Heritage Model Trains Article

The American Model Train Concept


The best concept to strive for is to build your model railroad into a real rail transportation system. This establishes where it is located, the era, which towns are viewed, connecting lines, and traffic patterns. The concept therefore, matches the model; geographic area, era and transportation needs results in a concept of where, when and why the railroad exists.


The setting, along with the timeframe (location and era) selected for your layout will affect both the scenery and the traffic. Just as you would not find high volume commuter lines in a snow-covered mountain range, it is equally unlikely to find a train tunnel in the middle of flat farmland. Realism of the layout is enhanced when all the items are of the same era.


HO Gauge Steel Mill


If you select to model a specific prototype, recreating the location and traffic of that time in history will ensure an appropriate match. If you are unsure of what era to model, it is usually best to create the scenery to match the earlier era you prefer, as it may always be modernized later. Club layouts are usually based on local railroads since the local roads and scenery are more likely to be of interest to lots of visitors.


If you name your stations based on real towns in appropriate sequence, they not only add to the realism but also place the railroad geographically. Real cities of course, are too large to model, but trains do run through small towns and junctures.


Name everything on the layout. Even if the oil refinery is only a can of Pennzoil sitting next to the siding, name the refinery and the town where it is located. Same goes for water towers and flour mill down the line. Now you are delivering low-sulphur coal from the Whitney mine to the Banholzer Steel mill, and not just moving cars from here to there.


Most industries are large enough to have multiple freight docks or doors. Each are numbered or labeled on the real building, so each of these is either numbered or labeled on the real buildings.


And don’t forget to name your railroad as well. If you are modeling a specific prototype this is easy. The Ozarks Division of the Missouri Pacific won’t be found in any timetable, except for the ones in your basement. Just surround your company with standard engine pictures, rolling stock and line-side structures, but in the rolling mountains of the Ozarks.


If you are serious about multi-train operations, the simplicity of use and freedom of engine movements more than outweigh any perceived additional cost of using DCC over conventional control systems. You will start using whistle signals all the time. And you will wish you had purchased a North Coast or Wangrow DCC system so you have a separate button on your throttle for each sound the engine can make. Oh yeah!


All Aboard…..


Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains