Building Your Model Railroad

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O scale layouts take lots of space. HO and N scale outsell other scales because the average modeler can make space for an HO or N scale layout in their den, basement, or garage. Some apartment dwellers do remarkable things on small tables or shelves with tiny Z scale trains.


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Some people build modular layouts. There are clubs devoted to modular layouts, where each member builds their own modules. All the modules can be connected to make large layouts at shows and events. If you're planning on constructing a landscaped layout complete with trees, hills, cities, and roads, you'll first have to build the benchwork to support it. You can find books on building your benchwork at most local hobby stores that carry model railroad products. NTrak is a set of standards which N Scale clubs use to build modular layouts. Once you've selected your scale and identified your available space, you can start planning your layout.

First, you need to decide what brand of model railroad track you'll be using. There are a number of track planning software packages available to help you design your layout, but you need to select the program's template set for the brand of track you will be using.

It's helpful to look at layout plans on club and manufacturer web sites, but bear in mind that these plans specify the use of a specific brand of track. If you find a layout that you like on a web site, it's easiest to choose the same brand of track that's pictured—but with a little work you can implement any track plan using any brand of track. A packaged train set will usually come with a transformer or powerpack.

The photo shows a DC powerpack that comes bundled with Kato track and train sets.

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What is JMRI?

In recent years more and more serious model railroaders are turning to computer-controlled trains, so many transformers and power packs are gathering dust. Digital Command Control DCC , a new industry standard for powering and controlling model railroad trains using computer technology, is widely available in HO and N scale.

Z scale manufacturers also offer some locomotives that come DCC-equipped. Digital control is available in O scale, but the biggest selling O scale manufacturers tend to have their own proprietary digital control systems instead of using DCC. If you are serious about model railroading, it's best to start out with Digital Command Control.

JMRI: A Java Model Railroad Interface

If you've selected O as your scale, check out the other digital control options available to you. At the very least make sure that the locomotives you buy are "DCC Ready. Model railroading is as much an art as an engineering discipline. A model railroad layout is a sculpture in motion. This is what distinguishes it from most other art forms.

JMRI at NMRA 2016 Convention

While it's very possible to create a unique model railroad based on your own imagination, many model railroaders choose to replicate part of a real historic railroad. This can be very satisfying, though it does take a lot of attention to detail. Today many historic railroads have been acquired by or merged into larger railroad concerns. Lots of modelers choose to model a "fallen flag"; a railroad that has been taken over by a larger company.

Many modelers choose the railroad whose trains they watched passing by as a child. Railroads have their own color schemes; locomotives and cars are always painted in the colors of their road, as illustrated by the photo. Before purchasing anything for your model railroad, you'll need to decide where the railroad will be located.

You can choose a real place and time, or create your own ideal world—but either way, you'll want to have consistency across your layout. So where exactly is your railroad?

Saturday Open Houses

The Canadian Rockies? The plains of Texas? Downtown Chicago? What time of year is it? Is it spring, with green grass and colorful flowers? One solution is to crush nuts such as pecans or peanuts and glue the resulting powdered nuts into place with a spray adhesive.

Since they will break up into various sizes and are textured organically they often provide excellent results. In addition many seeds and nuts can be sealed and painted as necessary to emulate fruits and vegetables. There are many other products around the house such as toothpicks, hangers etc.

Rail transport modelling

The limits is really only that of your imagination so start scrounging and looking through those junk drawers and see what wonders you can create when you transform leftovers into miniature wonders. Bill Murphy is an avid model railroader, offering advice for model enthusiasts on the YourDiorama website. A few common tricks that are often found to work well are listed along with descriptions below: Table of Contents. DCC vs Analog Control. You may also like. Bill Murphy Bill Murphy is an avid model railroader, offering advice for model enthusiasts on the YourDiorama website.