Newbie Questions

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by meo1960, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. meo1960

    meo1960 New Member

    - Been mostly reading and learning the past 3 months which has given rise to many questions. I'll list em here. Some preliminary info. I'm modeling/copying the Central Midland layout from the Atlas #13 catalog. It is an "L" shape, 5' widths with sides of 12' by 10'. I'm in the process of building the 1"x4" pine "open grid" table consisting of 15" cells. Table will be all sealed(stained and varathaned). Top part painted an earthy color.

    - Would you recommend joining the NMRA? My local Hobby shop guy thinks everyone should be a member. What are the benefits to being a member, if any. tks...

    - Which Magazine would be best to subscribe to. I'm using HO scale and my main goal is REALISM over cost(albeit, cannot totally ignore cost. Leaning towards 2 right now. Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman, but I'm open to the voice of experience :wave:. I'm using this link(Galleries &) Higher cost just means it will take me longer to acquire it(train stuff)), which makes this a very long term project for me(but I love the process as much as the finished product). I wouldn't even mind getting older issues or previous months issues if that would save me any money. Just as an example, I'm going with the Proto:87 Track as I thought that looked the nicest of any I've seen. Plus I'm handlaying which naturally takes more time.(I have plenty of time and not so much money :twisted:)

    - I've read many posts about track buckling but never read 1 post about cutting the ends of the rails on an angle so they kinda slide by each other. I know that 1 club in my area does this(IIT) and I plan on going to see their layout this Friday. Anyone have any experience with cutting the ends of the rails on a sharp angle to eliminate buckling?

    - Does DCC eliminate all need for Isolation or are there track configurations that still require it even if your using DCC? Any recommendations for a DCC system? Al's hobbies(in my area) uses Digitrax and it looked pretty nice. I'd like my track to support both DCC and non DCC engines.

    In closing, I love this forum as I have found many great ideas here. tks...
  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    You still need gaps/insulating joiners to prevent shorts.
  3. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    Dear Meo 916,
    Glad to see your approach into this exciting hobby. You are asking all the right questions, and what you should take home are the answers that are right for you.

    I don't subscribe to either RMC or MR anymore, but it was of benefit when I was just starting out. Trouble is that magazines take up real estate and not much use later on, except to reminisce. Besides, I find that most magazines (not just model trains) are made up of the same tiring ads every month and it becomes boring paging through looking for something interesting to read.

    I am not a member of NMRA, but I do understand the importance of what they do, which is creating standards so that products from one manufacturer will interchange with products of another. I never cared for the NMRA coupler, but it achieved its goal.

    If I can offer some advice, I would recommend that you attend some local model train shows and swap meets. You will find local clubs you might want to join and the members are always willing to help in anyway they can. Even if you don't join, you will get a lot of help from the members by just asking. Further, the swap meets provide an opportunity to find that rare piece and negotiate a good price. Trust me I have found model kits that are over fifty years old and it is a real treat to put them together. It takes a little more craftsmanship, but that is where the 'pride' end of the hobby begins.

    With respect to mitred track joints, I wouldn't bother. Rail expansion is not a serious enough issue with a layout that size. If fact, there has been recent discussion in the forum over soldered track joints.

    Wishing you miles of smiles.

  4. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Good questions. As far as magazines are concerned I've subscribed to both MR and RMC from time to time but now only buy one when I'm interested in enough of the content of an individual issue. Sometimes I find great stuff, other times I've seen it before.

    I haven't heard of the angle cut on rails to prevent buckling. Interesting. Makes me wonder if one rail might ride up above the other though if there was some warping of roadbed. I've avoided warpage and buckling by sealing my homasote roadbed with latex paint on all sides and by ballasting my track.

    I admire your interest in prototypic realism and your ambition in handlaying track!
    Best wishes!
  5. rhtastro

    rhtastro Member

    Hi Meo, since you are already on the web, google "Kalmbach books" and go to "model railroading books" and you will get a site that will have a bunch of really good "How To" books. Most are written by the same folks who write for those train magazines. You can order them right from Kalmback online. Select what you want from the titles and I guarantee you'll get more info than any one person on this forum can give you. Study those carefully before starting a display and you won't be disappointed. They will help you to stay away from many pitfalls and blind alleys. Do the research before you start. Best of luck, Bob
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The NMRA is a good organization with lots of information. Their data sheet binder (or is it now a CD?) alone is worth the price of a membership.
    I buy all sorts of magazines. I think part of my hobby is collecting magazines.
    DCC requires insulating gaps at all-rail switches and in reverse loops and wyes. You need to buy a module for the reverse loop, but once it's installed you don't have to think about it again.
    Proto87 track requires Proto87 wheels as it's the nearly to scale stuff. Standard wheel flanges won't like the spacing at frogs and guard rails.
    I don't usually have problems with rails buckling. I try to have small gaps every so often at the rail joiners. I did have an interesting experience where I have a bridge across the fireplace and the track is just laid on the bridge deck, not fastened down. My wife put on the electric fire and the flextrack in the middle of the bridge rose about a half inch. (in about 54")
  7. meo1960

    meo1960 New Member

    Thanks for that site. Hadn't seen it before and thats why I love this forum. Learning new things constantly.
  8. meo1960

    meo1960 New Member

    Proto87 wheels aye. Wasn't aware of that. Thanks for the tip and I guess I would put that in the negative column for Proto87. Although I want realism, I also want functionality. I don't want to be restricted to certain items. As I said in my original post(in another thread), I want DCC, but I also want to be able to run normal engines on the track. Just tells me that I need to remain in research mode before I make the big investment. Thanks.
  9. meo1960

    meo1960 New Member

    I hope I can explain this clearly. The angle is not from the top to the bottom of the rail. If that were the case, 1 set of rails would "ride up" over the other set. No, It is an angle cut that runs from 1 side of the rail to the other. This way the top of the rails remain at the same height but the thickness of the rails would change(kinda like 2 shims act when you change the amount they overlap) depending on the amount of expansion or contraction. As I said, I'm not exactly sure how this works and I plan on checking out the IIT club setup tonight to get an up close and personal. My only concern would be on extreme contraction. This is really hard to explain without a graphic but taking into account the direction of the train, I would cut the rails so that sharpest point would be on the inside of the rail so that the sharp rail points would not "poke" or catch on the train wheels. I would fix this end of the rails to the roadbed so it would not move. The adjoining set of rails would "slide" against the fixed rails, but always remaining in contact with the fixed rails. However, if the sliding rails expanded too far, would they be so out of gauge(too wide) as to cause derailments? Not if I alternate my bevel cuts, but then I would risk a sharp rail point "picking" at 1 side of my trian wheels(The only thing I can think that you would be familiar with are the points of a turnout. I've read people having a similar type problem with certain turnouts)

    I suspect that the problem of contraction/expansion is not that bad and over a 36" stretch of HO track, I wouldn't expect more than 1/16" tops. I say 36" because that is how often I would "bevel" the rails.
    I've read the posts about the wood expanding/contracting more than the rails but I am taking this into account by allowing my foam(which is not as susceptible to humidity as the wood) to "float" on my pine open-grid system, only connecting it so it doesn't pull away from the table but allowing it to move laterally. The track would be glued to a roadbed which is glued to foam, which floats on top of the table. Floats is a loose word making it sound very flimsy. Actually the foam will be more snug than floating, but small movements between the foam and the table will be designed into the system. That way, if the pine expands or contracts, I am isolated from that by allowing my foam to "float" on the table. What I am doing, in fact, many here would consider "overkill" but being on disability, I have plenty of time (and not so much money) to do things to the best of my ability. Sorry so long but as you can tell, I struggle to describe this clearly.

    I am still researching this stuff so nothing set in stone yet. Appreciate all your feedback.
  10. meo1960

    meo1960 New Member

    I just went to a train show in my area last weekend. Up in Wheaton, IL. My first one, it turned out to be a swap meet more than anything, but I did meet 2/3 very cool people. I met the creator of "Magic Water", Dave Williams and a couple out of St. Louis named Bill & Lois Hall. Dave had a great display showing the differences between his water product, "Magic Water" and 3 others. He really does have the best product and he demonstrates why. The other couple Bill & Lois Hall specialize in structures and I tell you what, Bill has an AMAZING talent. What he can do with them cheap ole plastic structures is simply Outstanding. Totally changed my mind on which structures to buy. Let me tell you, they don't look plastic when Bill gets done with em. Before I saw Bills stuff, I liked Bar Mills, Campbells and FOY's, but, as I understand it, these are all pricey, unfinished structures. Not only would I have to assemble them, but then I would have to try to weather them(That really intimidates me as I've never been an artsy kind of guy). They got nothing on Bill and I can buy his completed structures for much less than the box of unfinished wood that I would get from one of the afore mentioned companies. I do, in fact, want to eventually try to test my skills at one of them craftsman kits, but it's nice to know that there are artists like Bill Hall out there for engineer types like me with no artistic ability. They told me about a really good Train show coming up in Wisc. called Trainfest. Anyway, I plan on checking that out. All the different aspects of this hobby should keep me busy for a few decades bounce7. Thanks for the response.
  11. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Benefits are: supporting the hobby, access to the NMRA library for research, Scale Rails magazine has ideas typically from more advanced modelers, ability to attend regional and national meets and shows. Meets and shows have model building contests and modular layout setups.

    Drawbacks are: dues, some regions get involved in "club politics" too much for my taste.

    If you are handlaying track, you probably won't get your money's worth out of Model Railroader. Model Railroader tends to cater more to beginners and the RTR crowd. That said, it used to be my favorite, and I still subscribe. RMC targets model building more, but I've never subscribed. I just bought issues that were of particular interest. Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette is my current favorite. Of course, I prefer narrow gauge and/or standard gauge short lines.

    I took up handlaying track for exactly the same reason - had to reduce my hobby cost per hour. PROTO:87 STORES AND ACCURATE MODEL RAILROAD TRACK sells supplies for constructing and detailing both P87 and NMRA spec-track. Advantage of P87 is gorgeous looking track and wheels. Disadvantage of P87 (and advantage to NMRA specs) is all rolling stock has to be equipped with P87 wheels. A reasonable task for a smaller layout with diesels; P87 wheels are available from NWSL. Finding and fitting P87 drivers for a steamer is a whole 'nother story, and is what has kept me from going P87 (I still might yet!)

    The issue with this solution is ensuring the inner rail does not narrow the track gauge below spec. Unless you are building your layout in an unheated and non-air conditioned garage, track buckling is not that common a problem. Most folks get away with soldering rail joints on curves, and leaving 1/32" expansion gaps at joints on straight track.

    If you are going to run both DC and DCC on the same layout, you need to wire for DC. Then you can run one system or the other (recommended NOT both at the same time), with DCC subsituting for a DC throttle. The problem is changing the locomotives when you switch from DC to DCC or vice versa. Most newer (but not all) DCC locomotives can run on either DCC or DC. Some DCC systems allow one DC locomotive to run under DCC control, but the locomotive cannot be allowed to stand still with power on the track. Confusing? Yes, but it must be gotten right to avoid fried decoders and/or motors. For these reasons, most folks very quickly give up switching back and forth, and just run in DC or DCC all the time.

    my thoughts, your choices
  12. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    i woul suggest your lhs as as a place to meet other modelrrers. get to know them and pick thier btains theywon't mind as all model rrers I know are eager to help and they can give hands on help.find out if anyonr in you area has opereting sessions that woul help educate you,
  13. TCH

    TCH Member

    I don`t think expansion will be as big a problem as you seem to think it will be.

    however if you want to slide the rails it would probably be better to make it like a halved joint and not at an angle.

    tried to attach a small drawing without success

  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have belonged to the NMRA for quite a few years. Recently the modular club went to the 100% membership mode in order to take advantage of the NMRA's insurance program for 100% member clubs. A couple of years ago when they offered the option of joining without taking the Scale Rails magazine, I opted out of the magazine because I found it pretty much a waste of time. This year I received a copy of Scale Rails with the election information included and was I ever amazed! Steven and Cynthia Priest have taken responsibility to publish Scale Rails for the NMRA, and the improvement is tremendous. I would strongly reccomend joining the NMRA as well as paying the extra $1.00 per month for the Scale Rails magazine.

    As far as what other magazines to subscribe to, it would largely depend on your interest. MR is a good mag for beginners. RMC has a lot for beginners as well as experienced modelers. The other magazines are robably better for experienced modelers in that a lot of the articles contained in them will be focussed more on someone who has been in the hobby a while. There are also magazines focussed on more specialized areas like logging and mining or narrow gauge, or even scale specific like N-Scale or O Gauge magazines. Right now I don't subscribe to any national mags other than Scale Rails. I model the Santa Fe, and found the national magazines by their nature have to focus on general railroading in North America so they just don't give me a lot of Santa Fe prototype information. I belong to the Santa Fe Historical & Modelers Society and find much more value for my modeling interests in the quarterly "Warbonnet" magazine.

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