Monday, December 31, 2012

Boston & Maine layout

With what is my last post this year, I wanted to share the following layout that I found while browsing the net.
Perhaps it provides some inspiration for the coming modeling year.
It is located at another forum called the Whistle Post, and is being build by Australian modeler Mike C.
The link to the thread describing his layout is here, beware that it is already 47 pages long, be sure to browse through them to see how he does it, including where things didn't go quite right.  It's theme is Winter in New England, USA, the Boston and Maine area.
Go here to view:

Just in case you're wondering , the picture below is a model! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Module rethink

Hi all, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was the usual food and drink fest, spoiling the kids, and not many presents for myself, but that's okay. I wouldn't really know what to ask for and when it comes to trains, it is a bit awkward to ask for items that are not readily available in the local shop, but instead need to be ordered from specialist shops, and often it's pre-order/advanced reservation with no guarantee when it will get delivered.

anyway, I did purchase a set of Burlington Northern F9's, an A&B set, by Stewart Hobbies, these are used but in very good condition. I always wanted a good F unit set. These will need some super detailing, and weathering etc.
However getting these has caused me to rethink my Wolter Springs modules. Not that I will change their name, but instead change it's locale, to a more generic north-mid western theme.  This will be a better home for the CP GP38-2 and these BN F's .  My SP GP35 seen in the pictures when my module has featured here,  will then find service on my California themed home layout. So that's what I'll do.

Here are  the F9's.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and happy New Year. It's a time to be with your family , friends and loved ones, and hope you will have a wonderful time.
Recent tragic events in the USA have highlighted to me, how vulnerable those you love the most actually are, so hope you will spare a thought for the friends and family of those who perished, think about the unopened presents under the Christmas trees, maybe some of them model trains that will never be played with.

In the spirit of these festive times, I wanted to share this picture with you. It's Alaska railways Christmas train, on the approach to Seward , Alaska.  You can order the full size picture here:

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A bit more scenery

The cordelia tunnel area is slowly taking shape. I've now applied grass on a larger area, and planted some of the background trees. I've used some smaller (N scale) trees to make them appear further away, creating a bit of 'forced perspective'.

just on the foreground, a bit of tape can be seen, this is the outline of a road that will be made here. The tape is there to define the edge of the road. It will be made with a plaster mix, and I've got some Woodland Scenics 'Smooth it' to do this with, although any fine plaster will do.

Once the road is poured, I will sand it smooth, and then paint and weather it. hopefully creating the look of an older road.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Static grass

I've made my own static grass applicator, using an old electric fly swatter and a metal tea strainer.
simply because I can't (want to) afford the Noch Grassmaster,which is very good, but costs well over 100 pounds.  That's many bags of static grass.

My tea strainer version did quite well, but I also want to build a grass master clone at some stage.

Here is the result using the tea strainer version, and the tea strainer applicator, click for a larger picture:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ballast application

I've ballasted the first section of my module.
Here's a picture . It does instantly transform the area. I am far from finished, but the first impression is quite good IMHO.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Track weathering

I have spend some time weathering the track on my module. Here's how I did it.I first spray painted the entire track a dull green (yes that's green) Then I painted the rail a rust brown colour, for which I used an enamel paint, thinned with a suitable thinner, and let it run onto the spikes and other parts of the track that might be made of metal and turn rusty. 
I then used an ocre yellow , very much thinned into a wash and randomly applied it to several ties , and because it's a wash, it applies fast and thin. I used a similar wash to randomly stain grey enamel, and again a light pass with the brown over several ties. I got inspiration from this technique by Mike Confallone's Allgash scenery articles in MRH magazine, I just used different paints (he uses thinned artist colours). I didn't wait until each wash was dry, I deliberately let them run and blend, creating even more colour variations and no stark contrasts.The overal look creates that of heavily used, old track, with the occasional dab of moss growing through (hence the green), but showing age (grey), rust and brown creosote (brown) , and other stains and fungy (ocre yellow), but note that nothing jumps out, particularly the lighter washes I used very sparingly. The great thing is, if it doesn't look right, just go over it with another wash before it's dry and it'll blend in. Otherwise wait until dry (which isn't long ) and paint over it.
To illustrate the difference, notice the unpainted ties put in place to close the gap between the turnout, showing that it is worth the effort. Next up will be ballasting, and then an final coat with weathering powders to make it all 'blend'.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Silo kit

Looking around for a few small industries to place on my module, I came accross this silo kit by Faller.  Faller is a well established german manufacturer of model railroad scenery products, and other accessories. Most of their structures have a german/swiss feel to them, but occasionally you can find something that is useful for a North American layout too, or is easy to be 'americanised' . (This is true for other european scenery makers too , such as Pola, Kibri, Heljan and others).

One such item is this silo kit. Faller 120260 contains a pair of silos, which, although somewhat scaled down, would work as a small grain elevator, or even other types of pellets, and it's not that expensive either. I therefore bought it, and will attempt to make a nice 'north american' industry out of it, I'll keep you posted, here's a picture from both the front and rear, courtesy of Faller.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Woodland Scenics/Noch scenic sprayer

I got to the stage where I started to apply a base scenery to one of the module boards. When I bought the scenery material (Woodland scenics blended turf , earth T60, also marketed in europe by Noch), I also bought a small sprayer bottle.  It is much smaller than your average spray bottle you'd get for misting plants etc, but I thought that might be handy working on a layout. The bottle could easily be placed on a part of the layout where scenery is not present , or not easily damaged (road surface) while working on another section.
I am however immensely disappointed by it's performance. In stead of a nice fine mist to wet the area, it sprays relatively course droplets, which impact the just 'sprinkled' ground foam and creates craters and splashes, disturbing the way the scenery was put down before glue is applied. This thing being marketed as a 'scenic sprayer', I thought it would be well designed, but instead you get a small bottle with much too course action to be any good at all for this work. I'm back to my plant sprayer, which produces a nice fine, almost fog, and these droplets are not disturbing the surface at all.

Get yourself a plant sprayer, or even two, from the pound shop, and leave this expensive and much smaller scenic sprayer bottle where it is, spend the difference on scenery foam or whatever.

Friday, November 30, 2012


If you would like to learn how to weather your rolling stock, locomotives, or anything else for that matter, I recommend signing up to 'The Rust Bucket' forum, part of the Weathering shop site.
There's some quality work to be found there. What's more users there are very helpful and will give constructive criticism. Also a plus is that people are not allowed to give criticism unless they have show cased some of their own work first, to prove that they're not all mouth / no action so to speak. I feel that's a very good policy to have.  to go to the forum and sign up, or, to have a sneak peak of what it's about,   worth a visit at least.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

CP Rail GP38-2 4404

I just bought a new locomotive in the sale at Bromsgrove models.  An Atlas GP38-2. I thought it might be a good base for a kitbash, turning it in to another road name etc. I just couldn't leave it for the money, so it was a bit of an impulse buy.... I'm sure you recognise that.
However, I am quite taken with it's appearance, and a friend of mine has pointed out that this particular loco has been photographed and video'ed often, and indeed it shows up on the familiar photo sites etc, so there are plenty of references there. So I think I might leave it in this colour and roadname, and see if it can be superdetailed without too many big changes that I might as well turn it into a loco more useful for my usual modeling interests. As a CP rail engine I can use it at the club just fine, and if I make my module a bit more generic, I can even use it on that. one day we're in the 1980's SP, the following in modern day CP rail territories.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Conrad turnout motor

I've installed the first of 5 turnout motors under my module, to drive my turnouts.

I had a look around to see which motor I wanted to use, and decided to give these a try. They are supplied by Conrad Electronics, a German electronics retailer similar to Maplin in the UK. They also have a UK webshop, and you can order these motors in packs of 3 for very cheap. Clicking here will take you directly to the corresponding page. These are motorised drives, so not coil driven like a SEEP. However they are not slowmotion drives, these switch within 0.5 seconds, but switch off at the end of the throw so you don't get any 'sound effects' such as hum etc.

They also do not have an extra switch to control the polarity of the frog, however the actuating lever is protruding at both sides of the housing, allowing for left or right hand side mounting. The unused side could easily be used to actuate a micro switch installed next to the drive, for that purpose, and that's what I am planning to do in due course.

I don't know much about the reliability of these, so time will tell, but for the money I thought it was worth a try.
To see one in action, see the below video. It is driven here by a programmable DCC accessory decoder, which has the advantage of setting the power to the motor, slowing it down a bit. I intend to do the same.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New release Atlas Trainman GenSet in HO

Atlas has just announced a new release run of their GenSet locomotives. This is a newly retooled model, which represents a second phase Genset with a taller longer 'long hood', which means the cab is further forward and the short hood is indeed shorter. The long hood has provisions for dynamic brakes , hence it is taller.

The new model comes in a number of road names, and also has retooled and finer handrails. (this was a common criticism of the previous release, for which replacement handrails of a finer quality are available to order now). It is again released in their Trainman Plus range.

Pictures of the undecorated model are here, courtesy of Atlas. More info can be found at their website:

The new model is an ideal candidate to make into a correct model of the genset locos as used by the California Northern RR, which I model, however that road name is currently not released. It was under the previous release, but that had the incorrect lower hood. So for me , here's hoping this model will be released in CFNR paint schemes. 

We've got power

I've finished all the track wiring today, and have power to all track , so it had to be tested by running a loco. It is always a great sense of achievement when the first run is made, it's a milestone you've reached in a sense.

Next will be to install turnout drives and their wiring, that is the task I'm trying to complete this week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bromsgrove Models Sale

Bromsgrove Models is a UK modeling supplier of whom I've bought a couple of products in the past. The service has always been quick, and the prices were generally very good.
Due to deteriorating health, and not being able to sell the business on, they are winding the business down, and therefore there are some great discounts to be had.
They have a range of products available, that might be interesting for the north american modeler. Go pay them a visit, you can still pay by card till the end of this month.
Find their address in the useful links sections on the right.

Nearly finished the woodwork

Almost there: nearly done with the woodwork.
I've added height adjustment to the legs, re-enforced the head ends, made leg pockets so that the legs slot into the boards, and added a shelf to one of them underneath to fit the DCC system.
Some final alignment work to do and then I can permanently fix the track and wire it all up. Then come the fun parts, running trains and making the scenery.

More carpentry work on the module

Work is steadily progressing:

Today so far, I've made a shelf and attached that to the bottom of one of the boards. On this I am planning to mount my DCC system and power supply. Here you can see my Lenz command station, which I received today, test fitted on it.
I've also cut extra pieces of plywood and glued these to the inside of both head ends of each board. This is to re-enforce these against flexing, and make them stronger. These are the surfaces that will join with other boards, and will also be the ones that get clamped etc, so I decided to re-enforce these while I am still in 'carpentry mode'.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Musings on DCC

The module boards I'm building are intended to also function as a small switching layout, and I was looking for a DCC system to do this with.  As I also knew that the majority of the other modules in my area are controlled with a Lenz DCC system, I knew I wanted to build in at least one or two  Lenz LA 152 fascia panels, so that a throttle can be plugged into the module when it's part of a larger set up.
I didn't however wanted to spend the full amount of a Lenz DCC system. Lenz has pretty much invented DCC, and is one of the best systems around, and carries the longest warranty of any system out there to my knowledge (10 years), which is re-asuring, but for a few module boards it is too much of an investment. 
However my plans slightly changed when I came across a demo set in a local hobby shop, available at a significantly discounted price, so I've bought this, a Lenz set 100, which is their top system. This is overkill for the module, but I will  install this on my home layout in the future, and use the currently used SPROG II for the modules when operating them as stand alone. 

For a comparison of the Lenz 100 to other systems, have a look at this article on Model Rail Forum.

height adjustment and securing legs

Here's a few pictures on how I've constructed the height adjustment (for uneven floors), and how to secure the legs to a module board.

I've used a couple pieces of scrap wood to construct pockets, which are as wide as the legs themselves.

These pockets are glued (and screwed from the outside) against the inside of the module board at the right height, and the legs will slide right in.

All that remains to secure the legs in place is to drill a hole from the outside through the module side, and through the leg and insert a bolt to 'lock' the leg, although I will try to do without that, I think the legs will be secure enough to use as is, but I'll try that out first.

Secondly I've used Tee Nuts inserted in the bottom of each leg, and used carriage bolts which have a nice rounded head to allow for height adjustment.  I might at a later stage hot glue some bottle caps onto these nuts, to have something a little softer in contact with the floor, to prevent scratching etc.  The legs themselves are made from 27mm x 27mm wood , and plywood cross braces. This makes them light enough to handle, but sturdy enough not to be too fragile. You could use heavier methods of course, but that is probably a little overkill, but also depends on the weight and size of your module boards.
I prefer them lightweight, as I won't be getting any younger.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Module boards on legs

Inspired by last weekend's modular meet, I decided to do some work on my module boards.
Today I made a second set of legs for my second board, that together make up my Wolter Springs module.

Here the are the pair of boards, on legs and test fitted for the first time in my dining room. (much more comfortable temperature than in the shed I made them in...).
 I still need to make slots on the bottom of each board to guide the legs better and set them to the right height easier, and then drill the holes in the head boards to that I can guide them together with dowels or a bolt and wing nuts, but it gives me a good impression on where it's going at this moment, and it's starting to come together.

Sub terrain mix

Earlier I posted that I had started to put my base scenery down on my home layout.
I use a method that I picked up from the 'Ten Mile Creek' scenery videos by Joe Fugate for my hills, mountains and other uneven terrain features.

The first mix of 'paste' that I mixed up followed the recipe closely, here it is once more for good measure:

4 parts Vermiculite
3 parts filling plaster
1 part portland cement
mix these up first, then slowly add water to get the consistency of soft (but not too soft) ice cream. Too thin, then add a bit more plaster, too thick, simply add a little water.

It is important to use filling plaster, NOT plaster of paris. The reason is that Plaster of Paris sets very fast, and the Portland Cement does too, so before you have a chance to apply it to the scenery, it will have set. (Don't ask me how I know, okay do, yes it sets VERY FAST, I had an unusable mix within less than 5 minutes of mixing, and that was my second batch).  I should have paid a bit more attention to the video (read stay awake as I nodded off while watching it :-)  ) , as it says to add a little baking powder (not baking soda) when using plaster of paris, about   a tea spoon of baking powder to the above 3 parts plaster is enough.
Filling plaster has a retarder in it, Plaster of paris does not, that's what the baking powder provides, so the mix stays usable for much longer.

Here's a picture of the mix that I made , and yes, this is the one that set after the picture was taken, so I had to make a new batch, this time with baking powder added....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Freemo meet Broadclyst, Exeter, 2012

Today I attended the local meet at Broadclyst near Exeter,Devon UK, where we had a fun day operating our trains on a layout made up largely based on the standards set by the local RS Tower group, and adopted by the NMRA British region. They are based in turn to a degree on a blend of FREEMO (US) and FREMO (EURO) standards.

Here is an overview picture of the set up, in the hall. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Logging railroads

A fair amount of modelers choose to model narrow gauge railroads, and / or logging industries, not in the last place because of the use of the Shay locomotives and other types.

A nice blog about this subject is   , if logging is your thing, have a look, it might just provide you with information or inspiration. Below picture was taken from that website to wet your appetite.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Napa Jct, American Canyon in HO

Below , a picture of my layout in the area of Napa Junction, situated in real life near American Canyon California.
The scenery is not yet finished here as you can tell a lot still needs to be done, but I'm posting it as a progress shot more than anything. Compare this photo with one I'll post in about a year's time to compare the results.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

California Northern DVD

I thought I'd share this with you. For several years now I have been looking to get more information of my subject railroad, the California Northern. In the past Pentrex has released a VHS video about this railroad, and I've never managed to obtain it. I asked Pentrex if they would re-release it, and the answer i got at the time that it was being considered, but had not made it on the 'list' yet.
So it was a pleasant surprise that I found the DVD version is now finally available, it is a recent new release, and of course I ordered it. I am looking forward to view it, and see the SD9 I've modeled of a few vague pictures, in action :-)

The link to the DVD is here.

Also if this is not your 'railroad', I would suggest to browse around on their site, you could probably find a video there that will be of interest, and give you good information and inspiration when modeling your model-railroad.

Scenery work

Today I started another step in the construction of my scenery.
I may have mentioned previously, that I like the scenery construction methods of Joe Fugate, who's video instructions I have watched and picked up some useful tips.
I've decided to make the same scenery sculpting 'paste' as he does, which is a mix of 4 parts fine Vermiculite, 3 parts filling plaster, and 1 part Portland cement.
This mixture is spread on top of my cardboard strips+ masking tape base (also from the same videos).

The first application of the (still wet mixture) can be seen in the picture below. I am really looking forward doing the rest of this hill with this method.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finally CFNR SD9 203 makes a short test run

As with many of my projects, I finally got as far as getting my CFNR SD9 project to a running condition.

Here's a short video made on that occasion.  There's still a bit of work to do before this loco is 'finished'.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Realistic backdrops by Pele Soeborg

Pele Soeborg is well known for his modern US layout set in the Californian desert. He's written about it in Model railroader magazine, produced DVD's, and has written several books about modelrailroad scenery techniques etc, all published by Kalmbach, and available in many good bookstores, Amazon etc.
His redesigned layout now featured photo realistic backdrops, and you can now have those too. He's collaborating with UK based company ModelJunction, through which his backdrops are now for sale. Go check them out!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wolter Springs is rising

Progress has been slow, but I managed to finally make a pair of legs for my module. Here's the next module board, on the legs, the other earlier board can just be seen on the floor behind it. (that board already received a top coat of latex paint and plaster, but needs a darker earth tone on top of the current base ).
Once that has legs I can clamp the boards together and check the track alignment from one board to the next. The next job will be to install track feeder wires on the new board, and then we can start with the fun part, starting to do the base scenery.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blog Housekeeping

I've done a little housekeeping, and removed some 'dead links' from my list of useful links on the right, and added another.  Express Models. They are a supplier of miniature lights and leds, fit for all sorts of applications, fibre optics, Kadee couplers and TCS DCC decoders among others. All items that modelers of American model railways could use.

If you know of any others that have (modeling) supplies that are useful for our American RR hobby, let me know and I'll review and add them, and if you come across mistakes or dead links, please let me know too and I'll correct it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Picture of the 'month'

Perhaps not the most fitting title for this blog entry, as I don't know if I'd be able to find a model railroad picture every month that I want to post/share. Yet, I did want to show you this one.
This picture was taken by Mike Hughes, and shows Don MacDougal's Norton&Northern modelRR.
I really like the atmosphere of this picture, and all the weathering, note the windscreen wipers on the F unit.
Shot's like this provide lot's of inspiration I feel.

The original can be found here:

Board 2

Construction of my second board, that will be used for my 'Wolter Springs' module has started.
Today I bashed together all sides, and top, and glued + screwed this basic frame together.
After this has dried I will make and install the cross braces after which I can turn my attention to the top of these, and start laying track :-)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some video experiments on my layout

Hi all,

I decided to use my iPhone 4S for some experiments. I realised that as it's camera lens is very close to a corner, you can actually get very low vantage points, pretty much eye level of an HO scale seated person.
It sort of puts you 'in the scene'.
Here's a first attempt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A week later, but I finally managed to source some carpet underfloor tiles, that I could buy separately.
It's currently difficult enough at most DIY stores to get the right type of underfloor. Most sell foam rolls, or have a much coarser and more brittle fiber at present, and usually in packs which they often do not want to open.  However I found some and could continue with the module boards.
Why underfloor tiles? While any other roadbed (cork or foam types) would be good for the tracks, I want to use the same material as the base for the roads and line side structures, as to bring them up to the same level, on a level surface. These tiles are relatively easy to cut, if you take your time, and use the right tools.
I've found that knives work, but they need to be clean and sharp, otherwise they'll start to rip into the material.  A better option is a razor saw, which cuts cleaner lines. It creates a bit of dust though so have a vacuum cleaner at hand to clean everything up after you're done.
After the roadbed is glued down (using no more nails or similar) it's easy to use a few rail spikes to secure the track , in addition to some white glue mixed with alcohol (70 or 90% is both fine). This mix will ensure that if you make it wet again, it will turn back in to a gum like consistency and you can remove the track for future use. Don't worry when ballasting, the glue will set again after it dries.
Next will be to use Woodland scenics hydrocal, or another landscape moulding material, to smooth the edges and surfaces of the road, the sides of the trackbed and other landscape contours.
Then I will paint the surface of the entire board an earth colour, as the base of all scenery.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

US Roadsigns

Did you ever try to make US style road signs to post along your model roads?
This site will take the pain away. Just design your own signs, add the names you want (you can make up your own) and print/save the signs to cut out and glue on to a bit of styrene, and you're done.
It uses the authentic fonts etc, so realism is pretty good.
It will run on any computer supporting Java, and works inside your browser. It will open up a Java applet that lets you create the sign, and another window shows the results.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

test fitting and cutting track

Work has commenced on my new module.
The west side board has been constructed, and I've cut and test laid the track on to it.
The picture shows it from the center at the bottom, with the most westerly turnout situated towards the back of the picture. The spur leading the the GERN warehouse visible to the right in this perspective.

I've not fixed any of the track yet, as I still need to drill holes for feeder wires, and turnout actuating mechanisms etc.  That's my next job.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Atlas Super Track code 83

I've started construction of my module 'Wolter Springs'.
As I am building these near my place of work in the Netherlands, I had to go and look around for a place where to get US model railroad supplies. It turns out that in the Netherlands, the model railroad hobby has seriously suffered from all the modern game computers etc, and arts and crafts materials etc are hard to find. Those shops that do stock items, have the big european brands. I found two shops however that sell US model railroad in the country, but none had track in stock that I needed. 
I therefore ordered track turn outs from germany (sort of next door) from . 
I went for the Atlas Supertrack no 6 turnouts.They were about 10 euro's cheaper each than the equivalent Peco switch.  I have to say they look pretty good. They have a metal frog, with is 'browned' already, I just need to paint the rest of the rail to blend in. They also have a small round hole which is intended to take a screw together with an atlas switch motor kit to be able to provide an electric supply to the frog. Currently it is electrically isolated from the rest of the turnout. That detail is not very subtle , and I'm intending to fill those with solder and attach a wire from the bottom , then trim them straight to blend with the tie, make them less obvious, and will enable me to power the frog. 
Another detail that I like, is the fact that the throw bar is molded such that it can be actuated from either side of the turnout, just trim away the side you will not use. This is unlike many other makes, where it is situated on one side only, leaving you no choice. 
I like these turnouts, and I would recommend to give them a closer look. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

New caboose

I had nearly forgotten about the fact I still had one on back order, but recently my second caboose that I ordered last year got delivered the day I returned from my family holiday.
This is another Athearn Genesis caboose of the SP, C50-7 type and carries the Gothic type face for the name and numbers. Here's a factory picture of the unit. This will now enable me to add a caboose to two of my trains. I will still order more in the near future, but I'm going to make those the C50-9 version, being slightly newer (it was the last caboose type the SP ever ordered until the use of cabooses was discontinued by the large railroads).

Athearn Genesis Mechanical reefer model with sound

Sound has been an addition to model railroading in the recent years. This has mainly focussed on locomotives.
Athearn now announced a freight car (reefer) with sound. See below video.

UK FREEMO : modular railroading in the UK

If you have little space to build a permanent layout, you might consider building a module.
You could use this module as a stand alone layout, or take it to a local group meeting, and join it up with others and enjoy the hobby in that manner. You might also consider building a module next to your existing layout, for above reasons perhaps.
for many, the question is where do you start. Which module standard should I work to, etc etc.
Recently, in the UK, there's an increase in activity on building modules. This is in no small part due to the activities of a few existing modular layout groups, most notably the guys from RS Tower.  A lot of work has also been put in by some members of the NMRA (british region) to come up with new (updated) standards, and these have recently been published. They are compatible with those of RS Tower, which in turn have incorporated some of the ideas used by the USA based 'FREEMO' standards, and the European (originally German) FREMO standards.

Because of this increase of activity, there's a need for a place that is fairly independent, where people can share ideas, ask questions, get help in their modular railroading activities. For this reason, a new forum has been launched, currently simply called 'UK FREEMO', but is currently covering Freemo, RS Tower, and NMRA-BR standards. This is partly, because these are the most popular standards in the UK at this time.
If you are interested, I'd suggest you join the forum (it's free), and become part of a growing part of UK based model railroading, with a bias on North American prototypes.

The web address is:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Memoriam

I have to announce, that my father Wolter Fockens, passed away last Saturday, after losing his short battle with Pancreatic cancer.  It all happened very quickly.
I wanted to use this post to say thank you dad for all the things you've done for me, and what you have thought me in your live. You've been loved by everyone around you, and we will continue to keep you in our memories. Rest In Peace.

As you have read in my previous post, my small modules still don't have a name. I decided to freelance their name in honour of my father, so the modules will be named 'Wolter Springs, CA'.  While such a place doesn't exist in the real world,  it does now in my heart.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The trackplan

Here's the track plan for my new modules.  I've designed it such that it can provide a little switching fun, with the use of a few bolt on lead tracks, as well as be part of a larger modular set up.  I might still change it a little, we'll see.
As yet unamed, although the name Weedpatch was suggested. A somewhat 'far out' name, but it does exist in California.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 'other' project

In a recent post, I wrote about my plans to work on another small railroad project away from the main layout. Well a start has been made. I've purchased a little bit of track, a Pikestuff loading platform, I found a nice PFE reefer (Athearn), and the GP35 I reported on previously. 
Here they are all together on the dining room table. The loading platform was testfitted along the reefer so I could determine if anything would need to be raised or lowered to match up in height, and it seems to be nearly perfect straight out of the box. 

Now the planning can begin on my small little shelf / modules on which these models are going to be used.  Fun on a few sq feet :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Power

I run my layout using a SPROGII, an old PC running JMRI and my old iPod Touch as a wireless throttle.  As I had the PC and iPod previously, the conversion to DCC didn't cost me as much as buying a system from NCE, Lenz, or other maker. (obviously, there's the expense of locomotive decoders etc). The SPROG cost me GBP45,- , and a good loco decoder can be had for about GBP25,-  , obviously sound equipped are more expensive, but that's a step you can add later if you wish.

However, as my fleet of DCC equiped locomotives is growing (partly through purchasing of new loco's, and partly by converting older locos to DCC), the current limit of the SPROGII is starting to get noticable. The SPROGII was initially only designed to be a programming tool, but as JMRI functionality increased, more and more people use it as a DCC controller.
The makers of the SPROG have realised that too, and a couple months ago I reported that they released two new products, the SPROGIII, which is identical to the II but has a higher current output, and the SBOOST, a booster compatible with the SPROG II (and III). The booster can be used to increase the output of a SPROGII to the same level as a III, and also to create power districts with their own boosters (provided the power supply can handle that).
I went the way of a SBOOST (GBP 60,-) , which will increase the current output to 2.5A , enough for a 3 to 4  average HO locomotives running at full tilt/amp draw. This is something that will rarely happen on my layout. Most of the time the majority are idling away, while I run one. In future I see this increasing to 2 or 3, but never with big heavy trains. the 2.5A is probably enough, although my power supply can handle up to 5A, so a second booster can always be added at a later stage should I feel I need one.

Doing it in this way, I've been able to spread the expense a bit, and slowly grow my DCC system (incl loco decoders).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Working on the Railroad

Finally I managed to do a little more trackwork on my home layout.
The Napa Jct yard is expanded and added three yard tracks, as well as the main tracks beeing extended by about 3 ft. On the other side of the layout, I've cleaned up, and started on the track that will lead into the staging. I'm also going to add an additional track to the yard (the track in the middle).
After this track work is done, the back drop will be fixed in place here, and the warehouses (shallow relief) will be test fitted, and scenery work can begin here.

Napa Jct

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Another acquisition

I may have mentioned it in the past, but due to my job I spend many weekdays away from home. I now have a 'semi permanent' base closer to my place of work to which I commute on a weekly basis. I decided it's the perfect opportunity to spend a little more time on railroad projects than I've been able to. Nothing big, but enough to keep me satisfied and work on items that I will use in time on my own home layout. So I've started to build a set of NMRA-BR modules, that I can detail and operate in time while I'm away from home. For that you need some motive power and some cars. The motive power is now on it's way in the form of a Southern Pacific GP35 phase 1a.  It's an Athearn RTR model. It will need some super detailing in time, but for now I'll leave it untouched. It's even remaining DC for the time being, until I can afford buying a Simple DCC controller for these modules.  For that matter, the modules aren't even build yet, I've got the wooden frames of the first one ready, but still need to start on the next one. Here's a (factory) picture of the loco for now.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Magnolia Route

A modeling friend of mine pointed out a video on youtube, showing off a beautiful piece of modeling of Cliff Powers, modeling Alabama and Mississippi in HO. His layout is quite large, but none the less he's been able to detail various scenes in great detail. It resides in it's own purpose build building that measures 14 x32 feet, and the layout is devided over 3 levels connected by a double track helix. There are over a 100 locomotives in service on this layout, most with sound (and smoke where applicable), and DCC controlled. The trackplan is found on this web site
I've selected another video of this layout, that captures a bit of the atmosphere found on this layout. For more, I urge you to check out other videos and of course the website of the layout  .

Monday, July 2, 2012

Build your own Turnouts Points Switches....

Whatever you call them, you'll probably aware that turnouts can be a money absorbing part of your railroad hobby.
One of the solutions is to build your own. You can use commercial available kits, including jigs etc, but unless you need to build quite a few, the money saved is fairly limited. If you have no need for may turnouts, but like to try to make your own, with a few simple tools.  This video shows one of the ways to do so. The video was made by MRH publishing for Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine, a free e-zine that offers quality articles about our hobby, funded by advertising. (The articles are usually NOT sponsored though, which is a good thing).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Exeter modelrailroad show 2012

Here's one video of several now posted of last weekends RR show in Exeter , UK.  This one gives an overview of the 150' of branch line modules , that were attached to the RS Tower oval shaped layout, all together making more than 180' of North American model railroading in the UK, at one venue. Video by Mike Ruby.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Exeter model railroad show a success

Last weekend saw this years installment of the Exeter modelrailway show. Among the many layout and traders was the RS tower layout, complemented with NMRA-BR standard modules from among others, members of the Western Union group in Plymouth, making a total scenic length of 180'  of US model railroading. The layout was a huge success and with lessons learned from previous years, operated a lot smoother and fun was had by all. The picture shows diesel power awaiting their next assignment at Gillisburgh yard. Photo by Brian Moore.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

California Northern GP15-1

Finally, I've waited a few years, but Athearn finally announced the release of GP15-1 locomotives in the CFNR paint scheme.  I hope they will capture the paint scheme accurately. Here's the announcement.  I will be pre-ordering I'm afraid... :-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Apekunny Mountain

Hi all, it's been quiet on the blog. Partly due to work, partly due to the glorious weather we've been having lately, so I spend more time doing outdoors stuff, rather than modeling work. However I thought to quickly announce another project of mine.
Via a Yahoo model railroad 'exchange' market, I've obtained a HO model of a Great Northern observation car. It needs a lot of tlc, but it has the needed streamlined tail end, and is of the same series as the CFNR business car Apekunny Mountain. It is that car, that I want to model. As a taster, here is the CFNR car prototype.    My model still has the streamline skirting, it doesn't have the rooflight, and the window arrangement is different, so I will  need to scratchbuild / kitbash a lot of things. Also the trucks aren't that great, but they'll do until I find suitable replacements.  Stay tuned, but forgive me if I go and sit in the garden with a nice cold beer for a while, this could just be the only bit of summer we'll have this year...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blog changes

For a while now, I was wondering why my visitor counter isn't working anymore, and just realised that Blogger has made some changes. While this site was registered as a dot com, surfing to it now changes it automatically to blogger dot co dot uk. I think that due to that, the counter doesn't work properly anymore.
Anoying as I liked it to see how much traffic I get. There is an option in my account settings to see the same, but that means  logging in etc, a few extra steps... the price of progress?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


As promised, here's the loco in question. Suprisingly, it also came equiped with an NCE DCC decoder, which I didn't know when bidding. Bonus indeed. I will in time sound equip this loco, but for now it can go straight into service.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


A great loco for a smaller layout are the SW or MP series switchers by EMD. I own a SW1200, which for my era is probably a little bit too old, although modeling licence means I can probably get away with it, as one of the last suvivors perhaps, afterall, it's currently painted in a freelance scheme anyway.  However, I wanted something a little newer, and SP. So I stumbled upon an SW1500 in SP scarlet and grey this morning, on Ebay, with only 5 hours to go and no bids. I decided to go for it, expecting some last minute bid, but no, I was lucky, and 5 hours later no additional bids were made, I am the sole bidder, and managed to grab myself a nearly new Athearn RTR SW1500. I think the Athearn model is quite decent, and with a little bit of detailing can be made into a very nice one. Here's a photo (courtesy of Athearn) of the roadnumber I won.
Once it is in, I'll inspect it, and might just make another picture of it to post here.
Seems like my new cars will have a loco to haul it soon. 

Picture time

Here's some pics, as promised, one of the Genesis Caboose, the other showing the caboose, with the two new hoppers, and the well cars in the background, at Napa Valley yard. Part of my unfinished CFNR SD9 and the CFNR loco shop can be seen in the background. Click on a pic to view a larger version.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stock fillers

As I kind of restarted in this hobby a couple of years ago, I barely had any relatively modern stock, matching the era which I model currently.
Also,  while I love the detail of the models like those of Athearn Genesis or Exact-rail etc., it is going to be expensive to collect a reasonable fleet.
Therefore I look on eBay for second hand items and also buy some from the ready to run ranges to fill in my roster. The detail of the RTR ranges might not be on a par with the more expensive offerings, but they will blend in nicely in a train, and can also handle a few more bumps. They're also ideal to try out weathering techniques before you take your airbrush/powders etc to a more expensive model.
So on its way are a couple of Athearn RTR covered hoppers and a few well cars, my first intermodal cars. As luck would have it, my first caboose will ship with them so my car fleet will see a rapid growth soon. Pics will follow as soon as I can provide them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Athearn Genesis C50-7 caboose

Hi all,

you might recall that I ordered two SP cabooses, from the Athearn Genesis range.
I've noticed they are starting to ship, so I thought I'd contact my local retailer
to find out when they will become available on UK shores. Turns out, the
shipping dates of some of them have slipped, while others have no shipping dates
at all anymore , including both road numbers I ordered. They did offer a
substitute number for one of the two I ordered, so I accepted that.
So here's there message: "We have had both versions
(lighted/non-lighted) delivered of two types only. The versions you have
ordered, together with the other versions not delivered, have lost their
production date.
At this stage we can offer you ATH-G63307 instead of ATH-G63308 should
production be delayed/cancelled of the ones you have ordered."

So if you're wondering where you're caboose is, I'd suggest to contact your dealer
and see what they can offer you instead.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Exactrail goes direct

Currently I do not know what the impact is on the availability of ExactRail products outside the US due to  the following announcement from them, but my initial feeling is not very positive, I hope I am wrong:

As of May 1, 2012, ExactRail will no longer offer a dealer discount and will discontinue our dealer network. Cost of production has increased considerably for ExactRail over the last two years. We have absorbed most of these increases through our margins, however this is not a supportable model for our business. Our conclusion is that we can keep prices reasonable by serving you directly. We believe we can both benefit from having direct interaction.
The future of ExactRail is bright with many exciting and innovative new products coming soon. Over the past year we have been busier than ever in new product development, the quality and authenticity of our products will exceed anything that ExactRail has released to date. You have a lot to look forward to from ExactRail.
Keep an eye on and our Facebook page for some exciting upcoming announcements!
Happy Railroading,
The ExactRail Team

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Railroading in the Wild West

I recently got the book 'Railroading in the Wild West'.  It is written by John Vaughan, from the UK. It has been out now for a while. It is not often that you find a non US author writing a book about US railroads.
That said, this book is not so much to read, but to look at. It's 196 pages contain over 200 photo's, and it can therefore best be described as a photo album, and each photo has interesting captions. It shows of the way US railroading was from the what I call 'second transition era'in the 1980's up until the late 90's early 2000's, where many large railroads were heavily investing in new generation diesels, and a lot of mergers were on the cards or happening. This, all set in the dramatic scenery of the western USA and Canada.
There are some fantastic pictures, that make for great 'arm chair rail fanning', and the scenery is sometimes breath taking, and should provide ample inspiration for model railroaders. If I had any comments, I would have hoped the book to be using larger page sizes, and would have shown a little more Southern Pacific content. Many photographs show Union Pacific or Santa Fe/BNSF in action. Nonetheless, I recommend you get this.
Do shop around, I bought mine for less than £15,- new from Amazon, but there are also copies that sell for over £40,- which I believe is too much.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sometimes I don't like this hobby

Particularly if manufacturers start to send me messages that they're announcing this that or the other, and the items they offer are all things I'd like to have.
Case in point is Athearn's latest newsletter, announcing Southern Pacific GP9R locomotives, in their Genesis range. If the recent (2nd release) GP9's are anything to go by these should be beautiful, however they seem to be shipping very close to the release date of the GP38-2, of which I ordered two. I can't afford it all, so I will have to let these GP9R's slip for now, hoping for a future release.
Another reason why I don't like it is that I've got two GP9's by Proto 2000, for which I've purchased additional detail parts, and am about to go and strip those and turn them into SP GP9R's in the next few months..... Looks like Athearn will be shipping theirs even before I've got mine done...

Sometimes, I don't like this hobby.    ;-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exeter modular meet

Oh dear, it's nearly mid March and I haven't posted a single thing yet... sorry! Here goes, a while back I reported on building a few modules according to the new NMRA-BR standards. Mine are not ready yet (far from actually), but some of my fellow NMRA-BR members have , and recently a modular meet in Exeter UK was held, partly to test the new modules build by various members, and have some fun operating. The below video , made by Mike Ruby, shows the results.  There's a longer version available of the same meet, with more switching action.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I run my layout in DCC using a cheap(er) way , I initially couldn't afford a 'proper' system, and at present don't really see the need of it.  I've been using a £45,- SPROGII, USB interface, which is controlling the layout via an old PC, and the free JMRI software.
One drawback was that the original SPROGII can only handle up to 1A current.  It was originally designed as a programmer only, but JMRI's flexibility meant that throttles can be used (including wireless ones running on iPods and iPhones)  and you can run a few trains, but the current limit is a factor, particularly with sound equipped locos.  This limit has now been eradicated by the release of two new products: 1st is the SPROG3, identical in most part to the SPROGII, but the current limit has now increased to 2.5A. (of course you need a powersupply that can handle that).  Second is the SBoost, a boost module that can be used as a booster for a SPROGII, increasing it's current to 2.5A, and it can also be used as an autoreverser. Multiple SBOOST can also be used to power separate power districts, as long as your powersupply(or supplies) can handle the total power.  Both the SBOOST and SPROG3 cost £60,- and are shipping now.   More info at  I should clarify that the original SPROGII is also still available at the price of £45,- .