10 Reasons to Visit your Local Hobby Shop in January

Walthers Cornerstone® Hobby Shop Kit

Whether you’re just getting started with a new train set, or you’re a longtime modeler, visiting your local hobby shop (if you have one) can be a fun and inspirational learning experience.

 

  1. Inspiration

If you’re thinking of expanding or adding to your new train set, you may not know where to start or what’s available on the market. A good way to get inspired is to visit your local hobby shop to see what types of products they carry and how they’re displayed. Often times, the store will have a variety of layouts and themes on display.

Take your time and notice the details and different components of the display. Seeing all the elements together as a cohesive system can put things into perspective. It can be hard to see the big picture while looking at products online. Acquaint yourself with the different brands, trains, accessories, tools, and controls, as well as any reference books. Even if you don’t make a purchase your first time into the shop, you’ll leave with a better understanding of the hobby than when you came in.

For longtime modelers, you may be experiencing a plateau with your layout and need a catalyst for change. When was the last time you went to a hobby shop that isn’t your regular, go-to store? Take a look at our store locator (link), and dedicate an afternoon to visiting a new shop. A new shop means new layouts, new staff, and possibly different products. Seeing these things in a different light may inspire you to try something new, or give you new ideas.

 

  1. Begin with the basics

After visiting a hobby shop for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of products and accessories it took to create the in-store train layouts. Understand these types of layouts take a very long time to build. Talk with the staff on what they recommend for someone just starting out. They’ll be able to show you the basic building blocks of any model layout (track, freight and passenger cars, buildings) and walk you through the pros and cons of various aspects of model railroading. By starting with the basics, and building step by step, you’re more likely to finish all of your necessary components, rather than starting and abandoning ambitious projects.

 

  1. See products before you buy

If you’re just starting out as a model railroader, you may have a lot of questions or lack direction for your layout. Sure, you know that N and HO scale are different sizes, but what does that size difference look like? Do you want DC or DCC? Should you buy Code83 or Code100 track? The benefit of going into your local hobby shop is seeing the products firsthand. Sometimes the actual packaging conveys more information than you might see in ads or on the internet, and you’ll be able to view the product in different angles versus one picture online, or no pictures at all. In certain circumstances, your hobby shop may be willing to let you demo a product that you’re interested in! Being able to physically touch, see, and hear the different components allows you to make a well-informed purchase, and can save you from buyer’s remorse down the road.

 

  1. Compare similar products

Multiple manufacturers may offer similar trains, vehicles, figures, and scenery materials. Small details can be the deciding factor in the products that you purchase, especially amongst similar items. Often times, pictures on the internet cannot accurately depict the exact color, emphasize minuscule details, or give you that sense of assurance that seeing something in person provides. If you’re deciding between two similar products, make a visit to your local hobby shop. Chances are, you’ll be able to quickly tell which model is best for you.

 

  1. See store displays

Manufacturers like to promote their products in stores via displays, models, and interactive tools. These allow you to compare products side-by-side, or see a range of compatible products. Your hobby shop may have scenery, hardware, vehicles, paints, adhesives and more displayed on special racks. In many cases, the racks have informative signs and graphics showing the basics of how the products work together. This can remove a lot of the guesswork for a new modeler, and make for an expedited shopping experience for more experienced modelers.

 

  1. Ask the experts

Most hobby shops employ modelers on their staff. Even if they don’t model trains, they may build military models, aircrafts, or vehicles. In such instances, they can usually answer questions about construction, painting, weathering, and scenery. By talking with an expert, you’ll be able to talk about what you are doing, and let them know any general products you’re interested in receiving a recommendation about. Your hobby shop should be willing to provide feedback and make recommendations — after all, they’re counting on you to return and become a lifelong customer.

 

  1. Books and DVDs

Are you a picture person? Imagine ordering a scenery how-to book online, only to find out that it’s completely text, or worse, receiving a DVD in a different language! Hobby shops aren’t libraries, but they should carry a number of model train books and DVD’s for you to browse. If you’re just starting in modeling, take time to flip through and choose some how-to books that fit your needs.

If you’re a seasoned modeler, or building a layout, books and DVDs about real railroads are great modeling reference. Not only can you see the train action on your favorite railroad, era or region, you can also look at features in the background for scenery and detailing ideas.

 

  1. A learning experience

Many great hobby shops foster the personal growth of their customers. It’s becoming more common for stores to host lectures and offer how-to classes on model railroading topics. Subjects can range from scenery, to DCC, to weathering and detailing. In addition, many shops sponsor or advertise local model railroad clubs and railroad events. Check out the bulletin board – you might find something you want to visit!

 

  1. Model railroading ideas sometimes come from other hobbies

 Don’t limit yourself by exclusively purchasing products made for model railroading. Yes, in general, those items are your safest bets, however, you could be missing out on nuggets of information for your layout. Full-line hobby shops often carry military, aircraft, vehicle, and other modeling supplies that can also be used for model train layouts. Craft supplies are also common in hobby stores.

Additionally, are there dioramas on display? Check them out, and if you see a scene or painting technique you can apply to your model railroad, ask how it was done. By expanding your product base, you’re tapping into numerous new, unique looks and techniques for your model train layouts.

 

  1. Meet other modelers

Model railroading can sometimes be a solitary and isolating hobby. Staying active in your community by visiting your local hobby shop can connect you with other model railroaders and hobbyists. Some hobby shops encourage camaraderie between its customers by running contests, hosting events, and even sponsoring a local model railroad club.

Often times, there will be a wide range of experience amongst your fellow shoppers, from novice to experts. Engaging with those on the same skill level as you serves as a way to gauge your progress and share similar experiences. Seasoned hobbyists can act as mentors, and are typically eager to give advice and guidance.

Even if you’ve been in the hobby for decades, sometimes a chat with someone new to the hobby can provide an insight you haven’t considered, and interacting with other modelers can revitalize your interest and reignite your passion for the hobby.

 

One thing is for sure, when you are visiting a local shop, look for Walthers products. Shops that carry the Walthers brand are good shops, and if they don’t they are missing an iconic brand that has led the industry for 85 years.

New Year’s resolutions for model railroaders

With the holiday season coming to a close and the New Year upon us, why not consider a few model train resolutions? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, model railroading has touched your life sometime before or during the holiday season. Whether you just received your first train set, or you’re a seasoned model railroader, there are all kinds of hobby ideas, or “resolutions” to consider in 2018.

Excited about receiving a new train set for the holidays? If so, that’s great! You or your family has embarked on a tradition and hobby that’s fun year-round. So why not make a resolution to keep the fun rolling into the New Year?

Put away the tree, not the trains!

With the decorations being boxed up and the tree coming down, it’s time to figure out where to move the trains. In many households that often means a table, long shelf in the basement, or lacking a basement, a spare room. Wherever you decide to set them up, it’s important to ensure good temperature, humidity, and dust control. This makes it easier to keep the track and electrical contacts clean and working reliably.

Once you’ve identified where to set up, the fun begins. If you’re just starting out with a train set, there is no need to make things permanent —yet. Simply get it up and running, and enjoy! A lot of folks like to add more cars and locomotives for extra variety. Keep in mind that it takes advanced controls (such as DCC) to run more than one train on the same track without more than basic wiring. If you have questions, some train sets come with basic how-to DVDs, but if yours didn’t, here are a few books about getting started in the hobby.

Are your trains only for the Holidays?

Whether you’re getting started with a Christmas train, or you’re a longtime modeler with equipment you bring out for the season, holiday-only trains require diligence in packing and storage to make it easy to keep the fun rolling in future years. A good resolution is to carefully pack away your holiday trains. Here are some suggestions that can make setup easier next year.

To begin with, keep vigilant when packing up your locomotive and cars. Gently uncouple them and check them over for damage and dirt. Clean the wheels on your locomotive, and check for carpet and tree skirt fibers that may have gotten caught in the wheels and gearing. Carefully place the loco and cars into their packaging or boxes. If you don’t have packaging, wrap them individually with bubble wrap, clean rags, or thick paper towels that can cushion them.

Next, disconnect your power pack from the terminal track and tape or tie the wires to the power pack so you can find them next year. Disassemble the track sections, clean the rails with a track cleaner, and neatly return them to their packaging or box. If you don’t have the original box, bundle sections together with rubber bands to keep them organized.

For storage, add desiccant packs to all boxes or bins before putting them away. These will minimize the chance of corrosion from moisture. Store all boxes and bins away from extreme heat or cold.

Resolutions for longtime modelers

If you’ve been in the hobby for years, you’ve surely got some projects you would like to tackle or complete. Even those with completely operable and scenic layouts or modules can appreciate and enjoy projects to improve and maintain their collection. Not every resolution may be applicable to you, but here are a few to consider for the New Year.

    1. Finish what you started

Those of us who have been modelers for a long time often love to work on several projects at once. However, sometimes life gets in the way and projects get shelved. Instead of starting a new project, why not complete that kit, assemble the parts from a kitbash, or finish painting that locomotive or car? Finishing a model or project is rewarding – enough said!

  1. Try something new

Learning new modeling techniques or working in a new modeling era or scale is fun. If you haven’t, why not build a laser-cut wood, resin, or cardstock kit? Kitbash or scratch-build a loco, car, vehicle, or structure? Ever use an airbrush? If not, try it! You get the idea, trying and learning new things makes us better modelers.

  1. Light up your world

Lighting adds interest to models and scenes. In recent years, lights for buildings, locomotives, cars, and vehicles have become better than ever, thanks to tiny circuits and LEDs. Don’t forget to visualize the bigger picture – chances are, it can use better lighting! Layout room lighting can make dark, dingy layouts spring to life, and they’ll also be easier to see and work on. Well-lit workbenches make for a pleasant workspace and can make model building easier.

  1. Add DCC to your layout and loco fleet

Could this be the year you upgrade your DC railroad to Digital Command Control (DCC)? It’s a good resolution to make and there’s no doubt that it’s the future of the hobby. Although there are many considerations to factor, if you operate multiple trains on a block system, or if you like prototype operations, sound and/or automation, DCC is likely the way to go. Recent advances in DCC systems (Link: https://www.walthers.com/products/power-and-controls/command-control/set/show/120), decoders, and trains make conversion easier than ever. But if you’re happy with your DC railroad, it works well, and you’re having fun, that’s great – fun is the object of any hobby!

  1. Don’t wait until spring to clean

Dust never sleeps, and neither does corrosion. A great resolution for the New Year is to clean your layout, locos, workbench, and train room. Clean track and wheels on locomotives and cars make operations more reliable. An uncluttered workbench means more room to build, detail, or decorate models. Finally, a good dusting with an appropriate lightweight duster can do wonders for the appearance of layout scenes and structures.

  1. Make a few good tweaks

If you’re satisfied with your control and power systems, consider making some small upgrades you may have put off. On DCC railroads, adjust the programming on your decoders such as volume on sound decoders and speed matching on locomotives. On DC systems, how about fixing annoying little dead spots, powering dead turnout frogs, and fixing other electrical bugs? Address minor track repairs wherever derailments are frequent. Fix incidental wear and tear to buildings and scenery. When everything on your railroad runs and looks as intended, the fun keeps on rolling!

  1. So many projects, so little time

Pressed for time? How about resolving to do a few quick projects? Many of these projects take only a short time, require few materials, and are easily interrupted if you’re pressed for spare time.

Weathering trains, structures, track (yes, track!), and scenery can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Dusting up a freight car with chalks or dry brushing takes about an hour. Weathering track goes quickly, and if you get interrupted you can easily pick up where you left off. See this link for many, many weathering products that make adding realism to your layout fast and fun.

Adding small details to trains or structures can greatly enhance appearance, often in a minuscule amount of time. Rolling stock often has drill starter points for adding wire grab irons and handrails. Why not drill them out and add grab irons for extra realism? On your layout, add figures to your scenes for a realistic upgrade. Street details like vendor carts, trash cans, planters, hydrants and more are quick and easy to add. Window awnings, interior details, fire escapes and other parts are fast and fun to install on buildings.

Looking for a sign telling you what to add to your layout next? Try adding signs to your scenes. Street signs, business signs, track side signs, and billboards give scenes a time frame and add to your layout’s value. Thousands of signs are available and they’re quick and fun to add.

Pick one, a few, or none at all

As a fun hobby, model railroading has plenty of opportunities for enjoyment and no two people view it the same. When you’re a beginner, getting the trains up and running is usually the focus, and watching a train roll down the track makes us smile! For seasoned modelers, watching your first train circle the track still brings feelings of joy!

In between, a sense of accomplishment and the fun of doing and learning keeps modelers motivated to take on or complete new projects. At this time of year, however, many of us reflect back on the past year and make plans for the New Year. We hope that this blog post inspires your thoughts and imagination to make a few model railroading resolutions as we roll down the track into 2018!

Browse Walthers categories to get a feel for your next project.

 

 

 

10 ways to prepare and maintain your holiday train

Many of us, even seasoned modelers, have trains we bring out only for the holidays. After all, what’s a Christmas tree without a holiday train running ’round it? It’s a tradition that can be traced back over 150 years. But, to make sure it keeps running reliably there are a few preparation steps you may consider to keep the fun rolling under the tree or for any temporary setup!

  1. Carefully unpack and inspect your train for any damage

Even the most rugged model train is subject to damage in storage. Its box may get kicked, dropped, wet or crushed and the train inside can be damaged, which is common. Check the couplers to see if they’re all there. Re-position dislodged wheel sets. If present, clean off smoke fluid that may have seeped out. Make sure to remove Styrofoam bubbles, paper scraps, foam rubber crumbs and anything else that may stick to your train or track.

  1. Inspect and clean the track

As with the trains, track needs attention to ensure reliability. Inspect for missing joiners, broken clips on roadbed track, loose rails, bent rails and other defects and replace broken parts or sections. Clean the railheads – even though they may appear clean, they may have a thin film of corrosion or dirt (especially in high-humidity regions), and it’s easier to clean them before assembly than crawling under the tree! If you’re not sure which cleaner to use, here’s a link to a variety of cleaners for model trains.

  1. Clean and lube your locomotive

Take a closer look at the underside of your locomotive or trolley. Clean out visible dust, pet hair, carpet fibers, tinsel, glitter, tree skirting and lint. If you find fibers wrapped around exposed gearing or wheels and axles remove it with a toothpick, dental pick or small tweezers. Clean the wheel tread for electrical reliability. If your train has a smoke unit, make sure to inspect for fluid that has leeched out and clean it off. If you’re not sure what to use check out the cleaner link above for a few suggestions.

Sometimes, but seldom, locomotives need light lubrication. Plastic-compatible lubricants must always be used and they should be applied sparingly only to exposed gearing as noted in the lubrication instructions of your locomotive. One drop is normally enough, too much can cause electrical problems and can attract lint and dirt.

  1. Inspect your power pack

Safety is the most important thing to consider. Make sure all of the wires are in good condition with no fraying or missing insulation. If you find a problem you may need to replace the power pack or wires.

  1. Freight and passenger cars need love too

While rolling stock simply follows along, cars have their own maintenance needs. Check for fibers and debris on the wheels and axles and remove them as you would on a locomotive. If the cars are lighted you may want to clean the wheels the same as you might clean loco wheels.

  1. Test run

Before you set up your entire layout hook up your power pack to a couple of pieces of track and test run your locomotive and cars back and forth to make sure everything works. Check the couplers and make sure they stay together, if not then repair or replace. If you have a smoke unit, add fluid according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

  1. Clear the way

Setting up track is much easier with plenty of space to work. Many folks set up the track before setting up the tree, and some set everything up on a board. For best results choose a level, or near-level surface. Make sure to leave a few inches clearance above the train and any tree branches and ornaments. Keep tinsel (especially metal tinsel which can cause electrical shorts) far, far away. Also keep Christmas village buildings and scenery at least two inches away on either side.

  1. Set up your track and hook up your power pack

Roadbed-style track (with a simulated ballast base) can be set up on any surface including carpet with no bad effects on your trains. If you have conventional track (you can see through the spaces between the ties and rails) consider inserting wood, cardboard or even tape that’s wider than the track to provide a fiber-free surface. Just a single carpet or tree skirt fiber, or tinsel can ruin a locomotive if it gets caught in the mechanism. Here’s a hint for reliability: if you’re using conventional track try a piece of duct tape on the underside of six or eight ties at each track joint to hold the pieces together as the track moves under the weight of the passing trains.

  1. Get your trains on the line

When you’re satisfied with your track layout go ahead and put your trains on the track. If you find that the tree, buildings, presents or other decorations make rerailing the trains difficult consider a rerailer track (you may have one already) or rerailing tool. Here’s an assortment of rerailing tracks and tools.  Although there are many choices you may consider a ramp-style rerailer to help with rerailing cars in the limited confines of space under the tree.

  1. Run like Rudolph!

Crack open the throttle and let your trains run! For safety, keep an eye out for obstructions as presents get moved around and track shifts on soft surfaces.

The tradition of having a holiday train is one that still exists because it’s fun. Keeping those trains running takes a little bit of work and when done correctly can make the holiday train even more fun. If you’re considering a holiday train for the first time or giving one as a gift, consider starting with a train-set.

Holiday Gift Guide for Railroad Modelers

With the holidays upon us it’s time to start thinking about appropriate gifts. While it’s always the most fun to give a gift that will be appreciated, treasured or used regularly, gifts for model railroaders, or any hobbyist for that matter, can be tricky. If you’re not a train modeler or enthusiast it can be especially challenging, so if you would like to save a lot of time, consider a Walthers gift certificate, or to put more effort into the giving experience here are some tips to make gift giving for your favorite railroader a rewarding experience.

To begin with, make an effort to observe where your gift recipient’s interests lay within the hobby. Are they getting, or did they just get started with a train set? Do they only set up their train around the tree at Christmas? Do they have a small layout? Do they have a large model railroad empire? Is there a specific railroad, location or era (steam locos, diesel, modern/current era, somewhere in the middle) he or she is interested in? Do they only collect models? Finally, and this one is very important, what scale trains do they have interest in? Asking some questions upfront can go a long way towards holiday success.

Starting out – Holiday gifts for beginners

A train around the Christmas tree, winding its way through a Christmas village is a long standing tradition that dates back to the 1800s. It’s also a fun part of decorating a Christmas tree and it’s where many kids see their first toy train set! As a starting point for purchasing a train set check out the Walthers Holiday Gift Guide. This selection of kids’ sets, starter sets as well as train-only sets offers trains in all scales covering a variety of interests. Not sure of some of the features and benefits of the sets? Check out the Train Set advisor for some tips and information about train sets.

Train sets are also the most common way people get started in the hobby. They provide the basics – a train, track, power pack and perhaps some accessory buildings and scenery. Often, interest in model trains starts with toy trains at the holidays. Thinking of giving a train set as the beginning of a layout or long-term hobby? Make sure the train set is compatible with supporting products like extra locomotives, cars, track, buildings and scenery.

Does your railroader already have some trains?

Beginning hobbyists and those building their first layout are relatively easy to buy for since they don’t yet have a lot of materials for their railroads. They already have some trains or know they want something more than a starter set. Extra locos, cars, track, vehicles as well as scenery materials and other accessories are all fun gifts. If you’re looking for these add-ons, the MOST important thing is to find out the scale of trains they already have – trains of the wrong size simply won’t work.

Again, train-only sets are a great option since they provide extra locomotives and cars without the track. Another great choice for those who have interests beyond their train set is a how-to book about various modeling subjects. There is no end to the options for reading about trains.

Beyond beginners

So, your favorite modeler has been into trains for a while. Model railroaders who are past the beginning stage have already developed an interest in the hobby. Do they keep their trains set up all year long – a permanent layout? By now they know what they want or need. If not, are they in a train club that has a layout where they run their trains?

As far as gifts go, again, choosing the correct scale is very important. If they are already building a layout perhaps scenery, details and other accessories will be appreciated. Of course, more trains always make great model railroad gifts. Model railroaders in this group will also tend to be replicating railroads from specific parts of the country or even road names, locations, and periods in time.

Longtime modelers

Seasoned model railroaders typically know exactly what they need for their collection, layout or other railroad interest. Chances are they may have even refined their interests to a specific kind of train, era, location or railroad name. The train-only sets, Christmas-themed items and accessories are a whimsical way to give a dyed-in-the-wool model railroader a gift. If you know their specific railroad interests there are plenty of books about real railroads.

Not a modeler, just likes trains?

Anything train related is a sure bet for the train lover on your list. They enjoy real railroads, seasonal trains, railroad themes, history and motifs, but may not have model trains. Books, puzzles, calendars and more are shown on our Books, Videos and Railroadiana pages. Anything train related is a sure bet for the train lover on your list.

Something for everybody

Finally, there are some gifts that all train enthusiasts will like. The Walthers 2018 Reference Book is the source for all kinds of HO, N and Z Scale trains, buildings, vehicles and accessories. But, thousands of all-scale products such as adhesives, tools, scenery materials and scratch building supplies usable in any modeling scale as well as for some crafts and diorama projects are also shown. Still unsure of their interests? Walthers also offers gift certificates usable for anything we make or sell.

So you see, there are literally millions of options when buying for the model railroader on your list, visit your local hobby shop, go to a model railroad show, or walthers.com to buy the gift that makes their holiday special.

The Train Under Your Tree – Toy Trains Make Great Gifts

Walthers Toy Trains - Holiday Trains
Remember that magical Christmas morning you came downstairs to find your very first train set? For many of us, the holidays still officially begin only after our trains are up and running under the tree! Model trains and Christmas have gone together like red and green for generations, and there’s a fascinating story of how it all came to be.

Setting up a Nativity scene started one Christmas Eve in 1223, and was one of many Christmas traditions that came to us from Europe that are still popular today. Although these started simply, by the mid-1800s some expanded into what we’d recognize as a Christmas themed village, including hand-made replicas of homes and farms. Trains were an essential part of daily life by this time and along with wooden and cast iron toys were soon added to these scenes. Things really got moving with the introduction of affordable wind-up engines (Bill Walthers first train was actually a wind-up locomotive received as a boyhood Christmas gift in 1899) running on a circle of tracks that were just the right size and shape to fit under a tree. Märklin wowed the world with the first train sets in 1891 that included everything needed to get started, but also introduced the idea of future expansion by adding more cars, locomotives, track, and buildings.

In 1901, Joshua Lionel Cowen unveiled his first electrically powered model train, not as a toy, but as a display piece for store windows. At least that was the idea until one of his clients suddenly ordered six of them – customers came in demanding to buy the train instead of his other merchandise – and a year later, Lionel was in the toy train business to stay.

Given the size of motors at the time these early electric model trains tended to be pretty big, roughly the size of today’s G Scale models, in an era when rooms in most homes were rather small. Many homes of the time did have a parlor, used only on Sundays or special occasions and playtime was usually limited to weekends as well. As toy trains were pretty easily combined with other holiday décor and added a lot of excitement, mom and dad could usually be persuaded to allow them to remain set up until the holiday celebrations were over.

Demand for trains at Christmas would soon lead to another tradition, department store display layouts. The shopping malls of their day, these flagships of the downtown business district pulled out all the stops for Christmas, especially in the postwar years. Lionel was especially persuasive at getting stores to showcase new train sets and accessories on huge operating layouts, and also ran colorful magazine and newspaper ads suggesting model trains as gifts, prominently displayed under a very finely decorated Christmas tree….

That timeless image cemented the relationship of model trains with the holidays, but there were more and more folks taking down the tree but not the trains at the end of the holiday season. As model railroading gained more popularity, many of the innovations seen on toy trains found their way into scale models. Things gradually came full circle as the larger toy-makers moved on to other products, and smaller firms catering to model railroading took over production of model train sets.

There’s no better way to rekindle those feelings and memories or start making new ones than with a holiday train set of your own. While the model trains themselves may have changed, you’ll find the magic of model railroading is still the same.

Choosing the Right Model Railroad Track

Model Railroad Track – Choices are plentiful, which is right for you?

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned modeler, every model railroad needs good track. It’s important to choose the track type that best suits your needs.

One Piece at a Time: Sectional Track

If you like to simply run model trains, want to get up and running quickly, or you don’t wish to mimic real-life track arrangements, sectional track might work best.

Sectional track is great for beginners. It consists of fixed-radius curves, multiple lengths of straight track and turnouts (also called switches) that match, or are compatible with, the basic track sections. Rail is often slightly oversized for sturdiness. If you are beginning, or started with a basic starter train set you are likely familiar with sectional track.

Roadbed vs Conventional Track

Generally speaking there are two common types of sectional track, roadbed and conventional. Here are some explanations.

Roadbed Track
roadbed model railroad track

Roadbed track combines rails, ties and ballast roadbed (on real railroads ballast is crushed rock that holds track in place and aids rainwater drainage) into a single track piece. Some roadbed track has hidden electrical contacts for added reliability. In recent years roadbed-style track has become standard in many train sets from Z to O Scales.

Roadbed-style track is a great way to get started because it provides consistent electrical reliability – track pieces lock together in alignment making it great for beginners. It can be set up anywhere (even on carpet) and its profile negates the need for roadbed, so you can simply affix it to plain sub-roadbed like a wood or foam tabletop.

Its appearance looks like heavy-duty mainline track with perfectly aligned ties and manicured ballast – a far cry from the look of real track or track on secondary lines and branches. There are methods of weathering, painting and ballasting that will improve realism, but it’s another step you have to consider if realistic appearance is important to you.

The disadvantage to roadbed track is once you choose a system, you’re locked into its geometry including curve radii, turnouts and straight lengths. Some manufacturers make only a limited selection of track pieces, so you may have to compromise as you design your track plan. Very few systems have conversion track sections to join with other makers’ systems, but most do offer a transition piece for connecting to conventional track. That said, there are many large layouts built using roadbed track because of its reliability.

Conventional Track

conventional model track

If you can see through the spaces between the ties on your track then you have conventional track. Nickel silver rail molded onto injection-molded ties is a quick definition for this kind of track in most scales. At one time conventional track dominated the model railroad industry – it was standard in train sets and was available anywhere trains were sold. While still popular with layout builders and very widely available, it has been largely replaced by quick-setup roadbed track in train sets.

Conventional track offers far more choices for track planning. Many advanced model railroads are built using conventional track. It’s available with a variety of rail sizes in most scales, so fine scale modelers can choose scale-height rail, also referenced as rail “Code,” and ties that look like wood or concrete.

track options

Sectional conventional track, like roadbed track, is fast and fun to set up – but you must set it up on a suitable base or roadbed. Because this type of track is open, using it on uneven surfaces, carpet or dirt is not advisable. Many modelers choose strips of cork or foam roadbed between the track and benchwork/layout table to suggest a subgrade and reduce noise and vibration.

Unlike with sectional roadbed track, most conventional track is interchangeable with that of other makers provided the rail size, or “Code,” is the same. Some manufacturers also offer transition track or rail joiners so you can mix rail sizes. A variety of turnouts that match or complement sectional track geometry are available. As with roadbed track, the geometry of conventional sectional track “systems” limits your track planning if you stick solely to sectional track.

Looking for more flexibility, why not flex track?

Flex Track

Flex (flexible) track is available in most model railroad scales and each system has a unique appearance. Here is a sampling of HO and N scale flex track sections. As you can see in the second image the track is easily bent to custom curvatures.

In addition to fixed-geometry sectional model railroad track, flexible conventional track is also available, and that’s where conventional track shines!

Flex track allows nearly unlimited possibilities for adding various curves because it has no fixed geometry. It can be bent to very gentle or sharp curves. Use care to not make the curves too tight – 18″ to 22″ radius is usually the sharpest for most equipment to run smoothly. Additionally, turnouts that mimic real track geometry are also offered, mostly for use with flex track, however, they still work with conventional sectional track. With flex track an added advantage is that there are fewer joints in the track over long distances, so electrical continuity is much improved.

Flex track, however, requires more skill if you’re planning a layout beyond what sectional track offers.

If flex track appeals to you but you’re just starting out, it’s a great learning opportunity. Using flex track requires special, but easy-to-learn skills. Practice track cutting using flush cutters, rail saws or a rotary tool with a cutoff disc. For smooth curves, learn how to use a radius tool to plot out a centerline on your sub-roadbed. Some modelers use a mix of sectional and flex track out of convenience or if they’re expanding a sectional track railroad.

Finally, you’ll have to affix your model railroad track to your roadbed and layout base so it stays put. Don’t attach it directly to plywood or boards – it’s noisy and real track is usually elevated for drainage, so it just won’t look realistic enough.

When you consider purchasing track from Walthers.com we’ve put together some search links for you to browse model railroad track more effectively.

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/flexible-track/show/120 – Flex Track

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/roadbed-track Roadbed Track

https://www.walthers.com/products/layout/track-and-accessories/sectional-track Sectional Track

Model Railroader has great track articles here: http://mrr.trains.com/mrvp/how-to/track

New Product Announcements – 2017 National Train Show

Milwaukee, WI., Wm. K. Walthers, Inc. is pleased to announce several new products in HO and multi-scale during the 2017 National Train Show in Orlando, FL.

ML-8

WalthersMainline® Plymouth ML-8
HO Scale
910-20007 Series ESU DCC Control-Only $149.98 each
910-10007 Series Standard DC $99.98 each
November 2017 delivery for all models

Roadnames available: BN, Bicentennial, Painted, Unlettered with decals: Green, Red, Orange, Black,
Yellow with Stripes

• NEW – now available with ESU Control-Only Decoder for DCC layouts
• Prototypes in service 1920s to the present with several now in museums
• Used as shop switchers by railroads & all types of industries
• Control decoder (no sound) with built-in capacitor to maintain performance during brief power interruptions over switches and dirty track
• Three-point suspension for positive track contact
• Highly detailed, heavy die cast metal underframe & hood
• Etched metal, see-through radiator guard
• Separate metal handrails
• Painted, Unlettered locos include decals with Cornerstone industry logos, numbers & more
• Fully-assembled, ready to enjoy – perfect loco for small layouts
• Powerful WalthersMainline drive with:
– Five-pole skew-wound motor
– Prototypical low speed gearing
– Helical-cut gears for quiet operation
– All-wheel drive and electrical pickup
– Machined brass flywheel
– Constant and directional LED lights
• RP-25 metal wheels
• Proto MAX™ metal knuckle couplers

Reefer


WalthersMainline® 50′ Exterior-Post Mechanical Reefer
HO Scale
910-3750 Series
$27.98 Each
November 2017 delivery

Roadnames available: Santa Fe Refrigerated Despatch, Canadian Pacific, Burlington Refrigerator Express,
Erie Lackawanna, Milwaukee Road, Pacific Fruit Express – late w/UP & SP logos, Undecorated

• All-new tooling
• Based on CB&Q Haveloc Shops-built prototypes – similar cars in service 1960s to early 2000s
• Must-have car for serving cold storage facilities & grocery wholesalers
• Used to move all types of temperature-sensitive food products
• Matches prototype dimensions
• Diagonal panel roof w/separately applied exhaust stack
• Authentic plug doors
• Detailed refrigerator inlet & outlet grilles
• Late improved Dreadnaught ends
• See-through running board
• Highly detailed underbody w/fuel tanks & brake gear
• 70-ton roller bearing trucks
• Correct 33″ turned metal wheelsets
• Proto MAX™ metal knuckle couplers

Hopper

WalthersMainline® 39′ Trinity 3281 Covered Hopper
HO Scale
910-7500 Series
$27.98 Each
December 2017 delivery

Roadnames available: Union Pacific – CMO, CSX Transportation, General American, Norfolk Southern, Trinity Industries Leasing, First Union Rail – WSOX, Undecorated

• Completely new car from rails to roof!
• Based on later production prototypes in service from 1990s to the present with 7 side panels (2 narrow, 5 large)
• Used for dense, heavy loads including cement & frac sand
• Run alone & in unit train service
• Separately applied brake gear, discharge gates, inlet hatches & end ladder cages
• See-through running board
• Correct 36″ turned metal wheelsets
• Proto MAX™ metal knuckle couplers

Well Car

WalthersMainline® Thrall Rebuilt 40′ Well Car
HO Scale
910-5601 Series
$29.98 Each
February 2018 delivery

Roadnames available: TTX 53000-series with two logo variations; DTTX 745000-series

• All-new model!
• Based on shortened Thrall 48′ well cars in service from 2003 to the present
• Holds 20′ & 40′ containers in well & 40′ to 53′ top-loaded
• Heavy die-cast metal frame for superb performance empty or loaded
• Finely molded 3-D brake rods with chains, brake piping & weld lines on body
• Separate deck-mounted brake detail with piping, IBC storage boxes & realistic walkways
• 70-ton roller bearing trucks
• Correct 33″ turned metal wheelsets
• Proto MAX™ metal knuckle couplers

Spreader

WalthersProto® Jordan Spreader
HO Scale
920-110100 Series
$89.98 Each
February 2018 delivery

Roadnames available: Santa Fe, BNSF, Canadian Pacific, Pennsylvania, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Maintenance-of-Way (gray), Painted Yellow – Unlettered, Undecorated – Kit

• Totally new model from rails to roof!
• Based on Model 2-200 Spreader-Ditcher-Snowplow used by dozens of railroads
• Prototypes in service 1920s to the present
• Fully assembled, railroad ready – undecorated kit also available
• Perfect companion to WalthersProto Russell Plows (sold separately)
• Factory-installed grab irons
• Complete underbody w/brake gear & piping
• Thin profile stirrups
• Cab window “glass”
• Railroad-specific details:
Horizontal or vertical air reservoir
Original or one of three later headlight styles as appropriate
70-ton roller bearing or Bettendorf trucks as appropriate
Single-chime air horn
• Positionable wings & moldboards can be raised & lowered
• Built tough with durable metal hinges & other details
• Ultra-smooth rolling metal axles & 33″ wheelsets
• Proto MAX™ metal knuckle couplers

Control System

Walthers Layout Control System
Z, N, HO, S, and O Scales
Components priced from $9.98 – $24.98
February 2018 delivery

Switch Unit
942-101 $24.98

Dual Color LED Fascia Turnout Controller w/Drill Template
942-121 $9.98

Dual Color LED Accessory Controller w/Drill Template
942-123 Yellow, Green $9.98

2-Amp 12V Filtered DC Power Supply
942-110 $19.98

Distribution Block
942-111 $11.98

Dual Color LED Fascia Crossover Controller w/Drill Template
942-122 $16.98

Control System Turnout Drill Set
942-140 $11.98


• Low-cost solution for easy turnout control in Z, N, HO, S, and O Scales!
• Expandable at any time — grows with your layout
• Use with DCC- or DC-powered layouts – includes built-in DCC accessory decoder
• Plug & play RC servo-style wiring with connectors – no cutting or soldering needed!
• User-friendly instructions with illustrations & drilling templates simplify installation & operation
• Mix & match components to customize your system using:
Servo-based slow-motion Switch Unit
Power Distribution Block
LED panel indicator/control pushbutton switches
Add-on system cabling (Connecting Cable 942-112 pkg(5) $9.98 Extension Cable 942-113 pkg(5) $9.98)
3-Piece Drill Set
2 Amp Power Supply

Walthers at NMRA 2017 Orlando

We’re on our way to Orlando, Florida for the 2017 NMRA convention and National Train Show! Walthers will be making several huge announcements at a clinic Thursday night, August 3rd at 7:30p.m. EDT. If you’re at the convention, please stop by! We’d love to see you there.

All our new product announcements will be shown in our National Train Show booth starting Friday morning and throughout the weekend. If you’re at the show, please stop by and see us at our booth located at Exhibit Hall A, Booth Number 601.

If you’re not able to attend the convention or the show, no problem, we’ve got you covered! Friday, August 4th we’ll be broadcasting a Facebook Live stream on our Facebook page. This stream will give you a chance to see our National Train Show booth as if you were there.

Then, after all the excitement of the show is over, check back here in our blog for a recap of all the new Walthers new product announcements we’re making at the show. Monday, August 7th we’ll post photos, videos and all the product info you need to get up to speed on these exciting new products.

Post show update

We had a great time meeting so many of you at the National Train Show this past weekend, and a big thanks to everyone who came by to see what’s new from Walthers! Just in case you missed us, more photos and information are a click away at the tabs below and you can reserve any of these models right now at walthers.com or with your participating dealer.

C&O George Washington

Fast facts about the C&O George Washington – coming soon in HO from WalthersProto®

For folks lucky enough to ride C&O’s George Washington in the streamline era, getting there really was half the fun! A relaxed atmosphere unique among name trains and long-standing traditions of superb service made every rider feel welcome. With the arrival of brand-new lightweight cars in 1950, George, as he was known to his many friends began some of the best and busiest years of his long career.

Following the introduction of Walthers newest name train, the C&O George Washington, we’d like to share with you some interesting facts we learned during the development of this train. The George has a rather topsy-turvy story, and here are some of the highlights:

The George Washington was the C&O’s flagship for almost 40 years, and along the way it established a reputation for service that was second to none. Taking full advantage of growing public excitement over George Washington’s 200th birthday celebrations planned for 1932, C&O began laying the groundwork for its new train in 1931. While the C&O served several cities associated with Washington in his lifetime, the PR department proclaimed him the railroad’s first president (via his connection to an early canal company with later ties to the railroad) and launched a major campaign rebranding itself as “George Washington’s Railroad.”

Introduced on April 30, 1932, the mostly new consist was America’s second train to feature air conditioning – Baltimore & Ohio’s Capitol Limited beat it by a week. Popular from the start, it quickly rose to become the line’s flagship, overshadowing the Fast Flying Virginian (FFV) and was soon known simply as the George. Befitting its status, it carried train numbers one and two in public and employee timetables.

Overnight service was offered between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, Ohio, with stops at key southern cities. Connecting service was also provided to the famous Greenbrier and Homestead Hotel resorts in West Virginia; with no major highways and only a small hobby airport nearby George was the best way to get there well into the jet age.

Plans to streamline all C&O trains began in 1946 with a massive order for 284 lightweight cars from Pullman-Standard. Postwar economic factors led to cutbacks, but C&O accepted most of the 52-seat coaches (80 ordered, 59 retained) and 10-6 sleepers (75 ordered, 56 retained) that became the road’s signature streamlined equipment. As a result of the sales, similar cars were found on the IC, DRGW, and B&O and eventually on other railroads as well.

Assigned to George and other trains after deliveries began in 1950, these unique C&O coaches and sleepers had custom-designed interiors inspired by wartime rider surveys. Coaches featured a curved glass center partition to break-up the “bowling alley” floor plan found in standard cars, which also resulted in blank panels on the exterior. Where most 10-6 sleepers were built with the expensive bedrooms on one end, the C&O City series put all of them in the center, well away from the noise and vibration of the wheels. Outside, these sleepers were unusual in that they carried both names and numbers.

After they were cut from the Pullman order as a further cost-cutting move, C&O simply repainted heavyweight mail, baggage and dining cars to match the new yellow, blue and stainless steel lightweights and continued to use some right to the end in 1971. George operated with heavyweight diners until 1960 when three Budd mid-train Lunch Counter-Dining-Observation cars (built for George’s intended daytime companion, the Chessie, which never entered service) were assigned. These were replaced in 1962 by rebuilt mid-train Pullman Diner-Dormitories, which remained George’s standard food service cars through 1971 and are part of our HO model of the train.

E8A units were delivered in two orders from 1950-1953; no B units were purchased. The first 10 arrived painted similarly to new F7s entering freight service, but management felt this didn’t go well with its new passenger scheme. All 10 were repainted very shortly after delivery (photos are rare) and the next 20 arrived in proper passenger colors. These would remain standard passenger power through 1971.

One of the most operations-oriented trains for modelers, George was probably the hardest working passenger train in America by the late 1950s. Numerous cars and entire sections were set off and picked up along its route, operating as separate trains to serve Louisville, Detroit and Newport News, as well as Chicago via the NYC and New York City via the PRR. George eventually took over the duties of the FFV and Sportsman and on some portions of the run, 16 cars were standard. A third E unit (all were rebuilt with nose-mounted MU equipment) was added to move the heavier train through the mountains, and to power one of the sections. If you want to model a passenger train that features online switching and consist changes, the George is the train for you.

As the C&O and B&O joined forces in the early 1960s, passenger services were consolidated. No effort was made to keep cars on their home rails, and George began sporting a mix of equipment. As a result, sections of the train now ran as far west as Chicago and St. Louis.

One the eve of Amtrak, George had the honor of being the last C&O passenger train in service. Much of its scenic route is still served today by Amtrak’s Cardinal.

There’s still time to make this great new train part of your operations or collections! Reserve yours today at https://www.walthers.com/products/name-trains/george-washington

Founder’s Day

May 10th is pretty important in railroad history, most notably as the day America’s transcontinental railroad was completed. But as a modeler, you might know it was also a pretty important beginning for our favorite hobby. Not only was May 10th Bill Walthers’ birthday, but May also marks the start of what became today’s Wm. K. Walthers, Inc.

Born in 1893, Bill’s Milwaukee hometown was a hotbed of railroading, and the seeds of his life-long fascination with trains took root an early age. Inspired by real railroads and studying electronics, he began experimenting with ways to make the toy trains of the era look and run better. He effectively turned his home layout into a laboratory. Through the pages of The Modelmaker (forerunner of today’s Model Railroader), Bill shared his passion and his ideas. Soon after these articles ran, letters would arrive from folks asking questions. Many inquired if he would mind purchasing and sending the needed parts they couldn’t find at home!

Like a lot of folks in that Depression year of 1932, Bill found himself out of work, but took a chance and turned his hobby into a small business. While we’re not quite sure if he set up shop on the 10th, we do know he ran the very first Walthers ad that May, offering ways to “Improve Your Toy Railroad” with a catalog offering various track and other components, and the self-published Signal and Control Manual. Bill reported he made $500 in the first year, and his new business was soon up and running.

As we mark our 85th year, we’re just as dedicated to helping you find the products, information and supplies that bring your model railroad to life, from first train set to super-detailed scale replica. Looking back, we’re honored and humbled to have been part of so many happy times as the love of the hobby has been passed from one generation to the next, and our sincere thanks for choosing Walthers yesterday, today and tomorrow! Looking forward, we have some pretty exciting new product announcements coming in the weeks ahead! Meanwhile, join us in celebrating Founder’s Day with great deals on select Cornerstone kits – check them out in the May issue of Walthers Flyer available now at participating dealers or online at walthers.com/monthly-flyer.