My 2018 Model Railroad Year in Review

Whew, what a year it has been in 2018 for my hobby. I have a layout under construction!! Since I last wrote a year in review post at the end of 2017, it’s been a whirlwind. We bought our first house, moved, I finalized the layout plan for The Liberty Village Line, and about 85% of the benchwork is in place (only the peninsula to go once track is up on the wrap around the walls). 2019 promises a lot of excitement as track starts to get laid, and trains hopefully run, but in what has been an amazing year in the hobby, I’ve done a lot, and made a lot of progress, but haven’t finished many models compared to past years, but that’s OK all things considered. Did I mention I started construction on a layout?? A summary of my year is below, followed by some brief thoughts on things:

Projects Completed in 2018

Projects In Progress


  • Weathering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Soldering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Track Building – Didn’t do any.  Will need to in 2019

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores

  • Rapido Trains Royal Hudson – They are in production, and should arrive in 2019, I look forward to receiving mine and writing about it when I do.

So, with that high level summary of the “plan” (insofar as one can plan a hobby), a bit of a chat on what I did is below:

Completed Projects

Didn’t finish a lot, but damn proud of the ones I did finish. A personal interest model of a place I loved to go before it was demolished (Bar Volo), a new workbench in our first home, and a freight load for the layout just because.

Finished Projects! Always a good feeling!

Projects in Progress

As many things as are listed up there, there is really only one that matters, everything else really flows from that. The construction of my layout in our new home. I still don’t have as huge a pile of unbuilt freight car kits as some people do, but I’m up to 6 or 7 now. I’ll need to get organized and start building them once some track is laid on the layout as the rails will look empty with the limited amount of freight cars I have for the layout at the moment.

Layout in many steps, lumber, to building with friends, to backdrop to checking templates to having a train run on it on temporarily set out flex track!

The other projects, finishing the BR Coach, working on the 3D print/design for the GO Coach, and the narrow gauge shelf were only peripherally worked on. The BR Coach will be done in January, I’m on the penultimate task now of installing window curtains before I apply the final decals for the first class and no smoking warnings to the windows, then it will be done.

Skill Building

This is a tough one, as every time you do something, you build the skills, but there are things I want to work and continue to get better at, like weathering freight cars so my models on the layout look better and more realistic. Same for track building and soldering. While a friend has generously offered to and is building my switches for the layout, I really do want to learn how, and will need to get so much better at soldering than I am to do the wiring on the layout.

Weathering and Wiring in action, two things I’ll get to do a lot more of in 2019!

So, that’s about it. I’ve tried to keep this years year in review short and sweet, not because it hasn’t been a good year, but because it’s just easier to be short and sweet to collect things and link back to stuff I’ve already written. All the best to you and yours, have a wonderful New Years Eve, and happy modelling in 2019!!


Lynton & Barnstaple Railway “Taw”

I love it when a new purchase arrives, in this case, its a new purchase that I’ve been waiting on for almost two years. Such is the way of things with the Model Railroad Industry and Pre-orders nowadays, you order then wait what feels like forever to actually pay and receive it. Though this model was in some ways, extra cursed. I placed my order January 20, 2017, so almost two years ago, and after an initial delivery from the factory in China to Denmark where Heljan is based, some making it to market in the UK where the prototype is, and being panned with failing motion and a variety of problems, they were sent back and heavily modified at the factory and re-shipped. Fortunately for me, my order didn’t ship the first time they were delivered, by the time the version I’d ordered was arriving, it was abundantly clear that the whole batch needed to be recalled and reworked.

The locomotive I am talking about, is Heljan’s “Lynton & Barnstaple Railway” Manning Wardell 2-6-2T in OO9 (British Narrow Gauge). I don’t model the L&B, but at some point I was exposed to it (and the efforts to re-open the line and rebuild the locomotives which were all scrapped), and thought its a cool prototype. In later years, it had become part of the Southern Railway, and there was a cross platform connection at Barnstaple Town between the narrow gauge and standard gauge. I have thought for a long time this would make a cool diorama/cameo layout, and had bought some apropriate Southern Railway OO Gauge models, but never had access to any Narrow Gauge, and kits were out of my budget/skillset. When Heljan announced they were doing it as ready to run, it was around the same time Bachmann was releasing Skarloey in their Thomas line, which I bought and re-detailed back into the locomotive Skarloey is based on and which Bachmann 3D scanned, Talyllyn.

So, after all the missteps and waiting, my model of Taw, one of the three original locomotives finally arrived on December 23rd, and through being out of town, Christmas and work, I finally picked it up this weekend. My afternoon today was spent unboxing, checking it out, looking to see if it looked ok, and then running it for about half an hour forwards and backwards and with/without coaches to see if any problems exposed themselves.

IMGP0945RawConvNothing like a present to yourself at Christmas Time, then again, It has been on order so long it’s already missed being a Christmas Present once before and two birthdays!

As it is, even the new version has apparently had some of the same issues based on the comments on RMWeb, a major UK model forum (worth checking out even if you aren’t into british trains and models, lots of discussions on technique, and an active North American section). So I’ve been awaiting the opening and running in with some trepidation, knowing this time it had been shipped to me, and getting dinged for $36 in tax and service charges by CBSA, means if it doesn’t work, it becomes a hassle in sending it back for warranty repairs or replacement.

So, in narrow gauge, the couple of models I have are effectively display pieces. I am allegedly building a mini layout/shelf display for them (I say allegedly as I haven’t touched it in months).

My L&B “Taw”, in its later Southern Railway Paint as No.761. Looks gorgeous out of the box, but how will it run?

Turns out, as far as I’m concerned, it ran perfectly. I have a loop of 12.25″ radius Bachmann EZ Track in N-Scale specifically for narrow gauge british (N Scale Track is the same width as OO9, very handy!) I put the loop of track out on the hardwood floor, and spent an enjoyable hour with the locomotive running around the circle both ways, pulling coaches and on its own to look and listen for problems. It ran smoothly, stayed on the rails, and no bits fell off. Given that most of this locomotives life will be spent in the display case, having nothing explode in an hour of test running, probably means I’m safe for the future on the rare occasions it gets an outing, it should be ok. If a manufacturing defect was to appear, based on what I’ve seen from others on the forum, it seems it would have done so in this early running in period.

Videos of the running in:

Yes, it was just like being a kid, the only place available to me to set up my loop of N-Scale/OO9 track was on the floor of the office/layout room. There is something to be said for sitting on the floor watching a model run around in circles somtimes!!

IMGP0964RawConvNothing says having fun with trains like a loop of track on your floor!!
OO9Display.pngTaw and Talyllyn in my display case. A pretty solid if small collection of Narrow Gauge Locomotives!

Another Saturday, and some more benchwork progress

IMG_6827Looking like a layout.

I haven’t actually done much in terms of actual work on layout building of late, that’s coming in 2019 when my friend finishes building switches, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been active at least working my way through layout building issues and things I need to do.

Having had some time to live with the benchwork, I’ve uncovered problems and opportunities to change my plan before I actually lay any track to hopefully wind up with a better layout at the end of the day.

IMG_6832The “West” or CNR Staging, puttering around with track alignment gauges and flex track in advance of laying track.

The past few weeks I’ve been playing with flex track on the traverser that is easier to work on for the west end of the layout. I figure once I’ve done the installation of track out here, it will be easier to replicate in the tighter closet for the east. The west staging will have four tracks, the east can accommodate 5 because of how the lead to the layout reaches it, but I’m leaning to only installing 4, I don’t need more for the size of my layout, and I don’t want to encourage myself to buy more rolling stock than I actually need!

The “east” or Canadian Pacific Staging area, the traverser was out so I could work, showing the finding of a replacement tail track board, and getting it in and foamed today.

With the discovery that I had to replace the closet shelf brackets, it meant I could have a proper tail track off the traverser for each track on the shelf. To do this, I had to take down the original piece that was cut around the old bracket, and install a new one. Fortunately, I had the perfectly sized piece of spare plywood from benchwork construction in the summer, and was able to carefully remove the existing piece, and use the screw holes in it as a guide to drill holes in the new piece so it lined up exactly the same. Success, the traverser still slides properly, so it was on to putting on the pink foam, and being back to where I was at the start of the day, ready to lay track!

And now, if you’re still reading, an apology, there hasn’t been any of my “Tuesday Train” railfan photo posts in December. I haven’t had time, and I’ve been remembering sometime during the day on Tuesday while I’m at work, my new job has many perks, but one of the things I can’t do at it is waste my time doing silly stuff like blogging about trains. I’m going to take the Rest of December off the Tuesday Train, and re-set and get ready to get back on with model making and layout building in 2019. I’ll have a year in review post as I’ve done the other years of this blog before January 1, but for now, I’m off to put my feet up and enjoy the rest of my Saturday evening.

IMG_20181205_1943160Sneak Peak of 2019 to come when the trackwork is done! Dan will have more to say about building the switches when he’s done them.

Saturday Nights all right for Layout Progress

Since my discovery last weekend that I had effectively blocked the CPR staging to the point that it wouldn’t function effectively with the existing closet shelf brackets, I’ve fixed that problem, and moved on with some actual layout building, working on the traversers, laying out elements, and my first mockup building.

Replacement shelf brackets in place, which give me the space to have a full set of tail tracks at both ends of the closet traverser. I have a piece of wood perfectly sized for the one end, I’ll need to get a piece cut for the other if I do want to add more tracks.

One big plus of the problem I discovered last week is that it means I get more staging and run around space in the closet. I don’t know if I will need it or not, but it won’t hurt to have it.  Two metal L brackets later, the storage shelf in the closet is supported, and the tracks are no longer fouled. I’ll need to carefully remove the foam from the one end in the closet to remove the wood and install the new piece, but I have an off-cut from the benchwork construction in August which is the perfect size for the staging in this area.

As I’d noted last weekend, I was using the new rotary cutter I bought to cut cork and foam. The traversers both now have their cork roadbed in place. It’s not glued down yet, no reason other than I hadn’t gotten around to it!

Two shots of the CNR Staging Traverser, now with cork roadbed in place. On the right you can see me mocking up the roads with EVA Foam, which will be the underlay to raise them almost to track height so I don’t have to use as much putty/plaster to create the roads.

I’m doing everything in nice slow stages. Build the benchwork, let it sit and settle a bit, put on the foam, let it sit and settle a bit. Lay the cork, let it sit and be sure before I glue it down. In a few weeks time once my friend is done building switches, then I’ll be motivated to start getting cork glued down so I can actually lay some track. Early 2019 is going to be fun with laying track and then figuring out wiring and DCC to run some trains! I want to have the track laid and wired and running flawlessly before I start any serious scenery work.

I debated back and forth about laying track directly onto the foam instead of using cork, but I decided I wanted to use the cork, as it will raise the track level, which means I can build “foundations” for the buildings that can be blended into the scenery. Liberty village was pretty flat, even between the tracks and the road, but between the cork/track and the EVA sheet raising the roads to basically rail level, it will give me the opportunity to fill the gaps with sculptamold/ground cover materials to create undulations and imperfections so that everything isn’t unrealistically washboard flat.

That said, while I’m not starting full on scenery, I am going to start working on mockups of the buildings for the layout to get a sense of size and scope of the work I have coming in building buildings, and to look for places where the buildings as I’ve envisioned them will block operations.

Brunswick Balke Collender takes shape, in cardboard mockup form. Depth makes such a difference, and quick mockups allow for making decisions before time is spent on finished buildings.

The Brunswick Balke Collender Co factory is going to be the first thing people see when they enter the room. I’ve had a printout of a drawing taped to the wall since the summer, but with starting to block out roads and such to see how/if things will work as planned, it seemed like a good time when I got a big piece of thin cardstock to make a mockup. Mockups are great, they are fast, make a layout look less empty, and let you look for things you’ll need to adjust in the finished model. For example, the main building will just be the south wall, set at an angle so that the east side has a bit of depth, and the west side will have non/minimal.  The boiler house, a separate building is going to need to be compressed to fit the space. It’s going to have its full width and height, but will be somewhere around 30% of its actual depth. My mockup is a bit too deep still, but its a lot cheaper and easier to find out my first estimate was too big in cardboard than styrene later.

As I move forward, I’m sure I’ll find lots more adjustments to buildings once the track is in place and I prepare the mockups, but that’s all part and parcel of the layout building experience.

Whoo-Hoo!! A Mistake in Layout Building

Well, not really in the building, more the designing, and certainly not one that can’t be overcome. I finally spent a couple of hours being semi-productive in the layout room on layout building, instead of working on other model projects or thinking about layout building. I spent my evening using a new tool (more on that in a minute) to cut cork roadbed and 1/4″ EVA PolyFoam Sheet (See here) which I am planning on using as the base of my roads to bring them almost to track level So I can then build the surface with my usual road material of choice, drywall compound.

So, on to my mistake.  I discovered that I haven’t left enough space in the closet staging for Track 2 to clear the shelf brackets that hold the closet shelf in place.  My measuring and estimating was wrong. I’m about 1/2″ short of the clearance I probably really should have. I need the shelf to stay for the storage it provides in the closet, but also need to have at least two working tracks on either end of the traverser for a locomotive to get off and let the traverser slide in and out for it to run around cars.

IMG_6686A diesel locomotive just clears, but the caboose smokestack and cupola foul the shelf bracket.

Once upon a time, this kind of discovery would have been met with a river of four letter words and anger. Tonight, it was met with an odd sense of relief that I’d finally found something I’d gotten wrong. The first phases of layout building have gone so well, that I’d found myself looking at the layout and wondering where I’d made a mistake that was going to cause me grief. I’m sure there are others out there to find as I inch closer to laying track and wiring and such, but this is one that is relatively easily fixed. I’ll need to get alternate brackets for the shelf, and install them, not a big deal, will take half an hour to fix once I get the right sized brackets. In the meantime I can keep fiddling around with track and such and getting ready to lay it on the traversers.  I could probably do that anytime, but I’m waiting until my friend Dan who is building my switches is done, So I can adjust alignments if needed before I commit to fastening any track in place.

As for the other part of my evening, my new tool.

IMG_6687A new tool, this may be my new favourite cutting tool!

A few weeks ago I used one of Michael’s regular string of 50% or 55% off a single item coupons to buy a hand-held rotary cutter. It was in with the leather and fabric working stuff, but it’s perfect for using with a long metal straight edge for cutting lengthy materials such as the cork or foam sheets I was trimming tonight. I’ve never gotten as nice and straight cuts as easily on large materials with any other knife I’ve owned.  With the coupon it was around $10 Canadian, an absolute steal now that I’ve used it!

Edit: The Rotary Cutter is sold under the “ArtMinds” by Michaels, as a leather cutter, packaging is below: