Fred’s tips and John’s engine shed

“Hi Al,

I’ve only been reading your blog for a week now, but have enjoyed it immensely.

As a relative newcomer to railroad modeling I can’t offer any “how to” tips, because I haven’t really had the experience for years (I’m 70 now – last electric train I had was the Lionel “standard Gauge” monster I inherited from my dad!)

For years I was an RC aircraft modeler, but eventually got worn down by the violent destruction of years of work from control mishaps or a lost radio signal!

So I approach railroad modeling in my dotage with the hope of less heartache from my creations. As a newcomer I can still give you my recent impressions about this wonderful hobby, nonetheless.

As a professional architectural modeler of the 1970s and 1980s, the most important thing to me (then and now) was the issue of scale, and all of us designing buildings developed a pretty good eye for something that was out of whack in our models.

Whether or not people understand their sensitivity to scale, most viewers have it. And I would guess that all RR modelers share a real sense of it.

After all, for many modelers that’s really the whole goal, isn’t it – to achieve success with the illusion that you have created a miniature world (or a piece of a miniature world) that evokes the real thing.

And few issues are as important as scale. Texture of materials has scale. Color has scale – look down at a “real life layout” some time from an airplane and notice how the colors fade as a function of their distance from the eye, even without apparent help from air pollution.

Movement has scale – a flashing light on a police car is not the same as a flashing anti-collision light on a power plant stack. One flashes rapidly, the other in a lazier “on/off” sequence, since the larger bulb filament takes its time to completely go dark. (The current day electronics for reproducing scale lighting effects are really remarkable.) But one careless decision on track ballast can undo all the well executed aspects of your model so far.

Developers often use scale phenomena deceptively to make a building site look larger and more commodious than it really is – simply by changing the size of a piece of architectural vocabulary that offers some fundamental insight into scale – the size of the bricks or concrete block in a drawing, for instance.

When I built models I always spent a lot of time fashioning scale human figures on my foam cutter. I made sure that their heads and hands were the correct size. Although I sometimes used them in the final presentation model, where they helped me was in their placement within various portions of my designs – Is there adequate room in the lobby of a building? Does it feel cramped? Or does it feel cavernous? At the end of the day the human figure was the perfect yardstick, not only for my model, but for my design behind the model.

I would suggest that scale figures can help in RR Modeling as well……not necessarily as end participants in the layout as much as a visual aid during the decision making process. An aid at choosing and building structures, spotting an offending detail from kits (I find that ladders and railings are a real problem in N Scale, and have already started pitching what came with my kits for a wire brass and solder solution on my part.

My tip is this: spend as much time as you can fashioning a couple of human figures at 1:160 scale (for N scalers) and then use them as you model. Use them to design your refineries, your feed lots, your Victorian neighborhoods. It will really help you envision your miniature world!

All the best,

Fred

Boston”


“Saw the post about pulling power

Alluding to I think of length of passenger train.

I know this is out of character for this blog but I must share in defense of Dangerous Dave.

In summer 1967 I took my first train ride from Missoula Montana to St Louis Missouri (sort of).

While coming into the Twin Cities (Minneapolis / St Paul) I was hearing rumblings of an engineers strike. (Guess it would be the first one in the nation ever) I had no idea what that meant, being 20 years old. Heard lots of rumors. Wondering.

Got into the TC Train yard. Lots of trains sitting. Going no where. As was ours. Sitting. Several Hours.

After about 4-6 hours we started moving. Guess they were short of manpower (due to strike) so they connected us to another 2 other Passenger trains. Finally we left for Chicago.

I think the train was now about 25-30 cars long. Sometimes traveling along the Mississippi through Wisconsin
we could see our train from our train several times through the curves. We stopped at each station along the way about 3 times.

Slow Going. But finally made it — to — Chicago!

The Chicago station was — strange — deserted — hardly Anyone there. Empty. Was told the train was not going anywhere. This was it! You are on your Own. 1600 miles from home. Still not at my destination. I got the final taxi out of Union. My first taxi ride. Went to the airport. Got a plane ticket to St Louis. My first airplane ride.
Funny thing is – I do not recall my return trip 3 weeks later! It must have been boring!

So long passenger trains may not be the norm – but has occurred at least once!

Elbert”


A big thanks to Fred and Elbert (I think Dave was just playing around with his pulling power video).

And now on to something that I hope you’ll all find very helpful.

Some time ago, my boy wonder made some engine sheds. A lot of folk asked how they looked so ‘3d’ when they are just print outs.

Fortunately, my good friend John has come to the rescue. He’s made a very detailed ‘how to’ video on the engine sheds. He’s a genius when it comes to doing stuff like this.

john_screen_shot

shed3_450

You can see his tutorial here.

It’s very satisfying to see all the print out scenery appear in your layouts. Please do let me know your comments and thoughts on them below.

I think the latest shed is fantastic – I’ll get it on the site shortly. If you want to bag the launch deal (just $5!), it’s here.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming. And if you want to roll your sleeves up and get started, the Beginer’s Guide is here.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

24 Responses to Fred’s tips and John’s engine shed

  1. A very interesting story from Fred. I too am now 70 although I do not feel it at all.
    Also and probably more interesting was the video of how to use printed out scenery and buildings.

    I think the settings on my printer must be totally wrong as each time I have tried to print out some of these marvellous looking buildings and brick papers, I find that they are completely the wrong colours. Mostly they are printing out blue – ish, which when you are trying to print out red bricks can be very annoying. So my answer generally is to buy the brick paper. That though is becoming difficult as not many companies seem to be making it any more but more are making card sheets.

    So, Al and all the readers from all over the World, it’s really great to have a site like this where I, for one, can gain added inspiration as well as the various hints and tips. Thanks everyone, especially you Al for initiating this and bringing us all together.

    Best regards

    Roy

  2. Just watching, John’s video and I have to say I find him impossible to tune out on. He comes across as the “Steve Irwin” of model trains. Love his enthusiasm

  3. With regards to Fred’s train ride with 30 cars. The Auto Train that runs once a day in both directions from Lorton VA to Sanford FL usually has from 38 to 44 cars with 2 GE P42 locomotives. I want to try it with 20 cars. We shall see. lol
    Used to be from Boston. Now live in Maine

  4. On pulling “real coaches” on “real trains”. Several years ago there was a
    rail fan excursion from Spencer (Salisbury) North Carolina (NC State Transportation Museum) to Asheville NC and back. It involved an articulated
    steamer (retired Norfolk and Western) pulling 110 or 111 passenger coaches
    up some pretty steep grades. There was a diesel “helper” waiting on a siding
    at the steepest grade “just in case it was needed”. When we got to that spot
    passengers could “feel” the wheels slipping a bit, but that grand old steamer
    made the grade without diesel assistance.

  5. I just spent $30 for a plastic model hotel for my layout. I think I will seriously consider purchasing the much cheaper printouts and attempt to do the magical transformations that John has shown in his wonderful video. Thanks very much for sharing!! NJ Mark

  6. A Brilliant how to John. You have not only mastered the art of making printout buildings look great but your presentation skills are excellent too. I learnt a great deal from it. Thanks! Ed

  7. John does a beautiful job showing how to add relief to a flat model. I love his humor.

  8. Nice to read ideas from a professional model builder. The tip on using scale people was sharp never would have though of that. John’s demo was good. I thought I was the only one with a messy work area. Every tool I use is on my table also. The new engine house looks good. I built the last one and love it. I work in O27 and it was a challenge to up size it. I doubled it on the printer but had to do the walls on two sheets and put them together. It worked well but doubling HO to make O27 was just a little to big. Still for the money and if you take your time the buildings look great. Keep them coming Al.
    Steve from Toms River

  9. Ah, yes Elbert, the things we do in a crisis. I remember travelling up to Scotland one day when there was a broken rail on the West Coast Main Line somewhere near Warrington. The route’s electrified at 25Kv and the break had interrupted a current return bond so the power was off for the repairs. My train was a class 86 and seven from Birmingham, and we were coupled at Crewe to a class 87 with ten on, then they slapped a class 47 diesel appropriately named “Vulcan” on the front and she hauled us “bang road” as they say (single-line working in the wrong direction) as far as Wigan Northwestern, one diesel dragging 17 and two electrics dead-in-train. Couldn’t make it up!
    Rod

  10. Wow, thanks great info, got my wheels turning !

  11. Fred you are so right about scale and space. I look at some model railways and think that you would never get, ‘that’, (what ever it is) that close to the track. I also find lorries and buses and cars to be far to wrong for the road space they are supposed to have occupied. The people idea is a great one and I will use a Mr & Mrs Smith all over my layout as a good yard stick. My little tip is to take a photograph from road or track side. This will show up what you cant see from your normal lofty perch 2 ft above the track (150 scale feet in OO). Barry, 69 1/2. Devon. UK

  12. John’s presentation of the cut out engine shed was spot on. A great how to for those of us that have not as much imagination. I model in N scale so working with the cutouts is a little more tedious. I recently purchased the #1 and #2 engine sheds. I found framing the inside of the shed with balsa wood gave it strength and looks pretty cool. Also I plan to use soft lighting inside my model shed so to step things up a little I cut the windows out, used the clear film from envelopes as glass, and found that gutter covers you can get at Lowes or home depot use a light plastic screen material that matches the windows lites almost perfectly, ( in N scale ) Haven’t completed one yet but will share when I get one photogenicly able to post.

  13. Thanks to Fred for his comments on the importance of and attention to elements of appropriate scale for greater realism. This is something I’ve always taken into consideration in my photo and video publications. Model railroading should be fun; so absolute scale relations are not and should not be adhered to with rigidity for the modeler whose primary aim is to just have a layout that he/she enjoys. But if you want to be more obsessional in replicating real world conditions, then scale/size, perspective, color and textures, weathering…are all important.

  14. Hi Al, and thanks to you for enlisting John to do the HOW TO video on assembly of the printed structures. I really enjoyed John’s presentation: Excellent step-by-step that all level of modelers can follow and appreciate. Moreover, his energy and enthusiasm seem boundless and for me were most entertaining; a great motivator for the viewer. Thanks John! — Arnie

  15. In regards to the color not coming out correctly, It sounds like your ‘color’ cartridge is almost empty of one or more of it’s colors, so you are just getting the blue. Try replacing it with a new one. Also, in your printing options, set to ‘photo’ quality or ‘best’, so you get more color saturation. Using card-stock [heavy] paper helps with construction rigidity, also see if you can find textured card-stock [linen look or rough] at your office supply store, helps with the illusions of brick and wood. Lee

  16. if you want long trains go from Moscow to China the best railway trip in the world john.a

  17. just started working on my layout again, love all the layouts and tips. Keep them comming. Thanks Al “Gator”

  18. Fred is spot on about scale and realism – in todays railroad modeling. However over the years manufacturers didn’t produce scale – such as the Lionel crossing gates that were/are much taller than the trains. Also, many standard and O gauge modelers enjoy using Department 56 buildings rather than creating their own buildings, people, etc. Although far from scale some very beautiful layouts have been created without concern to all things being scale. To some that may not seem model railroading but you will find many that would disagree. This is a hobby that allows hobbyists to enjoy creativity, use of many skill sets, and the mere enjoyment of operating a miniature railroad. So scale may not always play a key role in the enjoyment.

  19. Very helpful video, Thanks.

  20. i am stll new to trains i have a ho scale set layout the size of it is 12 ft long 5ft wide center tack to center track and i have it in a form of a P SHAPE with a holding area my question is what did i do wrong? i have a model 9500 tech 3 power comand controler i thought i hooked it up correctly but wheni fliped on the power everthing went in reverse and derailed ? on the back it shows fixed dc & varible dc where are u suppose to hook up the track to ? please help
    thank u

  21. John’s videos are great! After seeing his videos I attempted and have built several of the engine sheds, some rural homes, and am attempting to build a factory. My railroad is a small n scale so modeling the buildings in n scale is very tedious. Does John have any videos of working with n scale? Also anyone who has photos of Al’s factory for posting would be very much appreciated. G Virginia Beach VA

  22. A little thought for those using the Big Kahuna Bundle HO buildings.
    It is very easy to scale the HO buildings down to smaller scale by reducing the print out by the scale ratio.
    HO is 1:87 and O is 1:48. Therefore, do not double the buildings to print O scale buildings. Rather, enlarge by 1.65 to 1.80, not double.
    Double size is too large as Steve from Toms River has discovered.
    Still, one may find that some doors, windows, etc. may look a little out of scale. Those can be enlarged or reduced depending on need and best and whether they are add on architecture or not. Hope this helps.
    Fred is right on with his scale perception comments.
    Happy Woo Wooing

  23. Unless I’m mistaken, these printable templates are done in HO scale.
    I’m returning to my railroad modeling that I started some 25 or so years ago. I prefer ‘N’ scale: takes less space and I already have some of the old trackage.

    How do I go about reducing these ‘HO’ templates to accurately reflect ‘N’ scale?
    Better yet, do these buildings come printed in ‘N’ scale?

    San Jose CA

  24. I love John’s tutorials, however he doesn’t explain the process for doing the relief for the inside of the shed as he did the outside. I understand printing doubles, but getting the relief needs explaining. I don’t see setting the windows back from the outside AND the inside as well.
    Thanks
    Ken
    Orlando FL

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