Tracks-03-21 -- Model Railroading Newsletter
Yes, Virginia, there ARE trains in Ireland!
Articles in This Issue:
New Pages on BYMRR.com
WELCOME to the March, 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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One of the best ways to get inspired to create realism for your layout is to take a field trip. We've all been cooped up inside for so long, we forget what nature looks like!
Of course, when you go out of the house these days, you have to be safe by avoiding crowds and wearing a mask (You never know if you're going to run into someone you know.)
Take a drive to a scenic area, preferably where there are trees, hills, rivers, railroad tracks, bridges, old buildings, railroad cars or locos. Choose a place that you would love to just pick up and place on your layout if you could. Take about a hundred pictures or more with your digital camera. Use wide angle and telephoto shots, capture interesting perspectives on buildings and tracks. See what the real weathering looks like on prototype rails, locos and rail cars. Take close ups of weeds, bushes and vegetation around the buildings and the roads or tracks. Take a panorama photo of a natural landscape, cityscape, or a train yard.
If there is a particular building or bridge you want to model, take measurements of it from a distance with the ruler app on your smartphone. You can use this information later to kitbash or scratch-build your own prototypical structure based on your pictures and measurements.
Once you get back to your train room, I guarantee, you will have new ideas for your layout. Look through the pictures you took on your field trip and pick out a few that you would like to use as reference photos. Then start fixing your layout to resemble the pictures. This will add a new level of realism to your layout that you would not have thought possible before.
This month, I am upgrading my trackwork. I have pinpointed several areas on my layout where derailments are most likely to occur, usually around turnouts. So, I am now in the process of repairing or replacing some of these sections.
The first thing I did was to mark those areas with a foam pin so I could later remember where they are. Then, one by one, I tried to diagnose and correct the problem. One of the best tools for this is a proper gauge for your scale. These can be purchased from the NMRA website. You may also want to invest in a good set of files. You will also need a magnifying glass, a mirror, and a video camera, all of which can be found in an average smartphone. Use these latter tools to closely observe what is actually happening when your locomotive or railcar passes over the area in question. Taking a video of it, which you can run in slow motion afterwards, can help tremendously. Then use your NMRA scale gauge to check the track width in the area to be sure it's not too wide or too narrow. Rub your finger along the track, especially at the joints, to see if they are uneven. If you find something that you can fix with a file, go ahead and do so. Be careful not to overcorrect the problem, which is easy to do. Keep testing the movement of your railcar over the area until you see that it is able to run smoothly both forwards and backwards. If you can't fix the problem with a file or by just cleaning the track, and if you are sure it's not an electrical problem, like a small area of track that isn't getting power to it, then you will have to replace it.
Some of the track sections had been soldered together at the joints when I first laid them in the 1990's. So, they had to be desoldered and removed. Or, sometimes I would just cut the track with a rail cutter. I had previously used white glue to fasten the tracks and the ballast to the layout surface, so the tracks had to be loosened from this. I used a flat screwdriver and a small putty knife to try to slide under the track and lift it off the roadbed with variable success. I have found that it is very difficult to salvage any track that you have to remove from the layout this way, so you might as well plan to replace it.
Once I removed the old track, I cleaned up and smoothed out the roadbed, either by replacing it with cork or foam or by just cleaning off the ballast. I connected the new track to the old with either rail joiners or by soldering the rails together. I paid special attention to the rail height at the joint. If one rail is higher than the other, there will be a problem with derailments. The rails have to be flush on top so you can barely feel the joint when you rub your finger across the rail. Once the new track was connected to the old and it was lying flat in position on the roadbed, I tested it with several passes of a locomotive and railcars, both forward and backward to be sure everything ran smoothly. After adding ballast and a generous application of white glue mixed with isopropyl alcohol and water to hold everything down, I was then able to paint and weather the track as I usually do. When doing these last few steps, I took particular attention NOT to get any glue or paint anywhere near the turnout points, since they need to be able to move freely.
After making these track repairs, it has been really nice to see my trains running smoothly and flawlessly over areas that have been trouble spots for a long time. I would encourage others to make these changes as you see them come up rather than waiting until they drive you crazy.
Add these to your notebook of favorite model railroading tips:
There are five main streetcar lines in New Orleans. They all start their journeys from the Downtown area, weave through the French Quarter and travel to almost everywhere throughout the city. Having done this myself a few years ago, I highly recommend taking one or more of these rides. Of course, if you are thinking about modeling a trolley layout, pay particular attention to how and where they operate.
The dark green Saint Charles Line, the oldest of the four, goes through the business district, passes by the most impressive southern mansions that I have ever seen, navigates through a tunnel of live oaks and showcases the beautiful Audubon Park.
The red Canal Streetcar Line also goes through the Central Business District into the Mid-City area. Stop for a walk in City Park and check out the interesting architecture, the Museum of Art and the fantastic sculpture garden.
The red Riverfront Line goes along the Riverfront and Fresh Market to the Aquarium, the Outlet shops, and, of course, Harrah's Casino.
If you arrive in the city by Amtrak, you will likely want to get on the Loyola/UPT Line to get to your hotel and see some of the city while you're at it. You will enjoy seeing Julia Street where the Warehouse Arts District is located, the Financial District and Tulane Avenue, the home of the Medical District.
The Rampart/St. Claude Line rolls through the St. Louis Cemetery No.1 where the VooDoo Queen is buried, the Louis Armstrong Park and the St. Claude Arts District where you can get "cultured-up" with lots of wonderful art, music and food.
Mardi Gras parades were cancelled this year unfortunately, but you can still ride the streetcars, if you mask-up and social-distance.
Again, if you are thinking about doing a trolley layout at home, you must take a field trip here first!
Check out these resources on planning and creating trolley layouts..
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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