Category Archives: Modeling Projects

John Tews Cornerstone® Engineered Bridge System Project

Summer is often the busiest time of year for construction work along prototype railroads, and for modelers it’s a perfect time to begin those bigger modeling projects before the fall rush!

John Tews from nearby Sussex, Wisconsin, recently finished rebuilding and expanding part of his HO Scale Timber River Railway with new Walthers Cornerstone® Engineered Bridge System kits. Local railfans and the company photographer were on hand to document the project from start to finish in the following photos… John, take it away!


My Timber River Railway is a point-to-point layout set in 1974 that connects the iron range of Minnesota with the ore docks in the Duluth-Superior harbor. Heavy coal, taconite and iron ore trains make up the bulk of traffic, but we also run various local jobs as well as Amtrak service. For years I’ve hosted regular operating sessions, but casual visitors like to see trains in action without stopping and starting. While I’d install removable “bridges” to permit access to the railroad there was no continuous run trackage available for display. Giving some thought to a permanent solution, I dispatched a TRR survey crew who found a suitable location near Emco Junction. A check with a 6′ level showed only a 1/4″ difference in elevation between County Shops Siding and the Chisholm Yard. The proposed route provided an easy grade for long, heavy trains and a continuous run for visitors.


Walthers would like to thank Mr. Tews for his contribution to our blog and the hobby. About the author…

Celebrating its 50th year of operations this summer, John Tews’ HO Scale Timber River Railway continues to inspire modelers worldwide. An active member of the National Model Railroad Association, John achieved Master Model Railroader certification in 2002, and is well known for his 20+ years as Executive Director of Milwaukee’s own Trainfest®. John and his layout have been featured in numerous magazine articles and videos, as well as recent Walthers Showroom Updates. Retired after 36 years with Wisconsin Electric, John, his wife and two dogs make their home in nearby Sussex, Wisconsin.

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:, 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.