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 http://riptrack.net/dev.

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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

Listen to Episode 12

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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Modeler's Moment - One way to avoid modeling building interiors

HO scale delivery men from the furniture store

So your layout has progressed beyond the plywood plains to include some basic scenery and a few structures in the city.  But there aren't any tenants in your buildings yet, right?  If you don't want to model interiors and want to have windows that you can see into, you're going to have to find some way to explain the empty spaces within the buildings.  While you could put rental or sale signs outside the buildings, but it isn't entirely prototypical to have every building with such a sign in front of it.  Try this strategy I saw on an HO scale layout recently: place a delivery truck outside the front door of one of the buildings and have some delivery men moving furniture into the building.  It not only provides a reason for empty rooms, but also gives visitors to your layout something interesting to look at.

Modeler's Moment - Eliminate S curves

Crossover placement on a curveWhen it's time to plan your track, keep in mind that S curves are generally not friendly to smooth, reliable operations. Sure, they may look great in photos, but when the middle of an S curve is too short, it can cause derailments especially with longer equipment operating through them. One way to eliminate S curves on a double-track crossover is to position the crossover so that every route through it turns in only one direction. This can be done as seen in the photo to the right; this example was on one of the layouts displayed at the 2008 National Train Show in Anaheim.  Keen observers will also notice that there is a curve a little further down the track that goes in the opposite direction, but there is a section of straight track between the two opposing curves to eliminate operational problems.

NTSB finds the Metrolink engineer at fault for the 2008 Chatsworth accident

Yesterday afternoon, the NTSB issued a press release stating that they had determined the fault of the 2008 collision in Chatsworth between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train rests with the Metrolink engineer.  The press release states:

The National Transportation Safety Board determined today that the 2008 rail accident in Chatsworth, California, involving a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train, was caused by the Metrolink engineer's prohibited use of a wireless device while he was operating the train.  The engineer failed to respond appropriately to a red signal at Control Point Topanga because he was engaged in text messaging at the time, the NTSB said.

The September 12, 2008 head-on collision resulted in 25 fatalities and more than 100 injuries.  As a result of its findings, the NTSB recommended that the Federal government require audio and image recorders in the cabs of all locomotives and in cab car operating compartments.

The release goes on to describe that the cab cameras are intended as a way for railroad companies to enforce existing operating rules that prohibit the use of phones and other wireless devices for personal reasons while on duty. 

Podcast: Episode 11.3 - Finishing off the announcements from Trainfest

Listen to Episode 11 Part 3

Leslie Eaton demonstrating Iwata airbrushes

This took a little longer than expected to get online (previous posts on The Rip Track home page have all the details), but here it is.  In this part, we'll finish hearing from the manufacturers that were showing their products at Trainfest 2009.  So, without further ado, let's get back to the show floor.

New year and new server

So we start 2010 with a new web host.  It looks like everything is working as far as I can tell, so it's time to get back to making updates to the content here.  Watch the recent updates column on the right of the main page for specific pages that are updated, and of course, watch the center column for new items as well.

Some back-end changes coming to the site

This is really just a heads-up post more than anything.  I got an email today that my current web host will be closing business at the end of December.  The company I've been with for a few years now has served me well and I will be sad to see them go, but just like in the railroad industry, everything is always changing.  I'll be working on getting the site migrated to a new host before the end of the year, and there is a simple migration path that is already on my short list of solutions, but if there are any recommendations from readers, now is the time to state them.  I anticipate that the migration will not lead to a major disruption in your ability to read the content.  I will post more as soon as I have definite information to present to you.

Thank you for tolerating my rambling on this site so far, and until next time, happy modelling!

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