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Archive Monthly Archives: December 2016

What You Need to Know About Model Railroad Track Plan and Layout

When planning construction of a model railroad there are all sorts of possible track configurations and plans to consider.

The key to a successful model railroad track plan is preparation.

It really depends on the space you have at your disposal and what type of train operation you would most enjoy.Model Railroad Track Plans and Layout

Real railroads (prototype) run from one destination to another rather than go around in a circle. In reality, real railroads usually have hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of track to work with.

Even in a scaled down form, most model railroads lack the space to fully replicate this, so a degree of adaptation and compromise is usually required.

Full size trains often run for long stretches over monotonous landscape, which if reconstructed on a model layout, would be rather boring.

To give you an example, the Ghan Train in Australia, runs 1,880 miles across mostly barren desert. Imagine replicating that on a scaled down model railroad – it would probably stretch from one end of town to the other!

The main line begins at one point, and travels to another point, and stops, hence the term – a point to point railroad.

Although a point-to-point layout is necessary on real railroads, the format is not generally practical for the average home (or club) model train layout.

Replicating the scale mileage of a true point-to-point railroad does not generally work that well.

To make things a little more practical (and interesting), prototype railroads have branch lines, sidings and other subsidiary systems. Adding these to a model layout can be a good idea.

Before departure, the trains are turned around at terminals using yards, loops, wyes, and turntables. A single or double-track main line usually stretches from point to point.

When planning your point-to-point layout, you might want to include switches and yards at one end of the layout, and a turnaround at the other.

Click here for lots of clever model train layout ideas.

Most small layouts would not have enough space for two terminals, so use an “out-and-home” track configuration. An out-and-home layout accommodates only one terminal and is like a point-to-point layout double backing.

The train journey would start at the terminal and it would pass through various landscapes, possibly a small town, and eventually arrive back at the same terminal.

Some might say it is cheating, but unless you have unlimited space (and money) for your layout, a little compromise is usually required.

Constructing an out-and-home layout usually enables a little more mileage between terminals. The train will still arrive back at the terminal in a reasonably short space of time.

You could add more realism and interest by combining an out-and-home, and point-to-point, format with continuous pikes. You would need a fair amount of space though.

Many model railroaders prefer a continuous layout because it allows for varied train movements which make operation more interesting.

Whatever track plan you decide, the important thing is to have fun.

Join Robert Anderson’s popular online Model Train Club to get lots of clever model railroad ideas to help you build the model train layout of your dreams!

Getting Started with Model Trains: 5 Tips to Pick a Locomotive

If you’re just getting started with model trains, you should know that a quality locomotive is key. A good one will make all the difference in the world. Here are 5 tips to pick a good locomotive.

If You’re Going to Skimp, Don’t Do it on the Locomotive

I’m not made of money. So I like to save when I can. My wife calls it being cheap. (I would call it being sensible.)

However, if you’re getting started with model trains, don’t skimp on the locomotive. Nothing is more frustrating than having a locomotive that you need to push to get going. It’s worse if it suddenly speeds up and falls off the tracks.

Getting started with model trains

A locomotive runs by picking up the electricity from the track through its wheels. The wheels transfer the electricity to the motor, which then turns the gears to drive the locomotive.

A locomotive with poor pickup on the wheels or a poor gear set up will give you lots of problems. As with most things, you get what you pay for… but this is one area you do not want to skimp on.

A great operating locomotive is 90% of the way to having a fantastic model train layout.

So with that in mind, let’s get to the 5 Tips.

5 Tips to Picking a Good Quality Locomotive

When buying a locomotive these points are critical:

  1. The amount of metal wheels that pick up the electricity – the more the better, but definitely more than 1 set.
  2. A good gearing ratio and motor which requires the least amount of electricity to move the locomotive, with a slow but smooth start.
  3. Flywheels at one or both ends of the motor to ensure a smooth take off and smooth stop.
  4. The weight of the locomotive should be just right to maintain a good connection to the track at all times but not too heavy to make the locomotive sluggish.
  5. The length of the locomotive – shorter diesel locomotives are less likely to derail on the curves than longer steam locomotives.

Most hobby shops will let you test the locomotive on their in-house test tracks before you buy.

Test the locomotive forwards and backwards… Check for a nice smooth take off and a nice smooth stop when the power is ramped up or down.

I usually go into my local hobby shop after doing my research online, test the locomotive, and then I negotiate the price. That tip has saved me nearly 30% of the retail price in some cases.

Conclusion

Buy quality when you buy your locomotives… I guarantee the investment will be well worth it.

If you would like more info or are looking for a good starter Resource, check out this website on Model Trains for Beginners.