Cleaning the track much easier now

Saw an article in the February 2021 MR on building a track cleaning car using a gondola. Since I had a spare one, I decided to use it.Took about an hour to build. First time I ran it I realized right off that it wasn’t heavy enough as it kept derailing. Added some additional weight over the axles and boy does it track good now.Hooked it up to my SD9 and the best speed I could get was 16mph. I have that engine set up for 20mph, so it dropped a bit. Continue reading Cleaning the track much easier now

UT6 Good and bad

Used my new UT6 yesterday, tethered and untethered. Of course, being directly hooked up to Loconet means it works perfect. The screen is nice and bright. Easy to use and hold. Untethered was a little different story however. Because its infrared, like your TV remote, its line of sight. But that’s the catch. Using the TV remote, I can point it anywhere in the room, and it works. But I found that I have to point the UT6 directly at the receiver to make it work. Now it could be because I am in a basement with nothing really for … Continue reading UT6 Good and bad


As many of you know, I had been considering downsizing the current JAM as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much there was too do. For those who aren’t familiar, the Johnstown & Maryville is a 12′ by 16-1/2′ shelf layout in my basement. Its by far the largest I have ever had and, as I have recently learned, a lot more work than I had planned. But then a wise man gave me some good advice. He said, “Just because you have a larger layout does not have to be a lot of work. If you simplify … Continue reading DOWNSIZING…IN A WAY

Much, too much

Ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? For years I dreamed of having a large enough space to really run trains. But now that I have it, it’s become overwhelming, to the point I don’t even want to work on it anymore. I spend all my time working on it and no time running it. By the time I spend a couple hours working I don’t feel like even turning on the track power. When I do make up my mind to go down stairs and run a train or two, I get down there to … Continue reading Much, too much


Recently I was chatting with an old high school friend who had just retired and we got to talking about what he was going to do with all his free time. He mentioned, among other things, getting back into model railroading. But as he lived in a 2 bedroom condo, there wasn’t a lot of room to build anything. I suggested then maybe a simple switching layout against one wall. Maybe 12 to 15 inches wide and 10 to 12 feet long. As I enjoy designing layouts, I decided to see if I could come up with a decent plan. … Continue reading CONDO LAYOUT


First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone. I want to thank everyone who has subscribed to this blog this year, and what a tough, tough year its been. To everyone who has lost family or friends this year, I offer my sincerest condolences. Its got to get better in 2021, doesn’t it? Working on the layout has kept me sane as we have all been self isolating, trying to stay healthy. So far, fingers crossed, its working for me. I started ballasting a few weeks ago, and while its still tedious, I’m getting a certain satisfaction out of seeing it … Continue reading WHITE CHRISTMAS


A little off topic but I need some help from my subscribers and readers. I’ve had this blog for well over 2 years and just don’t seem top be getting as many reads and subscribers as I would like. Very few likes and/or comments. So, what can I do to get more? Different topics? Tutorials? Better pictures? Less pictures? More pictures? More posts? Help me out here everyone. Could you all suggest to your followers to check out this blog? Is that out of line to ask? Since this is a free blog I don’t have the connections like I … Continue reading A LITTLE HELP FROM MY SUBSCRIBERS


All you other modelers on WordPress are putting me to shame with all your lengthy and wonderfully well written updates. And here I am, just sitting here wondering what to write about. Have I been working on the layout? Oh yes. Not much else to do in Western Michigan when winter gets here. And besides, the stay at home orders are a wise move and gives even more opportunity to dive into the man cave and make something creative. Well???? So where are my creative projects. Okay, I do have a few. Maryville is starting to take shape with the … Continue reading AN UPDATE JUST TO SAY I DID AN UPDATE

What to use for ROADS?

I have watched numerous YouTube videos this week on how to make roads. I have several ways that I have used in the past but wanted to see what other modelers have done. The list of different ideas is a long one. So I headed down to the basement today to try a few. First up, a simple way to make a concrete road using foam core. A gray base followed by a couple coats of concrete from Woodland Scenics. Then added some crack repairs. I did try using a hand made road marking template but that didn’t work to … Continue reading What to use for ROADS?


Been doing plenty of work on the railroad of late but haven’t stopped to just run a train or two. I’ve been working with both JMRI and SCARM to make sure I can operate efficiently and move cars from one place to another, on and off the layout. To that end I have built 5 trains, so far. A 1am train goes from the yard to the Interchange to pick up the set outs by the Class 1 unnamed railroad. He returns to the yard and sets the cars on the inbound track. Then a yard job takes over to … Continue reading ALL WORK AND NO PLAY


Okay after much thought and suggestions, here is what I have come up with for the JAM color scheme. First the entire blue structure was given several coats of rattle can grey primer and left to dry for a full day.Next the upper section is Decoart Grey Sky. The middle stripe is Decoart Grey Storm. And finally the bottom is Apple Barrel Harvest Orange. The orange is actually lighter than this but when painted on top of the grey primer, it gives it a much darker tone. Oh and since orange is semi transparent, that’s 5 coats of orange! And … Continue reading JAM GETS A COLOR SCHEME

Another trick of the trade

This is one I learned a long time ago and have only used it occasionally. If you have two different sizes of HO track, like Code 83 and Code 100, it is easy to join them together without using special transition rail joiners. Take 2 rail joiners and insert them into the Code 100 rail. Make sure they are good and secure, then take a good pair of pliers, or even a hammer if your aim is good, and flatten the ends of those joiners as flat as you can. Next, put a small amount of solder on those flattened … Continue reading Another trick of the trade


Well I may have a major disaster on my hands. I started my ballasting project in the yard today. I shun ballasting as much as possible and use my old tried and tried method. Ballast in a can. Faux stone paint that you can get in most any hardware store. Since I’m using foam as the sub roadbed I had to give it a good coating of flat latex to seal it and protect from the spray paint……well it seems I didn’t do a very through job of prepainting because the spray paint is, at this moment, slowly dissolving the … Continue reading The BEST LAID PLANS..


If you can back up a 22 car freight train, round a curve and through several turnouts without so much as a wobble, then you have some great trackwork. And some very good running rolling stock. One by one I am getting all my rolling stock fitted with Intermountain 33″ wheels and weighted to 2 oz over NMRA standards. For those unfamiliar with that, in HO, a 6 inch car should weigh 4 ounces. That is a 1 ounce minimum plus 1/2 ounce per inch of car. 1 + 3 = 4 ounces. Since all of my cars are 50′ cars, … Continue reading THE ULTIMATE TEST

Easy Window Shades

So you are ready to do some painting in your house. One room or maybe several rooms. But you don’t know what colors, so you head to your local paint store or big box store to check out the paint samples. They have thousands of colors on handy little paint cards. You pick out a number of different colors and head home to figure out which ones work. Once you do, and have decided what paints will work, then what do you do with all those little cards? Throw them away?? NO!! They make wonderful window shades, walls and even … Continue reading Easy Window Shades

Time to work. Time to play

Have you spent so much time working on your layout that you neglect to enjoy what you’ve been doing? That’s been my case for several weeks. Making the track bulletproof. Designing and constructing different structures, both rail served and background. Figuring out how to make everything look as good as possible without breaking the bank. Yeah, you’ve been there, haven’t you? For me, designing and building the railroad, is what keeps my interest high. I’ve had numerous layouts over the years. None have ever been done to completeness, or close to it. But they get to a point where I … Continue reading Time to work. Time to play

Many small projects

I guess I have been a bit remiss in updating the blog recently, but its because I have been working on a number of smaller projects, both on the layout and around the house. As I have a lot of real estate to cover with lots of empty background, I started making some background flats. I use a program called Model Builder to construct the faces of the structures. Then glue them onto foam core board. I use the cheap stuff from Walmart. It runs about 95 cents a board. I like to make the background structures about friends and … Continue reading Many small projects

Week Ending August 26, 2020 Update

The one thing about building a model railroad is that there always enough projects to keep one busy. You can weather cars, build buildings, do scenery, wire turnouts or blocks, move track around, etc etc etc. That way you never get bored if you are only focusing on one thing. Sometimes its nice to take a break from a difficult or time consuming project and just do something easy….and different. Thats what the attached video is all about. I decided to add some additional Digitrax power connectors and along with them, added some new throttle pockets and uncoupling tools. The … Continue reading Week Ending August 26, 2020 Update

Update…Week ending August 15, 2020

Well what have I been up to these past few weeks? Been getting down to the basement every day for at least a few hours. Each time I work on a couple small projects to move the layout along. And move track and industries as I look at them and dont like the way they look. So let’s start here. Extended the yard tracks a bit to make more room. Took out the removable cassette for the interchange and just put it on the layout. This is temporary. The plan is to connect it off the main and swing it … Continue reading Update…Week ending August 15, 2020


Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t look so good when its on the layout full size. I’ve gone through a half dozen different designs trying to find the “just right”. I think I have finally got it.No peninsula. Just a 5 foot removable cassette to serve as an interchange track to the outside world. Just 6 industries, but multiple car spots for different types of cars. And more overall space between industries and towns to give the illusion of distance. I shortened the pass track on the left hand side which allowed me to fit BASF in with no … Continue reading PAPER VS REALITY

Steady progress is the way

Since I am in no hurry to complete the layout, I am not hurrying to get any part of it done quickly. I like making steady progress and as long as I have a plan, I can move along. Today I used up every piece of flex track I had, 10 pieces in all, and that’s still not enough. I did manage to complete one of the two passing tracks. The longest one that feeds the yard. And got the three yard tracks installed. Enough to hold 18 cars. Still plenty of room left if I want to extend them … Continue reading Steady progress is the way


Its always exciting when you see your project come to life. A 12′ by 16′ layout really allows a train to stretch its legs and look like it going somewhere, even if its just around and around. I completed the mainline benchwork and then finished just the mainline. Don’t have any sidings or yard installed yet. And I still have the peninsula to add. But for a first run, I think it was quite successful. Continue reading UP AND RUNNING

The benchwork is almost done

Been working steadily to get all the benchwork done. At least enough so I can complete a loop. The previous owners of this house had built an extra bedroom and storage area in the basement using really nice 2 by 4’s. I have pretty much dismantled the closets they built and used the lumber to build the benchwork. Its overkill as far as sturdiness is concerned, but you make do with what you got. Lets take a look around the layout and see what we have so far. This section will be where the yard is located. It will be … Continue reading The benchwork is almost done


Well here we go again. Another day. Another modification to the plan. Although a good one I think. Saving myself a ton of money by NOT cutting a hole through a wall and building an additional 10′ of benchwork complete with 40′ of new track. Instead make the yard visible as part of the layout, ala David Barrow. Still gives me 8 different industries with a total of 40 car spots. Trains can go out from Thomas Yard in three directions. North to Johnstown, East to Grant or south to Marysville. A good majority of the benchwork is already built. … Continue reading THE MORE THINGS CHANGE….ADDENDUM

Heading down to the basement

I have been a model railroader, in some form or fashion, for as long as I can remember. From my teen years in Upstate New York, a pause for military service and marriage, then into my 30’s and into the present day, I have never had the opportunity to say, “heading down to the basement.” That includes 10 years in Georgia, 30 years in Florida and the past 2-1/2 years here in Michigan. Georgia and Florida homes, for the most part, do not have basements. A Florida basement is actually a garage. Never had one of those either. Even when … Continue reading Heading down to the basement

Settling in to our new home

It was a nerve wracking 6 weeks waiting to get into our new house but we finally made it last week. A lot of work needs to be done. But I am also finding time to get into the basement and start the process of building JAM 4.0. Hopefully the last time I have to rebuild an already built and operating layout. So, whats the plan for the new space? Well, thats another story. Heres what it was going to look like. I had originally intended to remove a non load bearing wall and run the layout into the room … Continue reading Settling in to our new home

what is the jam anyway?

First of all, welcome to the new followers. Glad you are here and hope you’ll stay interested. One of the things I have read about concerning blogs is how do you keep your followers interested and coming back. And attract new followers. One sure way is to make sure your blog is regularly updated with new and interesting stuff. That would be good, if I had a layout that was under construction and needed periodic blog updates. Unfortunately I won’t begin building the new JAM for at least another 4 to 6 weeks. And that brings me to my first … Continue reading what is the jam anyway?

Deciding what track to use

For many years I have been using Atlas track and turnouts for all of my previous layouts. Mostly their Code 83 flextrack and Custom Line #6’s.  But I wanted to see if going to all Micro-Engineering or Peco track would be any better. I know several modelers who swear by ME track and turnouts, mostly for their more realistic appearance. Before I invested any money in dumping all of my Atlas track, I wanted to see if using either ME or Peco would drastically change the layout that I have drawn up. So I went online to a website called … Continue reading Deciding what track to use

Too much time on my hands

As we continue to march towards the end of June 2020 and a move to a new house with a large basement, I have been drawing up track plans that will fit in a 12 by 16 foot space. That’s the amount of space I have allocated. There is also a space next to the planned area that I will use for my working area, so I can also use some of that if I need. So far, 3 different track plans have been drawn. One features a peninsula without using the additional area. The second eliminates the peninsula but … Continue reading Too much time on my hands

where have I been

Its been a long long time since I have updated this blog but I will try and do better in the future. Its been a wild and crazy past 9 months. Started a new job. Quit the new job. Built a layout. Tore it down. Built another layout. Tore it down. Bought a new house with a full basement. New layout drawn up. 12 by 16. Now just waiting to get moved into the new house so I can start building again. Continue reading where have I been