Model railroading tips

Mark’s been in touch with some very good model railroading tips:

“Hi Al.

My “Tip for the Day” is that one of the greatest personal rewards in model railroading is not necessarily modeling a prototype right down to the correct number of rivets in the boiler…

Or freelancing a never before seen Short Line (although these can be fun)…

But utilizing your imagination to create something in the model railroading hobby that is very personal and unique that brings you great pleasure.

This can be any number of things, but one of the easiest, and best, is a good “story” or “lore” for your layout.

Let your imagination run wild and you will be amazed at how much fun and relaxation you will achieve in your hobby.

For instance, here is a quick story for the attached video clip.

The management for the Sweetwater & Thunder Mountain Short Line Railroad chartered the famous Napa Valley Wine Train ALCO FP4-A Engine #72 for an “Employee and family private excursion” lunch run from Sweetwater to Eagle Pass one afternoon.

We had the bosses’ nephew, Elmer, stationed up on Eagle Mt. with a movie camera to record the event as the excursion train passed by Thunder Mt . Station.

He saw a Burlington U28B rolling out of Tunnel #9 across the Martinez Bridge and got so excited filming it that he almost missed the Wine Train rolling past TM Station!

He recovered in time to get the footage and save his job!

If you look closely you’ll see me standing on the rear deck of the open air observation car trying to figure out how to get a siphon hose into that tank car full of wine from the “Loos Family Winery”!

(And, yes, that is an actual winery in California run by distant relatives).

Anyway, that’s my story for now – it may change next week.

Model Railroading is FUN!

Turn up the sound and enjoy.

Raising a glass to you,


Model railroading tips for tunnel

Model railroading tips for burlington

Model railroading tips for HO scale rockface

HO scale freight

A huge thanks to Hall of Fame member, Mark, for sharing his model railroading tips.

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.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

67 Responses to Model railroading tips

  1. Richard says:

    Very impressive, really a good looking area with lots of interest. Thanks for sharing

  2. LIONEL BILL says:

    just awesome, i wish mine looked so good

  3. ROBIN says:

    incredible scenery…the rock faces are hard to distinguish from real. NICE JOB!

  4. Ron Schultz says:

    very nice . I like to ride the caboose as its not crowded . I’m up on the left side of the cupola so you didnt see me as the train went by . But the view on the ride was spectacular

  5. steve says:

    love the scenery , great looking mountians and like how your trestle is made with poles rather then square timber

  6. Jon B says:

    Impressive layout indeed but we need to see MORE. Love the flag blowing in the breeze. Thank you for sharing.

  7. rick says:

    I enjoyed seeing the American flag fluttering in the wind! Where did you hide the fan?

  8. Phil says:

    I really like the rock face on this layout. Great job.

  9. Richard Sappelli says:

    Really a well done rock wall with the slope and dip of the rocks making it look real.
    We all out here would like to see more please!!!!

    thanks, rj

  10. Don says:

    Great, love to see more like this. Gotta love the flag – that’s quite a breeze up on the mountain there!

    All the best, Don

  11. Gary says:

    Your a man after my own heart. Wine and Trains, excellent. I am also working on my N scale creating a vineyard with winery. Loved the rock formations, and the wine excursion train superb!

  12. Marklin ed. says:

    Loved the flag blowing, great rocks! THANKS

  13. John W. says:

    like the american flag blowing in the wind. nice job on details.

  14. Jim Moran says:

    Excellent story & video. Great detail.

  15. John Bennett says:

    Very nice & good to see it being run at a scale speed.

  16. John Humphris says:

    Amazing rocks. How does he do that?

  17. Ken Finley says:

    Judging by the flag action, the wind there must be at least 30 knots. Pretty stiff for an excursion. 🙂

  18. christine says:

    Very nice, a lot of work.

  19. Joseph Wright says:

    The rock face is fabulous. Realistic is the word for that. I showed the video to my wife who tolerates my love of trains and even she said “Wow” thanks for sharing your beautiful layout.

  20. Robert Selkirk says:

    Just amazing. It’s so life like. Ready to crack open a bottle of vino. 🙂

  21. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Great scenery Mark! You’ve captured the rock faces very well
    ………………………..Fitz ( from near Philly)

  22. John says:

    Splendid video. Nice rocks.
    But am blown away by the fluttering flag. Details please….

  23. Steve Roberts says:

    Excellent job, brilliant scenery work. Well done Steve R UK

  24. Jack L. Casner says:

    Great work all the way around. Did you ever get the wine keg tapped?

  25. Tom says:

    Super scenery. What gauge is layout? Who made the Napa Alco? Would love to take a scenery painting class by Mark.

  26. Well done indeed. A ton of work love rock, i have plenty on my lay out. Hope to send an update soon. Also love the flag! Great Idea.
    S. Cal

  27. craig1217 says:

    No doubt that your layout is exceptional. Such great detail. Never ridden the “Wine Train” myself, but I have driven along side the route. The drive went from Napa to Calistoga, (I think), maybe only to St. Helena.(SP). That whole route is as flat as a pancake. I think I like yours a lot better. I used to work in some of the wineries in the Napa Valley.

  28. Warner says:

    Absolutely the most realistic rock formations I have seen in model railroading.It doesn’t get any better than that but you have to tell us about the flag. Fantastic job, please show us more.. Thanks for sharing

  29. wow….excellent layout…..
    took a looong time to build something that fabulous
    Mark is the KING of ‘rock’ scenery….
    how does he do that?
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  30. Roy says:

    Great video, clever as for flag flattering.

  31. David Mathieu says:

    Mark! Wonderful job on this. Please tell me how you got the flag to “wave”.


  32. Robin Hallam says:

    very realistic layout.hard to say what was not real. loved the waving flag, hope no one got blown over the side in the wind.

  33. Charles Schneider says:

    This is Very nice . Spectacular Scenery too

  34. Rodger Williamson says:

    Fantastic. I’ve never been to the “States”, BUT with video’s of this type of layout, (copy of real thing or imagination) who needs to? and the attention to detail…
    Thanks for the flying visit to the U.S.of A.

  35. steven stclair says:

    Excellent, I was impressed with the flag movement.


  36. paul Otway says:

    Looks neat

  37. Harley says:

    Great looking…. Gave me some ideas….. Thanks Harley

  38. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    Knowing the Wine train and the tunnel in Martinez, you had me wondering if it was a model or real as the bolder work etc. is so good. Hats off to you my friend.

  39. Cameron says:

    Fantastic video and model layout. Like others I really like the rock faces. I would love to know how you got that effect if you get a chance to do a follow up post.



  40. BOB TRYON says:

    gives inspiration on my work in process

  41. Sundaram says:

    Great work of passion – the rock formation and detailing are superb, especially the fluttering flag.

    Unfortunately, Al, for some strange reason, has not been very forthcoming in emailing the photos, my commentary and videos of my HO layout despite my reminders. For some reason, he seems to be very partisan in only posting to subscribers the videos and photographs of model railway hobbyist from USA and UK. I wish I had the opportunity to get all our comments on my layout – sad it is not to be.

  42. Ron Ernst says:

    I hope there’s enough wine in that tank car for all those people.
    I’d like to see the rest of the layout.

  43. Dale amlund says:

    Beautifully done.

  44. Ross Johnston says:

    Great video Mark!!! Really enjoyed the views of your layout, the winery train and ofcourse the flag blowing so well in a stiff breeze. Your rock faces were fantastic. Thanks for sharing. Cheers Rossco, Adelaide, South Australia

  45. Stuart Collins says:

    Absolutely great video, but I believe the comments about your own layout and letting your imagination run loose is so true as it is your pleasure irrespective when an expert comes in and remarks about things being not quite right.

  46. Mark Piznik says:

    I have just constructed my table and will start building “My World”. I can only hope it looks as good as this. Incredible!

  47. Joe Bowman says:

    What an Awesome set up.

  48. Fred Svoboda says:

    Loos Family Winery, huh? Very funny.

    There is a business in East Lansing, Michigan, that belongs on someone’s model railroad, The Wycoff Wellness Center.


  49. Gary O'Connor says:

    What a fabulous layout, well what we saw of it anyway, but I loved the flag blowing in the wind. It is amazing how that added a great sense of reality to the scene.

    I went back a couple of times to look at it.

    Thank you for that, I am definitely going to put a fan and a flag on my layout.
    Gary O’Connor – Australia

  50. LOVE the scenery. and realize the effort and time involved.

  51. Ross Johnston says:

    What a great video of a fantastic layout. Thanks Mark for sharing. Cheers Rossco, Adelaide, South Australia.

  52. Joe Kincaid says:

    Agreed, the layout is just awesome, but that dang back story is a kIller. Our “Hollytrash” abilities abound in our hobby. But the story tellers are breathing life into our creations. Close your eyes and imagine Burl Ives narrating the Napa Valley excursion. Cool huh! We have brilliant, genius , talented people like the boys over at Pricom. They offer audio solutions that are hard to believe, couple it with the layout lighting system, and BINGO….a believable world in miniature. I never cease to be amazed by all the folks on Alastair’s blog doing their thing. Doesn’t really matter how perfect it is, it’s making the creators happy. Never seeing any of these guys, just reading, and listening with that inner voice,….you know, that one that at one time was attached to a child. Betcha I could still see wonderment in their eyes dancing gayly behind their eyes. I’m 71, with bone cancer, and I pray that my granddaughter, who is 6, remembers Grandpa’s dancing eyes when he played trains with her. God Bless you Alastair, for a place to come and see very fertile minds at work.

  53. Kevin Duffy says:

    most excellent very realistic I loved the flag waving.

  54. Bill Roberts says:

    OK I’ve seen a lot of great layouts before but none have had a flag blowing in the wind. How did you do it? I reran it a dozen times and decided it must be in a giant scale that only a Texan would understand. The whole setup is fantabulos!

  55. Wow. Can’t get over the detail. The rock face could be hollywood material. Very impressive.

  56. Mike says:

    Just incredible detail – looks 100% real! Love the flag – how does it work?

  57. Will in NM says:

    Mark, A very fun video and back story. I like the mountain scenery that looks like you’ve incorporated real rocks into the mountainside. You’re absolutely right — the story adds a lot to the model railroad.

  58. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Great Layout!! what can u say!

  59. Mike Balog says:

    Great Layout, Details and Realism.. how did you get the U.S. Flag to Wave in the Wind? ALSO,,, You need a Real Whinery Train.. a Car with the “Message” Take me to Miami… < A Whinery, i.e. Whining Message… just sayin" Tongue in Cheek.

  60. Daniel Silva says:

    Awesome, fantastic job. Love the rocks on the hills. Such talent.

  61. Rob Schweitzer says:

    On a scale of 1 to 10 this video is an 11. Best rock formations of western mountains I’ve ever screen.
    Rob Schweitzer
    St. Goar & Murren Scenic Railway
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

  62. Robert D. Bouskill says:

    Wow, really nice job, especially on you cliffs. Shouldn’t the people on the train have a glass of wine?

  63. Johnny says:

    You have achieved what every one wants from their Layout, Working Train Movement, and Great Appearance of their Layout. Just Great!!!!!!

  64. Erick says:

    Great layout.

  65. Beautiful work!

  66. Brian Olson says:

    Love the flag!

  67. robert dale tiemann says:

    i like the landscaping, very nice.

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