Mode model railroad pics and tips

We start today with Terry – and his last post is here.

“Alastair: A few weeks ago I asked for help from the members here in creating an addition to the Damnit Railroad. Thank you for publishing my plea and from the members who responded with numerous ideas.

I have tried most of them and have ended up taking a bit from each one to make what I think works best for me. As you may remember I was trying to build a 24 inch radius car storage area for very long passenger cars.

Although several folks recommended a helix with the tracks below table level–that doesn’t work well for an old guy who would have to get down on his creaky knees and fumble around. Many suggested a switch on the blue line near the word “up” but because that is the start of an elevation rise and the need for another crossover on the green line, it was just too complicated to build.

I also found out that because of all the loops on the original portion of the railroad I will now be able to turn the trains in opposite directions on the extension WITHOUT having to worry about rail polarity. Although I’ve gone over the track several times, if someone happens to see a place where I need a reverse loop power connection please let me know. The other good thing is that all of the track on the extension is at zero elevation so no worries about grades.

I added a 3 way switch to solve one of my problems and left an area for possible expansion of a shop/turntable section.

I’m attaching some photos–the first is my original extension that your members were asked to tweak. The second is my final solution to the problem and the last is the extension plus the existing track plan for the layout.
Thanks again to you and your readers…and to “Larry” who loves lots of switches–you should be very happy. If and when I actually build it, I’ll send you some pictures if you like.


Terry/Idaho USA”

“Hi, I’ve enjoyed your postings and have started to set up my old trains again after many years.

I’ve had some of these since I was a child, others have been bought more recently. These are American Flyer trains, mostly from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, though some are newer.

They are S Gauge, 1/64 scale, between O and HO.

Lots of issues to deal with, the bench work needs bracing, the older locomotives are not always willing to run, and the switches are causing problems. The stuff on the table is not in any real placement yet, and the lights and accessories need to be wired.

Lots of work to do, but that’s part of the fun. I like the idea of keeping these old toy trains running.


“Hi Al,

Simple easy-peasy way to connect track. I work in N scale but this could work in any scale. Atlas makes a rather cheap looking bumper for and end of line stop and it’s not at all prototypical.

However, the use I found for mine was to use it to slide track connectors onto the rail. First, take the bumper and file the base of the short rails just enough to make it easy to slide on a rail connector. Filing the shorter rails allows the connector enough room to slide it onto the track. Do this on both rails.

Now you can slide the connector easily onto your new “tool” and then slide it onto the rails of the track you are laying. Also if it’s a bit tight you can spread the connector with a small jeweler’s screwdriver, or what I do is simply run a file along the base of the rails to help it along.

This is the quickest way I know to attach the sliders without using needle-nose pliers or pressing them on with your fingertips. The latter seems to hurt after a while. Remember to solder all connections for trouble-free running of your trains.

Next tip is how to build engine sheds, warehouses, barns, water towers and the like using bamboo reed on a cardboard frame using only wood glue

Hope this helps.

Keepin’ the Rhythm,


Roger’s mail made me smile – I get so many similar ones. It’s hard to throw away the memories of your childhood, and how much better if you can get them going again?

A big thanks to Terry, Roger and Steve.

That’s all today folks.

Don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you more tips and tricks than you can shake a stick at.

And there’s also the brand spanking new ebay cheat sheet here.




Rob’s O Gauge update

It’s been a while, but Rob’s been in touch with another update.

I think the wonderful thing about this hobby is just how long they take – your layout is always there, ready for you when you have the inclination. No time scales, targets or pressure. And for me it’s one of the things that make it so relaxing.

(Rob’s last post is here.)

“Hi Al,

Been a while since I sent anything your way. As usual- life tends to get in the way of our train hobby. I’ve been reading your daily emails with all of the great work from the others who submit to you.

Well- its been a very cold and snowy late December and early January in the northeast US so I’ve had some time to get back on some train related projects. I’m modeling O gauge with post-war Lionel up to modern equipment. Track is all older Lionel tubular 3-rail.

I was trying to decide what to do with a flat area over my tunnel entrance for a while. I finally settled on continuing the terrain from the cliff in the corner to give some reason for the retaining wall to be there behind the tracks.

I started with another piece of 2” blue foam insulation and started carving until I was happy. I scored the face with a pencil to simulate granite blocks. I added a piece on the top of the tunnel portal to blend it in with the new scene.

Finally I scratch-built a fence to place above the tunnel entrance as well.

Here are some photos of the build and the finished product.

A little detail on the fence build.

I used some heavy gauge wire for the poles, soldered together. The fence fabric is nylon netting from a crate of oranges ( I like to scrounge for scenic pieces). I painted the whole assembly with silver acrylic paint.

Bob in New York.”

“Hi AL,

I have been receiving your posts for a couple of years now, and have never posted. So, here goes, this videos show the progress after 1 year of work on the layout.

I am modeling the South African Railways from 1980 to 1990.

Thanks for all your emails, it always helps to see what other people are doing.

Henry, from Sunny South Africa.”

Brank spanking new ebay cheat sheet here.

A huge thanks to Bob and Henry – two fine updates. Just goes to show, it’s all about making a start.

And if you want 2018 to be the year you start, the Beginner’s Guide is here.




Jim’s 6 x 4 DCC layout

Got another 6×4 layout for you today.

Jim’s pics are a tad small – but I loved what he’s done here:

“Hi Al;

I read the post today from Chis and was surprised at the similarities to a layout I started in August.

My wife and I have a summer home in Ohio. This year due to medical issues my wife encountered (surgery, now chemo, but all will be well when treatment completed!!), it will be April before we can go back to our Florida home.

With winter closing in I wanted a hobby to keep busy. I have always had an interest in local history and I like working with my hands. The result was the creation of the Holland Odessa Rail Road. A mythical short line set in September 1908. Half of the line is located in NW Ohio and the other half is west central Florida (where our two homes are located).

In 1908 NW Ohio was in the grip of the industrial revolution. The two canals in the state still operated (both destroyed in a massive flood during 1913) but trains were definitely the primary movers of goods, opening the country up from the east coast to the west.

Ohio at that time was amazingly the primary supplier of oil for the country. The glass industry became centered in Toledo because it was able to get low cost ‘waste’ natural gas from oil producers trying to get rid it to run the glass furnaces!

A train ‘flag’ stop called Holland located 8 miles west of Toledo was a center for canals built to drain a massive swamp called the Great Black Swamp. It had been over 1,000,000 acres at one time. By 1908 it was mostly drained. Holland, named due to the canals (now deep ditches) is where our summer home is located.

Florida was at least a century behind Ohio. Every disease you can think of existed. Malaria, yellow fever, small pox and on and on. Moreover between the swamps and man killing critters, humans had a hard time just existing yet alone developing. Then in 1880 the trains arrived in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area (St. Petersburg was named by the man who’s railroad first arrived in the area).

In 1900 Tampa had 800 people huddled around an army fort put there to protect against the Seminole Indians and a base for the Spanish American war. By 1910 it had over 15,000 people, by 1920, 34,000 and ever upward. Today the Tampa – St. Petersburg area has over 4 million and still growing.

However, in 1908 a little town called Odessa, (which is were our Florida home is) located12 miles northeast of Tampa was bigger with 2,000 people, being a center of logging for Cypress trees as well as Pine trees. One Cypress tree was reported to have produced a board 56 feet wide!

So that is the basis of the Holland Odessa Short Line and here is what it looked like at first, yep it is 6 feet by 4 feet. I added a second sheet of foam after this picture which you will see why below.

And here is the design (an Atlas plan I followed, buying their 83 code kit for track work). Looks a lot like Chris’s doesn’t it? The control panel is hinged and folds down for ease of working on layout. It is DCC operated by a NCE Pro Cab. Castors allow moving completely around the layout while working on it or showing the layout from the other side.

Below you see the reason for the double foam. I’ve modeled part of the Miami-Erie canal which went from Toledo to Cincinnati Ohio. The double foam sheets allow me to make canals, shape the land down from the tracks as well as putting additional foam on top in areas to create more dramatic hills given the size of the layout. The use of Atlas electric turnouts allows doing this without any control problems.

So here we are today:

Hope you like it. The advice and instruction help in your blog is really helpful. In addition there are great video’s on YouTube as well as the model kit suppliers web sites such as Bar Mills and Campbell. I am really enjoying put this project together.

To complete it I am including family and friends into the time period. I started a three ring binder that holds all the history notes, period pictures and layout design notes developed to make the various parts of the layout. It has a narrative I am writing as I go about the ‘The People of the Holland Odessa R.R.’

In it I transport my family members and friends back in time and write what they might have been if they lived in 1908 and worked either on or around the Holland Odessa Railroad.

So far several people have gone back in time. For example my son and daughter-in-law have been transported back as the caretakers of the Florida Station. There they meet Thomas Edison, get into the power generation business and in time move to another small town called Denver. Their daughter goes on to be a world class skier.

On the Holland Odessa R.R. everyone transported back has an great adventure, fun and enjoys being remembered for making a difference! What more can you ask?


“HI Alistair… part 2 of the accident from last week , I have also taken note from one of your member who suggested taking a picture of a bridge , then downsizing and adding it to my Bridge came out very well , just needs a bit more work on it , but a great idea , also a tip when buying on line , make sure you know what you are ordering… As said before , a bit of fun , never does any harm , and well maybe I sniffed the sherry bottle again LOL

All the Best


Brand spanking new ebay cheat sheet here – page loads much quicker now.

A huge thanks to Jim and Dangerous Dave.

And if you’ve picked up lots of good stuff over the years from the blog, you’ll love the Beginner’s Guide – it’s jam packed with all the best stuff.

That’s all today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.