Friday, January 28, 2011

NMRA Atlantic Region

The NMRA Atlantic Region has it's own dedicated website, which recently has been updated.
The Atlantic Region is for those modelers living in Europe, Africa & South America, with the exception of the British Isles , which has enough members that it has traditionally had it's own region assigned.
I would expect that if activity grows in other countries, it could diversify into the European or African Region for example.
Anyway, if you're interested in (North American) Model Railroading, have a look, and better still become a member! NMRA Atlantic Region

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Atlas Trainman plus NRE Gensets

Not to be outdone, Atlas has also announced some exciting news,  a second run of it's NRE genset locomotive in various roadnames. Different road numbers of UP and CSX among others, plus one of the Rail America companies, the San Diego Imperial Valley RR (pictured). This model is getting close to the latest locos my favorite short line now operates. The CFNR has, although those units have a slightly different shape long hood and exhaust stacks, several NRE gensets in it's roster, replacing all but a few GP15-1 units... Here's hoping....

Athearn Genesis GP7

If you are one of those, hoping for accurate models of a first generation 'Geep', place your pre-order now!
Athearn has announced a model yesterday, to be released later this year, in their Genesis line, of the GP7/9.
Among the first run are SP Pennsy and SP Black Widow schemes.  They will be available both DC and DCC+sound. If their other Genesis releases are anything to go by, these should be great looking models. Just a shame that they still elected to use small micro bulbs instead of LED's for lights....

Links are here:

I'm secretly hoping for a release of their SD9's....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yard expansion

As promised, here's a picture of the latest I've been up to on my home layout.
Another sheet of extruded foam board (2" thick) has been added to one of the yard and tracks 1&2 have been extended. I'm still experimenting with the final track plan on this section, so none of this has been glued or fixed in place yet.  I am still not entirely certain what to do here, but I am certainly more influenced now by the 'operations' bug, so I want to make sure that I can build in enough operational value to run trains, but not cram the area completely full and make things unrealistic.
I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Double sided

As mentioned before, I'm also active in a local NMRA group, and we're currently designing and building double sided modules. Here's a picture of the beginning of one of mine, with a single track mainline on what is to be one half of the board. A center backdrop will divide the two, and you can therefore have something completely different on one side from the other.
My boards are exactly 36" long. This will enable me to fit it in my car for transportation, but also one single piece of flex track will fit 'end to end' without any interruptions, which will make for smoother operations. Here a Peco code 83 flex track is installed, without the need for any trimming of ends etc.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 1950's SP in slideshow

My modeling pal Brian has a great slideshow on Flickr of his layout, set in the 1950's Southern Pacific.
To view it, click the link to his page. It really has some great atmosphere. I think it provides plenty of modeling inspiration, and you can almost smell the diesel and coal&steam in some pictures. One question remains, can one ever have enough Cab Forwards?  :-)
Great stuff Brian!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cheap ground cover and ballast

The hobby can get expensive sometimes, so if there are ways to save on a little expense, then I'm willing to do a little experimentation. We have a small pet lizard at home, and it suddenly struck me that the substrate used in his vivarium, is pretty close in size and shape as the bags of Woodland scenics medium and fine ballast. Although the colour is a bit light in our case (it is supposed to simulate a desert landscape) it can be toned down with weathering powders etc.  It is made from calcium, so do be sure that you don't get any loose pieces anywhere near the track, as I'm not too sure what it would do to the gears in your precious locomotives, but I'd say this product is great for a variety of uses. The product is called 'all natural Reptilite calcium substrate', and is available from the better pet shops. It comes in 20lbs bags (a little over 9Kg's) which should be enough for the ballast needs of many layouts, and covers quite a large area of ground if you use it as your base ground cover. It comes in a few different colours, but they are mostly all pretty close to desert shades.   It's worth considering this material as an alternative. If you plan to use this, and this being a natural product, I suggest to put some on a few baking trays and cook it in the oven for 30-45mins at 200 deg C or more. This will kill most bacteria and beasties that may be present, although it is pretty clean out of the bag. Do the same if you use mud etc from your back garden or from other sources. (to keep the peace with your wife/partner, use old trays or buy a few cheap ones for your exclusive use :-) ). The picture shows some of it cooling off, after receiving above process, and gives an impression of it's colour.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Southern Pacific Modelers Society (updated 2x)

For those who like/love/model the Southern Pacific, a new internet message board (forum) has been brought to life, the 'southern pacific modelers society'.
This fairly new forum has big hopes and big plans, and already has some interesting prototype and modeling info. If the SP is your RR, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit and sign up (free of course).

UPDATE: The site appears to be suffering from a server issue at present and can't be accessed.  I've contacted their admin and they are working on the problem. If you have trouble, try again in a few days or so.

UPDATE 2: the problems are solved, the site is fully functioning.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Useful Links

Just to let you all know that I've updated the "Useful Links" column, adding a few more UK based retailers that specialise in US/Canadian outline, or have products used by modelers to North American prototypes in stock (e.g. US style track etc..).
Have a browse through them, most of them do web orders, and many take Paypal as a form of payment, which I think is ideal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Double sided modular concept

Aside of my own private layout, I'm also involved with a local NMRA group located in the South West of the UK, in Plymouth. We call ourselves the Western Union. As a group, we've got a modular layout we set up once a month, and run our trains, where more and more the intention is to learn and operate like the prototype, with waybills, dispatchers etc. etc. To expand on this, we're now in the process of developing double sided modules, which will eventually give us a longer run, and more operational possibilities.
A concept drawing ( (c) Mike Ruby) of this can be seen here, the individual boards are still to be planned but I know that some are developing a set of boards based on Truckee on the SP Donner pass route. I myself am also contributing with a set of 3 boards (making one module) initially, one side just a single track main, the other side will have some operational interest with a small yard. It's going to be a challenge to fit track and scenery in each half's 7" (the boards are 18" wide with variable length to accommodate transportation and access) but it will be fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011


On my own California Northern layout, I've continued to add a small section of benchwork, this to expand the layout a little on the east side of the trackplan. I'm in the process of making a revision of that, to accomodate the small extra area that I now have available.
Benchwork is actually not quite correct, as in my case it doesn't really resemble a traditional benchwork. Rather I've used a few pieces of timber that I've screwed and glued to the roof construction beams of my house, and on top I've used the familiar extruded insulation foam board, sometimes called polyfoam or spaceboard. It's 50mm thick and therefore very rigid, but very light at the same time.  It has added another 4 ft to my layout area. I will post more progress pictures on this part of the layout in a future blog post.
I've also received a few more HO cars of models produced between 1980 and 1995, so they match the era I'm modeling. It's pretty hard to find cars of this era, the 50's and present day are fairly well represented, but anything in between, apart from a few classics and exotic cars, are hard to come by, so I guess my streets will not get very busy any time soon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Heki Wildgrass

A great grass product that I want to use for my layout is Heki Wildgrass. For some reason this product is hard to find in the UK, but at last I found a supplier, Howard Scenic Supplies (see 'useful links' column). Although it is currently not listed on their website (it should be in my opinion), they can order it for you on request.  For those of you not familiar with the product. It is a natural coloured grass fiber that comes on small sheets with an almost silicone like backing. It can be torn and cut in smaller pieces and glued down in a nice random fashion, with a good colourblend. It is a bit similar to the strips available from several other manufacturers, but sheets like this allow for more variety in size and shapes. Here's a few pictures taken of some of the sheets, and then applied to a small scene on a layout. Pictures are courtesy of Steve at the 'Gauge Net' forums, who posted a nice tutorial on the product there.  I'd recommend checking this product out, it's not cheap at £12.25 per sheet  of 45x17cm but it's very realistic.

UPDATE: Since my communication with Howard Scenic Supplies, it is now available to order on their website, although delivery may take a little at this time of year as it is not in regular stock at present.