Cars & Motorcycles
Great Model Railroads

Great Model Railroads


Model Railroader presents Great Model Railroads 2020. Each year Great Model Railroads brings you some of the best layouts you’ll ever see – and this year is no exception. Inside this special issue you’ll find our favorite new layouts in a variety of scales, locations, sizes, and eras. Plus, the 100-page edition is chock-full of how-to advice and operating tips for model railroaders of all skill levels! Featured layout stories include Sandy River & Rangely Lakes, New Haven, New York Central, Southern Pacific's Placerville Branch, and much more!

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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in this issue

2 min.
great model railroads 2020

You’ll know it when you see it WHAT MAKES A MODEL RAILROAD “GREAT?” What qualifies a layout to grace the pages of this annual issue, dedicated to the best of the best? If you look at the variety of layouts featured in this issue, it’s hard to pick out a single feature or descriptor that can apply to all of them. Some features are obvious. Great model railroads have realistic scenery. For example, take David Powell’s Denver & Rio Grande Western layout on page 18. Looking at the photos accompanying this article, you’ll be surprised to know the model railroad is only 13 x 18 feet. David’s scenic workmanship, seen not just in his mountains but in every creek, gully, yard, and station platform, proves that a layout doesn’t have to be great…

1 min.
great model railroads 2020

Editor Steven Otte Art Director Thomas G. Danneman Editorial staff Hal Miller Jeff Reich Dana Kawala Cody Grivno Eric White Senior Graphic Designer Scott Krall Graphic Designer Samantha Primuth Illustrators Rick Johnson Roen Kelly Jay Smith Director of Design & Production Michael Soliday Production Specialist Cindy Barder Kalmbach Media Chief Executive Officer Dan Hickey Senior Vice President, Finance Christine Metcalf Senior Vice President, Consumer Marketing Nicole McGuire Vice President, Content/Editorial Director Stephen C. George Vice President, Operations Brian J. Schmidt Vice President, Human Resources Sarah A. Horner Senior Director, Advertising Sales & Events David Sherman Circulation Circulation Director Liz Runyon New Business Manager Cathy Daniels Retention Manager Kathy Steele Single Copy Specialist Kim Redmond Advertising and Trade Sales Advertising Sales Director Scott Redmond Advertising Sales Manager Lori Schneider…

15 min.
out and back on the story city branch

WHEN I WAS PLANNING my previous HO scale Minneapolis & St. Louis layout (a process I documented in my article in Great Model Railroads 2016), like many modelers I had a vision of grandeur, wanting to model a 100-mile stretch of main line. Reality soon set in, and the vision was narrowed to something that would fit the space: one town. I promoted the “one-town concept” at Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) gatherings as often as I could. The layout was fun to research, build, and operate with friends. I was happy with it. My interest in the Story City branch line was spiked by an article by Bill Armstrong in the Chicago & North Western Historical Society’s North Western Lines magazine. I was intrigued by the track layout at Roland, Iowa. Later, I…

1 min.
compressed waybills

THE PREDICTABILITY OF the four-position waybill system is compounded on a branch line like mine, since there are no through cars. All cars are “shorts,” destined for delivery on the layout. Cars ping-pong on and off the layout to and from the same destinations. To avoid that, I have compressed much of the information from an actual waybill to fit into a small plastic sleeve. I put a slip of paper with the car initials and number at the top, with a stripe the color of the car bearing a brief car description, in the sleeve. The waybills, printed on heavy paper, fit the remaining space below the car information stripe. When I make up a train, I place at least two waybills in each car’s sleeve. The top bill…

7 min.
big mountains small space

DAVID POWELL DISCOVERED MODEL RAILROADING when, at the age of 8, he found his father’s HO scale Rivarossi Mallet in a basement closet of his family’s home. By the time his dad returned from work that evening, Dave had wired an oval of track and was running the engine. In Dave’s words, that incident “stoked fires of model railroading in me” that burn to this day. Since that first introduction, he has built several model railroads, each of which became more and more detailed as he gained experience and knowledge from other modelers. Then, on a 2004 family vacation to Denver, he met Doug Tagsold, who was doing research for his own HO scale Denver & Rio Grande Western RR layout. Operating Doug’s railroad motivated him to model his own standard…

1 min.
sculpting mountain rocks

I MAKE THE EXPOSED ROCKS on my mountainsides from a 50:50 ratio of plaster of paris for strength and play sand for texture. After mixing in enough water to achieve the consistency of cake frosting, I apply it to the base terrain. The mixture sets up quickly, so I work in small areas of about 1 square foot at a time. I then start to carve striations in the rock, making my cuts parallel to the ground. If any crumbs fall off the knife, I leave them where they fall at the base of the rock to represent talus. Once the rockwork hardens, I color it using a diluted wash of orange water-based paint. I brush this over the entire rock, including any fallen bits. Once the paint dries, I enhance…