The Model Railway Show – Episode 0052

This episode of The Model Railway Show is brought to you by the team at The Model Railway Show. Thanks for listening – you’ve been great!

Go Run Your Trains!

In this episodeā€¦

Robert Simmons, layout builder and used ambulance owner.
Lance Mindheim, author and layout builder.


Packing a layout to take to a show is always a lot of work, but having the right vehicle helps – a lot. Just ask Robert Simmons. Robert needed a better way to transport a large N scale layout to exhibitions – and he found the perfect ride in the form of a used ambulance.

Robert joins Jim to explain why a cast-off emergency services vehicle is a great way to transport a layout. He describes the modifications he had to make to make the ambulance legal for civilian use, and how owning and driving an ambulance differs a pickup truck or cube van. And while he’s never been called upon to save lives at a miniature railway, Robert does note many people slow down and pull to the side of the road to let him past.

(You can read about Robert’s ambulance in the March, 2013 issue of NMRA Magazine, published by the National Model Railroad Association.)

How to “play” with trains

Many hobbyists talk about the day when they’ll have a basement-filling (or quonset-hut-filling) multi-deck empire. In the meantime, they do without a layout because they don’t feel they have the space to build something satisfying. And for some, who acquire the space they feel they need, they find that the layout they build is so overwhelming that the hobby becomes a job, and – eventually – the layout sits idle while the builder finds other ways to occupy their time.

What’s up with that?

Lance Mindheim – a regular on the show – gets the last word as he joins Trevor to discuss an important, but often overlooked, part of the layout design process: How we plan to interact with our layout in a way that is satisfying and achievable. Understanding the factors that affect our hobby – from the amount of spare time we have to fill, to the availability of friends to help build and operate the layout – is key to our happiness in the layout room.

Lance feels we should strive to operate our layouts frequently – several times per week. To do this, we must be able to run short sessions – anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on how much time we have – and be able to run these sessions solo, or with one or two other people. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom in the hobby, in which a large layout capable of hosting multi-hour marathon sessions for a dozen or more hobbyists.

You can read more about his idea on Lance’s blog (look for the September 30, 2012 entry – also reproduced as a feature for Railroad Model Craftsman online). Meantime, Lance joins Trevor to explain the value of this approach and how to apply it to existing layouts, as well as new designs.

Go nuts at the 8th annual Narrow Gauge Madness show – April 13 in Schomberg, Ontario!

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Episode 52 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

We have enjoyed creating The Model Railway Show but after two and a half years, in which we have produced 52 regular episodes and a number of specials, Jim, Trevor, Chris, Otto and David have decided it’s time to get back to our work benches.

This podcast was a volunteer effort – a labour of love – and while we enjoyed interviewing so many great guests and creating these shows, it has demanded a fair bit of hobby time. So with this episode, we turn off the mics at The Model Railway Show.

Thanks for listening – you’ve been great! – and we’ll see you down the line, somewhere, sometime…

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