Happy New Year!
Tracks-01-21 -- Model Railroading Newsletter
Articles in This Issue:
WELCOME to the January, 2021 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 gauges in a quick and easy-to-read format. Resources are always credited where appropriate.
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Seaboard Station Railroad Museum - A museum of history created out of a once very active, but now retired, railroad station in Suffolk, VA. A prototypical HO scale model railroad layout resides within the building which accurately shows what the area looked like in its earlier years. It was built with great accuracy and artistry by the Tidewater Division of the NMRA. Here is a collection of pictures that I took of the layout during my recent visit.
My Blue Ridge and Southern Model Railroad has seen better days. I must admit that I have been so busy with other things that I have partially neglected my railroad that I spent so much time building in earlier years. Oh, I have updated a few things over time off and on, and I can still operate four trains at the same time with DCC operation and two mainlines, but, nevertheless, it really needs a major overhaul. Some of the turnouts don't work as well as they once did, causing some derailments. Some of the electrical connections have failed. The backdrop and the scenery really need an upgrade. I would like to get my JMRI computer interface working, improve the signaling, and add more automation to train activity. Also, my BR&S is probably my main source of photos that I like to use for this newsletter; and I am in dire need of new photos. Also, I would like to take more videos of trains on my layout in action. I did one recently and I was unhappy with it because there were flaws in the scenery.
So, my major resolution to start this new year is to refurbish the old BR&S, give it a new look, improve operation, reduce derailments, get rid of track and turnout flaws, make the scenery more realistic, scratch-build some more structures and maybe even collect a few AP (Achievement Program) certificates from the NMRA while I'm at it.
I intend to have some major fun while doing this and I would like to take you all along for the ride. Stay tuned and you will start seeing some new pictures and videos soon.
Here are some older pictures, which unfortunately are all helicopter views. I'll show some better ones in the future.
Add these to your notebook of favorite model railroading tips:
(Reprinted with updates from BYMRR-Zine, 2011 and 2013, with permission.)
What's the difference between a turnout and a switch?
The terminology is confusing, but typically in model railroading, the word turnout refers to the device that allows the operator to choose the path of the train as it moves along the track. The turnout requires a switch to make it work. The operator (a human, usually) is required to activate the switch, unless that action is automated, which is another topic altogether. Sometimes the words turnout and switch are used interchangeably. In real (prototypical) railroading, the word switch is the term usually used.
Back to model railroading, a turnout is a specific structure of rails put together in such a way that the direction of the train can be altered by moving the points from one side of the track to the other. The switch can be a manual stick, or ground throw√, that the operator moves using his finger, or it can be a machine (like an Atlas solenoid switch machine, or a Circuitron Tortoise switch machine) driven by electric power that can be operated remotely. In either case when the switch is activated, the points on the turnout move to one side or the other changing the path of the train.
The frog is the place on the turnout where the tracks diverge and requires insulation to avoid polarity issues (short circuits). This can be a place where a slow-moving locomotive will stop if it is not getting power to its other wheels that are still on the metal track. If you have that problem, or if you want to avoid that problem, you can use a turnout that has a powered frog√. This allows the polarity of the frog to be changed automatically depending on the position of the points. If the points are aligned for the mainline, the polarity of the frog is adjusted so that it lines up with the mainline. If the points are aligned for the branch, then the polarity of the frog is changed to match that of the branch tracks.
The turnout can also be wired in such a way that the power to the diverging tracks can be turned on or off depending on the position of the points. This usually requires a relay switch. A relay switch√ (like the one Atlas makes) uses the power applied to one device to activate a different device. When the power from the switch machine changes the position of the points and if that power is also directed to the relay switch, the relay will turn the power of the diverging tracks on or off. So, if you have a locomotive sitting on the branch line, it won't be powered until the turnout switch machine is activated throwing the points to line up with the branch line. If the switch then is changed to line up with the mainline, the power to the branch track goes off. You can also use a relay switch to turn lights, or sounds, or any other device on or off depending on which way the points are positioned on the turnout as controlled by the switch machine.
You may want to check out our new Questions & Answers Page. If you have a burning question about model railroading, let us help. If we can't answer it, we'll find someone who can. See some examples here...
Tis' the season for making winter scenes on your model railroad. Here is the article that shows you how to do it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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