Building Your Model Railroad:
Tips, Techniques and Information
for All Ages and All Gauges

January - February 2022

Tracking into the New Year!

Tracks-Issue 1-22 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

Jan-Feb 2022

Model Winter Train

Articles in This Issue:

Happy New Year!

Finishing Your Layout

Dieter's Trains


Short Tips for Modelers

Support Your Local Train Shows

Planning a New Model Railroad Museum

More Great Videos*

  • Track Planning Tips
  • How Model Trains Are Made
  • The Tropicana Juice Train of 1997
  • Rebuilding a Layout
  • Tour of the Southern Pacific Donner Pass
  • How to Get Smooth Running Trains
  • Computerize Your Layout with JMRI
  • Build a Realistic Waterfall
  • Drive a Tiny Car

Train Shows and Museums Near You

WELCOME to the newest issue of Tracks - a bimonthly 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.

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.

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 to the newsletter, please send it in!  Use the form in the Comments section of the BYMRR website.

*Videos: One of the most common requests that I get from the survey is to show more videos. I have included several in this issue and will continue to do so as it seems to be appropriate. Incidentally, if you have not already done so, you may want to consider upgrading to YouTube Premium, mostly so that you can play the videos without having to watch the ads. The videos displayed here are carefully selected for their educational content and fall under the fair use copyright code. Showing them here does not cause any economic harm to the creators and BYMRR makes no income from them. If you see your video displayed here and prefer that it not be displayed, please let me know and it will be removed immediately.

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.

Happy New Year!?

I guess we're all glad that 2021 is over, even though the first part of 2022 doesn't look so great yet at this point. I'm glad we have learned a lot about virtual meetings and discussions over the past 2 years. I'm sure we will be using that knowledge at least for the early part of this year.

My resolutions for this New Year are more like "things to hang on to" to keep the morale up...

  • Glad to still be alive.
  • Glad to have a family who cares.
  • Glad to have a hobby that I can sink myself into occasionally.
  • Glad to still have a home that hasn't been destroyed by a tornado or a wildfire yet.
  • Glad to still able to do what little I can for those in need.
  • Hoping for a better future for all of us. 

As we try to be resilient to the new challenges we face, I still have faith that we can eek out a little joy in the New Year, and gradually make it better. We all have a tiny part of the world upon which we can have some effect. So I'll try to do whatever it takes to make my little part the best that I can for myself and those around me. If we all do that, maybe we can make it better.

We wish all of you our Very Best Wishes for the New Year!

Finishing Your Layout

If you're thinking your layout is mostly finished, take another look. Sure, your tracks are all in place. Trains are running smoothly. You've put down some structures, created some scenery, even built a bridge or two. So, what else is there to do?

Look at each scene on your layout. Does it look realistic? If you took a picture of it, would it be hard to tell whether it's a picture of a model railroad or a photo of a real place?  What's missing?

The Details!

Do you have people working on or waiting for trains? Are there weeds and uncut grass in some places? Cars with lights, lighted buildings? Do you have trash cans, street lights, cracks in the road, some light weathering on buildings and railcars? What about telephone poles, lighted signs on buildings, hobo camps, animals, fences, decals, graffiti? These details are what bring a model railroad to life. 

It's nearly impossible to really finish a model railroad layout. There is always so much that can be done to make it better. And even when you think you're really done, you can always find some part of it that you'd like to do over. 

If you want to see a really detailed layout. check out the Franklin & South Manchester by George Sellios...

Dieter's Trains

Dieter's Trains is a G scale wonderland that has been featured previously in this newsletter. He invited me to come again to see how much has changed since I was last there. Once again, I was enthralled by the expanse and the density of his layout, which has grown tremendously since the previous article was published. So many new scenes and details have been added, I just had to share more pictures of this great layout with you.

Dieter, a delightful gentleman, now in his 80's and still very active, came here from Germany when he was very young. After a lot of hard work and saving, he was able to start a successful sheet metal company in Virginia. He has always been enthusiastic about model trains and was inspired by the Wunderland exhibit in Hamburg. While he was still working, he had a smaller version of a G scale layout on company grounds, but all the while, he was planning on a much larger version. Now that he is retired, he and his lovely wife Petra, along with a few other friends and volunteers, come here almost every day to enjoy the layout and continue working on it. 

Dieter's TrainsThis is the largest G-Scale layout I've ever seen. My two grandchildren, Gabby and Gavin are looking on in the background
Dieter's TrainsChristmas / Snow Scene
Dieter's Trains - G-scaleLoose Tiger in the Station!
Dieter's Trains - G-scaleWaiting for the next train! It won't be long.
Dieter's Trains - G-scaleDieter-Town in the early evening hours.


I like to use flex track for a couple of reasons - one is that you're not limited to a particular radius as you are with sectional track, and, second, there are fewer joints to have to worry about as points of potential derailments.

However, there are some important guidelines to remember as you put down flextrack:

1. Try to avoid joints of flex track in the middle of a curve. If it can't be avoided, solder the rail-joints connecting the two adjoining pieces of flex track together while they are laid out straight before laying the track on the curve.

2. Cut off two plastic rail ties at the ends of each piece of flex track to allow the rail joints to slide fully on to the ends of each rail to be sure of a good structural and electrical connection between them. Save the rail ties so that after your track is laid, you can slip them back in under the rails where they are missing and glue them in with some white glue before you start ballasting.

3. Note that when you curve flex track, one rail slides to allow the track to curve, and one rail doesn't. When laying on a curve, you should keep the sliding rail on the inside and the fixed rail on the outside. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of track that will have to be cut off. By keeping the sliding rail on the inside of the curve, you will only have to nip off a short piece of one rail to even up the track so that it will join up properly with the next piece of track.

4. When laying flextrack on a curve, since I use foam sheets for my layout surface, I have to use a lot of long foam pins and weights on the top to hold it in place while the the glue dries. If you're laying the flextrack on roadbed that has wood directly underneath, you can nail it down as you go, and you don't have the worry about the glue not holding or waiting for the glue to dry. There are many advantages to using foam board as your layout surface but this is not one of them.

5. When space is at a premium, you will be tempted sometimes to curve the flex track too tightly to get around a curve. (You can do this with flextrack whereas sectional track won't let you.) However, if your radius is too tight, your trains won't look right on that curve and you will probably have "stringlining" derailments. It would be better to redesign your track-plan so you don't have such tight radii ("givens and druthers").

Short Tips

~ For making barns, outbuildings and lumber yard structures, consider using wood from fruit and vegetable crates or old baskets. Make strips of wood from this material and put them together for a rustic, weathered, aged structure.

~ Make a coal mine by cutting a small toy tunnel in half and placing the cut end up against a mountain. Use Sculptamold or other landscaping material to cover the joint, apply paint and scenery to make it blend in. Then place track going into the mine tunnel. Place a sign over the entrance that depicts the name of the coal mine. Finally, place piles of coal on either side of the track, add some coal trucks, bulldozers and workers shoveling coal to complete the scene.

~ For a more realistic tunnel portal, add some soot over the top of the portal by grinding up a piece of a charcoal briquette and spreading it on the top area of the portal where soot from the engine would collect. Afterwards, spray on a little Testor Dullcote spray to secure the effect.

~ To make a dimmer for your structure lights, wire them to the track terminals of an old small transformer like the kind you get inside most of the train sets. Then you can adjust the power to the lights simply by turning the power knob one way or the other.

~ If you're lacking in buildings (and space) for your layout, especially in the background, try cutting one or more buildings in half and placing each half against the backdrop in different areas. If you look at the scene from eye level, there's no way to tell you've only installed half a building. It'll make your cities look bigger than they are.

~ Speaking of making your layout look bigger, try using smaller scale structures in the background of your layout. For example, use N scale buildings in the background of an HO scale layout. This forces the viewer's perspective and makes the area appear deeper than it is.

~The clever use of mirrors can also make your layout look much bigger than it is. You just have to be careful to hide the edges of the mirror with scenery or structures. You could have a bridge running along the back of the layout with a mirror underneath it that makes it look like there's another whole world of scenery and/or buildings on the other side of the bridge!

Lots of Tips and Techniques at Gateway NMRA:

Support Your Local Train Shows

I recently attended a local train show hosted by the the Pungo Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach during Thanksgiving. There were several very nice modular layouts shown by some of the different model railroad clubs in the area, including the Atlantic Coast S Gaugers, the Tidewater HO Modular Club, Kids Run Trains, and Dale's Train Station. Here are some photos from that event...

HO Scale JunkyardHO Scale Junkyard
HO Street SceneHO Street Scene
3-rail O Gauge Layout at a Model Railroad Train Show3-Rail O Gauge Layout
HO Christmas Train CarsHO Christmas Train Cars

New Model Railroad Museum in the Planning Stages

There is a new non-profit model railroad museum envisioned for the Hampton Roads area of Virginia that is starting to stir a lot of excitement here locally. It is still in the planning stages currently, but if and when completed, it may be one of the largest model railroad museums in Virginia if not the country. We plan to house at least eight layouts in all the major scales within a 50,000 square foot building and possibly add an outdoor scale-1 rideable steam train as well. The layouts will be voluntarily built and operated by the local model railroading clubs and will be open to the public at least four days every week. Our focus is to (1) promote the art and craft of model railroading, (2) provide education on the history of railroads in the area and on the various disciplines required to build a railroad including civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, (3) to encourage more young people to get into the hobby, and (4) to provide a service to the community.

As mentioned, this is only in the planning stages right now, but if all goes well, it will be up and running within the next 2-3 years. I will keep you posted.

More Great Videos:

Track Planning Tips for Small Layouts and Beginners

How Model Trains Are Made

The Tropicana Juice Train

Rebuilding a Layout by Steve Brown

Tour of the Southern Pacific Donner Pass Layout

How to Get Smooth Running Trains

Computerize your Railroad with JMRI

How to Build a Waterfall by Luke Towan

A Tiny Car You Can Drive by Luke Towan

Upcoming Train Shows and Events

Lots of model railroad displays are always available to see anytime of the year, especially during the Holidays.  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 (like Google, or Yahoo) for "Train Shows" or "Train shows in my area", or "Train stores in my area".

Or just 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!

Shop at

Hobby Central Train Station 

Your Personal Online Train Store

If we don't have it we'll find it for you!

Great Prices! Great Service!

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!

Take care and be safe.

Greg Warth


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