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

Podcast: Episode 15 - Barstow, Waupaca and Railsplitter 2012

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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

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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

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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.

Quick and simple track ballasting

If you've never ballasted track, the process can seem a bit daunting.  But it really isn't that difficult after all.  This video shows one quick and simple method for ballasting track.  My teenage son, who has not ballasted track before we shot this video, is the demonstrator here.  If he can do it, so can you.

One quick side note, this video does not deal with the problems of ballasting around switch points.  That will be addressed in future posts.

Podcast: Episode 12 - Snow Train, Chicago Railroad Fair and building a freight car fleet

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Cover of the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair's Official Guide BookWe start this episode with a look at the preparations for the Snow Train at Mid-Continent Railway Museum.  Then, we review the legacy of the "last great railroad fair" which occurred in 1948 and 1949.  Finally, in the Modeler's Moment, we discuss tips and strategies for building a prototypical freight car fleet on a model railroad.

Modeler's Moment - Pinch points can cause trouble

Two views of a layout's pinch point

A lot of modelers will try to cram as much track as absolutely possible into their available layout space.  There are a number of strategies that can be used to help maximize the running time of trains on a working layout, but one problem to watch out for while you're in the planning stage is a pinch point.  This is a location where the tracks come so close together that it isn't possible to have two trains pass at that location at the same time.  All the operation planning in the world isn't going to help as much as you might think, because at some point in an operating session, you will have two trains at the pinch point at the same time.  So, before you start on scenery and as you're still working on the track, take out your longest rolling stock and run it on both tracks of the pinch point at the same time to find anywhere in that section where the cars touch.  If it just is not possible to avoid clearance problems, it might be time to consider removing one of the two track sections that is causing the problem.  You could also consider changing the pinch point to a section of gauntlet track to ensure that exactly one train will ever pass that point at a time.  Oh, and before you go away thinking that this is only a problem on model railroads, the Seattle Monorail had a collision at a pinch point in its track in 2005.

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