhere”, by Andy Sperandeo, Model Railroader, April, 2011, p94)

See also Freight Train Cars (Enthusiast Color Series), by Mike Schafer.

Freight cars of many varieties occupying a large trainyard

Railcar Weight

Prototype Railcars in a Train Yard

What weight should your railcars be?  The quick answer is whatever weight that it takes for them to perform well on curves and over turnouts, but yet not so heavy that a locomotive won't be able to pull it up the steepest grade on your layout.  Some cars perform well right out of the box.  Many don't.  The same type of car may weigh differently if purchased from different manufacturers.  If your car is being pulled off the track every time it is pulled around a curve, then you need to add weight. 

You can buy 1/4 oz wheel weights√ that can be used for this purpose, or you just use fishing weights that most of us have in our old tackle boxes. The wheel weights are probably more exact. 

I would suggest that you look at the NMRA Recommended Practice (RP-20.1) to optimize your railcar weight for best performance. 

The recommendations for the more common scales are listed here:

  • For O scale, with an initial weight of 5 ounces, you would add 1 additional ounce per inch of body car length.
  • For HO, with an initial weight of 1 ounce, add 1/2 ounce for each inch of body length.
  • For N, with an initial weight of 1/2 ounce, add 0.15 ounce for every inch of body length.
  • For S, with an initial weight of 2 ounces, add 1/2 ounce for every inch of body length.

The weight should be glued or fastened to the lowest possible  area of the car that won't interfere with its operation in order to keep the center gravity low.  It should be distributed as evenly as possible between the 2 axles, but not extend beyond either axle. 

More Great Videos

Steam Trains Galore!

Per Laursen's Modern HO Layout - UP & BNSF in Texas

BRR Layout Tour: Scott Woods' B&LE/Union RR Steel Themed Layout

Sunflower in front of rail car

A Moment of Prayer:

For the many victims of COVID-19 and their families around the world.

For the African-American communities who deserve respect, fairness and equality.

For all the millions of people in the world who are oppressed, poor and suffering.

 - "There but for the Grace of God go I"

Check out our Rail Modeler Train Store for all your train supplies -  everything you need to build your model railroad.  Low flat rate shipping on most orders.  Competitive pricing. $1.00 donation to charity on each order.

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

Crossroads on a small N scale layoutCrossroads on a Small 2x4' N Scale Layout

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