The Model Railway Show – Episode 0036

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The Display’s The Thing

In this episode…

Professor Klyzlr, builder, Brooklyn: 3AM.
Dave Owens, modeler.

Brooklyn: 3AM

Just how impressive can eight square feet of model railway be? Well, if you do as Professor Klyzlr did, you can have people lined up four deep waiting to have a look at your layout.

The Professor took his inspiration from a small corner of the world – at 2nd Avenue and 41st Street in Brooklyn, New York. That’s where, in order to negotiate a tight 90-degree turn, the New York Cross Harbor Railroad cut the corner of Bush Terminal Building 20.

While many of us might build such a scene in a straight-forward way, The Professor developed plans to create an impressive exhibition layout with this scene as its anchor. The result – Brooklyn: 3AM – is described in some detail online, in an issue of the late Carl Arendt’s Small Layout Scrapbook.

The Professor joins Jim to discuss how he added sound, lighting and other effects to transport viewers to a cold, rainy night – a night in which a rave party is taking place in the warehouse above the tracks. He also shares his thoughts on the importance of engaging with the public at an exhibition… and explains the origins of his pseudonym.

The New England/Northeast RPM

A decade ago, the Railroad Prototype Modelers movement gained another gathering – one that has grown to become a must-attend annual event for dozens of top modelers and a handful of manufacturers. It’s the New England/Northeast RPM Meet – taking place June 1-2 in Collinsville, Connecticut.

One of the organizers, Dave Owens, joins Trevor to explain how the meet started and how it has grown. Dave describes what’s in store for this year’s meet, and shares his thoughts about why so many modelers – from across North America and around the world – call the region their modeling home.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 36 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim speaks with Jim Wells from Fantasonics Engineering about the magic of adding scale sound to one’s layout.
Trevor talks to Fritz Milhaupt about a large exhibition layout designed to teach hobbyists about Time Table and Train Order (TT&TO) operation.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0035

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The future is now

In this episode…

Duncan Mcree, owner, Tam Valley Depot.
René Gourley, modeler and author.

Future layout and train control

Many modelers are holding onto the old ways, but it’s pretty clear that Digital Command Control has become the new standard for train control in the hobby. So what’s next?

Duncan Mcree has some ideas about that – including cutting the wires to your track.

Duncan operates Tam Valley Depot, a specialty manufacturer of micro-controllers for DCC-powered layouts. His many products include servo-based switch machines and sempaphore signal contollers and systems to automatically manage the polarity of turnout frogs and reversing sections such as turntables and wyes. As he tells Trevor, many of these products were developed to solve problems on his HO scale layout, the Tamalpais Valley Railroad.

Duncan views servos and microcontrollers as a gateway for electornics hobbyist, including many younger people, to discover the many pleasures of the model railway hobby. But he recognizes many hobbyists detest wiring and has a solution for them, too – in the form of a new DCC overlay that replaces track power with a small onboard lithium polymer battery, and control signal transmission through the rails with a wireless system. Duncan and another noted hobbyist, Craig Bisgeier, have created a video to demonstrate the system, which Duncan expects to hit the market later in 2012.

For those tired of cutting rail gaps and crawling under the layout to chase shorts, this could be just what the doctor ordered.

3D Printing

It’s also known as rapid prototyping and it’s been around for a while, but 3D printing is starting to make inroads into the model railway hobby. The concept is simple: draw what you want, hit “print” and a special machine creates your object in three dimensions. Of course, in reality it’s more complex than that but some modelers are working hard to push the technology to create production ready details, components and even entire models.

One such modelers is René Gourley. René favorite prototype is an obscure 19th Century Canadian railway and as he tells Jim, 3D printing has made it possible for him to design and fabricate many of the essential items he needs to build a layout in Proto:87 (Finescale HO). René manages the Proto:87 Special Interest Group, blogs about his adventures – and in the March 2012 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, he wrote about the use of 3D printing to create a passenger car for his railway.

3D printing has some limitations – but then, so did laser cutting when it first hit the hobby. So modelers should expect great things from the technology in the years ahead.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 35 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim speaks with Australian modeler Professor Klyzlr about the big ideas on his exhibition layout, Brooklyn: 3AM.
Trevor talks to Dave Owens, one of the organizers of the New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers meet.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0034

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Anniversaries and Tributes

In this episode…

Clare Gilbert, owner, Sylvan Scale Models.
Otto Vondrak, associate editor, Carstens Publications.

20 Years of Casting

Many of us would love to turn our hobby into our living, and for the past 20 years, Clare Gilbert has done just that.

Clare is the owner of Sylvan Scale Models, which offers resin kits for period vehicles, Canadian-specific rolling stock, structures and boats in a number of scales.

Clare joins Jim and describes how, after writing a book on the St. Clair Tunnel, he launched Sylvan while working on boats plying the Great Lakes.

But it’s vehicles – especially the cars and trucks of the 1930s and 1940s – that have really built the business, and Clare shares some news about the future of Sylvan.

Honoring Hal

If anybody deserves the description Railfan for Life, it’s the late Hal Carstens. And now, Carstens Publications – the company that bears Hal’s name – has published a book of Hal’s photographs as a tribute to his life with trains.

The book – Railfan for Life – required the input of many of Hal’s staff, including those working the company’s two monthly train magazines, Railroad Model Craftsman and Railfan and Railroad.

One of those team members, Otto Vondrak, joins Trevor to discuss how the book came about, describe what readers will find inside, and share some thoughts about Hal’s impact on the hobby.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 34 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor speaks with Tam Valley Depot owner Duncan McRee about the future of layout and train control.
Jim talks to modeler René Gourley about 3D printing.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0033

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The Genchi Genbutsu Show!

In this episode…

Lance Mindheim, author.
Don Goodman-Wilson, modeler.

How to Operate a Modern Era Switching Layout

Genchi Genbutsu is a Japanese saying that means “Go and See”, and that could have been the subtitle for the latest book on modeling contemporary railroading from author Lance Mindheim.

Lance’s two HO scale modern-era CSX layouts have been well documented in the hobby press as well as on his website, and when working on the layouts he enjoys being able to “Go and See” his prototypes: It’s as easy as hopping on a plane to Miami. That’s also an advantage when it comes to designing operating sessions, as he describes in his new book.

Lance joins Trevor to explain how he learned about modern operations and how this has influenced his own layouts. He also explains how observing and replicating prototype operations can actually simplify layout design, with a corresponding reduction in construction and maintenance time and cost.

(This is a lesson Trevor is applying to his current model railway, and one that layout builders discussed in the most recent issue (44) of the Layout Design Journal – the quarterly publication from the Layout Design Special Interest Group.)

Listeners can learn more about Lance’s books in the bookstore section of his site, including viewing sample pages from How to Operate a Modern Era Switching Layout.

Japanese modeling in North America

Don Goodman-Wilson lives in Colorado, but models Japanese railroading. It’s very different from what we’re used to in North America, with an emphasis on high-speed passenger and commuter trains. But as Don tells Jim, it’s a rewarding switch for North Americans looking for something different. And there are a surprising number of North Americans who model Japanese railroads.

And Don should know: He’s the moderator of the Japanese Modeling and Japan Rail Enthusiasts Forum.

Don notes that North American organizations are not numerous – the Japan Rail Modelers of Washington DC being one of the few with an active online presence – but enthusiasts are quite dedicated.

The Japanese-North American ties are strong in the hobby, with many products flowing east across the Pacific. But this year, North Americans are giving back, through a charity called Omocha Express that is delivering toys to children affected by the March, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor incident in Japan.

Those interested in modeling Japanese prototypes are extremely well served by manufacturers including Kato, Tomix* and Micro Ace*. Japan has also been at the vanguard of innovative answers to modeling in small spaces, including the creation of T Scale (1:450), the T-TRAK N scale modular standard and the Bandai B-Train Shorties* – possibly the only model railway product line that should be called “cute”.

(*Websites marked with an asterisk are only available in Japanese, but may be viewed in English (or French, or Spanish) by pasting their URLs into Google Translate.)

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 33 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim speaks with Sylvan Scale Models owner Clare Gilbert about his past 20 years as a manufacturer.
Trevor talks to Otto Vondrak about a tribute to the photography of the late Hal Carstens.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0032

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MMRs and Memorable Modelers

In this episode…

Gerry Leone, Master Model Railroader 346.
Gavin Sowry, New Zealander and Gn15 layout-builder.

The Road to MMR

A few years ago, Gerry Leone decided to become a Master Model Railroader – the highest honour awarded by the National Model Railroad Association’s Achievement Program. A few hundred hobbyists have done this over the past half-century that the NMRA has run the program – Gerry is MMR 346 – but what makes Gerry’s effort stand out is that he documented the process and has shared it in print and online as a way to help others pursue MMR status.

Gerry has written about the experience for the NMRA’s magazine and web site. He has also posted extensive information about how he achieved the seven certificates needed in a special section called The Road to MMR on the website he maintains for his HO scale Bona Vista Railroad.

Gerry joins Trevor to describe why he decided to pursue his MMR, how the experience enhanced his enjoyment of the hobby and how it has influenced his beautiful layout. He also offers advice to others who may be considering pursuing their MMR. As he notes, many experienced hobbyists are probably most of the way to an MMR and don’t realize it.

A global tribute to Carl Arendt

Like many in the hobby, Gavin Sowry was saddened by the passing in early 2011 of small layout champion Carl Arendt.

Carl lived in Washington State and the fact that he influenced Gavin, a New Zealander, to add a Gn15 modeling component to his enjoyment of the hobby is proof that Carl’s influence spanned the globe. And not just his influence – but also Carl’s modeling: A friend of Gavin’s owns a Gn15 tipper wagon originally built by Carl for the famous Squarefoot Estate Railway.

And thus was born the idea for a global tribute to Carl: Why not share this wagon with others by sending it on an around-the-world tour of Gn15 layouts?

The idea was promoted on the GnATTERbox – the forum related to a website for Gn15 enthusiasts – and regular updates of the wagon’s progress are posted on the Roaming Wagon thread. Meanwhile, photos of the wagon’s travels appear on Flickr and the NZ Trains web site.

Gavin joins Jim to describe how this idea formed, where the wagon has been, where it’s going, and how other Gn15 enthusiasts can get on the list to take part in this globe-spanning tribute to Carl.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 32 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor speaks with Lance Mindheim about his new book, How to Operate a Modern Era Switching Layout.
Jim talks to Don Goodman-Wilson about the joys of modeling Japanese railway prototypes.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0031

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Time Travel

In this episode…

Keith Wills, Collector Consist columnist, Railroad Model Craftsman magazine.
Christopher Howard, president, Railflyer Model Prototypes Inc.

Collector Consist

To some, the model trains of the past are crude toys. But in their day, they were marvels. And one would have to be a tough nut indeed to not be charmed by the models of the past, as anyone can tell you who has visited the U.S. National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

It’s good to remember that the technology wonders we take for granted today are only here because those so-called crude toys captured the imaginations of the model train enthusiasts that came before us.

For the past 30 years, Keith Wills has served up that reminder monthly, as the author of the Collector Consist column for Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Keith joins Jim to talk about his column and his lifetime appreciation for the model trains of the past.

Railflyer Model Prototypes

Here’s something to think about: Until January 9, 2007, mobile phone manufacturers were busy adding buttons to their devices, up to and including full keyboards. Then Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone – a sleek glass and steel construct with a single button on its face, with all other functions performed on a touch screen. And it turned hardware manufacturing upside down.

What does this have to do with model trains? Lots. In this hobby, it’s easy to continue to do things a certain way because, well, that’s how they’ve always been done. But the best innovations happen as a result of disruptive technology. Think laser cutters. Think resin. Think 3D printers.

And think Railflyer Model Prototypes.

This start-up company is rethinking the traditional model diesel. Instead of producing a plastic shell on a die cast frame, Railflyer is designing, building and marketing diesel components and assemblies in the same way that a full-size locomotive builder would – but 1/87th the size. The modeler orders what they need, in the same way a real railroad would select options from the EMD catalog. The advantage? Once all the parts for the first model are in production, it’ll be relatively quick and easy for Railflyer to develop additional parts to offer additional locomotives.

Along the way, Railflyer is developing some innovative technology, including HO scale axle-hung traction motors that are sure to find application in other scales and gauges as well.

Railflyer Model Prototypes president Christopher Howard joins Trevor to talk about how he became a model locomotive manufacturer, his unorthodox approach to locomotive building, and when modelers can expect to see Railflyer locomotives on customer layouts.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 31 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor speaks with Gerry Leone about why he has shared his path to becoming a Master Model Railroader in print and online.
Jim talks to Gavin Sowry about an international event paying tribute to the late Carl Arendt.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0030

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S is for…

In this episode…

Doug Harding, NMRA Special Interest Groups Co-ordinator.
Ed Loizeaux, layout builder and S scale enthusiast.

S is for SIG…

If you’ve ever thought of starting a Special Interest Group, Doug Harding would love to hear from you.

Special Interest Groups (or SIGs) are organizations affiliated with the National Model Railroad Association to promote specific facets of railroading – real or modelled.

Some SIGs focus on modeling: Examples include the Layout Design SIG and the Operations SIG. Others bring together those with an interest in a particular railroad – from the very large (such as the Canadian National Railways Historical Association) to the very small (like The Sugar Cane Railway (Tramline) Modelling Special Interest Group).

The NMRA’s website includes special section on SIGs, including a list of active SIGs and information about how to form one if a favorite topic or railroad is not already covered elsewhere.

As the NMRA’s co-ordinator for SIGs, Doug tells Trevor about the many advantages to being a member of one or more Special Interest Groups. And for those who wonder about their value, Doug describes how belonging to SIGs has helped the development of his own layout, the Iowa Central Railroad.

… and S is for S Scale

First things first: It’s not American Flyer. Ed Loizeaux is clear about that.

Ed has been building scale models in S (1:64) since the 1960s and his New York Central layout has been featured in the hobby press many times, including in the 2005 edition of Great Model Railroads and the October 2009 issue of the Model Railroad Hobbyist ezine.

Ed has also been an active champion of the scale (one that counts both hosts of The Model Railway Show active members). He returns to the show to speak with Jim about how he ended up in S scale, why S scale is often confused with American Flyer, and to dispel a number of myths about working in 3/16-inch to the foot.

Ed notes there’s a small but dedicated group of manufacturers supporting S, including River Raisin Models, American Models, S Helper Service and the S Scale America line from Des Plaines Hobbies. Those listeners who are curious to learn more may want to start at the S Scale Model Railroading web site.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 30 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim speaks with Keith Wills, who writes the Collector Consist column for RMC.
Trevor talks to Christopher Howard from Railflyer Model Prototypes.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0029

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Sit down and stand up

In this episode…

Doug Tagsold, layout builder.
Chris Lyon, member of the Ottawa Train Expo organizing committee.

Have a seat

This is not the story of a walk-around layout – but a roll-around one.

When a move forced noted modeler Doug Tagsold to tear out his two layouts and start again, he opted for something different.

Doug could have rebuilt a portion of his double-decked, HO scale Denver Front Range and Western layout, which was featured in the July and August 1999 issues of Model Railroader, in Great Model Railroads 2002, and in Volume 33 of the Great Model Railroads video series from Allen Keller.

Doug could also have rebuilt part of his spectacular On3 Durango and Silverton layout, featured in the 2007 edition of Great Model Railroads.

Instead, he opted for a very different theme. Doug’s HO scale Terminal of Toledo layout recalls days he spent watching trains in this Ohio city. The new layout is well underway and notable for many things, but visitors will be immediately impressed by the fact that it’s designed to be operated entirely while sitting.

Doug joins Jim to discuss why he decided to build a sit-down layout, some of the design decisions he made to make this happen, and how his operating crew have reacted to working from the comfort of roll-around chairs.

Ottawa Train Expo

How many times have we heard people complain that they local train show isn’t what is used to be… or isn’t, at all, anymore?

Well, rather than complain or wax nostalgic about the good old days, a group of motivated hobbyists in the Ottawa, Canada area have decided to do something about it. These modelers – many of whom are members of the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders – are building a new train show, from the ground up.

Ottawa Train Expo launches in May and Chris Lyon, the brass hat at the Lyon Valley Northern and a member of the show’s organizing team, says the plan to make it a major exhibition for modelers in Ontario, Quebec and New England.

Chris joins Trevor to explain why the area needs a new show and offers advice to others who are thinking about doing the same in their community.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 29 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Trevor speaks with Doug Harding, the NMRA’s SIG Co-ordinator, about Special Interest Groups.
Jim talks to modeler Ed Loizeaux about the state of S scale today.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0028

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Overheads and Ironing Boards

In this episode…

Tom Piccirillo, President of Micro-Mark and O scale traction modeller.
Paul Allen, builder of Ingleton Sidings.

I Sing The Layout Electric

While some use live steam locomotives and people have experimented with live diesel models, the majority of model railway enthusiasts use electricity to power their trains. For a few of us, that’s perfectly prototypical – and that authenticity is one of the things that attracts people to interurban and trolley modeling.

Tom Piccirillo has certainly heard the hum of traction motors. He’s an NMRA Master Model Railroader best-known as the president of tool specialist Micro-Mark. And his basement is home to the Somerset County Traction System – an O scale traction empire.

Tom joins Trevor to talk about why he loves to work under wire, and how his traction empire helps develop new products for the Micro-Mark catalog.

(Tom is not the only well-known traction modeler. Others include Bob Hegge, Bill Clouser, Walt Olsen and Roger Chrysler. Companies such as The Car Works and MTS Imports have helped fill car barns with beautiful traction models. Enthusiasts such as Dan D. Sparks blog about traction modeling. And in addition to many fine home layouts, organizations including the Cambridge Model Railroad Club, the East Penn Traction Club and the Southern California Traction Club have spread the word about traction modeling at shows, with sectional or modular layouts.)

Pressing Matters

We all like to see the big display layouts at train shows, but those efforts require a crew, multiple vehicles or trailers, and quite a bit of money to build, maintain, transport, set up and operate. Is there another way?

Of course there is. How about an exhibition layout that fits into a single vehicle, can be set up quickly, and yet can entertain the crowds?

UK modeler Paul Allen has accomplished this and more with Ingleton Sidings – a layout based on the popular Inglenook design and built on an ironing board. In addition to being popular at shows, Ingleton Sidings was recently featured in the UK magazine Model Rail.

Paul talks to Jim about how he adds presence to a small layout, including the use of closed circuit television and digital photo frames. He also discusses the UK practice of covering the expenses for traveling layout exhibitors. (Yes, in the UK people get paid to offset the cost of exhibiting their layouts at shows!)

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 28 (mp3)

Follow this link for more Episode Guides.

Show off your good taste in podcast listening:
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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim talks to Doug Tagsold about building an operation-oriented layout operated while sitting.
Trevor speaks with Chris Lyon about launching a new model railway exhibition.

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The Model Railway Show – Episode 0027

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Capturing Space

In this episode…

Paul Dolkos, modeler and photographer.
Mike Brock, modeler.

Great model railroad photography

His current HO scale layout, based on the Baltimore harbor district, was the cover story in the 2010 edition of Model Railroad Planning and he is the contributing editor for Scenery By The Seasons from Kalmbach publishing.

And his previous layout – subject of numerous articles as well as its own Great Model Railroads DVD (Volume 46) – has inspired legions of model railway enthusiasts to try their hand at modeling the Boston and Maine Railroad.

But Paul Dolkos is known as much for his photography as he is for excellent craftsmanship.

Paul is the go-to guy when great photos are needed for Model Railroader and Great Model Railroads. He joins Jim to talk about how that happened, what he looks for when capturing a layout with a camera… and how one of the most famous model railway hobbyists on the planet was also one of his toughest assignments.

Building for the Big Boy

Has any North American steam locomotive captured the imagination of modelers quite like the Union Pacific’s 4-8-8-4? Known as the Big Boy, it has been offered in model form in all major scales – including several iterations in HO.

But what does one do with such a mechanical monster?

If you’re Mike Brock, you build an HO scale layout that showcases the Big Boy in its traditional stomping ground.

Mike has owned UP 4-8-8-4 models from several manufacturers, including Pacific Fast Mail, Key Model Imports, Precision Scale Company, Broadway Limited Imports and Athearn. And his Sherman Hill layout – the cover story in the 2002 edition of Model Railroad Planning and featured in the March 2002 edition of Model Railroader – showcases the broad curves, generous turnouts, big facilities and long passing sidings needed to support articulated superpower and equally impressive train lengths in a realistic setting.

One would expect such a layout to fill a gymnasium but surprisingly – as the MR Track Plan Database reveals – it’s a mid-sized undertaking (at least by North American standards) at 22 by 34 feet.

Mike joins Trevor to discuss what a layout owner needs to consider if Big Boys are the power of choice. Since he’s also heavily involved with Prototype Rails, Mike also shares information about this popular RPM meet, held each January in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

How to listen:

Right-click (Windows) or hold Control and click (Mac OS) on the following link for downloading options:
Episode 27 (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 to Tom Piccirillo about the attraction of traction.
Jim speaks with Paul Allen about building an exhibition layout… on an ironing board.

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