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

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Locomotive names of North America beginning with Q

Steam locomotives with names beginning with Q that have operated in North America:

Podcast: Episode 6 - speed demons

Listen to Episode 6

No. 999 on display in ChicagoNew York Central No. 999 on display in Chicago.

For this episode, we'll take a look at the progression of speed records set by steam locomotives for various railways around the world.  In the Modeler's Moment, we discuss a quick and easy way to improve the appearance of the track on our layouts.  We close with a quick recap of updates to The Rip Track website.

Podcast: Episode 5 - running trains and delivering coal

Listen to Episode 5

Operating a model railroadModel railroaders at an operating session.

Okay, so this is a day and a half later than the schedule that the first four episodes have followed.  Well, here it is anyways.  First we hear a narration from a model railroad operating session, then we hear an 1899 musical recording describing one sad passenger train ride.  We continue with an excerpt from Jerry Pfeiffer's industry and freight cars clinic where he discusses coal deliveries in the Midwest.  Finally, in the Modeler's Moment, we look at some model railroad uses for items that you might otherwise throw away.

One day along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin

BNSF 7234 leads an eastbound trainOn June 6, 2009, I spent a day at one of my favorite railfanning spots along the Mississippi River.  The rail line on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin was originally built by predecessors of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.  Today, the line is part of BNSF's mainline between Chicago and Seattle.  On the days that I've railfanned this line, there have been about one train per hour, so there's plenty of action to see for a patient railfan.  While this location didn't produce many artistic photos on this trip (it was colder and rainier than on previous trips), I was able to get a number of reference photos of the equipment that passed me.

One word of caution for readers on a dialup connection, however.  This post is very long compared to the rest of the site.  There are about 30 images below, each about 50 kilobytes.

Podcast: Episode 4 - locomotives and elevateds and junctions, oh my!

Listen to Episode 4

John Bull in 1893John Bull, train and crew in 1893. Photograph by Will P. Cook from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

In this episode, we take a look through history for the bulk of the content. We start with a "biography" of one named steam locomotive that operated in the United States during the early days of railroading, and that you can still go see today. We follow that with a 1904 Edison recording called "Interrupted Courtship on the Elevated Railway", and then another excerpt from Randy Garnhardt's clinic "Interesting Junctions." In the Modeler's Moment, we review a few techniques to keep your model railroad locomotives operating well.

Podcast: Episode 3 - all about railfanning

Listen to Episode 3

Railfans out railfanning.Railfanning near Prairie du Chien, WI, in 2004.

With this episode, things are falling into place and the show is officially fully established. First we hear an excerpt from the Conversations About Photography Conference where Stuart Klipper tells us about some of his inspirations for railroad photography. Then we go over a checklist to ensure that railfanning trips go well. In our Modeler's Moment, we discuss how to use railfanning as a model railroading tool, and finally, there's a little shameless self-promotion to finish off the episode.

Podcast: Episode 2

Listen to Episode 2

We continue the show with episode 2. In this episode, we take a look at some interesting railroad junctions, some small rail-served industries and their modeling potential, and we hear a story about a newly hired switchman on his first trip to a distant yard for an assignment.

Modeler's Moment - Making push rods turn corners

Bell cranks on turnout push rods

Turnouts that are far from the operating aisle can sometimes require some special treatment to use manual turnout controls. If the control can be mounted in line with the throw bar, a simple push rod is all that's needed. But if the turnout is at an angle other than perpendicular, you will need to use something like a bell crank to change the push rod's direction of travel. The crank can be made very simply with a scrap piece of brass sheet like we see on this HO scale layout. For this purpose, brass is more highly recommended than thick styrene because the holes in the styrene where the push rods attach will wear out much too quickly. If you're not adept at working with brass, check at your local radio control hobby shop for commercial bell cranks.

Podcast: Episode 1

Listen to Episode 1

Here it is, the first episode of The Rip Track Podcast. In this show I discuss NTSB recommendations R-09-1 through -5 that have to do with uniform railroad signaling, I list a number of significant events in railroad history that occurred in May throughout the years, offer an excerpt from the Conversations About Photography conference sponsored by the Center for Rail Photography and Art, and I close with a Modeler's Moment describing one way to save some money on your model railroad purchases.

Modeler's Moment - anything can be a statue

Monkey statue

We've all got items in our junk boxes that just don't fit anywhere in any of our model building projects. Take a closer look at them. You may find that they would work in a park as a statue, like this monkey statue on an HO scale layout that I recently visited. The thing is, when you create a center of interest on your layout, make sure that the model people around it are all upright and not tipped over like in this picture (especially not flopped over on their faces like the gentleman on the right).

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