Model Railroader June 2018

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Best of the Rockies
by Lou Sassi
Bill Brown’s 25 x 40-foot HO scale Leadville & Red Cliff (LARC) celebrates railroads past and present through central Colorado. The lower level is a modern-era standard gauge line featuring big General Electric and Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives. The upper level is a scale 3-foot-gauge line set in the late 1940s, featuring iconic Denver & Rio Grande Western and Rio Grande Southern slim gauge power, including “Mudhen” 2-8-2 steam locomotives and “Galloping goose” motor cars. Signature scenes of Rocky Mountain railroading highlight both decks.

Model Railroader readers got their first look at the Leadville & Red Cliff in the November 2014 issue. In the article “Rising from the ashes,” Bill’s son, Steve Brown, described how the family’s original layout (the eastern-railroad-themed HO scale Lehigh Alliance of Rail Carriers, featured in the August 2006 MR) was destroyed in a house fire in 2008. Bill and Steve then designed and began building their new Colorado-themed layout.

Kitbashing photo backdrops
by Tony Koester
Photo-editing software, digital cameras, and color printers seem to have been invented specifically for the benefit of model railroaders. For less than the price of a sound decoder, we can purchase Adobe’s Photoshop Elements (PSE) or similar photo-editing software and gain the ability to almost magically modify and combine digital images into backdated backdrop scenes, signs, building flats, even 3-D buildings.

Moreover, commercially produced photo backdrops are available from a wide variety of sources (enter “model railroad photographic backdrops” in your favorite search engine). Also look for landscape photo sources; one is

5 tips for blending backgrounds
by Paul J. Dolkos
While scenery at the outside edge of a layout may pose some difficulties (see my story “Scenery on the edge” in Model Railroad Planning 2017), the back of the layout also has its challenges. The abrupt change in the model scene from horizontal to vertical at the backdrop demands we do something to make the transition.

We often install a tree line, build a mountain, or paint or paste on a backdrop scene. These are scenic staples and may be all that’s needed to create a suitable setting for the railroad.

A well-done painted backdrop can be very appealing. For those without artistic ability or an artist friend, many commercial photo backdrops are available. You also can have custom scenes of unlimited length printed – at a price.

Aluminum trim coil backdrops
by Lance Mindheim
Backdrops are the canvas of the world beyond our layout. Because of their large surface area, and the fact that they are positioned perpendicular to our eye, they’re extremely prominent features on our model railroads. As such, finding a simple and effective way of mounting our “canvas” justifies some well-thought-out planning.

Commonly used materials such as tempered hardboard, linoleum flooring, or plastic sheet have disadvantages such as being dimensionally uneven, hard to curve, heavy, and worst of all, requiring a joint every 8 feet or so. Enter aluminum trim coil.

Compact model railroad packed with detail
by Lou Sassi
John Ottman has been building model railroads since 1960. During those early days, he built a number of layouts that he eventually tore down or gave to his friends. After getting married, he stepped away from the hobby until the 1980s, when the railroad bug bit again. That led to two HO railroads, the second of which you see here.

It was a visit to an HO layout near his home in Kentucky that inspired John to build the railroad. John’s layout models a freelanced bridge line, loosely based on scenes he remembers from childhood of the Norfolk & Western Ry. and Southern Ry. through the Appalachian Mountains in the 1950s.

Strategic structure sizing
by Andrew Dodge
One of the primary draws, and obstacles, to modeling in O scale is its size. I would like to offer a fresh look at this scale, including ways the modeler can mitigate the problem of the mass of 1:48 structures.

O scale is approximately twice the scale of HO scale, which means buildings occupy four times the footprint and eight times the volume of the same structure in HO. Planning is key to selecting the type of buildings that best suit the layout as well as fit into the available model railroad space.

It makes little difference in layout planning whether one models a 21st-century line or the Second Division of the Colorado Midland in 1897, as I do. Structures are structures, and as modelers, we must solve the same problems. In illustrating the point of this article, I will focus on some of the Colorado Midland’s more famous structures and my solution to the size issue, which was accomplished without any compression.
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