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

December 2022

Holiday Issue!

Tracks-Issue 12-22 -- Model Railroading Newsletter

December 1, 2022

First Train Set

WELCOME to the newest 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.

We're Back!

After a hiatus of several months with no newsletter, we are back in full swing. We apologize to anyone who has gone into  newsletter withdrawal as a result of our temporary slowdown. We are immensely grateful to all those readers who have remained with us, and we are committed to restoring your favorite newsletter to its former glory. Thanks for your patience and support.

First Train Set

Many of us can remember our first train set, the excitement of getting up on Christmas morning, running to the living room and seeing that American Flyer or Polar Express running around the Christmas tree. It was the thrill of the century.

I was six years old at the time and enjoyed every minute of making that train go. I always remembered that. Years later, I went to my friend's dad's O scale layout which was huge with Lionels of various makes and models traveling around over and under each other. I vowed to myself then that I wanted to do that someday.

Life often gets in the way as it did with me, but fortunately, I was able to return to the hobby and now I do have that layout that I always wanted. This one is in N scale but the excitement of these smaller trains weaving in and around the landscape that I created for them is just as much fun as before. 

If you have experienced the joy of watching and/or operating model trains, try to find a way to continue with the hobby even during your educational years and while building your career. It will help to keep your life balanced. We all need that perspective. 

If you want to spread some joy this Holiday Season, give a train-related gift. Buy a train for your children or grandchildren. If you know someone who works too hard, give him or her a train. Everybody loves trains. I've never seen anyone who didn't. And who knows. You might just start something.

Holiday Trees

The most realistic pine trees, I think, are the ones made from pine cones. We have plenty of these in our yard this time of year. I picked up a basket of them recently and got to work.

I first put on a pair of heavy duty fireplace gloves, and with a twisting motion - one hand twisting to the right and one hand to the left, like shucking corn, I was able to remove all the hard "petals" from one of the cones very quickly and easily. So now the cone had a nice pine tree shape. I drilled a 1/16" hole in the bottom and put a headless nail in the hole which I could use for mounting the tree later. Or, you could drill a 1/8" hole and insert a 1/8" diameter wooden dowel painted brown or gray if you would prefer to show the "trunk".

I then dipped the tree into some diluted white glue (1 part glue and 3 parts water).  Then, while holding the tree over a small box, I sprinkled some green static grass over the entire tree except for the nail . After applying the static applicator to make the "fir" stand up,  I stuck it into a block of foam to let it dry overnight. 

I could do several of these in an hour while watching television. The next day, I had some very nice realistic-looking trees that I could easily place on my layout using the nail as a mounting device. I put a little undiluted white glue or, even better, fast-drying Gorilla super-glue, on the nail first so it will hold steady and not droop over while sitting on the layout.

You could take it a step further by adding a string of "fairy lights" to decorate the tree. Then add small bits of glitter or embossing crystals to add more color. Bury the battery into the surrounding scenery so it is not visible.


Layout Tours (Open Houses)

Being a member of a local NMRA Division has several advantages, one of which is that you have an automatic group of friends and fellow model railroaders to hang out with and talk trains. Most of these guys have their own model railroads at home, including me. So once every two months, one of us agrees to show off his layout with a so-called "open house" to the rest of the group. Most of the layouts are not finished. They are always a work in progress, but that's okay. It's not a contest. It's just a chance to show what we've done and to get ideas and inspiration from others. So we pick a day and time and invite everyone over to see one of our layouts. For some guys, they like to have operating sessions in addition to the open houses. Others just like to show the others what they have done and of course, the rest of us are all very eager to see it. 

Here are pictures of some of the layouts that I have visited recently...

The Virginian Layout of Bob Cook,  MMR in Chesapeake, VA

Bob-Cook-07-treesBob uses natural sedum to make his trees.

Decatur, Illinois Layout by Fred Humphrey, Chesapeake, VA.


Regional NMRA Conventions

I just recently got back from the Mid-Eastern Region Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina held in October of 2022. I had a great time meeting up with a lot of fellow model railroaders, looking at wonderful, very inspiring layouts created by very talented artists and engineers. The educational clinics were very helpful as well. The electronics world in model railroading has greatly expanded. New ideas just never seem to stop coming. I came back with tons of ideas that will help me improve my own layout at home. I also took lots of pictures, which are shown below.

If you are a member of the NMRA and haven't taken advantage of the the Regional and National Conventions, I would very much encourage you to do so. I did model railroading alone for many years, even though I was a member, but it is so much better having friends in the hobby. I have learned so much more about it since I have become more active in the organization by volunteering, attending Regional and National Conventions and going to local Division meetings. 

If you are not a member, please consider joining. It doesn't cost that much. You get access to multiple publications and educational materials, conventions, shows, discounts on purchases in many hobby shops, plus you make a lot of great friends. It will add another dimension to your life.

Sign up at

If you would like to read more about the Annual 2022 Mid-Eastern Region (MER) Convention, here's a link to The Local, the official newsletter of the MER.

Photos from the 2022 Annual Mid-Eastern Region Convention:

Seth Gartner's NYC layoutSeth Gartner's NYC Layout in Charlotte, NC
Steve Mersch-B&OStever Mersch's B&O layout
Roundhouse stalls at North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NCRoundhouse stalls at North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC

NMRA Publications

One of the benefits of joining the NMRA is access to excellent publications and educational materials for no extra charge other than the annual dues. The NMRA Magazine by itself is worth the cost of the dues.

Another one of these publications put out bimonthly by the Mid-Eastern Region is called The Local, which contains a wealth of original articles and information about model railroading. Each Region of the NMRA has its own similar publication.

A third email publication is called the NMRA Turntable which is also full of additional information and layout tours.

For more information on the benefits of NMRA Membership, see page 14 of the July-Aug 2022 issue of The Local.

G Scale Garden Display

On the way to the MER Convention, we stopped at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC and discovered a nice G Scale display containing the Wonders of the World that had been visited by George Vanderbilt and his family in the late 1800s. The display is made up of nine different railroads weaving around these all nature-built structures. It's worth a look if you're in the area between now and February 23rd. It was built by a company called Applied Imagination. They have done similar projects around the U.S. Click on the link to see if they have one in your area.

G Scale Layout at Biltmore

Photos from the 2022 National NMRA Convention in St. Louis:

N&W Layout by Gary Hoover in St. Louis - 1950s Era

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Gary Hoover's N&W Railroad while attending the National NMRA Convention in St. Louis this year. I have mentioned Gary in a prior issue of Tracks. His railroad appeared in the April 2020 issue of Model Railroader and I had planned to visit it at the 2020 Convention. COVID got in the way of those plans, but thankfully, I was finally able to see it in person in 2022. I was not disappointed.

I typically like fall scenery, but I was blown away by the highly realistic late fall-early winter scenes on Gary's layout. His skills as a modeler are way beyond the norm and are quite inspiring. He is quite humble when talking about it, but the proof is evident everywhere on this 24' x 49' HO masterpiece. It also helped that many of my favorite N&W steam locomotives were smoothly weaving through this miniature world of true-to-life scenery. This is art. These pictures bring out more emotion and appreciation in me than any Rembrandt or Monet that I've ever seen. 

Natl-01Winter Scene

Z-scaleZ Scale in a Small Box

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!


How to Model Winter Scenery

By Woodland Scenics

Building a 3' x 5' N Scale Layout from Start to Finish - by Steve's Trains

Christmas Trains Galore!

This newsletter is free to all who sign up for it and is always available to review on the website, but it is expensive and time consuming to keep it up.

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Notes about the Newsletter:

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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.

*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 more recent 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 content.

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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