Track Cleaning

Everyone who has a layout knows you need to keep the track clean. Without it, trains stutter and frustrations grow. There are different ways for track cleaning:
– use a “track eraser” like a Bright Boy
– use a chemical track cleaner
– use a cleaning pad on a train car

Normally I use a Bright Boy but it is totally clogged with debris now. I decided to try the third method, a cleaning pad. I went to Fredericton’s only hobby shop, Thomas Hobbies, to see what they had. There was one track cleaning car there, a Trains Canada CN through baggage car.

It has a cleaning pad mounted between the wheels on a spring-loaded pad. The springs help keep the pad pressed against the rails. Here’s a shot of the clean pad before use on my layout:

I coupled it up to one of my diesels and took it for a drive around the layout. I let it run several times around the continuous running loop, on the main line and through sidings. After that, I ran it into some of the staging yard. Here’s the result:

It seems to be picking something up! All in all I would say this first run was a success. I will have to pick up some replacement pads soon, of course. The only negative thing I will say about this particular car is that it is too light. You can’t push it backward through a switch without it derailing. It needs a little more weight to keep it firmly on the rails. Perhaps once the springs wear a bit, it will stay on the rails better.

What do you use to clean your tracks?

Dartmouth Model Railroad Show

On Saturday November 17 I visited the Dartmouth model railroad show with my two youngest kids. I was pretty impressed with the displays – some really nice work there. The usual vendors were there and I walked away with a 3-pack of container cars and a signed copy of Jay Underwood’s new book From Folly to Fortune: The Firing of James Richardson Forman. I look forward to reading it!

I put a bunch of photos in my gallery but here are a few for your enjoyment.

Here’s a Lego train running around the layout. Note the display screen on the wall showing what the steam locomotive is seeing.

Kevin G took video of quite a bit of the show:

The circle is restored

On Saturday I put the Bridge of Death back across the layout room door. I call it the Bridge of Death because any train that should derail on that bridge is in for a long fall to the carpeted floor. I keep meaning to put rails on the bridge (OK, plank) but so far I haven`t.

By putting the BoD in, I now have continuous running on the layout. My kids are fascinated by the trains running around and around without stopping, my baby son especially. My daughter keeps stopping the train and changing the cargo. 🙂

A short train crossing the Bridge of Death

Nashwaaksis Baptist Church Train Contest

On September 9 I had the pleasure of being one of three judges in a train contest at the Nashwaaksis Baptist Church here in Fredericton. Members of the congregation were to make some kind of train and bring it to the church.

All of the entries showed imagination and there were some truly excellent entries. I’ve put photos of the event in my gallery.

I had a great time. Everyone was very friendly and made me and my son Nick feel very welcome. The service was good and the corn boil afterward was excellent. My thanks to the church for inviting me!

Model Train Show in Miramichi this Saturday

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I’m finally starting to uncover my layout now that the basement is finished.

If you’re in the Miramichi area this Saturday (September 22), take in the 4th Annual Model Train Show, sponsored by the Miramichi Crime Stoppers. It’s at the Northumberland Square Mall (in Douglastown) from 10 AM to 4 PM. For more information contract W Blake Johnstone at 773-6859.

I went to the 2006 show and I liked it. It’s one of the smaller shows but still good. Model train photos

Model Railroad Wiring

Railroadman posted a great post about his model railroad wiring recently.

Wiring can be intimidating but it is necessary. The most important thing to do is PLAN AHEAD. Don’t add just enough wires for what you need right now. Plan ahead for what you think you will need. Don’t hang them by the most direct route. Plan the routing and make things neat. Have a wiring diagram. Try to colour-code the wires if possible.

All that being said, I don’t have a wiring diagram for my layout yet. However, I haven’t done any permanent wiring yet either. I have soldered drops from the rails and strung some temporary bus wiring to get trains running, but I have nothing permanent. So far my colour standard is red for one rail and green for the other.

The first thing I need to do is figure out where the blocks should be. 🙂

Building a layout – shelves

My new layout is an around-the-walls style layout, with a peninsula coming from one end of the room. I decided to build the layout on shelf brackets screwed into the wall studs, with shelves cut from 4×8 foot sheets of plywood. This way, I would not have legs under the layout, leaving room for storage of my model railroad equipment and railroad ephemera.

I started by deciding what height to make the layout. As I mentioned before, the whole layout is on one level. Most people say you should build it somewhere between belt height and shoulder height. I chose a height of about 44″ from the carpet to the top of the plywood. I wanted it a little on the low side so kids would have a chance of seeing what’s on the layout with a little stool.


After borrowing a friend’s stud finder, I set about marking where the studs were on the walls with a pencil. I used a laser level on my tripod to make sure I was building the layout perfectly level.

Maybe I was geeking out a bit too much. Maybe I just wanted to use my Christmas present. 🙂

I screwed the supports into the wall at each end of the plywood sheet, then screwed the supports into the sheet from below to ensure no screw heads would be on the top. I then filled in the supports between the ends and screwed them into the board too. The result was a very very firm layout with no wobble. I’m pretty sure I could stand on it, but I haven’t tried. 🙂

In the corners where I couldn’t get supports in, I used little metal connectors to screw the two boards together and prop up pieces of plywood I cut to fill the corners. I reasoned there wouldn’t be much weight there so they didn’t have to be as strong as the rest of the layout.

For the end with the peninsula, I built a traditional box structure and put legs on it. The peninsula is going to be on legs and I figured it would need a firm, rigid structure to attach to.

I haven’t built the peninsula yet, since my layout room is doubling as a spare bedroom for a few more weeks. Soon, soon!

So far I’m very happy with the method I used to build the layout. It has made tracklaying a breeze and I appreciate the rigidity of the structure. The NSER was built on legs, and wasn’t attached to the walls, so it was a little wobbly until the whole thing was built. This layout is rock solid.

Latest layout plan


Finally we come to the plan I am building to, version 5.

This version features four long tracks of staging each for Miramichi and Campbellton, as well as a single track of staging for each of the Caraquet Subdivision, the Nepisiguit Subdivision, the Irvco spur in Belledune, and the Smurfit-Stone industry in Bathurst. Can you ever have enough staging?

I wanted to model the Smurfit-Stone facility because they had their own switcher, caboose and plow. I thought that would be a nice feature to show them come up to interchange with CN at the junction, just like the prototype did.

There are no provisions for grades in this, which may make it boring from a scenic perspective. Obviously my layout is skewed toward operation, given the number of interchanges and online industries.

I would appreciate any comments, good or bad! 🙂

Track Planning For The New Layout

With my new layout room, I needed a new plan. My initial thought was to continue with the Dartmouth Subdivision idea that the NSER used.

This plan is basically a single-level dogbone with some around-the-wall staging. No doubt you can see a number of problems with the design, including restricted aisle space. On the plus side, I would have had a wye for turning and fairly good switching opportunities.



I decided I wanted to try something fresh. Based on my own railfanning experiences, I settled on a layout loosely based around the Bathurst area in the early 1980s before CN started ripping up the old subdivisions. The layout would go from “Moncton / Miramichi” (staging) through Nepisiguit Junction, Bathurst, and Belledune before “Campbellton” (staging). It would feature run-through trains that just went from one staging yard to another, switching along the way, as well as VIA’s Ocean and local passenger service.

This is a very rough around-the-walls plan just to get an idea of where the stations would fit. I kept the around-the-wall staging and obviously designed for continuous running. Time to flesh it out.

It’s almost the same plan, with more detail. Notice how the staging for both “ends” is in the same place. This is still very rough as the space allocated for switches is not realistic. One must always use real switch dimensions to ensure you don’t get impossible angles.

I had this idea that I could get more track into the same space by doing a twice-around layout, spawning this plan.




This time the staging is on both sides of the room. The twice-through idea does give long main line runs but I decided it would not look realistic.

Next time I’ll show you the “final” version. It does away with the twice-through idea but looks a lot like this one.