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Questions, Answers and Tips

Tony, of Bendigo, from Australia, commented in a recent MRH thread: “I reckon scale speeds are mandatory unless you want your trains to look like toys. I model a rural branch line in N scale, and although some of the locos that ran these lines were capable of 100 kph (62 mph), the trackwork limited them to much lower speeds.”

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS Q: I have noticed in some videos that trains seem to be running too fast, especially in the yards. Is this normal in an op session? A: Every modeler makes their own rules for their own situation. Model railroads dedicated to prototype operations, like the La Mesa club’s Tehachapi layout, or Charlie Comstock’s Bear Creek – both mountain railroads with stiff grades and lots of curves – run trains at slow scale speeds. Someone choosing to model a highspeed mainline, the Nickel Plate for example, might want to run trains faster to be realistic. Page 18 • Issue 11-10 • Oct 2011

“This is only approximate, but it’s close enough. If you have three cars pass, then you’re going about 30 mph, for example. On my Siskiyou Line the standard speed limit is 25 mph, so you want two-and-a-half 50-footers to go by in those three seconds.”

Others just like to railfan while the locos and cars they’ve collected run orbits. Scale speed may or may not be a concern for them. If you want to run at scale speeds, keep reading. Here’s a useful and flexible scale speed calculator: NMRA/articals/speed.htm. MRH publisher Joe Fugate uses a simple formula for estimating speeds on his Siskiyou Lines: “If you have a more modern layout like my 1980s Siskiyou Line, you can use the 3-second rule with 50-foot cars to get a good approximation of speed. Pick a stationary point along the track, count ‘1001, 1002, 1003’ and note how many 50-foot cars pass that point. Each car passing represents roughly 10 mph.”

• MRH Questions, Answers and Tips, page 1

“Watching a train trundle slowly through the countryside is deeply satisfying, especially if the scenery is done to a fairly high standard and the train looks as though it’s meant to be there.” “Also, due to severe compression on model layouts, you want trains to be moving for as long as possible between stations.” “In the yards, nothing looks better than the yard pilot pushing a rake of grain wagons over the points and into a siding beside the silos at walking pace.” There is a tendency for get-it-done motivated switch crews to run much faster than the prototype would. Joe Fugate programs his DCC equipped yard switches to limit their top speed to keep over-eager yard crews from running as though they were driving a slot-car. Others have regeared locomotives to top out at around 25-30 mph.

If you don’t like counting or arithmetic, commercial train speedometers are available. Some mount in a car. Others are trackside devices. For information about commercial speedometers check or toth.htm. — Joe Brugger Q: I plan to do some scratchbuilding using wood. I’d like to paint it with acrylic paint. What is the best way to get a smooth finish? A: You must seal the wood pores with a non-water based paint. The purpose of the sealer is to fill the pores in the wood grain and keep wood fibers from rising up like a fuzzy carpet. Brush or spray on the sealer, let dry completely, then sand it. Repeat this process until the surface is smooth without ridges from the wood grain. When you sand after sealing, the fibers are cut off neatly because they are rigid from the sealer and don’t just bend over. Sanding sealed wood is more like a gentle wipe than a vigorous scrubbing action. Use fresh sandpaper. Always sand the sealer to smooth it out. The final coat of sealer should be finish sanded with fine sandpaper (around 400 grit) to avoid scratches that might show through the final paint.

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MRH Oct 2011 - Issue 20  

Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine - October 2011 issue #20.

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