The Model Railway Show – Episode 0043

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The future of RTR

In this episode…

Marty McGuirk, layout-builder.
Joe Giannovario, publisher, O Scale Trains magazine.

The future of Ready-To-Run

Just about everybody in the hobby in North America (and elsewhere) was affected when a single factory in China decided, unilaterally, to work only with the largest model railway suppliers – and boot the others out.

As hobbyists, we have become accustomed to the flow of beautifully-detailed, ready-to-run locomotives and rolling stock (and countless other goods) produced in Chinese factories and offered at competitive prices. While not as critical as, say, energy security, it’s fair to say that many builders of large layouts are dependant upon this flow of product if they ever hope to achieve their hobby goals.

Therefore, many hobbyists were understandably concerned about the future of Ready-To-Run. Questions abound: Will companies continue to import products at the rate they have in the past? Why are they manufacturing overseas anyway? And could any of that manufacturing be brought back home?

At least one manufacturer of HO and N scale locomotives and rolling stock – Rapido Trains – took the brave step earlier this year of openly explaining, online, why it manufactures products overseas and how it feels the hobby would change if companies were to repatriate manufacturing (and The Model Railway Show tips its hat to Rapido owner Jason Shron for presenting his case so publicly).

This episode of The Model Railway Show focuses on the manufacturing issue and the consumption conundrum.

To kick things off, Trevor speaks with Marty McGuirk. Marty is well-known in the hobby. He’s building a fairly large layout that faithfully models portions of the Central Vermont Railway, and blogs about it here. But he is also a former member of the Model Railroader editorial team and was, at one time, on the staff at InterMountain Railway Company, a major manufacturer of HO, N and Z scale product. His professional experience gives him a unique perspective on the issues – and the fact that he no longer earns his living from the hobby allows him to speak freely and honestly about the issues.

Jim continues the discussion with Joe Giannovario, the publisher of O Scale Trains magazine. In a recent editorial – also published on the O Scale Trains blog – Joe notes that rising wages in China and rising oil prices, which affect everything from the cost of plastic to the cost of shipping finished product – are dulling the shine on overseas production. In addition, he argues that repatriating at least some of the manufacturing would be good for the North American economy – and that modelers should support this by being willing to pay higher prices for domestic products.

This is an issue that is not going to go away. The Model Railway Show will continue to present divergent viewpoints on this issue to listeners.

We encourage respectful discussion of this issue on our Facebook Page.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 43 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim talks to new NMRA President Charlie Getz about his vision for the association.

Trevor speaks with Dave Arnovitz from Norfolk Southern Corp. about a model railway used as a training tool.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0042

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Life, The Universe and Everything – Including Model Railways

In this episode…

Don Goodman-Wilson, member of the group developing protocols for NMRAnet.
John Landis, builder of the Illinois Tunnel Company Railroad in 7/8n2.

Next generation layout control

The popularity of DCC really took off after the National Model Railroad Association adopted a protocol to allow any DCC system to work with any decoder, regardless of who manufactured it. This made it possible for locomotive manufacturers to install decoders at the factory, confident they would work on any customer’s layout.

Now, the NMRA is working on NMRAnet – a protocol to govern other aspects of layout control, such as signalling, switch machines, layout and room lighting, and more.

The protocols that will be adopted for NMRAnet are being developed by The OpenLCB Project – and one of its members, Don Goodman-Wilson, joins Trevor to explain NMRAnet, how it’s different from DCC, and what it will enable layout owners to do.

Don points out that NMRAnet Working Group has a newsgroup that allows interested model railway enthusiasts to keep up to date on the development of the protocol. He also notes The OpenLCB Project is always interested in hearing from modelers who want to help develop the protocols, and runs its own newsgroup for that work. And he discusses some of the NMRAnet-compliant products that he offers through his company, Railstars.

Railroading Under The Streets of Chicago

John Landis dug deep for prototype inspiration for his layout – 40 feet below the streets of the Windy City, in fact.

John’s 7/8″ scale, two-foot gauge model railway captures the fascinating, but little-known, workings of the Illinois Tunnel Company Railway – an electrified line that delivered packages between major buildings and key railroad freight houses in Chicago, away from the congestion at street level. This unique line also delivered coal to heat these buildings, and hauled away the ash for disposal.

John’s layout has been featured in several publications, including the Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette. He joins Jim to discuss why he decided to model this line, why he chose 7/8n2, the challenges of modeling a prototype that never saw the light of day… and future plans for his layout.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 42 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor talks to Marty McGuirk while Jim speaks with Joe Giannovario, as The Model Railway Show investigates the future of high-volume manufacturing for the model railway hobby.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0041

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The Terry and Gerry Show

In this episode…

Terry Gaskin, rapid transit modeler and layout builder.
Gerry Cornwell, owner of the Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Company.

Modeling the EL in O

Mass transit is not generally modeled – especially not in North America.

But consider this: Commuter trains, street cars and subways are often the only trains that people interact with today. Millions of us will take a commuter train or subway to work, five days a week – but not see a freight train at all.

As we think about ways to attract more people to the hobby, perhaps one way is to show them it’s possible to model something that’s relevant to their life experience.

If so, then we can look to Chicago native Terry Gaskin for inspiration. Terry is modeling one of the most famous such systems in North America – the Chicago Elevated, in O scale. You can follow his progress on his CTA O Scale L Layout blog, too.

Terry joins Jim to talk about why he chose the elevated as a layout subject and the benefits and hurdles of rapid transit modeling. He also shares some ideas for operating such a system, so that when the layout’s finished the trains don’t just shuttle back and forth.

What’s up with Wood

With modern manufacturing materials such as the goop used in the 3D printing process, it’s useful to remember that traditional materials have an important place in the hobby too.

Take wood, for instance. Wood is one of the most basic building materials for modellers around the world. Wood is easy to cut, saw, drill, sand, shape and glue. It takes paint or stain beautifully. No workshop should be without a good supply of wood – good wood.

One modeler who thinks a lot about wood is Gerry Cornwell. Gerry is the owner of the Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Company – the go-to source for most hobbyists looking for beautiful, scale wood… which many modelers then distress and destroy to create contest-winning structures (but that’s another story).

Gerry joins Trevor to explain how Mt. Albert got started two decades ago, the attraction of modeling in wood, and how his company makes such tiny pieces so precise. (It’s not done by HO scale crews using tiny table saws!)

(By the way, if you’re in southern Ontario on November 3rd, 2012, the Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Company will be open and running demonstrations as part of the 12th annual Hamilton and District Layout Tour, organized by the HOMES Model Railway Club and Museum.)

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 41 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
Visit The Model Railway Show swag shop!

Listen to archived episodes at TrainLife.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor talks to Don Goodman-Wilson about NMRAnet – an emerging standard for layout control.

Jim speaks with John Landis about modeling another unique Chicago railroad, that operated underground.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0040

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Long distance layout builders

In this episode…

Pelle Søeborg, author and layout builder.
Ian Plett, truck driver and layout builder.

The UP – from an ocean away

Pelle Søeborg lives in Denmark, but he models the Union Pacific in the desert in the US southwest. And as photos attest, he does a fantastic job of capturing, in HO scale, a prototype that’s several thousand miles from home.

Pelle’s web site includes several additional photos of his layout, as well as pictures dioramas he built for books he has written – including Rebuilding a Layout from A to Z, Done in a Day and Essential Model Railroad Scenery Techniques, all from Kalmbach Publications.

Pelle tells Trevor how a chance encounter with a magazine brought him back into the hobby and why he chose the Union Pacific and modern desert modeling as his theme. He also sheds some insight on his next projects.

It turns out you can take it with you

… at least, you can if you’re Ian Plett.

Ian is a long distance truck driver in Manitoba, Canada. With a lot of time on his hands away from home, he’s building an HO scale layout in the sleeper section of his rig.

After reading about Ian’s layout on John Longhurst’s blog, Jim called up Ian to find out what drove him to do build a layout in such an unusual location. Ian notes it’s a great way to hone his skills and it’s a fun way to unwind after a long day behind the wheel.

In the process, Ian proves there’s always room for a layout – somewhere…

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 40 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
Visit The Model Railway Show swag shop!

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor talks wood with Gerry Cornwell – owner of the Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Company.

Jim speaks with Terry Gaskin about modeling Chicago’s famous EL – in O.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0039

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A passion for trains

In this episode…

Sam Posey, author, artist, race car driver, layout builder.
Dawn Brightwell, live steam enthusiast and builder.

Playing with Trains

Sam Posey is a Renaissance Man for the modern age – an accomplished Grand Prix racer, artist, broadcaster… and model railway builder.

Sam’s HO scale Colorado Midland has twice graced the cover of Model Railroader magazine – in February 1995 and December 2001. He’s also the author of Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale – a book about his fascination with the hobby.

Sam joins Jim to talk about the relationship between trains, art and racing – and give listeners the scoop on his next model railroading project.

Presenting the hobby to non-hobbyists

The hobby needs more people like Dawn Brightwell.

She’s a live steam enthusiast and accomplished builder, who loves the hobby’s ability to challenge us to master a wide variety of skills. She also sees the hobby as a great teaching tool for families – offering lessons on everything from history to engineering, and model-building to gardening.

Dawn also loves to share her passion for the hobby, and makes a point of talking to spectators at public shows such as the annual Doors Open Toronto event at the former CPR John Street Roundhouse.

Dawn has become adept at presenting the hobby of model railroading in its best light to non-hobbyists and shares some of her approaches with in conversation with Trevor.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 39 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
Visit The Model Railway Show swag shop!

Listen to archived episodes at TrainLife.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor talks to author Pelle Søeborg about building – and rebuilding – his Union Pacific layout.

Jim speaks with long-distance truck driver Ian Plett about taking his hobby on the road.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0038c

Listen to this archived special edition of The Model Railway Show through
streaming audio at TrainLife!

Special Edition

Show hosts Jim Martin and Trevor Marshall check in to share some of the stories they’re going to cover when The Model Railway Show returns from summer hiatus on September 1st!

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 38c (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim talks with Playing With Trains author Sam Posey.
Trevor is joined by Dawn Brightwell, a live steam enthusiast who describes how she encourages others to take up the hobby.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0038b

Listen to this archived special edition of The Model Railway Show through
streaming audio at TrainLife!

Special Edition

In this episode…

Otto Vondrak, Creative Director, The Model Railway Show.

National Train Show report from Grand Rails 2012

This year’s NMRA’s National Convention is winding up in Grand Rapids, Michigan – and manufacturers announced many exciting new products at the National Train Show.

The Model Railway Show’s Creative Director, Otto Vondrak – who is at the show as part of the Carstens Publications team – joins Trevor to describe some of the new products and interesting displays he’s seen.

Otto and Trevor discuss new products from the following manufacturers:
- Athearn Trains
- Atlas Model Railroad Co.
- Bar Mills Scale Model Works
- City Classics
- ExactRail
- InterMountain Railway Co.
- Moloco
- Peco
- Tangent Scale Models
- Trueline Trains

Otto and Trevor also talk about Building Scenery with Paul Scoles – the newest book from Carstens Publications.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 38b (mp3)

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0038a

Listen to this archived special edition of The Model Railway Show through
streaming audio at TrainLife!

Special Edition

In this episode…

Seth Neumann, LDSIG president/OPSIG director.

LDSIG and OPSIG at Grand Rails 2012

This year’s NMRA’s National Convention is in Grand Rapids, Michigan – and the Layout Design Special Interest Group and the Operations Special Interest Group are planning some great activities for their members.

LDSIG President Seth Neumann – who is also on the OPSIG board of directors – joins Trevor to describe the layout tours, other convention activities and combined LDSIG/OPSIG banquet plans. And for those unfamiliar with these two SIGs, he provides an overview of how they help modelers create and operate better layouts.

Looking for more information? Visit the convention pages for the Operations SIG and the Layout Design SIG.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 38a (mp3)

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0038

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streaming audio at TrainLife!

Creative Layout Design

In this episode…

Iain Rice, layout designer and author.
Brian Scace, layout designer and author.

It’s all good!

What do you do if you can’t pick a single modeling subject and stick with it? One of the most well-known layout designers to address this problem is Iain Rice.

Iain is known in North America for modeling a Proto:87 (finescale HO) North American-based layout (Roque Bluffs, which became a project layout series starting in the October 2003 issue of Model Railroader magazine). But at home, he also models a Dutch narrow gauge layout and a number of British themes in 4mm scale.

Iain joins Trevor to discuss how he became a layout designer, how he juggles multiple interests and some techniques for making it all work. He also shares his layout-building philosophy, which he has captured in many books on both North American and British themes – most recently, Layout Design (part of the Realistic Railway Modelling series).

As North American lifestyles become more mobile, hobbyists may be looking more closely at the creative layout design and construction approaches used by British modelers. Therefore, Iain describes how many of these ideas from the British School can be used to benefit larger, more permanent layouts.

The Blob, the Oval and Nodes

What’s a Blob, you ask?

Students of the late Dean of Track Planning, John Armstrong, know it’s the loop at the end of a peninsula that allows trains to turn back on themselves.

Brian Scace – who had the opportunity to discuss the Blob and other layout planning concepts firsthand with John when they were neighbors – also knows them as the worst enemy of layout planners working in larger scales such as O.

(He’s not the only one – many others, including Craig Bisgeier, have written on the problems of the Blob. Here’s what Craig has to say.)

Brian – a one-time editor of O Scale Trains magazine – penned a five-part series in Issues 53-57 (available to order here) in which he presents his thoughts on planning layouts for larger scales.

Brian joins Jim to discuss the Blob as well as why he feels the Oval may be the O scaler’s best friend, and what we can learn about layout design from computer networks.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 38 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim, Trevor and the rest of The Model Railway Show crew are taking a summer hiatus. We’ll be back in September with more insightful and entertaining interviews with the thinkers and doers in the hobby.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0037

Listen to this archived episode of The Model Railway Show through
streaming audio at TrainLife!

Sound and movement

In this episode…

Jim Wells, owner, Fantasonics Engineering.
Fritz Milhaupt, member of the Operations Road Show.

The magic of sound

Increasingly, our locomotives come sound-equipped – so what are they doing rolling through scenes so quiet you could hear a pin drop? Scenic sound is often overlooked, or poorly executed, which is a shame because it can add so much to the enjoyment of our layouts.

Looking to give your layout a voice of its own? Why not get in touch with Jim Wells?

Jim scratch-builds sounds for layouts – big and small – through his company, Fantasonics Engineering. He also offers several off-the-shelf scenic sounds via his web site and it’s worth giving his sound samples a listen. He joins Jim to explain why scratch building sounds at his workbench is superior to recording actual sounds… why low volumes work best… and how he worked with Pricom Design to develop the Scale Magic Dream Player.

Jim has developed a couple of free sounds for listeners of The Model Railway Show to try out. To get the most out of the sounds, follow Jim’s instructions:

1. Download the day audio file and night audio file, and load them into any player that has a headphone/line level audio output.
2. Wire tiny speakers as shown in this wiring diagram.
3. The soundtracks were built on High Bass speakers, such as the QSI models available through Tony’s Trains. I recommend the HB90S, HB106R or HB110S mounted in the appropriate enclosures.
4. Do NOT use any speaker larger than these, but almost any teenie tiny speaker in almost any enclosure should be swell
5. Keep the speakers close together (this isn’t stereo), and keep the volume low.
6. Plug the speakers into the player and hit ‘play’
7. Stand back and ‘see’ where the various critters and birds appear
8. Have fun!

Have a question about this? Contact Jim at Fantasonics for answers.

The Operations Road Show

Time Table and Train Order (TT&TO) operation is quickly growing in popularity among serious operations enthusiasts. But learning about this classic form of operation isn’t always easy – especially since it’s best learned by apprenticing with someone who understands it, on a layout that’s built to support it.

So a tip of the conductor’s hat to the members of the Operations Road Show. This group in Michigan has built a large layout designed from the start as a tool for teaching TT&TO operations, and invites convention goers and other interested individuals to join in the fun.

As group member Fritz Milhaupt tells Trevor, the idea grew out of a conversation with an official from the Operations Special Interest Group, and the group’s Wabash-themed layout made its debut at the NMRA National in Toronto in 2003. Since then, it’s been featured at a number of national conventions, and is scheduled to appear at this summer’s NMRA National – Grand Rails 2012 – in Michigan. (The group has announced it is committed to holding a dozen three-hour operating clinics during the convention!)

Fritz also offers advice to other groups that might consider taking on such a project of their own.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 37 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
Visit The Model Railway Show swag shop!

Listen to archived episodes at TrainLife.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor speaks with noted layout designer and author Iain Rice.
Jim talks to Brian Scace about overcoming planning challenges for layouts in larger scales.

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