Tracks-010, Issue #10 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

July, 2020

Building Your Model Railroad

Newsletter - July, 2020

Nighttime in the Train Room (Photo from the Blue Ridge and Southern Model Railroad)Nighttime in the Train Room (Photo from the Blue Ridge and Southern Model Railroad)

Articles in This Issue:

New Layout in the Making

Jack Burgess' Yosemite Valley Railroad

Modeler's Tips

Keith Stillman's Easton & Potomac Railroad

More Great Videos

  • How to Build a Wooden Laser Structure Model
  • How to Build a Small Trestle Bridge and Surrounding Scenery
  • Big Boy 4014 Restored

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WELCOME to the July, 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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Requests: If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see in the newsletter, please let us know at 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

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.

Breakneck Pass on the BR&S Model RailroadBreakneck Pass on the BR&S RR. This helps in visually separating the East and West sides of the peninsula but also allows them to be connected rail-wise. Could have used a tunnel here as well, but I chose the pass instead.
Horseback Riders in Breakneck Pass: The pass allows more scenery details to be added as opposed to a tunnel.Horseback Riders in Breakneck Pass: The pass allows more scenery details to be added as opposed to a tunnel.
Hobo Camp Inside Breakneck PassHobo Camp Inside Breakneck Pass: Great Place to catch a ride on the local freight train while it's slowing down to go through the Pass!

New Layout Series:

Follow Along as This Remarkable New Tri-level Layout is Built

Philip Skow (Ret. Army Nat'l Guard Police Dept.) and Andrew Filmore (Topeka Model Railroad Club Member) in Topeka, Kansas are undertaking a new multilevel HO scale layout, which they started from scratch this past month, although it's been in the planning stages for several months now - since March, 2020.  It will be built in a 20' x 12' room, previously a home library room donated for this project by Philip.  An adjacent room will serve as a Dispatch area and contains a workbench, electrical equipment, storage area, computer monitor and even a ham radio. (See photos below.)

Their layout will feature 200 ft of HO rail with trains that run through and around Topeka and West to Las Vegas serving coal and lumber industries.  The locomotives will be powered by NCE SB-5 DCC. 

When I heard about their project, I thought it would be great to monitor their progress as time goes on and write about it in the newsletter, so readers could actually follow the process of building a model railroad layout of this type - from the beginning.  They seemed excited about the idea and graciously have granted me the permission to do so.


After considerable research, Phil and Andrew have settled on a layout plan designed by Jack Burgess, NMRA Master Model Railroader. Jack is a well-known model railroader who designed and built the Yosemite Valley Railroad, featured in Model Railroader and other magazines, and has published over 200 articles on model railroading.

Model Railroad Layout Plan by Jack Burgess - reprinted here with his permission.Layout Plan by Jack Burgess - reprinted here with his permission.

They plan on building the entire benchwork first, and then continue by completing 6ft modular sections, one at a time, as follows:

~ Modular pieces (6ft long x 30” wide)  at 40” high for main platform; L.A, S.F. Etc... 

~ 2nd tier at 54” long, 24” wide,  for Main 10ft Yard & Vegas Strip on opposite side.

~ 3rd tier at 66” long, 12” wide (coal industry & timber work w/ mill up there & a scout camp. (Andrew is an Eagle Scout.)

Their helix will be 3 1/2 turns.

They estimate that it will take about 2 years of diligent work to finish the basics. 

Benchwork: The First Obstacle - Solved

When this room in the house was finished off by the previous owners, there were no vertical studs put in the walls.  There are only horizontal 2x4's that were used to nail on the "sheetrock".  So the current team decided to put 1x4s vertically every 16"  drilled into the cinderblock, which lies behind the horizontal 2x4 rails, to provide better vertical support where they could attach their brackets for the bechwork.

Here are some pictures of what they have done so far...

New Train Room: Mapping out the floor plan and finding supports for the benchwork.New Train Room: Mapping out the floor plan and finding supports for the benchwork.
Dispatcher's Office and WorkbenchDispatcher's Office and Workbench in an Adjacent Room
Dispatcher's Office and Workbench with Storage AreaDispatcher's Office and Workbench with Storage Area
Creation of new Creation of New "Studs" for Support - Drilled into Cinder-block 3" Behind the Drywall. Starting Benchwork
Installation of Ceiling Light for the Train RoomInstallation of Ceiling Light
Creation of Benchwork SurfaceCreation of Benchwork Surface - 6ft module
More Benchwork.More Benchwork.
Model Railroad Benchwork and LegsBenchwork and Legs
Current Model Railroad Benchwork StatusCurrent Model Railroad Benchwork Status

To be Continued...

Jack Burgess' Yosemite Valley Railroad

Since we are starting a new series monitoring the building of a new model railroad based on the Yosemite Valley layout plan designed by Jack Burgess, I thought it might be nice to show a tour of Jack's layout so we can see what he did with it that made it famous among other model railroaders.

Modelers' Tips

Keith Stillman's Easton & Potomac Railroad

This video of Keith's layout was put together by Rod Vance after Keith passed away. It serves as a great tribute to one our great model railroaders who devoted over 30 years of his life to the hobby. His main focus was on his friends and family who participated in over 1000 operating sessions.  The scenery that he created was beautiful, but there are some areas that he hadn't been able to finish, although the trains ran through every section flawlessly, with the exception of operator errors. Fortunately, he had a good sense of humor and when mishaps occurred, he loved to take photos of them and paste them on his website. 

More Great Videos:

Building a Laser Cut Wooden Model Structure

Build a Trestle Bridge and the Scenery Surrounding It

Tons of scenery tips in this one video...

Big Boy 4014 Restored

Check out our Rail Modeler Train Store for all your train supplies -  everything you need to build your model railroad. 

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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

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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