The Staging Level is complete!

It took the entire Christmas break and weekends in January, but the staging level is now complete. Track laid and wired, tortoises installed, panel built and soldering skills perfected. I am now a lot closer to running trains than I was a month ago – and it feels pretty good!

After building the main layout at 42 inches high, I realized that although it was optimal viewing level for the kids, I wasn’t enjoying looking ‘down’ on the trains. If I rebuilt the main layout 9 inches higher – at 51 inches – I could solve 3 big problems that I identified with the ‘first’ layout:

  1. The layout was just too low for me. Funnily, I have read that the #1 thing that most railroaders  would change about their layout is the height.
  2. Not enough staging on the first iteration… now I can stage five 12′ trains (each train approx. 15 cars plus 3 locos) eastbound and five 12′ trains westbound (see trackwork pics below).
  3. Single mainline now runs through a scene once on the viewable level. In the previous version, I had the train out and back for continuous running on the same visible level. While this was great to watch, it wasn’t very prototypical – especially since the QGRY is mostly single track.


Starting over and ripping up a year’s worth of work was REALLY painful and I had my doubts; but I bit the bullet, took the leap of faith and it was worth it.

Next up will be to test, test, test the trackwork (and test it again!) to insure perfect operations before I start to bury the staging level and build the level above it.




The (Model Railroad) Origin of the Word ‘Hacking’

The MIT Tech Model Railroad Club was founded in 1946 and at times was a 24/7 operation. It’s also at MIT – the holy grail for technology creators. Imagine the environment there over the last 70 years or so as the development of computers and the internet were taking place!

And it’s where the term ‘hacking’ originated!

Andy Miller has been a member of the Tech Model Railroad Club at Massachusetts Institute of Technology since he was a student there in the 1960s. Hidden away next door to the MIT Museum, today the club is still going strong, albeit with far fewer members than in its heyday (mainly alumni). More remarkably, this was the birthplace of such legendary geek phrases as “hacking” and “foo”.


Happy (Progress) New Year

Can’t believe how quickly time passes – as it’s been months (ok embarrassingly, it’s been 3 months) since my last post. No excuse really; however, in my defense I’ve been busy downstairs WORKING on the layout. As those of you who blog and work on a layout know, sometimes it can be difficult to do BOTH.

New Year’s Day is always a big train day for me as we hold our annual open house/new years day party. It’s the big event where I try to get something substantial accomplished to show off to my non train friends and the neighborhood kids. This year was no different…

Over the holidays I really got a lot of work done and have all but finished the under layout (partially) hidden 10 staging tracks. I knew that I wanted to use tortoise switch machines  here so I installed 12 of them and built a control panel.


YES…I (an electrical idiot) build and wired a control panel! How you may ask did I navigate the world of DPDT switches and bi-directional red/green LEDS? YouTube of course. Found an excellent series by csxmad on YouTube that took me through the design and build of a panel, step-by-step  again proving that you can find anything online.

Check out the excellent Wiring Leds & Dwarf Signals for Control Panel –  Model Trains Part 17  for how I created this wonderful mess!