How Taz makes his cars move on his layout

Old Taz has been back in touch with his N scale moving cars:

“Hi Al,

I hope this helps your viewers

How to: By Old Taz

This is not Faller nor Magnoril system, it’s good old back hills ingenuity, know how, got to have and go ahead, challenge me, little r. Thank you so much for your remarks, everyone!

I’m going to do my best, at telling you how I put this racetrack together. It’s not going to be easy for me because of all the master model builders I will be talking to. I mean it. You guys and gals do a great job at whatever you try. And Al, I can’t say enough about what you do for model train enthusiast, you are the best and keep up the good work. I look up to you every time I push the button on my computer to see what you’ve come up with now.

N scale moving cars

So, let’s get on with the show. A lot of the things I used you’re going to find right around your own house. You may have to order some gears, magnets Plexiglass and poster frames. (Just to get the plastic sheeting).

I used a piece of U-shaped metal to mount the plays on. You need something that will not bend, to keep tension on the chain. The bearings were made from a copper electrical connector and a nut.

model train nuts bolts

The nut was drilled out to fit the connector, and the two were soldered together. The bolt I used for the shaft was one that didn’t have threads all the way up. The head was ground down like a carriage bolt.

The pulleys are made out of CDs. I used new ones as I have a lot of them that don’t get used anymore.

mechanism for N scale moving cars

The bottom one was left full size the next two were cut to three inches in diameter and the top one was cut 1/4 of larger. After you cut these, you need to glue the edge because they will come apart.

mechanism for N scale moving cars

The nut in the bearing was apoxyed in the center of the CD’s. A large gear was a proxy to the bottom of the CDs. (At one time I was going to use all gearing on the bottom and

This picture shows a framework that I built underneath to hold the floor.

N scale moving cars

There were holes cut in the floor to match the CD’s diameter plus 1/4 of an inch. This was bolted to the U-shaped metal piece. This space would be the depth of the wing and the magnet and 16th to an eighth of an inch in height.

Below shows you how I built the swing arm for the motor in the motor gear. (Here again the gear sizes I just had to play with to get close to the speed that I was looking for. There you can use a rheostat to adjust your speed if it’s not to your liking.

N scale moving cars

The sheet that I made the road way out of is actually two sheets, I couldn’t color the top or the bottom for the magnets would scrape it off. So, I painted between the two sheets. This was fastened down with six screws three in front three in back. The lighting is on this sheet and was wired with copper tape on the bottom outside of the track.

Below are good pictures to see the wings and how they are cut to go around the pulleys. All the wings are fastened to the chain, (This needs to be loosely done, not tight.) The wings are cut this way so that they follow the pulley and don’t make jerky turns.

moving cars model train

N scale moving cars

You’ll note on the chain there’s something that looks like a safety pin. Well, it is! On the final one I took two large ones soldered them together to give me the tension that I needed to hold the chain in place. I did it this way so that the spring would lay down between the floor and the track.

The magnets were fastened on with hot glue and that way, if I had to move them into a different position, I could do so with my soldering iron and heating up the magnet and the glue and repositioning it. This also made sure that the magnet was flat against the wing.

You know I need a break and you probably do too sitting there reading stuff that put you to sleep Haha. So, let’s all go run our train for an hour or so and then come on back and we’ll do it again.

There I feel better don’t you.

Below show it with the track on in a little more detail. Of course, with the detail of the track the grandstands and all that other stuff, you ladies and gentlemen will never have any problem dealing with that. From what I’ve seen on AL’s website.

cars moving on model train layout

cars moving on N scale layout

cars moving on N scale layout

The N scale moving cars I cast myself, I bought cars made my own casts, I feel that if I don’t sell them, there for my own use, so I’ll keep myself out of trouble.

I have also taken metal, cars filled them with clay finished off the windows and made molds of them also. (there is a clay you can buy that you can use for molding.)

The cars that I’ve used here we’re bad molds. So, I cut the fenders off drilled out the windows, and some of them I carved engines in them. I would like to take that further, with the bumper’s radiator guards in the side skid guards on them. (Someday!!)

N scale cars

model train cars

model train cars

As far as the cars sliding out, I think this was due to it only being on one magnet.

Like I said before if you reverse the magnets in the front, you can make your car stand on its nose all the way down the track. I think it’s just something that I inherited with a few cars; I can’t make them all do that. Or can I! (challenge, challenge)

I hope this answers most of your questions. If not ask away. I will try to help you in any way.

Yours till the whistle blows.

Old Taz”

A huge big thanks to Old Taz for shaing his N scale moving cars. Here’s the vid from his previous N scale cars post:

And here’s the mechanism in action before the scenery:

It is fascinating seeing the cars whizz round without the scenery – clever stuff from Hall of Fame member, Old Taz.

Please do leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you all think on this one.

I will never tire of the inventions and solutions you all come up with.

Taz’s good old back hills ingenuity did remind of Rob’s Faller system video.

That’s all for today folks.

Keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

HO scale signals

Gary’s been in touch and he’s been busy with his HO scale signals:

“Hi Alastair…

It has been a while since you have heard anything from me; actually, since last December when I found out that I was going to need spinal fusion surgery on the cervical spine in my neck.

The surgeon has told me I could now do things at my desk. So, with that I thought about what I could do with my model railroad layout, which has been sitting idle for the past 8 months.

As you know my layout is a smaller model of the PRR Sunnyside Yards in Queens, New York. It is not exact but has the three main features of SunnySide which are the Passenger Yard, Commissary Building area and Engine yard. I have a double track main line running around the outside of the layout.

HO scale train layout

Being that my theme was the PRR, I have wanted to install PRR Main Line signals; see below for what the real signals look like.

It took me awhile to find them; the signals were hard to come by and expensive. I thought now would be a good time to start since I was limited to how much I could move around and going under the layout was out.

I decided that I would build a prototype signal first to make sure I was going to be able to do it because of the number of LEDs and wires that were going to be needed in a small area. I purchased broken signal bridges on EBAY cheap and will kit-bash the signal bridges.

HO scale signals

My plan is to install four signal bridges like you see in the above picture. One on each side of the layout. The signals would work in conjunction with the blocks on each side of the layout.

As the power is turned off the block, the signal would be three horizonal lights, the STOP position. When the power is restored to the block for the train to proceed, the signal would switch to three vertical lights.

Signals and block power will be manually controlled at the command station through toggle switches. (I know that there are companies that have the newer technology for model railroads for doing all of this very easily, but what fun is that).

My goal was to make one working prototype of the signal.

Here is what I did.

What we will need: (see Pic_1 & Pic_2)
– signal bridges
– LEDs
– wires
– heat shrink
– resistors (4K Ohm)
– circular signal frames
– electrical terminal block
– toggle switches
– TOOLS: wire clippers, solder and solder iron, pliers

HO scale signals spool

HO scale signals

These signals will have 5 active led lamps; one in the center and one each on the top and bottom and one each on the right side and left side. That is 10 wires coming out of the back of the signal plate.

The challenge is to limit the number of wires that will have to run from the signal plate down to under the layout to be connected to the electrical power for lighting.

I decided to use solid 28 AWG gauge wire, very thin but still solid.

I purchased Baltimore and Ohio HO scale signal plates from a company called International Hobby Corp and had to modify the signal faces to resemble PRR signal faces.

The openings in the signal plates were enlarged to fit 2mm LEDs and I had to add an additional hole for the center light.

A lot of time was spent experimenting with the resistors sizes because I wanted to limit the intensity of the light. I did not want the LEDs to be very bright like some of the LEDs I first used in working on the layout.

I started attaching the LEDs to the signal plates. Pictures 3, 4 and 5 show what parts are going to be assembled.

led wiring model train

led wiring model railroad

I had many 1K Ohms so I decided to use them and put them in series. I thought that 4K would be enough to evenly dim the yellow LEDs enough so they all matched in intensity but I had to use 8K for the two LEDs around the center LED which were in series and actually 12K for the center LED, which was a stand-alone LED.

Picture 6 shows what the back of the signals looks like when each of the LEDs is installed with its power connector wire and common connector wire coming out of 5 LEDs. Pictures 7 & 8 were the testing to make sure everything to this point was working with my HO scale signals:

HO scale signals

HO scale signals

HO scale signals

Next, I had the figure out how to reduce the number of wires that would run down to under the layout.

Under the layout will be a six-position terminal block connected to one of the A/C buses running under the layout. The center LED would always be lit, so its power lead and common lead need to be run down and would be connected to the first two position of the terminal block.

The two LEDs on each side of the center LED will always work together so I could connect the two power leads together and common leads together and reduce four wires down to two.

The power lead would be connected to a toggle switch from which it would draw it power and the common lead will be connected to the 4th position of the terminal block.

The same would apply to the LEDs above and below the center LED for the vertical signal. Its power lead will be connected to the same toggle switch from which it would draw its power and the common lead will be connected to the 6th position of the terminal block.

Now the number of wires running down have been reduced from 10 to 6.

The forward position of the toggle will provide power for the vertical signal (PROCEED) and the back position of the toggle for the horizontal signal (STOP).

The remaining six positions on the terminal block will be for the second signal for track 2 of the main line.

At this time, I have only completed building this one signal. It looks very sloppy because I had to retest the lighting with different resistor strengths to get the right brightness for the LEDs.

I actually soldered in series multiple 1K Ohm resistors. The center LED uses 12k Ohms. The horizontal and vertical LEDs used 8K Ohms.

Picture 9 shows what the signal looks like when all assembled. I have labeled and numbered the wires so that I know which ones to connect to the proper positions on the terminal block. I also have to add additional black heat shrink to cover the wires running down the signal bridge.

The final test of the signal was with the power from the A/C control box. Picture 10 & 11 shows a working signal ready to be mounted and installed on the signal bridge, Picture 12.

scratch built signal plate

scratch built signal plate

signal gantry

What I have remaining to do for this first main line signal bridge:

Build two more working signal with cleaner and neater wiring for main line tracks 1 and 2 for the east bound traffic.

Build two dummy signals for the west bound traffic; although on my layout there will be no trains running in that direction so the signals will always be in a STOP position.

Run all of the signal wires down the signal bridge to under the layout to connect to the power supply coming from the terminal block.

Send you a video of the finished project.

Build the remaining three signal bridges for the other sides of the layout. I have not decided whether to incorporate blocks of the remaining sides. If I do not put blocks on those tracks, the signal will just be dummy signals always lighted in one position.

What I learned and what changes I will make in building the remaining signals:

– instead of soldering 1K Ohm resistors together, I will use 5k and 3k Ohm resistors.
– if I make the holes a little bigger in the signal plates, I can use 3mm LEDs that might reduce the size the resistors I need and maybe reduce the number I need.

I will keep you posted when I have the first main line signal bridge installed and working.

Keep up the great work with your site. Its always great to see an email from you each morning. The work your members do is incredible.


Gary M from Long Island”

A big thanks to Gary for sharing his HO scale signals missive.

I do enjoy seeing how you all come up with inventions and solutions.

Gary’s HO scale signals also reminded me of Rob’s model railway signals post.

And then there’s Henry’s Wiring signals for your model railroad.

Andrew’s How to make model railroad signals post is useful too.

What’s more, Gary has done a solid job of documenting his layout from start to finish.

I know I’m always banging on about making a start, but a close second to that it to pick a theme for your layout.

A theme really does ‘glue’ a layout together visually, and I think Gary’s is another fine example of that – he had a clear theme in mind before he lifted a finger and it’s really paying off.

HO scale train layout yard

Here’s his journey so far:

1. Gary starts with track work
2. Gary adds a layout signal yard
3. Gary hits a problem (it’s in the middle of this post).
4. Gary adds an engine yard
5. Gary’s Switch yard
6. Gary adds buildings to his yard.
7. Gary’s layout power problem.
8. Gary adds to the train track on his layout
9. Gary says thanks for all your help! (It’s in the middle of this one.)
10. Gary sorts his block work
11. Gary’s engine yard
12. Gary’s locomotive engines
13. Gary’s comissary yard
14. Gary’s train layout update

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

HO scale diesel locomotives

Greg’s been in touch with some fab pictures of his HO scale diesel locomotives.

But what I like best about his layout is not the locos, but how he’s picked his theme, and then how he’s made it personal.

Carry on reading and you’ll see what I mean:

“My current layout is 26 foot by 18 foot modeled in HO scale. It is a DC layout.

My layout is a “living scrapbook” of my life. Several of my HO scale diesel locomotives are ones I either road/worked on when I worked for the railroad or ones I have seen in person.

I have done a lot of custom painting and detailing of my locomotives and rolling stock to bring the personal connections to them.

HO scale diesel locomotives

Several of my car and locomotives are numbered for friends and family, birthdates or anniversaries as the reporting numbers. Great way to make things mean more to me personally that way. It has a connection to me more than a store bought stock number.

I have a nice mix of diesel locomotives as well as a few of the giant steam locomotives which allows me to enjoy a wide time frame of operations this way.

The layout is, as most of us model railroaders feel, a work in progress.

I’m still adding details to the scenery as well as more lighting for the night time effect. I’m already working on plans for a bigger layout when we move and have more space.

I started recording videos and made a YouTube channel to be able to share with others. I hope you enjoy it.


HO scale diesel locomotives

HO scale diesel locomotives

HO scale train station

HO scale freight

model train girder bridge

model railroad girder bridge

HO scale diesel locomotives freight

HO scale diesel locomotives freight

model train barn

model train yard

HO scale diesel locomotives freight

A huge big thank you to Greg for sharing his HO scale diesel locomotives.

I love the way he’s added a personal touch to his layout theme.

I know I’m always banging on about making a start, but a close second to this is picking a theme.

Over the years, I’ve noticed the ones that have a theme from day one stand out a country mile compared to the layouts that are created on the hoof.

When it comes to model train themes, John’s post springs to mind.

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on themes and how you make your layour personal – please do leave a comment below and share!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you so no to boredom, jump out of your chair and get going on your very own layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.