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

Nov-Dec 2021

Holiday Edition

Tracks-21-Nov-Dec -- Model Railroading Newsletter

Nov-Dec 2021

Articles in This Issue:

Model Railroading Month


MER Convention

Touch Control Panels

Wireless Fiber-Optics for Interior lights

More Great Videos*

  • Operating a Model Train with Arduino
  • Women Modelers
  • Sobering Facts about DCC Throttles
  • Keep Your Model Train Safe
  • Christmas Village with Steam
  • Mile Long Steam Train 
  • Great Midwestern RR by Pete Walton
  • Update on Everard Junction

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.

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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.

Model Railroading Month

It's November! Model Railroading Month!

Time to spread the news about model railroading. Tell all your friends and family about what a wonderful hobby this is - how much you've enjoyed it over the years, how much you've learned, how many friends you've made because of it. So many people think it's just for kids. It IS for kids, but it's also for adults - just like baseball or soccer, or video games - only a lot more diverse and expandable. There are so many different facets and paths you can take in model railroading that there is literally something here that almost everyone could enjoy. Express yourself with beautiful, artistic scenery. Get involved in simple or advanced electronics. Tinker with complicated locomotive repair. Use software to manage your collection or design your own layout. Develop carpentry skills in creating benchwork, building a helix, or building your own workshop at home. Scratch-build your own home or a favorite train station from your childhood memories. Build models that no one else has ever done before. Use a 3D printer or a laser engraver or cutter to make all kinds of stuff for your railroad using free downloads of CAD files. Meet up with your friends at train conventions. Get out your camera and go railfanning. This hobby fosters creativity and imagination like no other. 

What can you do to spread the word?

1. Take a model or train to work and show it off.

2. Put a screen saver of trains on your desktop at work. When people ask about, you can tell them about it.

3. Use a train background  when you make a Zoom call.

4.  Keep some copies of train magazines to show off at your workplace. Write your name and phone number on it so interested people can give you a call to learn more about it. 

5. Get your club to host a train show at your local library.

6. Wear a shirt with train pictures or logos.

7. Start a model railroad club at your church.

8. And don't just talk to guys. Get the ladies involved as well.

9. Put a train plaque on your front door or at the entrance to your driveway containing your street address.

10. Remember there are lots of model railroaders out there just like yourself - they just don't know it yet!


It's also time to start planning for the Holidays. Trains have been an integral part of American Holiday culture for over a hundred years now. Just look around when the decorations come out and see how many of them have a train associated with them. They are everywhere. Polar Express Train Sets fly off the shelves. Stores ran out of them 2-3 weeks before Christmas last year. 

Now is great time to get your family together and make a fascinating Christmas train display either around the tree or on a separate table. Maybe even on the front porch! G scale and O gauge trains are best for this kind of display. Or get a lighted train display to put in your front yard.

Get some train-related Holiday cards to send to your friends and family or even business associates. Maybe it will start a conversation about the hobby.

If you have children or grandchildren, think about gifting train toys or puzzles. Legos makes a lot of train-related kits. You would even have fun building a kit with them.

Make Holiday train cookies or cakes. Make Holiday trains with your 3D printer or laser cutter. If you don't have one, ask for one for Christmas.

Go to a train show or a train museum with the family or friends. Train shows this time of year are loaded with Holiday spirit and decor. Botanical gardens often have beautiful train displays. 

Just remember to include trains in your Holidays in some way or another. It's fun and it's a way to promote the hobby to others who may be looking for something like this to add another dimension to their lives.

MER Convention

I had the great fortune to go to the 75th Anniversary Convention of the Mid-Eastern Region (MER) of the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) held in October in Baltimore, Maryland this year, at the Delta Valley Hunt Hotel. I attended multiple very educational clinics, including how to build an expansive trestle bridge, painting and weathering models, how to get started with Arduino electronics, tuning up your rolling stock, new methods of making trees and rocks and other scenery, painting backdrops, and many others. I also went to an ops session on a switching layout and learned how a yardmaster shuffles cars in and out of consolidation yards and prepares freight cars for transport to other locations. There were several exceptional layouts to see, including the infamous Howard Zane's Piedmont Division. I  was very impressed with the N scale, very detailed, modular layout hosted by Alan Potter along with Paul and Vicky Dilley and the Chesapeake Division's HO modular layout presented at the convention. I was equally impressed by the small traction module presented by  Don Yingling, which was a great demonstration of what can be done with electronics used in automating train movements - starting and stopping at stations, etc. - and also showing wonderful urban scenery that really draws you into the layout. He won 1st place in the module contest.

There were so many things to see and learn; I really enjoyed it all. If you're not a member of the NMRA, you're missing out on a lot of hands-on education that would truly help improve your modeling. If you are a member, you know what I'm talking about. 

Paul Dilley's Scratchbuilt Trestle in N Scale:

Model Railroad N scale trestle bridge by Paul Dilley

MER Convention Modular N Scale Layout:

Model Railroad by N-Trak Club - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad by N-Trak Club - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad by N-Trak Club - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad by N-Trak Club - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad by N-Trak Club - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA

MER Convention HO Modular Layout:

Model Railroad in HO Scale - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad in HO Scale - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA
Model Railroad in HO Scale - at MER 2021 Annual Convention hosted by Chesapeake Division of NMRA

Codorus Valley Traction Layout:

Automated Traction Layout in N Scale by Don Yingling
Automated Traction Layout in N Scale by Don Yingling

Touch Control Panels

One of the most innovative things at the MER Convention was presented by one of the vendors showing how you can create control panels for your layout using small touch control pads on the backside of the glass in a picture frame! These Touch Toggles are very easy to install and would be a very affordable way of upgrading your layout, providing an easy, professional-looking, switching panel for your turnouts. This video explains how to do it. 

Wireless Fiber Optics for Lighting Structures

A new method of lighting the interior of your structures is illuminating the imaginations of hobbyists everywhere, not the least of which are model railroaders. The January 2021 issue of Model Railroader hosts an article by Paul McCarty on Installing Fiber Optic Lighting. He got the idea to do this on his own layout from a clinic he attended  at a national NMRA convention in Salt Lake City in 2019. 

He started with a Lamplighter 1 starter kit along with some swan-neck lamps made by Dwarvin Enterprises. Once he decided where to put the lamps, he drilled one 3/16" hole for each lamp and threaded the fiber optic cable from each lamp through the opening and inserted it into the Lamplighter box mounted underneath the layout. The lamps lit up like magic! No wire hookups required.

If you want to change the color of the light, just add a dab of Tamiya translucent paint or apply a Magic Marker to the end of the fiber optic cable.

It's very cost-effective. No wiring, soldering or resistors required. The light temperature is cool; there is no concern about overheating.

Check out the website at this link...

Watch an installation of the Lamplighter system here...

Lots of Tips and Techniques at Gateway NMRA:

More Great Videos:

Automated Train Operation with Arduino

Women Modelers

Sobering Facts about DCC Throttles

Keep Your Model Train Safe

Insurance for model railroads and train collections:

Christmas Village with Steam

Mile Long Steam Train

Great Midwestern RR by Pete Walton

Tracklaying, Wiring, DCC and More! 5th in a Series from rcgrabbag

Update on Everard Junction

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!

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 more.)

Order now for delivery in time for the Holidays!

  • FREE SHIPPING on most items for orders over $25.00.  
  • Competitive pricing - especially considering free shipping.
  • New discounted products added every day.  
  • Join our Empire Points Program.  Earn 3 points for every $1 you spend. Use the points you've earned to get even greater discounts on future purchases. Get 100 points just for signing up!  100 Points = $1 OFF your next purchase.

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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