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

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Modeler's Moment - Happy birthday, Amtrak!

Amtrak in Indiana


Going by the date of first operations, Amtrak is 35 years old today. Amtrak began operations of most intercity US passenger trains on May 1, 1971. This photo is one I took of a Michigan-bound train from Chicago while I was on a railfanning trip to Porter, Indiana, in 1993.

Modeler's Moment - That first layer of weathering

before and after

An initial wash with diluted water based acrylics makes your cars look like they've been on the road for a few months. The color collects in the crevices and makes the details stand out more clearly. The photo shows a before and after view of this technique applied to a pair of N scale boxcars.

What does that scale mean?

So we're at the NMRA Midwest Region convention and we get to talking about modeling scales. There was a preponderance of N scalers in our bunch, so we came up with these:

  • Z = Zany
  • N = Normal, Nice or Neat
  • TT = Totally Terrible
  • HO = Horribly Oversized
  • S = Strange
  • O = Outrageous
  • G = Gross

Modeler's Moment - Use the rails you've got

very short rails
Jointed rail was normally made in 39 foot lengths so it would fit in a 40 foot gondola, but shorter lengths can be found in use. Prototype railroads used whatever lengths they had. If you're modeling jointed rail, include a few shorter pieces near the foreground for extra detail.

I am a...

...strict prototype modeler.
25% (3 votes)
...proto-freelance modeler.
25% (3 votes)
...freelance modeler.
25% (3 votes)
...fish.
25% (3 votes)
Total votes: 12

Modeler's Moment - Former track alignments

buried ties

Don't throw away the ties that you cut off your flex track when you're adding rail joiners. Bury a short row of ties in your scenery to show where track "used to be". These ties are at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin.

Modeler's Moment - Modern interlocking tower

Did you know that the busiest interlocking tower in Chicago isn't on one of the freight railroads? It's this cantilevered tower at the northwest corner of The Loop (as seen from the rear of a passing El train in 2004).

Modeler's Moment - New reporting marks, old logos

KCS 8985

When rolling stock is sold to another railroad, it's often only the reporting marks that are updated; sometimes, even the reporting marks are left untouched. This Wisconsin Southern flat car flat car photographed in 2005 carries Kansas City Southern reporting marks and still sports a Western Pacific feather logo.

Modeler's Moment - Weathering covered hoppers

Weathered covered hoppers

Use a light-colored paint to recolor some of the roof hatches on your covered hoppers. This is an easy way to simulate a replacement roof hatch without actually replacing them. Would you believe that the photo shows N scale models?

Review: "Playing With Trains"

Playing With Trains cover image

I recently finished reading Playing With Trains - A Passion Beyond Scale by Sam Posey. I received a paperback copy of the book as a Christmas gift this year, and as I had just finished reading Rumpole and The Penge Bungalow Murders, another similarly sized book seemed to fit well into my reading list. Overall, the book was a pleasant diversion through one man's experiences in learning about model railroading and building his own home layout, but I was left both wanting to read more about the layout and with a rather pessimistic view of the hobby's future.

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