Modelling tips and pics

“Best tip…I experienced the negative side of this lately.

No matter what level someone is at, don’t put there work down. Encourage them.

I was helping a very beginner out, and we came across a problem. I took the problem to some very experienced modelers, all they could do is say negative and horrible things about how stupid and basic the layout was, and that we should start over from scratch. I know what I am doing, and this beginner I am working with, this is the way he wanted the layout. No one was helpful, all comments were negative, and never addressed the initial problem. they decided to bring up 20 other problems instead. I understand that they are only trying to help with what THEY think is right, but I am doing right by the beginner. You get too technical, and the beginner is scared away. But again, they only made negative comments, and never helped with the initial problem. Likely I won’t be talking to them again about anything.



Just thought I’d like to share what I’ve been doing. Your posts have kept me motivated for the past year, from renovating my shed to laying track and detailing my scenes, every time I loose momentum I’ve gotten a kick in the pants from one of your emails. Thanks to everyone that contributes to make this such a wonderful project.

My train house is six by twelve feet and my N scale track plan is basically a double track “mainline” L shaped loop with local tracks in the middle. There’s a harbor branch off the west end and eventually there’ll be a mountain on the east end.


Dave’s also recorded this after our recent flurry of lighting posts. He describes the three ways to add lighting to your layout:

And if you’re buying any lighting stuff, bag the latest deals here with the ‘ebay cheat sheet’.



56 Responses to Modelling tips and pics

  1. So where’s the trackplan for review?

  2. I realy like Stephens post. It is so true, that just because you are more experienced than the newbee, don’t think you are the world champ. We all started from scrach at one point and we should not forget that and we can all learn from each other. I am very fond of all the posts Al send. It is nice to see, what other people do and get inspiration for my own layout.

  3. Very very good Dav .I think I will try to get a layout going for myself.As I did have a layout in the past it was all Honby Dublo three rail and then two rail .I have a lot of two rail trucks but not a lot of room for them,once again a very very good layout the only thing wrong is it is not in my house.
    All The Best Tony

  4. Dave… a living legend and inspiration to all :)

  5. Nice little layout there Jim, sounds like Stephen has had a hard time by just trying to help out.

  6. I really appreciate Stephen’s comments. The goal is to solve problems and pass on info so we can do more. I have learned so much from all of the posters and hope to send some photos. But now it is pretty messy.

    I have been slowed by the side effects of chemo. But I really enjoy watching at what you all have done.

    Thank you


  7. Stephen: Grumpy, grouchy old modelers do not encourage anyone to take up “the world’s best hobby”. They alienate and wonder why others don’t take up model railroading. That being said, I am glad you persisted in your quest to help someone begin a layout. Hopefully a few pictures can be posted.
    Jim, thanks for your layout. I love N scale. Your layout gave me some ideas for my HO scale layout. I agree with you about this site. Thanks Al for all of your work. It encourages and inspires us.
    Dave, as always you have been there and done something and are willing to teach the rest of us. Thanks so much.

  8. Great looking layout, really impressed by the beach scene, and is it a trestle bridge in the foreground. Please keep them coming.
    Am in agreement with Stephen’s comment at the top, if people have negative remarks about a layout, keep them to yourself; let’s just encourage each others efforts

  9. Stephen,
    I agree with you completely. The actual mechanism of laying your initial track is down to you and you alone, it’s your layout and not someone else’s to build the layout they want through you.

  10. Stephen: How right you are about the negative remarks from experienced model railroaders. I am working up a couple of layouts for the grandson and myself to enjoy. We are on a very limited budget and are doing the best we can with what we have but I’m sure the more experienced wouldn’t approve of some of the items and methods we have used but it is suiting us just fine. Besides, didn’t those experienced people start out somewhere and make “mistakes” or make do with what they could afford?
    Bonny aka Grannytoot

  11. Hi Setphen, there is one or two of this type of party poopers. The worst thing to do is to pay attention to them. They are actually fighting their inferiority complex, like Turkies pretending to be Piecoks.
    Am trying to help a paralized person by improvising a 4 X 8 X 1/2″ plywood.
    He bought a basic HO set and I been printing some the ones presented with this wonderful group with Alastai, for him to be inspired.
    Unfortunally, it is difficult for him to reach the far side ofthe table. I have suggested to prefabricate sections over a piece of carboard andthen slid over the desired location.
    Greegins, Paco

  12. As a newbie, just past the circle track stage of a young kid and now 75 and starting out, I feel qualified at one thing. Make a comment on this thought at this time. I have been following the ideas put forth here. I have gone to train shops. I purchased two layouts complete, well one was given to me that sit out in the weather and the other one was only a 4X4. The pros have something to show for their effort and I can see why, but when I asks a question they look dumbfounded or get too much detail. It is like a computer, I don’t need all the information on what makes it work, I just want to know which key to push. Thanks to just looking at every post, I now have a 4X8 and a 4X4 on top. The 4×4 is a desert scene and travels around from one corner to the opposite corner and goes into a tunnel which has a bridge over the 4×8. That was easy. The bottom track is still piled up in the middle. A City on one end and a track yard for storage. So much fun, but not in line of what I should be doing. I am a side ways thinker. I have ran test runs on the bottom and it works for me…Yea. Thanks for this site.

  13. Stephen,

    Just had to respond to your remarks.

    I guess THEY that you spoke of forgot about the first time they started out. They missed the opportunity to give back to others in the hobby of model railroading what they learned; their experences.

    You would think they would be greatful someone came to them for help. To be able to help mentor someone or just give advise. Particularly someone just starting out and to be part of that persons interest and motovation especially for them to suceed.

    Never despise meager beginnings.

    Keep on training!

    Tom N

    PS thanks for the pictures and video I liked the track plan and the lighting video nice work! helpful!

  14. Stephen, I totally agree with what you say, you encourage your new modeller because I was given very much the same treatment many years ago when my first set was Jouef and was told what a rubbish thing to start with. The only eye to please is your own and nothing gives greater satisfaction than standing back looking and say I did that. I hope to let Alastair and all see my attempts soon and look forward to all the tips everyone can give me. Keep going with your “apprentice” and make sure you let us all see how things get on.


  15. Thanks Dave for the light tutorial. You kindly messaged me earlier this year and told me of the multi voltage transfoemer. I followed your advice as I have the 6v lights from China. Thanks to you I now have my station lit and I am working on my village. I will post some picyures soon once all done so all can have a look. Once again Dave your tutorial and advice is priceless many thanks


  16. Stephen, I could not agree more! Encouragement and positivity is essential to fun (successful?) model railroading. It is easy to find 20 people who miss the point of the question and only really vent what they interpret as wrong in other people’s ideas. Boo! A high horse in model building is a great way to kill it. I bet we’ve all seen this frustration and it is good to learn from, i suppose. However, when we find the gems of people who have good solutions and encourage the growth of others then we are a community. Awesome!

    Thank you, Alastair and all, for the posts. They certainly are inspiring, encouraging, problem-resolving, and all around fun.


  17. very nice layout. Never put down or rubbish someone else’s work.

    We all make mistakes.

  18. Al and Dave, thanks for the video. I never knew that there was a transformer that you could dail in the voltage and use LED’s without a resisitor. I haven’t seen them here in the states. I’ll be sure to look for them next trip to the hardware store. Thanks,

  19. Yes Stephen, there are always people around who think their way is the only way to do things. In every hobby, people should be encouraged to use their inventiveness to produce something they like. What does it matter whether it is an exact science or not, as long as enjoyment is experienced while doing it.
    I would also surmise that the “unhelpful” people you met probably get very little real pleasure from what they do. Keep on doing what you are doing and help that beginner to get going.

  20. Al, you make wonderful videos and explain things in easy to understand language. I love watching them.

    You may have mentioned the following in earlier videos, however, I feel it should be mentioned in ALL lighting tutorials that Ear of Wheat lamps operate off either AC or DC voltage whereas LEDs only operate off DC voltage. LEDs are polarity sensitive and + must be connected to + and – to -. Reverse polarity can kill a LED instantly. So any Regulated Transformer being used for LEDs must have a DC output.

    Not all transformers do, so it is worth checking before purchasing one. LEDs can be made to work on AC voltage by soldering a diode in series with the power supply.

    Please don’t take this as negative criticism but more as a clarification.
    Keep up the great work.

  21. Hi Stephen, I understand where you are coming from. I had similar problems when i started out a good few years ago. i still don’t consider my self an expert. I learned through books and sites like this, there are many forums on the net that you would find very helpful as you probably know. Maybe you could post some pic’s of what your friend has been doing and some of the guys that write in could help with the problem’s he and you are having. i say that there s always a way around a problem. Try it and lets see if you can get some help.
    Regards and happy modeling

  22. Thanks for the info i have been saving all size transformers said one day i will use them for something. I also have been saving leds out of pieces of electronis and the motors from old vcrs and printers well now i know what i can use them for. Thanks again for the inspiration and the great video.

  23. I, too, agree with Stephen. I am just starting out (at age 62) and I know full well my set does not look anywhere near as professional as those who have been modeling for years– or decades. I know there are many who would remind me of that fact, and I steer clear of them. I am doing the best I can. Thanks to Stephen and all other good people who are willing to be constructive and positive in their help.

    Jim is also right on– yes this site is a great motivator. Thanks to Al, Dave and all those who post good suggestions here.

  24. The information: videos: willingness to share with everyone what they have learned: done: experenced. Trying to add something to each of us … through their trials and errors their inspirations truly makes them one of a kind and what they add to us truly makes us better in the knowledge of Model Railroading. Whether we use it or not is our choice but they have offered it in their own way and free of charge.

    I truly thank everyone for what they added to my life in model railroading. I have already made some corrections to my N scale railroad from some of the input. It inhances my input. It is very helpful. My N scale model railroad is still on paper … but not for long. Can’t wait to share my experence with all of you. I am looking forward to it. My model railroad will be 2′ X9′

    Thanks again Al for this site and all that contribute to it.


    Tom N



  27. hi dave good layout i use the same power supply as you only differance i use copper tape which the wires from the power supply connect to then the wires from the lights ect are soldered to the copper tape you need 2 rows of copper tape 1 neg and 1 pos but what you say about the power is correct as i said i use them from 3 – 15 vault as i have got a faller fairground for which are 15 v keep up the good work ps copper tape does away with the mass of wiring alan

  28. Jim
    you are at about the same stage as I am with my layout . Yours looks as though it could turn into something incredible.your doing well a lot better than me at the moment we will compare notes as we go along i might have the courage to show pictures soon
    well done

  29. I no longer subscribe to Model Railroader, and less Model Rail Craftsman. The reason is that I am weary of seeing museum quality work shoved in my face as the “true” benchmark of all modeling work.

    I now “subscribe” to Allistair’s Forum because great or small, it all gets the same treatment. I loved Stephen’s crazy bridge, and more than that his work demonstrates the heart of a lion.

    It is passion, not perfection, that inspires me.

  30. Aloha Dave, thank you for the film, I was impressed with the lighting without using a stepdown transformer., nice work

  31. Dave, You’re layout is magnificent, I am sure we could all learn a lot from you if you did videos in depth around the little corners of your layout. However, One thing I would like to see you do is install lights into your carriages and bring the realism onto the tracks. When I first looked at the cost I decided to do a kit of my own to save on the cost, and I can now do coach lighting for less than £2 per coach with 6 Led’s in each coach. Please have a look at ebay shop “Coach Lighting” and feel free to ask any questions.

  32. Stephen,

    What is the problem you are trying to solve? That is what we are here for. I agree, being an experienced modeler myselft, I get some of those reactions. Encourage the beginner stating “This is your world, make it what you want.” Now, how can I help.

  33. Hi Al, love all the good stuff you collect and show.
    I have a 4’x8′ N scale layout with a mixed bag of loco’s and wagons. My “rapido” couplers are giving me a lot of trouble. They randomly disengage. I have tried to adjust the slightly different heights but it still happens. My question to you or anybody: Can I change the couplers and which type would be suitable.
    Looking forward to hear some good news from you talented modellers.
    Cheers Werner

  34. A swing on the bridge ???

  35. Hi All,
    This whole site is a wonderland of creative ideas and examples. In essence we all indulge in the hobby for the fun we get out of it not to be able to put down those who are new to it. There is always something to learn and room for improvement, in my case a whole bunch of room! So thanks to all the contributors and ignore the “knockers” who have nothing constructive to add.

  36. I am going to address the negative comment thing briefly. Saying negative things is a way humans bolster their ego. It’s how they prove they exist. It’s a way for them to prove they’re important and matter. It’s a sad state of affairs for sure, but a basic premise of an unenlightened society. Walking away as you have done Stephen, is the right thing to do, along with not condemning them for their ignorance, but instead wishing they find peace, understanding and clarity, so they can at last free themselves from their cruel and selfish ways. When we put ourselves above others, it brings others pain, and ultimately brings pain upon ourselves. Good luck with your endeavors in helping your novice train enthusiast :) Peace

  37. Nice looking layout Jim. Looks like a solid beginning!

  38. This is first class. The quality of the work is superior. I hope someday to be able to be half as talented.

  39. The craftsmanship is superior. If I can ever be half as creative and talented I would be a happy model railroader.

  40. Dave. Your explanations are superb as soon as I see your name attached to a video I view it . I have ordered a Bachman Blue Pullman, class 37 and 24 on the strength of your videos, The bus wire was brilliant and so was the point motor one. I wasn’t going to bother with point motors but I am because of you. I have viewed the steam train through Heartbeat country.Bridlington, ballasting and static grass videos excellent. Where did you manage to get the Bachman green class 20?. I am just starting to build a 2100mm x 1500mm two layer layout which I will send pictures to alister lee and your self and I am even going to have a cafe with my girlfriends name on like your Debs one. I cannot thank you enough just brilliant.

  41. Hi Guys:
    I agree- if you have nothing good to say in writing-[do not write it] keep it to yourself.Adding ugly hurts the true hobbyist and the beginner.
    Thx for the electrical display and the instructions on how you did yours. Your layout is functional/operational with you still being able to upgrade and make changes as you wish. “That’s what the hobby is all about”. Doing things at your own pace with your own hands discussing better ways with fellow modelers. Keep up the great works-and many thx for sharing with all.

  42. I just got back into trains again. I always loved to tinker with things and half the fun is working it out myself. I read this site every day and am learning a lot. Now I take that to the table and try to make it work for me. That is a big part of the fun. It looks good to me and after all isn’t that the important part.
    Keep tHe info coming. We all look for it every day.
    Steve from Toms River

  43. I would like to know where Dave buys all his items from they are so much cheaper than anything I purchased,I do very much enjoy everybody features & comments.

  44. Some people are very happy with an oval on green carpet with a few buildings thrown about.
    Who am I to tell them that they are doing it wrong and they should not be enjoying themselves.
    Worse yet if that person comes with an idea and questions about how to make “their” idea work why would I discourage them with negativity.

    Most of us probably started like I did as a kid 7-8 years old with an American Flyer set in an oval under the Tree once a year.
    That is where my love for Trains started, I could watch it for hours, loved the smell of ozone as the Tinsel burned on the track when it fell there.

    If we want this hobby to thrive (and I know I do since rediscovering it at 58) then we have to encourage EVERYONE who shows an interest.
    What amazes me now is that I do not work with the thought that what I am working on is my last or last itineration of a layout that I will create, just my latest idea being brought forward to a reality that is the culmination of my imagination, skill set and pocket book.
    Ask any of us when we will “Finish” and I assure you most of us will answer “NEVER” so long as I have imagination, skills to explore and expand and wallet to support both.

  45. Way back in my past I had a Lionel set and could watch it go around the circle till my mother made me shut it down and go out and play to get some exercise. Later on , I had a two train H O. Same thing. Now at 88, I am building three lay outs because I just wanted one set but friends decided to help out a little to the tune of one garden scale, fourteen HO sets and three n scale sets. Just like one of your other readers I just like to watch them go round and round. My lay outs are made to give me max trackage in the least amount of space. Doesn’t leave room for much landscape. My wonderful wife allows the use of our living room, so I limit the dimensions. I have both N and HO track on it so I only switch out trains. Nobody seems to notice the difference in the track, they are also watching the trains. Keep the tips and comments coming, I have found some very helpful. I filed them. George in Texas

  46. Stephen’s comment re: negativity prompts me to share a list of “Model Railroading laws (incomplete)” Nothing original, just some thoughts that make sense to me.
    1. This is your railroad; YOU are the President
    2. A good plan makes construction/operation more efficient.
    3. Since you are the CEO, NO ONE else gets to make your decisions.
    4. Over-planning can cause the railroad to never come into being.
    5. Being in charge mandates responsibility as well as privilege.
    6. Regarding radius/easement of curves and easement/degree of inclines, be assured they are the “laws” of physics, not “suggestions”
    7. Honor your preferences re: everything about your railroad.
    8. Skipping a step to accommodate your impatience will be back to ‘bite your butt.’
    9. Envision the final result as completely as possible re: type of operation, kinds of rolling stock (passenger/freight) degree of detail in scenery, etc.
    10. Building a railroad, prototype or model, is a complex process. Learn from the mistakes of others, but dare to improvise/create. Count ‘mistakes’ as steps to perfection.
    11. Focus on YOUR vision in all matters of planning.
    12. Safety is not scalable. Hammer on thumb feels the same in Z or G scale.
    13. If you ignore the odd numbered ‘laws’, you will NOT enjoy your railroad.

  47. I also have the same kind of reactions when I ask questions to my dealer ! I have only two model railroaders in my area to go to and both of them act like I’m a bother instead of giving positive advice . I’m no dummy but when I do have a question or a problem I end up feeling like one when I leave . I don’t understan what they are scared of! Most of the time I end up getting the response to go online or look into magazines for help. It’s discouraging . There is plenty of time I feel like just taking it all down,then I think about my grandsons it keeps me going. I’m working on my third layout due to these experts and at the end of my rope! I live in chesapeake Virginia and I just can’t get help.

  48. Just remember Stephen they were once beginners to they probably had a very basic layout

  49. the main thing with establishing a layout in my opinion is to enjoy yourself, there will be some folks who are better and some folks who are not so good, I put my layout together for the first time since I was 6 years old and I am now 66 going on 67 in a few weeks, my layout is small 5×6 but very realistic. I used the ez track instead of the flat track because if I ever have to move my layout I can without making a mess, and i also do not have roads, but do have pathway and open parks..I hung HO scale bi-planes from the ceiling with thin fishing twine above the town and all who have seen it think it is the neatest layout they have seen in a long time. As soon as I can obtain a decent camera, I will send in pics for you to enjoy. I know some will critisize or offer hints and that is fine, but the main objestive for all is to do what you want and have fun, to which my wife and I have…Thanks of the opportunity to have my say…Best of luck to all

  50. In the second photo, I love the life vest under the table, it must be for working around the river or on the bridges. Love all the tips. Keep them coming.

  51. loved stephens comments about big shots, spelled with an ” I ” . just being old does not make you smart. many years in model railroading does not make you total excellence. we all crawl before we walk. keep up the good work, Stephen. I am 81 and still learn from beginners, as I did in my professional life. “papa dave”

  52. Stephen,
    You do what you want on the layout, after all if the layout belongs to you, then you make it to the way that you want it.

    If you ask someone for help with a problem then they should at least give you more than one option to help solve the problem.

    I printed out a sign that I put in my train room, “This is my layout, I built it the way I wanted it to look. If you don’t like my design then don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

  53. If you use a light plus resistor (to run a 3V light from a 12V supply, then according to my long-ago school electronics you’re wasting 3/4 of your power on the resistor (which will dissipate as heat, no doubt. Better by far, I’d guess to wire sets of 4 lights in series; this means connecting
    negative of light 1 to negative of supply
    negative of light 2 to positive of light 1
    negative of light 3 to positive of light 2
    negative of light 4 to positive of light 3
    positive of light 4 to positive supply.
    This is theoretical – I haven’t done it, so if anyone has, and it doesn’t work, please say. If it does work, all of the power used goes in light.
    Otherwise, excellent tutorial by Dave, as usual.

  54. Would really love to see accurate plans (in one of the train CAD programs) for layouts that are posted here. I have been designing g an N Scale layout to fit a specific dimension set. 6+ months of drawings and while many seem to look OK, there are invariable problems that would prevent construction/operation….

  55. Keep up the good work. I’m a newbie as well and you and everyone has been very helpful. Thanks for all your encouragement and willingness to help those who need a helping hand and some positive encouragement. I intend on having fun putting this together with my son and grandsons. If they like it, I’m happy. Keep on truckin’ with what you believe.

  56. I too am a complete novice and building my first layout, but as far as help is concerned I didn’t have anyone to call on so took my troubles to various model
    shops and was given all the help I needed. it is in their interests after they are the people that will be supplying the parts etc,
    I am well on with my 3’x12′ set up in N scale DCC and all who have seen it
    compliment me but it is in many ways thanks to help from good model shops.
    So Stephan there is lots of help out there and don’t forget this site too!!
    Sid Emery

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