More tips and pics

Going to start today with a question that I know throws a lot of folk. Please do post your answers:

“Hi Alastair,

I love your emails and posts. Thanks. I have a question. I”m not sure where to go to find the answer. I have HO curved track pieces of all different lengths and radius. I find that some of my train pieces can’t make certain curves because the curves are too tight. How do I know if a curve is too tight? How do i measure the radius of a curved section of track? What’s too tight?


Todd (my trains always derail)”

Hi Al,

this probably has been submitted before. Florists oasis can be pulverized in your fingers to make this very realistic greenery and is much cheaper.

I enjoy your emails and save most of them for future reference.

Sincerely, Frank, Clermont Florida (near Mickey Mouse)”

And now I’d like to share the polar opposites that fill my inbox most days. Here’s one from Stephan and one from Bob.

Stephen’s mail made me think, “Why do I bother?”.

But then I read Bob’s and all was well with the world again.

“A job worth doing, is a job worth doing well. You could definitely ratchet your email(s) and website up a notch or two.

Seeing both, leads me to believe a kid is doing them.

Some basic education in sending emails and the website should be programmed in to your hobby or “profession.”

A Hodge Podge is a Hodge Podge… with a little self esteem you could do wonders.

Surely, across the pond, there are people that would help you.


And now compare that, with Bob’s:

“Hello Al,

I’ve been receiving your Emails for about a month now and I must say that I get great pleasure from reading and learning tip’s and suggestion’s from what I’ll call your newsletter’s.

Although I know you can’t possibly respond to what must be a plethora of Emails sent to you I do not need to add to your list.

Just wanted to say you’ve started to help me battle a 3 year bout with depression. I’m 55 and have started digging through 15 year’s amassing N scale RR material. Tracks, engines, scenery,
book’s on how to and the like.

I believe your word’s have given my life a lot more meaning.

Thanks for the inspiration.



That’s all this time folks.

Don’t forget to have a browse through the latest ebay cheat sheet. Latest one is here.

Keep ’em coming.



122 Responses to More tips and pics

  1. Todd,

    If u are using HO large locomotives or long passenger cars, you will probably need 24″ minimum radii to minimize derailing on the curve. Sometimes the manufacturer puts the minimum radius on the box or the instruction sheet.

  2. Hi Alastair,
    I don’t know what Stephens problem is but I think you do a splendid job and wholeheartedly agree with the comments made by Bob.
    Criticism is the easiest thing to do, actually doing it is something else.
    I say well done and keep it up.

  3. Todd, you have answered your own question. You already know which curves are ‘too tight’. Just remove them and redesign your layout with curves that your stock runs on trouble free. You’ll find the product number of each piece of track imprinted under the sleepers so you can buy what is most suitable. Have fun. H.

  4. Endorse what Ol’ Puffer said.

    Always pleased to get something from you, Alastair.

    Suggest Stephen gets off his self-built pedestal and if he has any stunning ideas, share them!

    Dave G

  5. I run a company and day to day, it is a rollercoaster of stress and fun. I love getting your emails as it connects me back to the fun part

    not everything has to be shiny and corporate. hobbies should be a hodge podge, that’s what makes them the escape we all need

    People can always unsubscribe! But I guess you’ll always have those that use their energy to denegrate rather than to improve

    keep it up, the world would be a grey place if we allowed ourselves to believe in the critics

  6. Please don’t change anything you are doing. You are dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of knowledge. Many of us only made it to the 1st grade (in model train knowledge) and need the very basic info which you provide. Us 1st graders appreciate your help, and those of greater knowledge can just wait for the next “newsletter” for those that are more educated.

  7. Well . . .
    Some of your items seem a little amateurish or over basic and some appear to the extreme opposite, but every one who reads them needs something different so there is something for everyone!
    I think I learn from all of them.

    I often think “That’s stupid” and others say “FANTASTIC”
    Would it be a boring world if every body was the same?

  8. The question was not whether a box had a minimum radius on it. The question was how he can measure a radius on a piece of flextrack knowing about what radius it is. I am also curious on how people do this. But, if you are running some walthers passenger trains or some mth steam locos, I wouldn’t even rely on the minimum recommended 24″. They simply don’t work well,,,,, and they don’t look well either.

  9. Answer for Todd.
    I Agree with John 24″ is minimum, 27″ would be better. I have found the following works to check radii. With a cornflake carton open out flat, place on floor, then with a pencil tied to a length of twine (String) and a pin or thumbtack set at desired radius, scribe an arc on the card, now increase or decrease length of radii to match actual width of track. cut out with scissors. you can now lay card on track and see where you have sudden change or kink. Hope this helps.
    PS this system works for all gauges, obviously changing radii to suit.

  10. Hi Al

    Just to say that here’s another person who enjoys having a look at the stuff you post, must get together a few of my own bits and pieces to send. I particularly enjoy seeing Dave’s stuff (from South Yorkshire I believe – must be within 40 miles of me in Leeds West Yorkshire).

    But the point is that there are a good few idiots out there who seem to have nothing better to do than be pointlessly negative so this is just a quick message to balance the scales (scales? is that model railway pun?)

    All the best

    John (Leeds, England)

  11. Lots of people have problems because they don’t do their research when they purchase locomotives or curved track. Like John says, most model train co.’s post the radius requirements right on the box. I buy most of my stuff from an old-timer who’s shop is about 18 miles away. I don’t mind the drive, because I love to visit him and exchange ideas with him and the other customers there. The info you get is priceless and you can even meet new friends just like when you attend a train show every month. Just another reason why this hobby is so great! Lot’s of great tips on-line ( like Al’s site ) also. You just have to ask the dealer questions when you buy from them. If they can’t answer, then you need to purchase elsewhere.

  12. I fully agree with Ol’ Puffer and Dave G. I for one look forward to your emails. I am learning about model trains in preparation for getting into constructing my own layout and every email widens my knowledge and helps fire my enthusiasm!

    Two words for Stephen and the second word is off!

    Keep up the good work Al.

  13. Wow, it takes all sorts to make a world. Al, this is a hobby for amateurs and you are doing great in that field. Why doesn’t the almighty Stephen have a go for free? Sounds like a guy that would be charging a price for his ‘expertise’.
    My middle name is Steven – glad it’s with a V.

  14. Message to AL…….. Don’t change a thing with this site. I for one feel blessed that I stumbled on to it. No matter how old or how smart you think you are, you can always learn something new from others. I’ve meet people like Stephen all my life life. The type that think they are a “notch above others”, if you know what I mean. I find it best to ignore people like Stephen and their comments. Life’s too short to waste time listening to or dwelling on the negatives out there. This is a great website, Al. Thanks for what you and all the great train people here share with all of us.

  15. Hi Al,

    Just another agreement with all above. Been receiving you emails here in Connecticut for a few years and love every one. Great job.

  16. I enjoy your emails and they have been very helpful. I feel sorry for anyone who thinks the world should be perfect and all websites – emails must be to the very highest quality. I personally see nothing wrong with what you and your reader are doing and submitting. It is simple and that is what we need in the hobby world. We are not suppose to be rocket science, we are to enjoy what we do. Who really cares as long as the info is good, informative and understandable to the lay person. As you often may see, spelling and grammar is not a big than. — JUST HAVE FUN — SHARE YOUR IDEAS — LEARN FROM OTHERS — AND MOST OF ALL ENJOY.


  17. Al – Please ignore Stephen. He sounds like a self-righteous jerk! I’ve been a subscriber for a few years and look forward to your emails. With the variety of topics covered, the great videos and pics, I look forward to them every week. You are doing a fantastic job and we appreciate your efforts. I’ve been threatening to put a series of pics and videos of my 6X12 HO layout that is now complete, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I will try to get it done. Keep up the good work.

  18. Hi Al,
    Just read the replies to your email above, Don’t know what Stephen’s problem is ( well I do but it’s unprintable here ! ) As you can see from the rest of the replies, we all get pleasure from your site.
    I for one have picked up many tips from you & your contributors.
    Keep up the good work !

  19. Al !
    Please don’t change anything about your most welcome regular hints and tips. We can all read, and appreciate, or discard, whatever we wish, from your collected entries from all over the world. PLEASE leave this link just as it is!

    I live in a remote area of central Canada, only about 5000 km west of Dave’s layout, and about 200 km from any reasonable hobby supply store. I sincerely appreciate the plethora of info, videos and photos, shared by your readers, and so kindly passed on by you. Like Paul said – “Life’s too short to waste on the negatives.”

    Like Brian, I thought everyone had made their own ‘cornflake’ cutouts to check their radii. I use mine regularly, especdially when laying flex track.

    Keep up the great messaging – Al. It is reassuring to learn there are others at all skill levels out there, readily helping us all.

  20. After all the hard work you put into this site Al, you must have been a bit miffed to receive Stephen’s message. Why would he send something like that? – if he doesn’t like what he sees on your site let him do the other thing. I’m with Keith on this one – two words to Stephen and the second one is OFF!!

  21. I agree with Bob!! I love getting info from you (and others). I set up this email address strictly for getting emails from you. I usually check it 2 to 3 times a day. :)
    Keep up the good work!

  22. Hi Al,
    I am so very glad I found this email list. I know you put a lot of time into this email list and want to let you know how much I, and a lot of others appreciate it even though we don’t often tell you.

    I have a email folder where I keep all of the articles I want to save for future reference. Some of the emails don’t interest me and I don’t keep those. They may however help or interest other people.

    As far as Stephen’s issues go, he can always unsubscribe. (or you can do it for him)

    Thanks – your efforts are appreciated!

  23. Stephen sounds like one of those that does nothing but likes to critique what everyone else does. I enjoy your post however you want to structure them, they’re YOUR post ! My wife and I are both professional people but are also realistic and not pompous. Keep up the good work in any manor you choose, if some don’t like it ( which I have no idea why most wouldn’t) they don’t have to read it now do they ?

  24. Hm there is always one …does Stephen contribute anything to your site Al ? think its time he did then we can judge how clever and correct he is … I think like most others that you do a great job for this hobby , we are not professionals and all the tips that we find oh here come in very useful , I know a lot think that I know a lot , but believe you me I am learning all the time and have gathered a lot of useful idea`s from your site . as Mike says …….second word is off to him

  25. Al, your e-mails are the FIRST I open.
    Keep up the GREAT WORK.

  26. I do not send in comments very often. I always enjoy the many musings, pictures and videos that are sent in. You consistently supply a boat load of great tips and information. As for Mr. Nasty-face Stephens, I would completely ignore any negative comments. From what I have read so far, you are followed by many and they all (myself included) appreciate what you have done. Keep up the amazing work.

  27. Hold your head high Bob.Dont let it get you down.Someone to talk to would help.Doing this hobby helps.And any negative from others isn’t called for as this is a free site and Al is busting his arse.Tell ya what show some of your builds and let us be the is cheap.thanks Al

  28. I endorse all the above (except that by grumpy Stephen) – carry on with what you are doing Alistair.
    Also as Dave H says let him post his stuff so the rest of us can throw rocks at it.
    Measuring track radius – all I can suggest is to read the track catalogue number and look it up on the manufacturers web-site, where the radius will be given. Remember that radius will be at track centre, midway between the rails.

  29. Al,
    Your emails are a great source of information, help and inspiration. To turn this into something I’m sure it was never intended to be would be a huge disappointment to most of us. The “hodge-podge” is what makes it fun. I look forward to your emails and agree with David Howarth and would also remind Stephen of the following rules which I am plagairizing:
    1. This is my railroad
    2. I’m building this layout for me
    3. No nit picking allowed. No exceptions
    4. If i have to please everyone it is not fun any more
    5. If you laugh at my railroad or me, I’ll be glad to show you the door and watch the door knob on the way out.

    The same applies to your emails. Please keep up the good work

  30. Al: Please note my email address change. My server has gone out of business.
    re: negative comments. If reading your website is such a chore, use the ‘delete’ key and the “problem” goes away and the rest of us can continue on, enjoying the content. I feel you’ve never presented this forum as being anything other than an informal convenience for all of us. Thank you.

  31. Hi Todd, I hope this helps. I had a similar problem, my larger locos would no make some curves. So Todd, I got hold of a radius gauge. I think this help will and you can do both flex track or set radius track.

  32. Al: I, too, print off many of your hints and photos and keep them in a binder and a few of the items have already made their way into my grandson’s layout. You do provide a great service to many. I find it ironic that Stephen mentioned “self esteem” in one of the comments…usually someone like him suffers from poor self-esteem and needs to pick on others to boost his ego. Whenever I butt heads with someone like that, I say to myself “Geez, I’d hate to live in his body and mind” and go on with life.
    So, carry on Ol’ Chap, and give the rest of us the pleasure we have when we open your email…perfect or not!
    Bonny aka Grannytoot

  33. Hi Al, just wanted to endorse all comments/replies to your post of Stephen’s message as my father would have said,

    (Don’t let the Bastards grind you down!!)

    Keep up the great work and hope to post something soon

  34. Al, don’t worry about the knowitall Stephan, no matter what you are doing you will always get someone who is never satisfied with any effort you make.
    Like some others on here, I suffer from bad health but I always look forward to your emails, and all the tips and info they provide to us aspiring modelers, so ignore this sort of criticism and carry on with the good work.
    Kindest Regards Ron.

  35. Stephen message misses the point. Your website and emails are of great information on train modelling. It is not an exercise in perfection but just pleasure. Ignore his message and keep doing a great service, it would be a shame if you stopped bothering.

  36. I’m a professional writer and trainer, I daily worry about making certain that what I write is to the highest professional standards. That said, I’m also a psychologist, and we have discovered a very interesting human behavior. Many people prefer the casual to the formal presentation. The belief of these very intelligent individuals is that the more polished it is, the further it is from reality, that something is lost in translation. It may or may not be true, but for my own experience, and I have contributed to your pages, what you write is correct as to grammar and spelling, and conveys fun and enthusiasm. I’d rather spend more time modeling than editing.

    As for the gent with the trackage problem – there are no hard and fast guidelines, but the longer your cars, the longer the curve needs to be. You can, with truck-mounted couplers get a long car to turn on a tight radius, but you need to allow plenty of clearance with the scenery. Heavy locos and 70 adn 80 ft scale cars, rarely do well on smaller than 26″ curves, and 30 is better if you have the space. I’d suggest flex track would be better than sectional track, or perhaps solder the sectional track rather than trust to joiners.
    Happy railroading.

  37. Al
    You are the greatest because of your passion for our hobby. Unfortunately there are people out there that don’t have a life so they are easy to criticize. I usually take the high road and look at all the positive information and feedback that all of the train enthusiasts contribute. When you think you have a process down pat someone submits an idea and it sparks an idea to do that process better.

    As an example: My son and I were going to build our moutains the usual way but discovered that someone was taking acoustical ceiling tile breaking it apart and glue stacking it in different configurations and it turned out better than our first way of doing mountains, so now we incorporate this idea into our mountain construction.
    Keep up the great work and I look forward to all the contibutions of all the enthusiasts.

  38. The curve radius should be 9″. The distance between the straight tracks just before and just after the curve should be 36″ if you are doing a 180 degree turn. Get a single piece of curved track with a 9″ curve and make all your other curves the same pattern. You can also hot-glue some lead weights on the bottom of your lighter cars. If any cars have plastic wheels, get rid of them and install steel ones.

    Princeton, Minnesota

  39. My answer to Stephen would be…..if you think you can better, why dont you? If you dont like what you see here, dont look. I for one like what Alastair is doing. Could he improve his site or blog? Sure. ALL OF US COULD IMPROVE. Does he need to improve? NO>>>WHAT HE HAS IS JUST FINE! Stephen, if you are going to complain, perhaps you could come up with a non-used cliche? The ones you’re using are old. Be original please.

  40. Hi All,
    1) I have a 2 and 8 year old. An hour or so a night working on the trains keeps me from @#$#%#%$#@! :)

    2) I just relocated to Williasburg, VA and am starting my 3rd HO table. I have made every mistake possible and I am sure invented some new mistakes!!!!! For curves I will now only use 24′ radius on the express tracks and 22′ on any turnouts, yards, etc. The rub is that you need a larger space, but this is the only was one can get Steam, say 2-8-2 or 2-10-2 to not derail! More to come on my table; love the site, AL!!!

  41. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK. As my Dad used to tell me: Negative people, for negative’s sake, are nothing more than a pimple on the gluteus maximus of progress.

  42. Well I could easily add to all the excellent comments regarding your site and also add tons of comments about Stephen and his email. It sounds like he needs a good friend who could help him learn to enjoy life. He probably is all mouth and no action to perhaps cover up a terribly low self esteem and/or a hugely over rated self worth. He could start with developing humility and take his sights off of himself. As someone else alluded to, negative people will drain your resources while positive people refresh and supercharge you.

    I do hope you will at some point make your offer again to pay the $19.95 for access to all the information that’s been offered up to now. I really kick myself for not joining.
    And also at some point when my funds add up to take advantage….I hope to buy your hot deal on “all your printable buildings” special you’ve had in the past.

    I hope this site can stay just as it is.

    Happy rails to everyone from the Wild West in Hardin Montana

  43. Well I heard once (from a speach by the Teacher of the Year) that “If it’s worth doing, it worth doing even poorly”. The value is in the doing not in the judgment of how well it is being done. That judgment is subjective and has little to do with getting the job done. If someone believes they can do better they might consider giving it a try rather than passing subjective justice.

    Al, you are doing a wonderful, a powerful job. Keep it up. Apparently the majority of receivers enjoy and applaud your efforts and without justice.

    Stephen, try to do a better job. Apparently you see a need and now you can make an effort to prove your worth. (No judgemnet here).

  44. That should say “… and without judgment.”

  45. I like your e-mails if there are some I do not need I delete but the ones I like or need I save in my saved file keep them coming I also am still waiting to see the one I sent with pictures of my table I have expanded it to 6 DCC Engines and 3 DC will send picture when I get a chance

  46. To Stephen:
    You do realize that Al does this as more or less a public service to the hobby.
    This is NOT his profession. I, for one, enjoy his efforts very much. If you can do better, dive in and give the guy a hand instead of busting his shoes and counting rivets.
    Bill Fitzpatrick

  47. Hay Alister is Stephen still on your mailing list. He would be if it were my mailing list. Go job. Enjoy the videos as I myself I do not have a layout of my own.

  48. Hi Alastair,

    I see its come up again … our American posting for cheap greenery … Florists Aquafoam! Its in the name ‘aqua’ and needs to be kept wet! As I have stated many times before unless it is sealed, wet or undamaged its fine powder is a respiratory irritant and therefore a high risk material to use.

    Cheers, Peter BB

  49. A simple way to pre-measure a radius is to simply drill a hole in a wooden yardstick down close to the 1″ edge. Then make small enough holes for a pencil to protrude thru the yardstick at the 18″, 20″, 22″, 24″, 28″ (or whatever) radii you choose, allowing a little addl space for the starting hole’s spacing. Tack or hold the yardstick down at the starting hole and swivel it with your pencil in the appropriate marker hole, and you’ve got a good close marking of your radius…
    (Skip ;>})

  50. Hi Al,
    I think you are doing a good job.
    I don’t care what Stephen says. I have learnt a lot from your articles etc.
    Keep up the good work.

  51. If you use flex track solder two pieces together (make sure the sliding rails are on the same side) and use this to make a natural curve (a parabola) with built in easements. Just make sure thatthe top part of the curve is not too tight. You can test this off the layout and see how it works.

  52. Todd, on the EBay there are track radius gauges that are made of metal and are formed in the proper radius with the number stamped on them. These gauges sell for 3.95 U.S. dollars and can be used to measure radius and establish radius when laying flex track. Your curves that are too tight are 18 in ho scale and 9 in N scale throw the tight curves away and get flex track using the radius guages and you will have a lot less derailments.

  53. Al, again I say ignore the idiots who would complain about this website. I for one really enjoy your newsletters and forum and check my email daily for the latest one from you. I have learned a lot from all the tips and postings on your emails and all I can say is keep up the excellent job you are doing on the internet. Thanks, Jim

  54. Dear Alastair.,

    Please do not allow e-mails like Stephen’s drag you down. You are providing a valued service to the model railroading and model railways community. When I get your e-mail notices, I eagerly click on the enclosed link to see what tips are suggested and to view the photos and videos that others have sent you for sharing.

    Granted, some material may not be relevant to a task or project currently at hand but when saved, they are a nice and helpful reference to refer to at a later time. A good sample is the playground articles that you ran about a year ago and then there was the bridge made of used razors, and we must not forget about Dangerous Dan and others from across the Atlantic pond with their photos, videos and helpful reviews. These are the kinds of things that you do not really find in magazines.

    So Al, if you get any more e-mails like Stephen’s, just TRASH them. They are not worth bothering with. But by all means keep up with the good work. Your blog is enjoyed by many of us and I for one, thank you for your time and effort.

    For all the people with ideas, constructive suggestions and helpful tips, keep sending them in to Al. As for Bob, keep in there. Like you I also found that this hobby helps to keep me from going into deep depression. So hang in there Bob.

  55. Al,

    I affirm and admire your willingness, courage, and candor, to share “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Jesus left the 99 to go after the 1. May you rejoice in the 99 positive comments and not let the 1 sink into your spirit of sharing with all of us. I pray for the Stephens in this world. Such will probably find something wrong with Jesus when He comes again! May God bless you since you and your website bless so many of us! Shalom. Ron

  56. Okay, Al. Here’s some kudos for you and your website. Hope this keeps you looking at the “sunny side”.

  57. Hi Alistair,

    You’re obviously doing something right. The time and effort you put into this is truly appreciated by all. The things I like about your blog are the varieties of model railways on show, whatever the skill level; whether its Dangerous Dave; how on earth he does what he does in the space of time, to those who are less skilled but show and demonstrate that railway modeling is fun. How many times do I imagine what my railway is going to look like whilst watching trains run round and shunting in the goods yard, rather than ‘getting on with the doing’ !

    Plus I’ld like to thank all of you who contribute by sending in hints tips and showing off their achievements. I’ld like to do the same, how do I send stuff in to be published for the world to see?


  58. Al as Mr. Trump would say “Stephen you are fired”. As you can tell by the replies we all love (like) your site just the way it is. I just wish Stephen could set in my wheelchair for awhile. Maybe, just maybe he would get off his high horse & his holly than thou attitude. This site gives this old Disabled Veteran a great deal of pleasure every time I receive the Email. As every one has said “keep up the good work” Thanks again and again. Hat

  59. Al, you are doing a great job and I get great delight from the tips and the inspiration from the folks who send in their work. Forget this character Stephen, he is not worth bothering about. If he doesn’t like your page, he can surely go elsewhere. Keep up the good work.

  60. No matter how old or young you are there is always something to learn. I tell the apprentices’ at work if I knew everything that I wouldn’t be there. Instead I would be making millions of dollars a day and fixing everything over the phone from home. That even with the years of experience I have they can still teach me things. The only fool is the one not willing to listen and assess any benefits in another way.

  61. Alistair, a big thumbs up for your “newsletter” and an even bigger thumbs DOWN for Stephen’s negative remarks. Do not change a thing. I have learnt 10 times more from your blog than from all the “professional” sites I have visited.

  62. I have always enjoyed your comments and everybody that asks questions and contributes. Why does this guy even come on this sight if he has nothing to do but bitch. Keep up the good work. You inspired me to tear out my first try layout and do something new. It’s going great.

  63. Look forward to your newsletters. Picked up numerous ideas and tips. I,ve kept each one since subscribing for later reference.
    Keep up the good work
    Bob downunder

  64. Al,

    What a wonderful response you have received from this email. It is a tribute to you, your work, and what you bring to us each time you send an email.

    Don’t ever forget that what Stephen says in USA freedom of speech rings true. As is I don’t have to like what he wrote … but I will fight for the right for him to say it.

    I have been on the site for almost 2 years … the insight of Al to provide us with many facets of model railroading for both young and old modelers of all levels and railroad scales is simply wonderful. This site has inspired me from entries to build an N scale model railroad and the tips and pictures videos narratives has been my inspiration.

    Freedom of speech lets Stephen make comments … but just cause he makes a comment does mean it is right.
    I have use of an old saying … I might not like what you say but I fight for the right that you can say it. For what that is worth. Stephen I did not like what you had to say.

    Al, you are a diamond in the rough … you have been an inspiration to me and to all that is on this site. These emails have proven that. I hope you understand what you really mean to us … keep up the good work … I will be looking forward to each new email and to what information they brings.

    warm regards,


    P. S. Al, take a bow!!

  65. Al you are doing a fine job
    Your email have put me back in my room
    With more sprint and willing to do more
    The person that is complaining May be
    Should have his own web site
    We’ll done Al keep it up

  66. I have been retired for the past several years. My retirement was forced on me as I lost my job and the prospects for folks in their sixties, especially in this economy, are minimal. Finally, my wife suggested that I just bite the bullet and retire. Now, what to do?

    A friend suggested model railroading. I found the suggestion appealing. But, where to start?

    Unlike most model railroaders, I never had trains when I was a child. So, all this was new to me – and overwhelming. Again, here to start? You had to be part designer, carpenter, engineer, electrician etc.

    The usual publications and “how to” books were helpful but I can honestly say that your website and the great ideas that folks have generously posted there have been invaluable to me. I now have a layout that brings me a great deal of enjoyment.

    So Alastair, your “imperfect” website in our “imperfect” world has been perfect for me. I thank you.

  67. I went looking for model train info a couple of years ago and have enjoyed receiving every e-mail I get – whether I understand the info or even need it – and I keep all of them. Bob’s comment about this hobby relieving his depression is spot-on! Isn’t that the essence of a hobby? It’s something you can do in your spare time that you particularly enjoy. It’s uplifting and makes you feel good about yourself. I spend my days at work wishing I was home working on my model villages. I keep at it because I love doing it. I also find I am getting better at it with more practice. Take from it whatever it gives you and don’t worry over the Stephens of the world. Keep up the excellent work, Al, and to everyone else, remember that there are no stupid questions – only stupid answers.

  68. Just for my 2 quids worth. I am new to this hobby – started about 2 years ago. Always wanted to build a layout but never had the time to do it. Did a bit of model building as a kid but that was about it. Now that I’m recently retired have jumped into this hobby boots & all – & I’m hooked. I didn’t have a clue how to go about it but by gathering information on sites like this & the internet in general have found the information I have need to complete the task. We live in the country so I cannot just go to the local hobby shop to get what I need. Sites like this are invaluable.
    Al, just keep doing what you are doing – for me it works fine. As for Steve he can go set up his own site rather than criticize other peoples efforts.

  69. Todd look up using key words like “Model Train track radius” on the internet using a search engine like google. There are plenty of sites that explain track radius & how to calculate it & any issues associated with tight radius.

  70. Alastair,

    This is for Todd, whose “trains always derail.”

    Here’s a link to the NMRA website, which sets standards for the model railroading hobby. This particular link is for RP-11, which is a Recommended Practices document. It outlines the car length to curvature ratio’s for all scales. It looks like heavy reading because it covers all the gauges. However, it’s not too hard to figure out.

    Secondly, though, model trains derail for many reasons. There’s the track setup and the car setup in addition to the car length to curvature ratio. Generally speaking, longer cars require gentler curves. But, you must consider all three subjects; cars, track, and curves. You won’t fix your derailing issues by ignoring any one of these.

    Good luck, and Happy model railroading!

    Russ House

  71. Hi Al,

    Look, it takes all sorts to make the world go round and unfortunately from time to time, we are forced to acquaint ourselves with the ones who wouldn’t know what to do, if the world suddenly stopped. So the percentage of people who appreciates your Emails will always out weigh, the percentage that have nothing between their ears, except an empty space that now and again is disturbed by a gush of dust, the wind has entered as they passed a gap in a building and the wind just happened to be blowing across their path.

    So as for myself, as one of the thousands who not only enjoy your Emails, but look forward to them on a regular basis, take this percentage with a grain of salt, but for your time and effort I thank you, just as the thousands of others do I bet.

    Stemar, (Downunder)

  72. Hi Alistair, I also enjoy your e-mails. I too keep the ones which appeal to me in a separate folder so I can browse through them for wee tips. Keep them coming Al.
    Thanks again

  73. Al, I have been involved with some pretty good model builders, clever techies and have been modelling for roughly 50 years on and off. Your continued contribution of all levels of modelling can only be applauded. My brother in law has just started in the hobby and gets really depressed because he looks at what I do so I showed him a lot of your posts and he realised that there area a lot of beginners just like him. Keep up the excellent work.

  74. Hi Alistair, keep doing what you’re doing mate & if Stephen doesn’t what you’re doing, he can always un-subscribe,

    All the best


  75. To measure unknown rail radii you can make a simple template.
    Get a bigg(ish) sheet of paper and use a pencil and string to draw curves of different radii. It is best to use the standard track radii. Then simply lay the track on the template to see which matches. Don’t forget to label the curves or you will be forever remeasuring.

  76. This thread has hilarious comments in it. We should appreciate thingy for starting it who was maybe just having the male equivalent of a bad hair day. We all have them & pick whoever is handy to work it out out on.

    As someone who bought the Hornby Trak Mat & and a N Gauge set to start off with I’m a minority of 1 who has not quite got it right ?

    Or can we have some more mishaps posted by others? 😀

  77. Al,
    Been getting your emails forever, love the varied opinions/talents on display, forget Stephen, the keen observer will note that he has not mentioned at all the content of your email, he is just trolling.
    Regards, Peter, Brisbane

  78. Plenty of response Alistair , think you got your answer …all the best

  79. We, similar to woodcarvers; they choose their block of wood. They decide how and what they intend to make … their vision; they begin. They pick their tools of trade,they carve; it begins to take shape, they continue on through the entire process until the finished product is realized. No matter how long it takes; setback does not stop them. Patience, hard work, trial and error; late nights or early mornings. The goal the finished product.
    Same way as model railroaders … a platform, a vision, same as the wood carver … and at the finish … contrary to what anyone says you have a …

    I am proud of model railroading … I am proud of this site, AL, I am proud of what I have learned from it … it has given me the tools so I could build my …

    Thanks to Al and all those that so unselfish have contributed to this email. You each are a …

    So now you all take a BOW!

    warm regards,


  80. Hi Al, I would like to join my name to all the excellent comments that have been made. I do have one suggestion though, Relegate all those type of mails to file 13 and encase Stephen does not know what that means ( dirt box) You do far to a valuable job to be upset by rubbish. Keep moving ahead my friend.
    Rob( Montgue Rail)

  81. Al,
    Please, oh please! Don’t let those of Stephen’s ilk get you down. Tour site may not be of any value to him, so let him “unsubscribe”. You have made that option clear and easy for anyone. Each of your subscribers is at a different level in this hobby — from me to Dave — and there is ALWAYS something there of infinite value to someone. Often times I glean gems from the comments from readers about something someone has submitted. I say, let Stephen start up his own website if he THINKS he can do better. Keep up the good work — your efforts are greatly appreciated by the rest of us

  82. Please ignore Stephen. I can’t believe that anyone could write such an email (or maybe he can give us the details of his website – itf it exists – so we can see how much better it is and learn from him!) You do a fantastic job, your emails are always of interest (they are the first I open) and I have benefitted from the many ideas that have come from time to time.
    The hobby doesn’t need arrogant, smart Know-it-Alls like Stephen.

  83. Hi Al
    I don’t really know what I can say that is different to the above comments. I can only agree that your subscribers operate at different levels and gain different encouragement from the contributions here. Many newsletters and discussion pages suffer from over sophistication that many of us find tiresome or intimidating. I am not in model railway modeling to count rivets and discuss the intricacies of a particular country stations point levers. I get pleasure from dreaming up ideas then trying to make them work. The input from others helps me to see that my feelings are shared.
    I return to your webpage more often than any other.

  84. Im 60 so I know what ur going thru, about the RADII Brian has a great IDEA ABOUT THE CERAL BOX

  85. i DID MY RADII ON THE PLATFORM ITSELF. IM working with N gage.

  86. Al
    Agree with everyone else. Thoroughly enjoy seeing what other people are doing and the tips are usefule (espaecially if they save me money, it keeps the wife happy). Love Dave’s videos, they make me envious of the space he has available. Just one question how do I submit material, as I am working on an 8′ x 4′ layout for my son (and I), thought I might share how it progrresses.


  87. Wow..the response is awesome..Al THERE IT IS. You have received your answer.
    Stephen. …. UNSUBSCRIBE. ..

  88. Al and fellow commenters:

    Hey, in every cloud their IS a silver lining! Look what Stephen did! He caused all of us to send our affirmations to Al! Some of us may have never commented before (like me!) We appreciate you, Al, and it now shows in an over-helming way! Ron Railroader

  89. I really enjoy seeing everyone’contributions; all are inspirational. I have a small layout 6′ x 4′ which I put together when my son got a Pendolino train for his 6th birthday which was bolstered by some trains and accessories when I was young. I now have several ideas / options to enhance the layout from modelers who have made hills / tunnels and its great looking at the larger layouts (the only ‘downside is that my son would like a loft extension!)

    Thanks very much Al, I appreciate you taking the time to keeping this forum going!



  90. I notice Stephen doesn’t offer help, just condemnation. I cannot believe anyone could be so petty and he must really enjoy putting people down. Usually these people are rather insignificant or failing in some way so for the rest of us, Please carry on Al and everyone else that puts the time and effort into writing or submitting pictures of an array of different styles and types of layouts. Mine is still just a lot of boxes of bits and pieces but I know it will, one day, be a layout and I know many of the tips I picked up here will be part of that layout.
    Thanks again, to all of you.

  91. Al I find a lot of good hints on your site . I am at the start of a portable lay out so I can take it down to the cub pack my wife and I run as they wish to help build get them involved and you get very shy kids out of their shells . I also like looking at other sites some model based others like decorative knot work and what ever site I look at there is some NUMB NUTS gobbing of about something totally nothing to do with the original site’s purpose KEEP UP THE WORK

  92. I find it very disappointing and arrogant to assume that all modellers are at the same level and that what’s of no interest to one ( this Stephen guy) is of no interest to anyone. My view of these emails is that it is very much a help forum and an encouragement to see what with a little patience anyone can achieve. This hobby is about creating your own idea of a miniature world and see it come to life as you switch on the lights, start running the trains and hear the sounds of your loco rattling (or gliding) around the corner over the bridge and coming to the station.
    I think these are all excellent hints and tips, that should be shared. If you don’t like the tip or hint, you don’t have to use it. If you know of a better way, share with the group. But to be stuck up your own a**e about it and to belittle you and your readers just begs for a good old slap round the ear. Hobbies are meant to be fun. People like Stephen take this away. I really can’t say how annoyed at his remarks I am. Don’t change a thing, these emails are always a welcome sight in my inbox!!

  93. Dear Al,

    Thanks a million for helping an Old Codger like me with the hobby. I have almost zero skills in making things/understanding computers etc but your daily Emails and tips, and also Dave’s Model Railway are really appreciated and fill a gap.

    Thanks another million.


  94. Hi Al, Just keep your suggestions and your advise coming I have been keeping all of your emails for a year. So I can bring them up when I get in to trouble. lol. Sincerely Jack.

  95. Hi Al,

    I’ve had computer problems for a day or so, hence only just seen this thread.
    Keep up the good work – Like others have said; your efforts are much appreciated.


  96. I don’t know who this ‘Stephen’ character thinks he is, but please don’t let his utter twaddle be a reflection on us others on the ‘other side of the pond’ who look forward to your posts every day. They are truly a bright spot in every day that I get one. Keep up the great work, Al!

  97. Al, I think what you do is great, I love it, but let’s hear it for the Stephens of the world, without people who look at things and think, oh that could be better, wouldn’t it be good if it did this, that and the other, well, we’d still be living in caves going “We’re out of the rain woman, what more do you want?”

    Re curve radius, assuming you don’t have oodles of spare space, a few thoughts:-

    If stuff derails in EXACTLY the same place each time, check it out carefully, it may be there’s a slight kink, an opened railjoint or a brief upward twist there which is “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

    If one bit is too sharp, look elsewhere too – maybe you could ease the worst bit by making another nearby part of the curve a little tighter. Or perhaps you could re-plan part of the layout, e.g. make room for a wider curve by moving a siding or building.

    Finally, many real railways have all sorts of restrictions – speed limits, axle weights, curves, clearances – not being able to send just ANY loco or car type down any route can be quite realistic.

  98. Al…I am a long time follower from the US, but this is the first time I have responded. I have been into O Gauge Postwar Lionel for 50+ years and there are several things I have learned on this site. Even though the site features mostly HO information, much of it is adaptable to O gauge. Even in this current post I learned about how to make cheap greenery. Stephen is off base with his criticism and seems to have forgotten the most important thing about railroading: having FUN!! Do not let one negative individual lead you to consider quitting this. It would be a loss to the many who enjoy and benefit from it.

  99. I have been ‘clicking’ into your website now for about a year and picked up plenty of tips and ‘know how’ tutorials which I have enjoyed and learned from. Some of the tips I am familiar with and accept that others may be just starting out to build their layout so, yes, some of the info may be ‘Noddy’ to the experienced but essential to the novice. Ignore Stephen’s diatribe and keep the website simple and interesting which I see from the postings that 99% of us enjoy the status quo. This is my first comment on this web page but couldn’t ignore Stephen’s rant. Keep it going Al.

  100. Hi Al, I’m generally a follower rather than a contributor. I’ve spent more time reading on your site than building my 7ftx7ft vintage Hornby Dublo. I can honestly say without the amazing and sometimes humorous input of fellow railway lovers I probably would have given up and put it back in storage by now.
    Thank you Stephen for giving so many of us the prompt to tell Al how much we appreciate his efforts, despite your ignorant intrusion into our hobby, it seems you are not a complete waste of space after all!!
    Thanks again Al
    All the Best

  101. To Al –

    We have e-mailed each other and you know just how much I love your site.

    As for the track rail radius problem, why not prototype a curve on a piece of foam or as suggested, on the actual layout. You should be able to gently push the cars with your finger and feel when it starts to bind. Power up the track and see if the locomotive can make it. Play with speed too if you wish.

    I’ve been doing development work (electronics) most of my career and in my hobby life too. Its a general rule of thumb that one makes a fully working prototype with as many of the final parts as possible before sending it to production.

    And last, but not least, to Stephen, please send me your address. I have never met a man that is a legend in his own mind! (paraphrased from Clint Eastwood in the movie “Dirty Harry).

    Chesterfield, Missouri

  102. I think model railroading is just like every other kind of modeling. You take raw clay and make a figurine or statue, scrap aluminum from a wine bottle and make scrap car body parts, popsicle sticks and make telephone poles or grade crossing signs, paper screening foam or cardboard with a binding agent or plaster to form terrain or mountains. All is “hodge podge’ That is a part of modeling and fun, creativity.
    I am new to this and not very good at it but am enjoying learning from y’all. I am always looking for pieces of scrap which I can turn into something else.
    Now for Stephen, I got the feeling that he gets all or most of his stuff out of a BOX. Either that or he has someone else build it for him. To me that is not a modeler and should therefore keep his attitude on the other side of the pond, as they say.
    Todd, don’t let folks like that hold you back, let your imagination be your guide!
    Don H.

  103. WOE WOE WOE
    ALS YOUR PALL dont you even think like that you get right back up on that iron horse of yours hold tour head high stickout your chest and ride my friend as you have nothing to worry about eith people like stephen who have nothing better to do than run around and get in peoples way prob ably because if they cant do something nobody else can as you see nobody can do anything as good as the one complaining they should all go back in the little room and give themselves anouther wipe as thy are leaking something or go to there local farmer and ask for a quart of cow manuer there down a quart now my friend you have no idea and i mean no idea how much joy and comfort you bring to people with your news and the help you give to us as we enjoy this hobie so get back up there aand ride those rails as a very proud man as you recieve those negitive e mail just think to your self that they are not totaly usles you can allways use them as a bad example go on get up there ross

  104. Stephen, Go away. Al you and your site are awesome do not let i negative comment out of like 130 cause you any grief As for the radius question , The cornflake box is a great Idea but a rice crispy box would be better! I am having trouble with the following maybe you guys and yes gals can help, I have created danville railroad but am having some trouble with using the foam roadbed from woodland scenics. As hard As I try I can not get the curves to work out where the track is centered can anyone give me any suggestions that would help?

  105. Al,
    I have been in the customer service business most of my life. There are a lot of grumpy people in this world who believe it is their mission in life to make everyone else as miserable as they are. Most of these poor souls are of constipated mind and spirit; they are critics (here in the states, we call such individuals “rivet counters”). When we pay attention to them, they are dispiriting, demotivating, such is their goal. Such individuals find elation when others are miserable and conversely, they are miserable when others are elated.
    As to the issue of curves… The variables are immense. Here is the best rule of thumb: the smaller the equipment, the tighter the possible curve. On the other side, the longer the equipment, the larger the required curve. This rule of thumb holds true no matter what scale you model in.
    As to Woodland Scenics foam roadbed…. I tried it and promptly went back to cork.
    John Reynolds

  106. Dear Al and fellow railway enthusiasts, I would like to share with you all that I am fascinated to see how “Stephen” ‘s very negative and somewhat bizarre comments have prompted so many of us to to take the time and the effort to write, which I suspect, was this person “Stephen” (if it is a “real” person???) ulterior motive in trying to generate some kind of “kick-back response” from all the people who follow Al’s wonderful free resource! either way, it is really nice to see how many of us truly appreciate the opportunity to learn and share this wonderful hobby with others! and I am sure we all appreciate the great enjoyment Al’s hard work give us all!

  107. Hi Al, keep up the excellent work. A lot of people owe you a big vote of thanks for doing what you do. As for the negative pompous comments by Stephen: I suggest he gets himself a life that contributes something positive to the world or even himself. He would feel better for it.

  108. Ignore the pompous jerks who denigrate, Keep up the wonderful, positive, useful info for all of us at all levels.
    Thank you for your help and perspective

  109. Keep up the good work Al, much appreciated.
    David, Tasmania

  110. Keep up the good work Al your e-mails are always welcome, no you can’t please everyone so go with the masses and ignore critics as they probably have no layout just itchy typing fingers and a bad attitude. One tip that most probably already know, when you see a picture on your website right click and save image then you always have it to browse at your leisure so you can pick up tips. This saves saving all the e-mails for reference to where and when you saw it.


  111. Hey Al, I was born in New York. Your website is cool. I think Americans are trained at birth to discredit, or pick apart everything. I was and still am a dreamer, so I missed the lesson on how to find fault. Every day I hear far more complaints than compliments. Just in average conversations. I think to myself, get a life, get over it. Looking over U.S. modeling websites, every single post has at least one person who has to point out things they don’t like. Your site is such a relief. There are so many positive, supportive comments. I have pretty much quit reading American modeling web sites. but, I read your emails every day. Keep doing what you are doing. The rest of the world knows how over blown, and self important Americans think they are. Stephen sucks. You are doing just fine, and I will keep reading. This is meant for you Al, not general distribution. (I might have my citizenship revoked if “American Patriots” read this LOL) Harold

  112. Al, I look forward to, and read your email every day. Your email has enlightened me and as one reply stated: “has motivated me to collect many years of HO trains, track and buildings to construct another layout as I had in my youth. My Dad was a watchmaker, and could make anything on his jewelers lathe. I look forward to sharing with my Great Grandson the same enjoyment I shared with my Dad. Your emails and Tips are providing me with the tools and methods needed to do this. I “Thank you for your efforts and time”…

  113. If it’s a stupid idea and it works . . . it’s not stupid (Military maxim.)
    Those who can Do. Those who can’t, teach ( Life maxim )
    If You can do it better – you Do it. { Dave’s maxim ).

    ‘almost’ TT

    Al’ still missed out any posting on what you called your ‘pup’ – Al’s tation

  114. Tell Stephen that if your venue does not meet with his approval, then he should unsubscribe.

    If he decides to stay, then he should follow his mothers advice. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then shut up. (So I embellished it a little)…

  115. Two thumbs up Al. I enjoy your emails and the input of the contributors even though I have not gotten physically involved with a layout. Love the videos and photos. I have a 67 year old S scale American Flyer train set that I have had from birth and an HO scale locomotive of one that used to run here in town. I would love to do an HO layout but just can’t find the time or money. Anyway, keep up the good work and keep them coming. Maybe one day. Art

  116. Its all good. No one knows everything about this hobby. Each manufacturer puts a little subtle twist in there too just to confuse you. It is good to share ideas. In the end, you have to figure it out for yourself. I’ve made many mistakes building my layout, Farland, but that never stopped me. I just make changes that incorporate my new knowledge and go on. I love planning, but it does not always work out exactly the way you thought it would. Just keep carving at it till the eagle emerges. Rob

  117. Todd,

    I’m doing On30, and it uses HO track. I can run a Bachmann On30 2-6-6-2 articulated around 18″ radius track. I do hear a bit of scraping, but so far no actual problems. I would get a couple of circles of track in different radii (say 18″ and 22″) and see what your running stock likes. If you have some long passenger cars, they might need 22″ radius. But the larger the radius, the fewer your options for designing your layout. You could always opt for flex track, so you could go 19″ if 18″ is a bit tight.


  118. Al,
    Have been receiving your emails for over a year and look forward to them each day. My twelve year old grandson (he’s 14 now) and I built the Woodland Scenics “Scenic Ridge” n-guage layout in his house in Germany two years ago. Reading your emails I learned to do many more, and more economical ways of doing things.

    As far as Stephen goes, I have two things to say:
    1. If you don’t like the email, unsubscribe.
    2. You get what you pay for. If you want a site with all the bells and whistles, subscribe to a pay site.
    Keep up the good work, Al.
    Joe Doyle

  119. wow lots of great comments on every thing , I use a lot of 18 in radius flex and it works, the 24 is bay all means does better I guess I have it too , I have one engine that balks on the 18 but at right speeds is all fine, all of the this is e z bachman track tthanks yall dan o

  120. I fully endorse all the positive comments that are stated and compliment Al on this amazing, informative email service, that gives all modellers some guidance and inspiration.
    Here is a little something that I have noticed here in Australia. Lipton brand tea bags sold in the 100s box have 4 small 3 sided boxes inside the packet, when placed open side down they are fairly close in scale size to a seatainer,just need painting door handles etc hope this can help.
    Am still trying to get my zizg zag mountain track working, might hav to scrap the idea and try something else
    Regards Allen Perth Western Australia

  121. For my curves, I used a narrow piece of wood such is used for a yardstick and measured multiple distances from a single hole at one end. I placed holes at 22″, 24″, 26″, 27″, and 28″. I simply place a map pin in the single, all-by-itself hole and put a pencil in the other hole that corresponds to the radius I want and “draw” the line on the table, cardboard, or other media. This becomes the centerline for my track. If I need a template I can reuse any of the cardboard traces that I created. I have trimmed the cardboard to match my track width which is HOn3 however the same seems to hold true for HO as well.

  122. A story about an employee whose boss had just chewed her out for no good reason – a co-worker said not to take it personally, the boss’s hemorrhoids were probably acting up. The worker said, “He doesn’t have hemorrhoids – he’s a perfect a**.”

    Stephen talked about “your hobby,” so I’m guessing that he couldn’t begin to answer any of the questions about model railroading that are posed on your really valuable site.

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