George Sellios’ F&SM railroad will remain one of my all-time favourite railroads. George has recently retired from manufacturing F&SM kits in order to maintain the F&SM as well as pursue other interests. I recently discovered an excellent F&SM video. Enjoy!

bst2tled-14_jpgGary Courtemanche’s Blood Sweat & Tears (BS&T) is a freelance branch line set in the 1930’s and portrays several eastern locals. This layout was dismantled several years ago, but the website lived on.  Due to some domain and hosting confusion the site has been offline for almost a year, but we’re happy to share that we’ve been able to recover all of BS&T files, and we are now hosting the website under our domain at Take a look!


It’s been a while since my last post – life is good, but VERY busy!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been struggling with roads – I didn’t want them to appear as an afterthought. In many cases, roads seem to be ‘eyeballed’ into place with little regard for the landscape topography, and are oftentimes  given a lesser purpose then they deserve. I’ve decided to build the WGR’s roads much like you might lay track, building the shoulders and hardtop first, and then defining the scenery around them.

I decided to use foamcore as my road-base as it would elevate the road three scale feet and allow me to build properly sloping shoulders. I was surprised to find that after factoring in shoulders, lane widths etc., that roadways are much wider then imagined. I’m modeling a 2-lane highway and the width is equal to many 4-lane models!

After securing the foamcore to the baseboard with hot glue, I filled in all the seams with successive light coats of drywall mud (spackle) – sanding between coats. You need to be careful when sanding as you risk ‘pilling’ the paper surface of the foamcore.

Once the spackle had dried I built up the shoulders around the road using white sanded grout. I’ve never used grout as a scenery material before and I’m already thinking I should have used a coloured grout as I risk churning up white dust if I need to drill through the shoulders. That being said, I’m quite pleased how the results turned out. The texture is a little course for gravel shoulders, but I’d rather have the texture too course than too fine. As well, a few coats of paint should help smooth the surface somewhat.

I’m interested in using grout more throughout the layout as it allows you to work slowly and creates a fairly hard surface – albeit somewhat brittle. I’m not convinced that it adhered well to the foam, but the addition of some adhesive to the mix may remedy this.





St. Jacobs Model Train Exhibit

We recently took a day-trip to St. Jacobs Ontario, Canada for a much needed mid-day distraction. St. Jacobs is a beautiful tourist destination boasting a huge farmer’s market, an array of specialty shops, heritage buildings and sweeping farmland.

Tucked away on the fourth floor of ‘The Mill’ is the St. Jacobs Model Train Exhibit – a faithfully reproduced kid-friendly model railway depicting the St. Jacobs area in HO scale. Trains navigate the St. Jacobs countryside via the simple double-oval route and are controlled by an automated timer. The layout is quite large at over 25 feet long and 5+ feet deep. Beautifully modeled and geographically precise, the layout boasts highly detailed urban and rural settings, waterfalls, rivers and mountains.

The St. Jacobs Model Train Exhibit also boasts a collection of model railway equipment in an array of scales, a small historical museum, interactive exhibits and videos.

The St. Jacobs Model Train Exhibit is a excellent tribute to the St. Jacobs area, and a fantastic family destination.

new_overpassProgress on the WGR has been noticbly slow as late – life has a tendency of getting in the way of our hobbies.

I finally found a bit of time to finish the concrete overpasses. They needed a little filling, sanding and several coats of paint. I lightly weathered them with my airbrush as well as successive washes of diluted India ink. Most of the details I added aren’t visible – such as the ribbed beams on the underside of the deck – but I know they’re there, and they made the building process more interesting.

Truth be told, progress has been slow because I can’t seem to figure out how I want to approach road construction. Roads seem to be a afterthought on many layouts I’ve seen – snaking around the landscape contours on impossible grades with little attention to detail. (I did the same thing on the NES.)  One of my goals is to improve my modeling skills, so I’ve challenged myself to do a better job of roads and I’m still not clear how what process I’m going to use. (I’m far more interested in sprinkling some ground foam and planting some trees!)



102I’m not in the habit of reviewing publications or products, but I thought it would be worthwhile to offer a positive look at Model Railroaders latest publication, 102 Realistic Track Plans.

I have a first printing of the original 101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders and have thumbed through its pages many times. It is one of my favorite references as it offers a diverse assortment of track plans and varied themes. That being said the plans are somewhat dated, and tend to favor spaghetti-bowl track arrangements.

102 Realistic Track Plans does a great job of picking up where 101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders left off, offering an updated approach to layout design.

The designs are generally more prototypical, with a concentrated focus on operations. Likewise the plans seem to have a more reasonable scope – even the largest plans seem modest in comparison to previous offerings. I also thought there was more options for would-be track planners as many of the larger plans were composed from reasonably-sized, smaller parts. Those people looking to design a smaller layout will still find a wealth of ideas in even the large plans.

My only disappointment with this publication is that it offered nothing ‘new’. Composed of plans taken from the pages of Model Railroader over the last decade, all of the designs were borrowed from past articles and project layouts. If you’ve been a loyal follower of Model Railroader there is nothing new to see here.

In closing, I’d recommend 102 Realistic Track Plans as a handy resource. The illustrations are top-notch and the plans are excellent. I’d much rather spend $10 to have a collection of plans as a single resource, then thumb through 102 magazines.

Despite best efforts, its been a struggle to get to the basement to ‘play’ with trains. With the holidays upon us, all trips to the train room are to retrieve lights or hide presents. Despite this, I did manage to retrieve two more videos of the WHRC that I had forgotten about.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

I’m going to be spending some time tidying up the site. This site has been online for over 2 years now and have officially published 112 articles! During that time I’ve found that there are things that have become redundant and others items that are becoming increasingly important.

One of the more ‘major’ additions I made to the is a ‘sitemap‘. This sitemap has replaced the ‘Links’ page. I’ve also removed the blogroll from the site.

I’m going to be reworking these link sections. There are far better ways to include links to my favorite sites – and/or articles – without having to create stagnant link lists.

Being a Google Reader and Twitter fan, it only makes sense that I include features native to these popular applications.

Stay tuned.

Woodland Scenic’s roadbed is too wide.

For the past year I’ve been staring at the rails on the NES, and now the WGR, trying to figure out why the track seems so crude and toy like. Originally I presumed it was because of rail size – having used code 80 on the NES. I changed rail for the WGR and the code 55 rail does make a difference, however the track still seemed to stick out like a sore thumb.

It wasn’t until I starting asking others for their opinion that someone finally pulled out a ruler and rendered a verdict. Woodland Scenic’s roadbed is between 2 and 4 scale feet too wide!

Next time you are near a level crossing, take a look at the rail, ties and roadbed and what you’ll likely notice is that the ballast falls away on a 2:1 slope just after the edge of the ties. If you compare that to the WS offering, it becomes apparent that the roadbed makes for a better 2 lane highway then track bed.

I want to make it very clear that I’m NOT trying to get too hung up on frivolous details. The WGR is not a mainline railroad, so the track should look less maintained. The same was true of the NES, however despite my best efforts, the track looked heavily traveled – due in part to the over sized roadbed.

I decided to trim the roadbed, drawing a large utility knife along the edge of the ties on a slight angle. I wasn’t too worried about getting the angle ‘just right’ as I assumed that the ballast would fall naturally and create the appropriate grading.

I trimmed a few inches of roadbed on one of the siding and added some ballast.  I’m happy with the result. What do you think? Worth the effort?


Having successfully overcome the “cheap turnout control” problem, finding a solution for the “cheap electrics” problem was a snap. I decided that rather then bother purchasing toggle switches to control my electric blocks, I would use regular household switches instead.

My house is very old, and in an attempt to preserve some sense of history we’ve tried our best to ‘back-date’ modern inclusions as best we can. Once decision we made early in our renovation efforts was to keep all the switches ‘bake-o-lite brown’ – thus I had a number of brown switches on hand. The dark switches will blend in nicely with the future fascia.

The plus side of the switches is cost – roughly $1.50 each. The boxes, switches and the faceplate cost under $10. As well, they are fantastically durable.

Anyway, not a particularly revolutionary idea, but an interesting (and frugal) alternative to conventional practice


When I built the Niagara Escarpment System (my first N scale layout) I rushed the track and regretted the decision later. I didn’t bother to do a very satisfactory job weathering the rails – opting to give everything a quick spray of paint before ballasting.

I had been more concerned with the colour of the ties and overlooked the rails. The result was shiny rails that looked bigger then they really were – they stuck out like a sore thumb.

This time around I promised myself I would do a better job. The real kicker is that weathering rails is really simple, and only took a small part of an evening. A negligible effort for maximum result.

Weathering Rails:

I dampened a paper towel with a bit of ‘3 in 1’ oil, and gave the tops of the rails a quick wipe – only barely applying a kiss of oil. The oil acts as a resist and prevents the water-based paint from sticking to the rail heads.

The first colour I applied was a dirty black – black mixed with a bit of tan. I used inexpensive craft store paints dilluted with water. The first coat of paint is intended to paint the sides of the rails, thus, you need ensure that the airbrush is aimed at a low angle just above the roadbed.

Once the first coat of paint had dried, I applied alternating coats of grey, tan and brown paint directly above the rails in order to avoid painting rail sides. This coat of paint is intended to weather the ties, so I applied the colours in a random fashion with varying intensities, until I had achieved a look I was satisfied with.

Once the paint had again dried, I gently polished the rail heads with a clean paper towel – the paint rubbed away from the railheads effortlessly – thanks to the ‘3 in 1’ oil applied earlier.

As you can see in this image, the shine of the rails has been reduced signifigantly, and the colours are muted and will hopefully blend with the ballast well. The different colours used on the ties/rails are evident in the overspray.

Here are some more videos of the WHRC in action. I’ve also updated the earlier post to include preview images of the videos.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

One would think that a simple railroad like the WGR would be easy to wire – and I suppose it has been ‘easy’ job, but it certainly hasn’t been a small job! Until I actually started soldering I hadn’t taken into account how much wiring I would need to do in order to wire each frog as well as isolate each spur. It has been more then I estimated.

That being said, the job has been fairly straightforward and I’ve spent the last week leisurely completing each section. I wired the Atlas code 55 turnouts as per the manufacturers instructions – using the hidden slide switch designed to control the turnouts to power the frogs. I also isolated each spur on the pike by cutting the rails using a cutting wheel on my Dremel tool. I think I will use common light switches to control the different electrical blocks; the cost of half a dozen light switches, mounting box and face plate is worth the same as a single toggle switch from Radio Shack. I’ve seen them used once before and they looked very handsome.

I didn’t bother to create separate cabs as I won’t be running multiple consists. Naturally, I could have simplified this entire process by having simply gone to DCC…

Next steps: Once the wiring is complete, I need to weather the track, install the bridges as well as the fascia. Once that is done I’ll be able to turn my attention to scenery.

The WGR is progressing slowly – and that which is being done isn’t really worth a feature here. In an effort to maintain some sort of publishing regime, I’m going to start uploading a series of videos of the Windsor Hantsport Railway Company.

I want to extend a huge thank you to Kim “Grizzz” Little – an operator on the WHRC for sharing these videos with me. Grizzz is a class act, and I’d like to consider him a friend.


Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Progress has been steady and I’ve completed the basic structure for the first bridge.  As mentioned, I’m attempting to pay better attention to non-train details – thus I’ve put a little more thought into this simple bridge then I would have in the past.

I’ve decided to freelance the bridge design based on local examples, as I haven’t any references for the ‘real’ bridge.  Likewise, I’m not interested in building retaining walls brick by brick, so I’ve opted to model poured cement.

The deck and stringers for the bridge were built using styrene.  I included all the stringers for prosperity’s sake, but didn’t worry about adding any details.  As for the retaining walls, I decided to use balsa wood.  While balsa does have a wood-grain texture that requires sanding, its bulkier dimensions simplifies the wall building process.

I built the wall off-site on a scrap piece of foam – affixing each of the walls to a sheet of paper taped to to the surface. I then braced the walls with some scrap balsa, again gluing everything to the paper base. I also reinforced each of the seams on the wall with bits of paper.

This technique is surprisingly strong, and once the glue had dried I was able to cut around the base of  the walls without effecting their placement.

I did a quick test fit and everything looks good. I’ll need to bring the landscape out to meet the bridge, and I still need to finish wiring the track.  I believe that I’ll apply several coats of paint and putty to the retaining walls to remove the ‘wood look’.

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