Model Railroader July 2017

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Track 101
by Steven Otte
Like many model railroaders, you may have started out in the hobby with an oval of track that came in a train set. But when watching a train go around and around the same loop got boring, it was time to add some new track.

But where to start? As seen in ❶, there are thousands of track products of all scales sold in hobby stores, some of which might work together and others that obviously won’t. Should you choose sectional track or flextrack? What about handlaying? How do you choose a turnout? Will you need a decoder ring to figure out rail codes?

Upgrading older turnouts
by Tony Koester
With conventional direct-current (DC) power, a momentary electrical short usually isn’t noticeable, as the amount of current supplied is only enough to run one train. But with DCC, the power supply must be large enough to handle all of the locomotives on a layout or section of the railroad, so even a momentary short can cause big problems. Digital Command Control command stations and boosters are therefore equipped with fast-acting electronic circuit breakers to prevent catastrophic meltdowns.

Keeping the two flavors of electricity (plus and minus voltages) separate in a turnout isn’t particularly hard. But if the frog isn’t isolated from the points, a large separation (air gap) is required between each point and its adjacent stock rail. Otherwise, a metal wheel passing through the open side of a switch (the moving part of a turnout) might brush against the open point and cause a short.

Ballasting main lines and sidings
by Lou Sassi
Even on a narrow gauge railroad such as my On30 Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes, there’s a distinct hierarchy between mainline and secondary tracks. I distinguish between sidings and mainline track by ballasting each differently. I like to keep my mainline rail well ballasted so it looks relatively better maintained, while I prefer to make sidings appear less well kept.

I use Micro Engineering On30 flextrack on Homabed brand Homasote roadbed. The roadbed is glued to my layout surface, a sandwich of 2" white Styrofoam on 2" extruded-foam insulation board. I described preparing and laying track in the June 2014 Model Railroader, and explained the benchwork construction in the July 2014 MR. This month, I’m going to explain how I ballast track.

Simple route selection
by Pete LaGuardia
As a member of a round-robin operations group, I’ve had the chance to observe many different model railroads. The most popular methods to control turnouts on most of these layouts are manually, using ground throws, or with Tortoise by Circuitron switch motors controlled by double-pole, ­double-throw toggle switches.

When I moved to a new home, I finally had a 30 x 30-foot space in which to build my own layout. Based on my experience, I didn’t want to use ground throws. I think they look oversized in the scale environment I want to model. But I also didn’t want to use toggle switches to control switch motors because their operation can be counterintuitive. On some layouts, the toggles are set to move horizontally, and on others, vertically. Regardless of their orientation, toggle switches don’t visually indicate the direction of the turnout, especially if the turnout is angled differently on the layout from its representation on the control panel schematic.

Model tracks in dirt and cinders
by Kim Nipkow
During the steam era, tracks in locomotive servicing terminals were embedded in dirt and cinders, and covered with ash, grease, and slag. The sight and smell of such a yard can be experienced today at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR.

Since I model the modern-day tourist railroad in HOn3, I needed to re-create the appearance of the tracks around the enginehouse and coal tower at the railroad’s Chama, N.M., terminal.

A rail-marine showcase
by Howard R. Lloyd
My fascination with trains dates to the late 1940s when I was a young boy living in the Greenville section of Jersey City, N.J. Often, my grandfather would walk me to Bayside Park, where once I had my fill of the playground apparatus, we would go next door to the Van Nostrand Place station of the Central RR of New Jersey (CNJ). There, we would climb the steps of the pedestrian bridge over the multiple tracks and stand in the middle to watch trains. When I started work on the 12 x 17-foot HO scale Claremont Docks RR, I wanted to combine those childhood memories with my interest in rail-marine modeling.

The CNJ, which had a large presence and extensive terminal facilities in Jersey City, didn’t lend itself to the small harborside switching layout I wanted to build. After studying a 1942 Army Corps of Engineers map, I selected the Lehigh Valley RR (LV). The LV main line, as well as its National Docks branch, ran parallel and very close to the CNJ at Van Nostrand Place. I recall strings of coal hoppers behind small LV diesels rumbling by on the half-mile-long steel trestle that spanned CNJ’s nearby classification yards.

Build a single-point turnout
by James F. Cordaro
Single-point turnouts were commonly used for prototype streetcars and light traction. There were four reasons the prototype used these turnouts: simplicity, reliability, tight turning radius, and low cost. Low cost was nearly everything to a struggling traction company.

These turnouts aren’t common in HO scale, so I built my own. I’ve been building them for years for my Sommerburg Electric Traction Co., or SETCo. I use them on my layout because the tight radii look more prototypical for streetcars than commercial HO scale double-point turnouts. I’ll show you step by step how I build turnouts for my layout.

How to build an operating switch stand

by Gary Butts

While pursuing the National Model Railroad Association Civil Engineering Award, I developed these manually operating target switch stands.

Although my HO scale Gary & Sandy RR used flextrack, commercial turnouts, and twin-coil switch machines, I had to prove that I could handlay track and build turnouts for the merit award.
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