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Getting More Out of your Model Railroading Magazine

By Brian Eckard

Each month I wait with anticipation for the next issue of my favorite model railroad magazine. I enjoy seeing whatís new for the hobby, and I especially enjoy looking at other modelerís layouts and track plans. They provide such great ideas that I can incorporate into my layout designs.

After becoming involved with train simulators, I discovered another new activity that I can do with my magazine. I can recreate the layout track plans in my Trainz Railroad simulator and experience first hand the train operations typically described in the article. What a great slant for the arm chair model railroader! 

You should be able to use any of the available train simulators to recreate layouts in. Some simulators perform this function better than others. The Trainz simulator was originally designed as a model railroad simulator, so in my opinion it is the best choice.

After you have chosen a layout you would like to experience in the virtual world, determine whether or not you want to faithfully recreate the layout, or use it as an inspiration to create something similar. Personally, I like point to point operation and I have found that train simulators really facilitate this type of operation well. Space is no longer an issue in the virtual world, so I will typically use the layout designs I find in magazines as an inspiration and create something of my own.

The first thing I do is set my layout up for real scale (1:1). I then set up the baseboards in the overall shape of the original layout design. In Trainz, two baseboards equals about one mile of distance, so I figure out how large I am going to make the layout. If the design shows grid marks, Iíll use each square in the grid to represent one baseboard in Trainz.

Next, using the layout diagram as my guide, I lay out the track work. I use the elevations on the diagram to determine where I need to elevate the track on my layout. If the layout is a loop, many times I will stretch it out and modify it for point to point operations.

Once the track work is in place, Iíll put in the terrain. First I bring the terrain up to the track level. Then I go along the line looking for areas to create hills, cuts, embankments, and tunnels. I also figure out where rivers will go, and where bridges need to be placed. Using the terrain tools in Surveyor I will finish off the terrain beyond the track work.

Once I have the terrain created and looking believable, I then focus on placing roads and towns. Again, I use the layout diagram to figure out these locations. I use the names of the towns on the layout diagram so that I keep the personality of the layout in my version of it.

After getting the terrain and track related items settled, I begin to paint the layout with textures, and place scenery items. This part of the project usually takes longer than laying out the track work. During this phase of creation I use the layout diagram and also the pictures in the magazine to get a feel for what the scenery should look like. Again, to keep the personality of the layout I strive to paint the scenery textures so that it looks similar. I also try to place scenery objects on the layout so that they look similar to the pictures.

Once the scenery and textures have been added, I look for suitable rolling stock to run on the layout. Again, I refer to the layout article for the information I need. Sometimes I will use Paint Shed to paint and label rolling stock specifically for my version of the layout.

Once the rolling stock has been accounted for I set out them out on the layout. I go into Driver and enjoy operating the trains. I use the magazine article to determine how the operating session will transpire.

So, the next time you pick up your favorite model railroading magazine and see a layout that interests you, use Trainz to recreate it in the virtual world and experience it first hand. Itís a lot of fun!

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