Happy Thanksgiving!

Tracks-11-20 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

November, 2020

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

Tracks Newsletter -November, 2020
Thanksgiving Edition

Fall Train RidePhoto by David Bartus, with permission

Articles in This Issue:

Thank Goodness for Trains

New O Scale Laser Cut Structure Kits

Modeler's Tips

Organize Your Workspace

Scenery: View Blocks

Train Show(s)

More Great Videos:

WELCOME to the November, 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 gauges 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 [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.

Thank Goodness for Trains

Since this is Thanksgiving and also November - Model Railroad Month -  I thought this would be a good opportunity to write up a list of all the things for which I am grateful within the world of model railroading. I have many other things that I am thankful for as well, but for this article, and since I don't have the space here for a novel, I will stick to model railroading. So, here is my Thanksgiving List...

Under the category of Thrill and Excitement:

  • The thrill and excitement of getting your first train set at age 6.
  • The thrill and excitement of buying your second train set at age 40 (under the subconscious guise of pretending that it's for your son or daughter).
  • The thrill and excitement of accomplishing something like building a layout or even just wiring up something that actually works.
  • The thrill and excitement of burning out your brand new $325 locomotive engine the first time around the track! Ouch!

Educational benefits:  Where else can you learn so much about so many different things, like carpentry, electronics, architecture, computer software, civil and mechanical engineering, artistry, 3D sculpting and painting landscapes, not to mention becoming an author, writing blogs and publishing websites.

Social interactions: Friendships, comradery and sharing information among other model railroaders - definitely a plus and might be the best benefit of all.

Diversion: Helps to maintain sanity during viral pandemics. Keeps you from obsessing too much about the problems and stresses in the rest of your life, while you're obsessing too much about the problems and stresses with your layout.

Gifts: Helps your family and friends to know what to get you for Christmas.

Other Skills: Teaches problem solving, troubleshooting, prevention, planning, preparation, concentration, focus, conviction, perseverance, patience, recuperation from failures, humility, time management and swear words.

So, I am thankful that I received my first American Flyer at age six, that I re-kindled the spark at age 40, and now, at age 72, I am still enjoying it as much, if not more, than I did in the beginning. 

Moral of the story: Buy your child a train set for the Holidays. You might just start up a spark that will glow forever; or, if not in your child, it may ignite something in you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

New O Scale Laser Cut Structure Kits


 Ipswich Hobbies has announced that it has expanded its line of craftsman structure kits to include O scale. The first two O scale kits, from the Ipswich Lineside Series, are Kit #17 Crossing Shanty and Kit #18 Section House. Each of these kits has previously been released in HO and N scales. These laser cut craftsman kits are now available on our website.


The Crossing Shanty kit includes materials to build two shanties and is priced at $30. The Section House kit is priced at $45. These simple to build kits add great detail as foreground structures on O-scale model railroads or dioramas.

Modeler's Tips

Add these to your notebook of favorite model railroading tips:

  • Use potter's clay to hold figures or moveable items in place. It holds right away. No waiting for glue to dry. Easily moveable whenever you want to change the location.
  • S-curves in model railroad track often will make your layout more interesting than having everything straight and parallel to each other.  Just make sure when you lay the track that there is a straight section of track that is at least as long as your longest railcar in between the the two curves of the S.  Otherwise you might as well name it "Deadman's Curve", because there WILL be derailments there.
  • Label your wires, especially those under the layout. Use any labeling tape that you can buy in an office supply store and write on the label where it's coming from and going to. It helps if the labels and/or wires are color-coded as well. You will thank me later.
  • Run your wires under the layout through eye-hooks for neatness and to keep them from dangling below the layout where they can be easily torn loose as you work in that area.
  • If you really don't feel like crawling under your layout to troubleshoot wiring problems, consider running your wires along the side of your layout behind the fascia. If you have used extruded foam sheets for your layout surface, you can easily hotwire large grooves in the side of those sheets to hold your wiring. To get at your wiring for troubleshooting or to run a new wire, just remove that section of fascia, do the work while you are sitting comfortably, then replace  the fascia, all without breaking your back.
  • Consider using the telephone poles on your layout to run real wiring to your buildings. Use thin, black 28-30 gauge single wire, hook up one end to your power source, run it up through the layout surface, wrap it and/or glue it securely to the top bar of your telephone pole, then string it to other poles as needed in order to get to the appropriate buildings. Of course you will need 2 wires, one positive and one negative. Hook up feeders to the main power lines that then go to the lights in your buildings. Use parallel wiring rather than putting the lights in series. Otherwise, one bad bulb will turn off all the lights. Your power source should not be greater than what the incandescent bulbs can take, usually 1.5V, so the bulbs will last longer.

Lionel Thanksgiving Turkey Railcar in O ScaleLionel Thanksgiving Turkey Railcar in O Scale

Organize Your Workplace

Is your workplace in your train-room a mess? Do you hate to even look at it, let alone try to work there?  Even worse is trying to find something in that heap of stuff on your workbench that you haven't used for years, but "might need someday".

Here's what you have to do as soon as you possibly can, before you put another tree on that layout...

Set aside about 4 hours to do nothing but work on your workspace.

Get organized:

  1. Buy inexpensive shelves or storage cases, or even better, make your own. If you don't have the time for that, round up some empty boxes and a Sharpie pen. Put all your scenery stuff in one (or more) box(es), ballast in another, paints in another, etc. You MUST label each box so you can easily see what's in it.
  2. While you're doing that, throw away the things that you really don't need any more. Be merciless!  If you haven't used it in a year, throw it away, or sell it, or give it away. The extra space you create by throwing things away will be well worth it.
  3. Get a rolling tool cart to organize all your tools. If you don't have room for that, put up a pegboard over your workbench.
  4. Sweep or vacuum the floor. All the stuff that's been laying on the floor for months has to be picked and put in boxes. See #2. You'd be amazed at what this one step will do for the appearance of your layout room.
  5. If you use the space under your layout for storage, that's fine, but hide it! It looks messy. Put a "skirt" around the layout or make some sliding cabinet doors that will look awesome and will hide the storage area. If the storage area has to be visible, make sure it's neat and well-organized as much as possible.
  6. Get yourself a nice, inexpensive ($50) workbench if you don't have one. Preferably with drawers or shelves and a desk-pad.

If you spend some time to do these things, once every month or two, you will enjoy going into your train-room so much more than you do now. The whole experience of working on your layout will be transformed to a new level. Also, this is very important to maintain in case your neighbors or friends come over for a surprise visit and want to see your trains. It will be much more impressive if everything is neat and organized. It's almost as important as making sure the trains are able to run well at a moment's notice. It's a little embarrassing to lead visitors into a messy, cluttered layout room and the trains don't even run! Don't ask me how I know this :)

View Blocks

View-blocks are basically anything that blocks the viewer’s ability to see something you don’t want them to see from a particular vantage point. A view-block could be a collection of structures, a group of trees, a bridge, a mountain range, or just one hill. It could be as obvious as a backdrop placed between one side of a layout and the other; or, it may be very subtle so that the viewer isn’t even really aware that his/her vision is being directed at only one scene at a time. View-blocks are often used to separate scenes. For example when your train is traveling from one city to another, it would be nice to visually separate the cities somehow so that each city occupies its own scene, perhaps even separated by a rural scene. Otherwise, it gets confusing for the viewer. Each scene should ideally be large enough that your longest train can fit into it comfortably. Otherwise, you will likely have your lead locomotive in Chicago, for example, and your caboose still in Cleveland, which would be pretty difficult to do in real life. In order to create individual scenes, this usually requires a view-block on three sides. The fourth side is what’s left for the viewer to see the scene but not much beyond it. This subtle separation of scenes will not only make your layout very interesting, but it will make it seem much larger than it really is. A view-block can also be used to provide a sense that there is something beyond the scene that is visible. For example, If you have a road or track (or river) going through a scene and then curving away from the viewer as it goes through or behind a view-block like a forest or hill, which prevents the viewer from seeing where it is going, then you have created an illusion that the road or track must go somewhere beyond the scene that is being viewed, even if it doesn’t. As you plan your layout, try to imagine or draw in where your view-blocks should be placed to make your layout seem larger and more realistic. Even if your layout is largely completed, you could probably still find places where you could add a structure or some trees to help separate scenes.
Reference: “Use View Blocks to Extend Your Layout”, by Gary Hoover, Model Railroader, December, 2011, p38-42.
(Reprinted with permission from BYMRR-Zine, November, 2011)

More Great Videos:

Great Tips for Making a Small Layout for Beginners by DJ's Trains

Wunderland Hamburg: A Model Railroading Paradise

You've probably seen this before, but it's so impressive and always worth another look!

Twin City Model Railroad Museum

The Most Amazing Marklin Model Railway Layout in Denmark

Adding Details to Your Layout from Model Railroad Academy

Train Show(s)

If you happen to be in North Carolina or if you are traveling there  on November 7th and 8th, consider stopping by the The Jim Graham Building, North Carolina State Fairgrounds, 1025 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh, NC to see the largest train show in NC put on by the Neuse River Valley Model Railroad Club.

Check out our Hobby Central Train Station for all your train supplies -  everything you need to build your own model railroad. (Also available: RC cars, trucks, planes, helicopters, games, puzzles, tools, gifts and much more.

  • Competitive pricing.  
  • FREE DVD with every order over $50.00.  
  • Also get a one-time 5% discount just because you read this newsletter. Use the secret Coupon Code O672WL36497 at checkout.  (Only good during November 2020.)

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
https://www.bymrr.com. 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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