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Philosophy - Model Railroading Tips, Tricks and Techniques


Unless You're The Lead Dog
In prototype railroading, particularly in olden days, it was practice to keep the weakest engine in the lead, to prevent it from being overloaded (That way you can only do the work of your smallest-outputting engine). In modeling, you can go two ways: That way, or keep the heaviest, most powerful engine in front so that a small, weak one is not shoved off the rails on curves -Stephen

Never be too hard or too demanding of yourself when creating a scene on your layout. Fact is, what may work for a railroad doesn't always work for a model railroad. The most important thing to accomplish is to "tell the story"; even if you are modeling a prototype locale, you won't get it exactly in scale inch for inch, but if your visitors at least recognize the place, you've done your job. If you are freelancing your railroad, viewers should at least be able to tell what your railroad does and what it is about. Some of the best layouts ever had only average modeling, but because the "concept" was cohesive the mediocre artwork was overlooked. -Mike Allred

I am new to railroad modeling, and only 31 years old. The first thing that I loved about modeling was the ability to create something from my mind. Of course, being an Internet/Network Engineer, I am always creating for others. The second thing I noticed, was the fact that besides the trains, nothing else seemed to me moving on other peoples tracks. So I have set out to create automation as much as possible. For example, why not dump coal from a mine into a train, then move the train to a dumping location, then move the coal hidden back to the top of the mine to complete the cycle? OR, put a real waterfall and moving rivers. I have not finished my layout yet, but working with real water must require some special considerations when working with waterbased paints. Just a thought. -Brian

Light Industrial Modeling
If you wish to keep things simple, you might want to try light industrial modeling. This type of railroad serves light industries on a branch line located on the edge of metropolitan areas. It is often located on an old interurban line paralleling a main line or diverging out on its own. It might be possible to connect a series of old table top layouts as if they were an abandoned traction system. -Jack Hanks

Instead of trying to duplicate typical railroading, models can be used to model the unusual or unique, but in a plausible way. John Allen was as expert at making the unique look plausible. -Jack Hanks

If you are at all social, please share your layout or other work with the media, especially during November. There are some signs that model railroading is getting an old man reputation so it is losing out to other forms of recreation - especially computer games. This trend can be countered by simply working to keep model railroading in the public's consciousness. Most local and state newspapers love model railroad articles, and will do most of the work and. And, it is even possible to talk about the hobby on the radio. Although my layout is always open for visits, I have never been inconvenienced or victimized. Of course anonymity can be preserved. Share your hobby and there will be more to share it with you. -Jack Hanks

The bottom line for most model railroads is "Operation". Some people prefer having their trains just running in circles and yet others attempt to do what the prototype railroads do. Operation concerns itself with bringing freight cars or passenger cars from one place to another. I enjoy freight operations and bring cars online to a required industry as selected by a "Computer Car Forwarding System", (CCFS) manufactured by Interloc Software. With the aid of the computer, cars are selected and assigned to be brought empty or loaded to the numerous industries that I have. This system does not employ cards or the like and a form 19 is printed out on your printer. This is perhaps the closest aspect to prototype railroading there is for modelers. How does this all work? A car is brought to the interchange track where a passing north or south bound train picks up the car or cars. The train is required to deposit the car or cars on a siding where a switcher engine picks it up and deposits the car. -Marty