The home of The Rip Track podcast, disseminating information about model railroading and worldwide railroad history.

I'm working on an update to the site; check out the public beta at

  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_page::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 481.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_user::init() should be compatible with views_handler_field::init(&$view, $options) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/user/ on line 48.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_node_new_comments::pre_render() should be compatible with views_handler_field::pre_render($values) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/comment/ on line 95.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 770.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/ on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/riptrack/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/ on line 135.

I need your questions for a new project

Hi everyone! I'm working on a new project to create more content for the site, but I need your help. I want to make educational videos on railroad history and model railroading. The videos that I see out there are all pretty dry or all put some lousy music over the top of whatever they're trying to show. I think railroad history video can be a lot more interesting than what I've seen so far, and I think I can make it. I've created a YouTube channel where these videos will be uploaded, so please go subscribe there so you don't miss any of them.

When I start researching any content for the site, I always start with a question, and build the content from the answer to that question. The trouble is that the questions I come up with already require a certain amount of knowledge about the industry or about the hobby, so here's where you come in. I'm looking for the questions that you want answered about railroad history, technology, operations or model railroading, that will then serve as the basis for future content additions. Just to get you started thinking about it, some of the questions that I've come up with so far include:

A site update coming soon

I got a message from my web host this week that they are upgrading some of the software on the back end of my websites.  As I was checking my sites for compatibility with the update in their test area, I saw a few errors on this site and decided that now is as good a time as any to work on the update to this website.  I now have a test site up and running with most of this site's content migrated to it.  Check it out at

The updated site will allow me to simplify some of the site maintenance, and I've gone through a lot of my old content to better organize it (although the big parts of the content structure are the same).  I'm also opening up account creation and comments again on the new site.  I had closed it off because I was getting more than 40 login requests and comments every day from spammers and no comments from actual interested readers.  I don't expect that to change immediately, but the new site gives me a few more tools to deal with it.  If you had created a login on this site, please create one on the new site and we can continue the conversation there.

A chunk of the current content has not yet been migrated.  Thank you, I know what most of it is already.  I also plan to copy the comments that I've received already on this site, but they will likely become anonymous comments with the user names copied into the comment body.

Check out the new site and leave a comment or two there.  Also, please feel free to email me directly with your thoughts on this.


What is form 637?

Anyone who has spent time browsing around this site knows that I am also a philatelist (*ahem*, a stamp collector).  Earlier today I was at Tosapex, an annual stamp show held in West Allis, Wisconsin.  Compared to the model train shows I attend, this show was exceptionally small and quiet, but there was plenty of railroadiana available there, especially in the form of RPO covers and stamps that depict railroad subjects.

I was at this show to find more material for my March 4 collection (which I've blogged about separately), but while I was poking through one box of post cards, I found this one...

Illinois Central Gulf RR post card

The other side of the card looks like this:

Illinois Central Gulf RR post card

It's a shipment tracking card that was intended to be filled out by the shipper and then mailed to the railroad.  The lower part where it has "Initial" and "Number" are where the shipper would record the reporting marks and car numbers that held the shipment.  I did a quick search for more information about this card, but using the text "railroad form 637" proved less than productive.

Modeler's Moment - Another way to hang a helix

hanging a helix

It seems that helices are always tricky to set up on model railroads.  Every modeler seems to do it a different way.  This week, I was shown a method that I hadn't seen before.  The modeler used long bolts and strips of wood to hang the helix laps from the uppermost section of benchwork.  The advantage here, of course, is that the modeler didn't need to find a source for long threaded rods; the bolts he used are much easier to find in comparison.  However, this method still runs into the issue that there are a lot of places that need to be adjusted to get the helix grade right.

Podcast: Episode 15 - Barstow, Waupaca and Railsplitter 2012

Listen to episode 15

The observation end of the Grand Canyon Railroad train at the Grand CanyonIn this episode, we visit the Barstow Harvey House, the preserved Waupaca Depot, and do a quick recap of the 2012 MWR NMRA convention.

Podcast: Episode 14 - Announcements from Trainfest 2011

Listen to episode 14

Kids enjoying the Lionel layout at TrainfestYes, it has been a while, but it's time to get this podcast back on the mainline.  So here it is, the next podcast episode full of model railroad announcements from Trainfest 2011!

Today in history: November 8

Santa Fe and Southern Pacific trains meet at the Tehachapi Loop in the 1980sIn 1874, the Southern Pacific was building its line south from San Francisco through California's central valley.  Construction reached Bakersfield and work began on the line that would include the Tehachapi Loop on November 8, 1874.  The line is still one of the busiest mountain passes in California, and is now owned by Union Pacific Railroad.  In this view from the mid 1980s, we see part of a container car, and under it in the background, the head end of the train of which this container car is part and an opposing Southern Pacific freight at the Tehachapi Loop.

How to build it wrong - basic scratchbuilding and kitbashing techniques

So you've built a few structure kits and placed them on the layout. But what do you do when the structure you want on your layout isn't available commercially? Build it anyway. Often, you'll be able to find a structure kit that is almost just like the structure you want or another kit that has a wall or two that would look right. It's times like these that you throw away the instructions and build it wrong!

Download the clinic handout

Modeler's Moment - It's not always the mainline that is higher

Mainline and siding tracks at different elevationsSo we're always told as model railroaders that the mainline is always at a higher elevation than the sidings.  We should also be told that once someone says that something never happens on the prototype, someone else will come up with a photo to prove him wrong.  The latter principle was proved again today as I found this mainline and siding pair in Madison, Wisconsin, today.  The mainline, on the right in this photo, is at a slightly lower elevation than the siding, at the left.  The wear pattern in the switch frog at the bottom of the image confirms which alignment is the mainline here; the shiny rails are clearly the rails on the rightmost track.  The question then falls to why it is this way at this location.  Well, the area to the right where the Kohl Center is now located, used to be part of the Milwaukee Road's main switch yard in Madison, so it stands to reason that the mainline bypass around the yard used to be the track on the left.

Podcast: Episode 13 - 2010 National Train Show announcements

Listen to episode 13

The HO scale layout built by Railroad Model Craftsman magazine.The National Train Show was held in July 2010 in conjunction with the National Model Railroad Association's 75th annual convention.  This year I was able to talk to many of the manufacturers at the show and got some audio for everyone to hear with their new announcements.  Unlike the Trainfest episode last year, this episode has all of the audio in one long chunk.  This episode is about 5 times longer than usual, but here it is.

Syndicate content