Rapido Newsletter Vol. 128
©2020 Rapido Trains Inc.
Dear Rapido Customer,

Bill here.

Jason has decided that he's too busy working on his layout (with some excuse about needing to have it ready for a video) to write this newsletter, Because of this, he's asked Bobby, Josh, John and me to do it. So, this is our chance to give some of you what you've been asking for all along - a nice short, concise, serious, no frills, fact-filled and to-the-point newsletter.

Right... Sure.

In this newsletter:

Hosehead Special!
  • New! HO Scale Canadian Pacific Chopped-Nose RS-18u!
  • New! HO Scale Canadian National RSC-14!
  • New Run! HO Scale Canadian Pacific Angus Van!

Big Order Deadline - MONDAY!
  • HO Scale F59PH and M420; N Scale F40s

Big Order Deadline - September 15th
  • HO Scale SW1200
  • HO Scale Comet Coaches
  • HO Scale "Oh So Noisy" Steam Heater Car - With Video!

New Models With Videos
  • HO Scale M420 Models with New Rapido-TCS Sound Decoder
  • N Scale F40PH-2D Locomotives In Action
  • Ski Trains In Colorado!

More Neat Stuff...
  • Ask Us Anything on Facebook Live!
  • Factory and Tooling Update
  • H16-44 Locomotive Designs and Spotting Features
  • Tinker Hollow – A COVID-19 Project Layout
Hey - there's a reason it's called the Great White North, eh?
Beauty photo courtesy Dan Darnell collection.
HO Scale Canadian Pacific Chopped-Nose RS-18u!

Bill: OK, I need a break already. Josh, you take over for a while.

Josh: Gee, thanks Bill. Throw me into the fire by doing not one, but TWO new locomotive announcements in the newsletter. You do realize I've never done a newsletter before, right? And that Dan Darnell designed both these engines so I'm not even the designer?

Bill: Yes and yes. Please continue.

Josh: OK, here goes nothing!
Rapido RS-18u loco
RS-18u locomotives cut in between a VIA F40PH-2 and a steam generator car. Hey, you can model ALL of this with Rapido products now! Photo from Dan Darnell's collection.
So anyone who knows me knows I'm all about Canadian Pacific, and have been since I was a wee lad. (Well, that and buses… and streetcars…. and….) So I'm really excited to announce the new Rapido HO scale CP RS-18u!

Starting in 1980, CP sent all 69 of its remaining RS-18s through a rebuild program, coming out of the shops as RS-18u locomotives 1800-1868. As part of the rebuild, they sported new chopped short hoods to improve visibility; full tri-colour class lights on both ends; a new front number board assembly above the cab windows; and an improved uncoupling lever design. Under the hood, the RS-18u featured overhauled engines and trucks, improved heating systems, new wiring, windows, cab insulation and control stands. The dynamic brake and 251B engine rated at 1800 h.p. remained the same after the overhaul.
3D render of our new RS-18u. Design is almost done.
We've got some tweaks to do, such as adding the holes in the pilot and the MU stand.
Once out of rebuild and now with a new lease on life, the RS-18u locomotives found themselves working everything from branchlines to mainlines and even yard services across the CP network, but predominantly in Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern provinces. After CP retired the entire fleet in the mid-90s, many units would continue to earn their keep in shortline and regional service in both Canada and the US, proving that after over 50 years of total service time and a top-to-bottom rebuild courtesy of the men and women at CP's Angus Shops, these MLW-built workhorses continue to earn their keep.
Rapido HO RS-18u CP
RS18u #1845 from the back, showing off the updated class lights.
Dan Darnell collection.
The RS-18u found its way to the rosters of various railways in Canada including the Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie, New Brunswick East Coast, Ontario Southland, Ottawa Central, Quebec–Gatineau and the Chemin de fer Sartigan. More RS-18u's found their way south of the border and worked various US-based roads including the Adirondack Scenic, Bath & Hammondsport, Buffalo Southern, Cuyahoga Valley, Minnesota Commercial and Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroads.

Oh right, the model. It'll look great, that much I can tell you. And it will run like a Swiss watch with no motor or motherboard problems, because we've solved those issues that plagued our first run of RS-18s.

We've also modified the structure of the model so that the shell comes off easily now! No really, it does! Three screws on each end under the frame and "pop" it's off! No more fidgeting and cursing. This significant design change will sadly render Jeremy's amazing disassembly video redundant. Sorry Jeremy.
Rapido HO RS18u paint schemes
Look at all these great schemes! But note all those conditional shortlines...
Jason doesn't seem to think that the shortline schemes will sell, but our product team does. So we've convinced Jason to offer these RS-18u locomotives in shortline colours as conditional releases - meaning that we have to get enough orders before we will produce them.

So, if you like the shortline schemes as much as we do, please get your orders in!
Many shortlines have owned secondhand RS-18u locomotives, including Ottawa Central.
Photo courtesy Dan Darnell collection.
The other staples of Rapido locomotives will certainly be found in the HO scale RS-18u, including:

  • Accurately designed using our 3D scan of a real RS–18 and measurements from an active RS-18u
  • Completely redesigned chassis and shell for easier access and disassembly
  • Operating headlights, rear lights, factory-installed ditch lights and illuminated cab control stand
  • Fully-operating tri-colour class lights on both front and rear
  • Rapido’s innovative dead straight metal side handrails with plastic stanchions, installed at the factory
  • Unparalleled underframe detail including traction motor cables and other piping, rerailer and a ridiculous number of separately-applied parts
  • Road number specific details including correct battery box louvres
  • Highly detailed cab interior with detailed control stand, operators’ seats and back wall panels
  • All-new, improved drive system for 100% reliable running in DC and DCC. 
  • DC/Silent (21–pin DCC Ready) or DC/DCC/Sound (ESU LokSound) options
  • Accurate sounds recorded from a real Alco 251B prime mover
  • Factory-installed Macdonald-Cartier couplers mounted at the correct height
Another view of the render of our RS-18u. Beauty, eh?
Please click on the image below to download the catalogue.
Please click here to visit our web site for more information or to order direct.

Alright, now that the CP motive power is out of the way, the show's over. Goodnight everybody!

Bill: Ummm Josh, that’s only one. Weren’t you going to talk about TWO locos? You’re not actually going to make ME do any of the work here, are you?
Rapido RSC-14 loco
CN RSC-14 #1761, photographed at Halifax, NS in August 1995.
Dan Darnell collection.
HO Scale Canadian National RSC-14!

Josh: Alright, alright. I might be a CP guy, but I know a great looking locomotive when I see one, and this one is sure to impress, as it's a real beauty. Introducing the Canadian National RSC-14!

Canadian National originally purchased a total of 225 RS-18s, so like a huge number. But in the 1970s, CN was looking for a solution to provide replacement motive power to their underpowered and aging fleet of RSC-13s, with the challenge being the lightweight rail of many branchlines throughout the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
3D render of the RSC-14. Love that dynamic brake detail!
The solution was to retruck 38 RS-18s with A-1-A trucks salvaged from the outgoing fleet of RSC-13s. This was performed by CN's Moncton Shops in 1975 and 1976. These refitted RS-18s were classed as RSC-14s (owing to the fact their 251B prime movers were downrated from 1800 to 1400 hp) and were subsequently assigned to Charlottetown, Moncton and Halifax. A traffic slump in the spring of 1989 left fewer than 15 units in service. These were restricted to yard or transfer work following CNs decision not to equip any RS-18s and RSC-14s with new safety systems then required on mainline locomotives in Canada. CN retired its last RSC-14 in September 1993.

Today only two units remain in Canada - CN 1754 is preserved at the Salem & Hillsborough Railroad in New Brunswick, and CN 1762 is parked at the former train station in Kensington, Prince Edward Island.
Rapido HO RSC14 paint schemes
We are offering - count them - BOTH paint CN schemes!
The Rapido Trains RSC–14 locomotive features include:

  • Accurately designed using our 3D scan of a real RS-18 and accurate measurements of real A-1-A trucks
  • Completely redesigned chassis and shell for easier access and disassembly
  • Operating headlights, rear lights, bi-colour class lights and illuminated cab control stand
  • Road-number-specific intercooler detail (hurray!)
  • And everything else you just read in the RS-18u section

The RSC-14 loco is in final design now, and the order book is open. Click on the image below to download the catalogue.
Please see your dealer or go to our RSC-14 web page to order direct.

OK Bill, it's now your turn to do something! Bill? Bill? Oh come on...
Rapido HO CP Angus Van
HO Scale Canadian Pacific Angus Van!

Bobby: Bobby here. Bill has disappeared again. He doesn't seem to do any work these days. How does he get away with it? Guess that I'll just have to step in.

The Angus is back…and juicer than ever!

Now before you get excited, we’re talking CP Angus Vans, not the burger, although that does sound tasty as I type this during lunch (and a Tropical Storm, so if the power goes out…).
Rapidoo C Angus Van group
We're once again offering these "well done" schemes.
Sorry...Thinking of burgers again.
Between 1972 and 1981, CP’s Angus Shops in Montreal built over 300 modern, wide-vision “vans." For all you guys not wearing toques, "Van" is Canadian for “Caboose.” Hence the “Angus Van” name that stuck with them throughout their careers. They proved popular with crews and many are still on the road today as shoving platforms or rider cars in MOW service. One of the more unique uses for a van was CP 422999, which was converted into a track gauge calibration car.
Bringing up the markers...
Photo courtesy Brian Schuff.
Our updated CP Angus Van features:

  • Super-detailed underbody including all separate air and brake piping 
  • Super-detailed Barber-Bettendorf caboose trucks 
  • Full multi-coloured interior with proper floor texture 
  • Interior handrails and opening windows in the cupola 
  • See-through, etched metal end platforms and steps 
  • Full end detail, including uncoupling levers 
  • Separate grab irons installed at the factory 
  • Improved, full interior lighting with all-wheel pickup and better rolling trucks
  • Operating marker lights 

The MSRP is $99.95 (US) or $119.95 (CAN). Seeing as our previous runs have become "rare" (sorry, I know) and have gone for huge money eBay, we think that's this is a BARGAIN! In fact, if you think this price is too low, please send an extra $20 per model to my house in New Jersey. Heck – the model isn't really necessary. Just send me money!

Click on the image below to download the sales pack:
Please click here to visit the web site. You can order from us or, preferably, from your favourite/favorite hobby shop. We'll announce an order deadline about a month before we are ready to rock at the factory.

P.S., After all this discussion of “Angus," it’s OK for you to go order your burger and put on some AC/DC, but make sure you reserve a bunch of Angus Vans first!
Big Order Deadline - MONDAY!

As we've been mentioning in these newsletters, the 15th of each month (or the following Monday if the 15th is on a weekend) is always a Rapido order deadline. August 15th is this Saturday, so Monday the 17th is a big order deadline.

Please get your orders in ASAP for:

More info on the M420 and the F40 can be found below, but we covered the F59PH pretty extensively last month. In case you missed it, please click here or on the image below to watch the F59 video.
Rapido HO EMD SW1200 group
Here are the latest decoration samples of the HO SW-1200!
Some changes and corrections are still to be made.
Big Order Deadline - September 15th

Bill: I'm back. Thanks guys!

We have a few projects with order deadlines coming up on September 15.

Information on each project is below. Don't forget to get your orders in before September 15th to avoid missing out! You can order through your dealer or direct.
Pre-production sample of the Southern Pacific SW1200
HO Scale SW1200

We've just received decorated samples of our upcoming EMD SW1200 switchers. Dan is busy with a few last minute corrections then we're ready to start production. We may be biased, but we think that they look great!

So far, almost a third of our orders are for SP. That's right - it is our biggest seller by a huge margin. Thank you to all the SP fans out there who have reserved one (or several, apparently). Now the rest of you guys need to step up. GTW fans - we're making three versions for you, and total sales of all three equal the sales of about one number of SP. We know you GTW fans are out there – please order yours soon!

If any store or club or historical society wants us to make a custom number for SP (or any other paint scheme), please get in touch before the 15th!

Click on the image below to download the SW1200 catalog. Then please click here to visit the web site or please contact your dealer ASAP.
Please note we've updated the artwork for the CB&Q models. 9273 and 9277 have the "Everywhere West/Way of the Zephyrs" slogans on them as they wore these for most of their lives. The third number, 9278, has "Burlington" on the side. More info at the SW1200 page.

Again, if you would like to commission a custom number of any SW1200, please let us know before the 15th!
Decoration samples of the Comet cab and coaches have just shown up at Rapido Headquarters. Man, they look sharp! (Standard sample disclaimers apply).
HO Scale Comet Cab Cars and Coaches

The Comet passenger cars have become a staple of commuter railroading in the eastern US. Numerous cars continue in service for SEPTA, NJ Transit, MBTA, Metro North, Conn DOT and even Montreal's AMT. We're ready to head into production on these as well so be sure that you have your reservations in.

Check out this interior shot and try not to drool. Oh yeah – you should also compare this to the interior on any old "Comet" cars you may have in your collection.
Our Comet cars have amazing interior detail.
How about that incredible underbody detail? The cab cars and coaches have different underbody equipment, just like the prototype.
Rapido Comet underbody detail... Wow!
What about some NJ Transit? We gotta show you this too...
New Jersey Transit Comet Coach... Looking good!
These cars will create the perfect train to go behind our upcoming F40PH and rebuilt FL-9 locos!

Please click on the image below to download the catalog!
Please click here to visit the Comet web page. We'll have a video ready for you to see them in action before the order deadline. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you don't miss it!
Steam heater in Great Northern colors
HO Scale "Oh So Noisy" Steam Heater Car - With Video!

Remember that I mentioned that Jason was working on his layout using the excuse that he had to shoot a video? Well, it seems that may have been true.

We're re-releasing our popular Steam Heater Car. We've done some internal upgrades on the model, removing the smoke unit and replacing it with a digital sound unit that beautifully captures the sound of the steam generator in action.

Click here or on the image below to see our latest video featuring our Steam Genny running on Jason's layout. It stars Rapido's upcoming President and CEO, Isaac Shron, aged eight.

Annoyingly, Jason's layout is starting to look REALLY good. I need to catch up... You can visit his layout's Facebook page to see his latest progress.
Future Rapido President Isaac Shron checks out the new Steam Genny on Jason's Kingston Sub layout.
You can download the catalog showing all available roads and numbers by clicking on the image below.
Please call your hobby shop and reserve, or click here to order direct. Remember that order deadline... September 15th!
New Models With Videos

Just in time for next week's big order deadline, we have two all-new videos for your viewing pleasure!
The final pre-production samples of our HO M420!
HO Scale M420 Models with New Rapido-TCS Sound Decoder

We received updated samples of the HO scale M420 loco including the new Rapido-TCS Sound decoders. The crew at TCS have done a great job of mastering our jointly recorded sound files and the new decoders sound great! TCS is still doing a lot of tweaking to make sure we get a healthy amount of engine thrash and turbo, and we are finalizing the functions and notching.

Click here or on the image below to see the new video.
Please see your dealer or click here to reserve your M420 fleet. The order deadline for these engines is August 17th, i.e. MONDAY. As Jason mentioned in the last newsletter, we really need more people to reserve before the deadline so please spread the word!

When the locomotives are in production and the decoders have been finalized, we will do a new video showing how the Rapido-TCS decoder works and the slight differences between it and our ESU LokSound decoders. As we showed in this video, they are 100% compatible with each other, so MUing your M420 to your RS-18 or Dash 8 will be no problem.
N Scale F40PH-2D Locomotives In Action
We've also just received samples of our new N scale VIA Rail Canada F40PH-2D locomotives with ESU LokSound V5 decoders. Join Rapido CEO and President (at least until Isaac takes over), Jordan Smith, as he puts them through their paces! Click here or on the image below to see the video.
The order deadline for these models, along with the rebuilt (Renaissance) F40s, is Monday August 17th, so please make sure that your orders are in!

Click here for the original F40 (including the Canada! scheme).

Click here for the rebuilt F40.

(After more than a year of including two different links with every newsletter, we really wish we had put both of those locomotives on one web page...)
Ski Trains In Colorado!

Since we don't have any layouts locally that would do justice to the Colorado scenery that the prototype Ski Train ran through, Jordan sent our ski train models our to our friends at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Greeley, Colorado for a test run. There Michelle Kempema spent the day... and night... and next day... running the train on their amazing HO layout. I do wonder about some of her wardrobe choices though... (Ed: She's a Trekkie. You're fired.)

Click here or on the image below to see this great train on this magnificent layout! And I really do love Star Trek, I promise!
Hang on! I thought that was going to be another picture of Michelle and the museum layout. Jordan? Why are you in that picture? Jordan!
Ask Us Anything on Facebook Live!

We're going live again... this time on Monday, August 17th, at 8 p.m. EDT.

Jordan will be moderating a discussion with Dzobby, Josh and Dan Darnell. They can answer all your questions about Rapido products and Rapido in general. They can also all talk about classic cars and trucks, in case the train talk gets boring.

Please don't just ask "Will you make model X?" because we will just say "maybe." We want to engage in some interesting chatter about the hobby, so let's hear from you guys!

Please click here to visit our Facebook page.
Finishing detail part installation on CP and CN RDCs
Factory and Tooling Update

The N scale Dash 8 locomotives have just arrived and will be shipped to customers next week. The HO scale LRC, N scale LRC and HO scale containers will be here next week and will ship out by the end of the month.

As you can see in the photos, the HO scale Canadian RDCs are almost finished. They will leave the factory next week and arrive in September. Jason asked me to tell you "It's a good thing that CERB was extended to the end of September, eh? And no, we would never suggest you spend your CERB on model trains. Never. Ever. At all."

I don't know what he's talking about but I assume our Canadian readers do.
My, that's a lot of RDCs!
We have several exciting projects either in tooling, or just about ready to go to tooling. In locomotives, we have the HO scale Alco PA-series, the HO scale CP D-10 4-6-0 steamers and the Fairbanks Morse H16-44 locos (more on those in a moment). The tooling for the Procor tank car is pretty much finished:
All our models are made using heavy steel moulds like this one from our new tank car.
We have been busy with freight cars as well. The HO scale Evans X-72 and SP B-100-40 boxcars designs are well along in the design phase, and we have just received and are reviewing the first injection samples of the HO X31a boxcar. We also have another freight car in tooling that we haven't even announced yet! So lots more neat stuff to come...
8720 looks nice and shiny at Cranbrook, BC.
Photo courtesy Don Jaworski collection.
H16-44 Locomotive Designs and Spotting Features

Speaking of the H16-44, it seems that we bumped that from the last newsletter because it was getting too long. I'm glad that this one is so short and concise! Ummm.... never mind. Here's John to tell you ALL about it!

John: Thanks Bill! The H16-44 models are coming along nicely I must say. We are in the final design phase of this model.

This project has been a tough one to do. There is little documentation on FM locomotives so we had to send two expendables – I mean good friends of ours – into a mirror universe to take accurate measurements of the last existing H16-44 Phase III locomotive over there.

Bill: Wait…what? We sent two people into a mirror universe?

John: Everything worked out fine. Using a controlled ion storm simulation, we were able to transport Jon Calon and Chris Doering to the mirror universe. They found the surviving TE (Terran Empire) #8554 and took all the needed measurements.

The great news is that we got them back. Chris keeps looking at everyone like he's planning to overthrow them, so we might have got back the wrong Chris. Jon is fine, except that, um, he glows. It's nothing serious, and Michaelea says it's actually a bit of an improvement.
Rapido HO H-16-44 research
No sacrifice is too great for our pursuit of accuracy!
Bill: Oh well, as long as his wife is OK with it.

John: Indeed.

The H16-44, like most locomotives made in the 1950s, went through numerous changes during its life cycle. The Phase I & Phase II units looked dramatically different than the Phase III version we are working on right now. The H16-44 phase III units looked like a smaller 4-axle version of the H24-66 Trainmaster with its boxy appearance & high walkways. When you see one, you need to count the axles to know whether it is an H24-66 (6 axles) or an H16-44 (4 Axles)

The first unit up for review is the B&O H16-44. The B&O owned eight units. We couldn't get a prototype photo in time for this newsletter, but you can see one here.
3D render of the B&O model
The B&O units were pretty much stock Fairbanks Morse. There was nothing really unique to set them apart from H16-44s ordered for other railroads. These units ran long hood forward.

Bill: Did they run on the Kingston Subdivision or the O&W?

John: I don’t think so, just the B&O.

Bill: Then why are we doing them?

John: Next up, we have the CN Version of the H16-44. Note that I ignored you there.
Rapido HO H-16-44 CN
CN prototype and 3D model render.
Prototype photo courtesy Dan Darnell collection.
Bill: Could these units run on Jason’s Kingston Subdivision?

John: Why, yes. Yes, they can. (He said having absolutely no clue…)

Bill: OK, then the project is safe.

John: The CN H16-44 locomotives were built in Canada at Canadian Locomotive Company instead of the Fairbanks Morse factory in Wisconsin. These units had unique Dofasco trucks instead of the usual C-Liner trucks. Jason will think that these look like the greatest locomotive on the planet and will probably want 1000 of them, even though CN rostered only 18.

(Ed: They were gone well before 1980, the year in which my layout is set. We're renaming this project the MLW S-13.)

He'd better not be serious. Next up we have the CP Version of the H16-44.
Rapido HO H-16-44 CP
CP 8713 and our 3D model render.
Prototype photo courtesy CPHA.
The CP H16-44 came in four different styles. The style we are modelling in this run is the late 87xx series. These units were also built in Canada and used the same Dofasco trucks as the CN. Unlike the CN units, these locomotives ran short hood forward.

For the next units, we offer the Milwaukee Road H16-44s which ran somewhat south of Canada.
Rapido HO H-16-44 Milwaukee Road
MILW #436 and the upcoming Rapido model render.
Karl Henkels photo, courtesy Gregory J. Sommers collection.
The Milwaukee Road H16-44s were the only phase III units that did not carry dynamic brakes. However, everything else on them was pretty much the same as the rest of the American units (except the dreaded New Haven).

And now… the New Haven H16-44s. (Before you even ask, Bill: No, they never ran on the Kingston Subdivision or the O&W).
Rapido HO H-16-44 NH
New Haven #1612 and John's favorite version of our model!
Prototype photo courtesy NHRHTA.
Of course, the New Haven H16-44 is the oddball of the bunch. It had unique vent locations, different handrails, different fuel / water tank, and has a steam generator in the nose. Of course we have to replicate these unique features or else we will never, ever hear the end of it from You-Know-Who.

Bill: To protect his privacy we decided not to mention Paul Cutler’s name.
Rapido HO H-16-44 PC
The factory really likes to do PC paint jobs.... basic black!
Unit #5161 is an ex-New Haven loco.
Prototype photo courtesy Penn Central Railroad Historical Society.
John: Since we are modeling New Haven, we might as well do the Penn Central H16-44 as well.

The Penn Central has quite a following these days. They simply love broken and beat-up locomotives painted in black. So yes, someone other than that Craig Zeni guy models the Penn Central.

Bill: Hey wait a minute, don't pick on Craig Zeni! He also models the O&W!

John: There's no accounting for taste.

Now for the coal haulers.

Here we have the Virginian H16-44. This is the first time Rapido has ever made a model for the Virginian Railway! Hurray!
Prototype photo courtesy Bob’s Photos.
One interesting feature of the VGN H16-44s was they had unique and curvy end handrails. All the other H16-44s including the Canadian units had the same type of end handrails. This brings a little bit of style to the boxy brute styling of the H16-44s phase IIIs. The VGN units ran long hood forward.

Last, but not least, we have the N&W H16-44s.

All of the Virginian Railway H16-44s went to the Norfolk & Western. The N&W added spark arrestors on some of the units and, of course, painted them blue.
N&W #135 and our 3D render. LOVE those spark arrestors!
Prototype photo courtesy N&WHS.
Bill: Thanks John. I'm glad you kept this, um, brief. Is anyone still reading?

John: They're all still reading. 11.174% of our readers are from Virginia. Just be sure to order a bunch of H16-44s as soon as possible. I need help to pay for my new boat. And I made up that statistic, by the way. It's really 11.173%.
The Legend of Tinker Hollow - A COVID-19 Project
Bill: For those of you who are still reading, we want to close out with a fun guest piece from Randy Schnarr, the designer of our RailCrew products. While many of us, Jason and myself included, are working to fill as much basement space with layout as possible, Randy has gone in a... different... direction, and made the most of some modeling time provided by the current situation. We'll let him explain:
Tinker Hollow HO mini layout
Randy's "Legend of Tinker Hollow" micro layout
Randy: As a would-be model railroader, I've collected, and collected... and collected track, locomotives, rolling stock, buildings, power packs... all for that dream layout that never happens. In fact, my dream changes so many times, it seems it's never good enough to get started.

But then the pandemic struck and all of a sudden, time was plentiful. Time to actually build a layout... but what? Then it occurred to me that it would be interesting to try a very tiny novelty layout. The challenge was to make it a fully featured layout in a minimum of space. Maybe this project would help me to develop some techniques for my eventual dream layout ...to practice on something that is less "ominous."

Out came a section of flex track and a piece of foam board to determine how tight a radius a Thomas locomotive can negotiate. After testing, it appeared a nine inch radius would work, leading to an 18" diameter and a 20" wide board. My 3/4" foam sandwich board was 62" long, not a bad size for a tiny railway. This would be a layout that can even be stored on one end in a closet when not in use.

With those size limitations, how would I be able to fit an oval for continuous running (a bit of "rail fanning") and some industrial switching operations? With a sketch pad in hand, the ideas began to take shape. The final layout design contained six turnouts, three industries, a railway service siding and a runaround to service the facing and trailing turnout points sidings.
Tinker Hollow track plan
My original layout sketch
Now the real fun began, and here's how to do it:

It is easy to test various options by using T-pins to hold the track on the foam board until you settle on a final layout design. Once a final plan is set, lift each section and glue it in place. 3M Super 77 spray works well on painted or coated foam, but first test it on your surface. If it erodes the foam, use an alternate latex-based adhesive. Set weights on the track to ensure good contact with the glue to the board. Remove the pins when the adhesive is set.
Tinker Hollow overview
The Tinker Hollow layout in all of its glory, before scenery!
That part was relatively easy, but reasonably satisfying.

With all track in place, apply power to the rails. Be aware of polarity issues around turnouts. It may be necessary to cut breaks in the rails and to wire some sections independently.

This is a very satisfying stage. You have achieved a fully operational layout. Many modellers stop at this level and run their trains, however, more can be done in simple steps depending on available time and resources. It's possible to just get carried away with experiments on scenery, controls, buildings, lighting, backdrop etc... and end up looking like this:
Tinker Hollow HO mini layout
Tinker Hollow, now with full scenery. Looks much better, doesn't it!
Surprisingly, 40' freight cars will actually run on this layout, although shorter cars work better!

How did it go from a bare board to this? One step at a time... all the while experimenting with materials and techniques:

  • I painted the track and base board a dark rusty brown earth colour. Be sure to protect turnout /switch points. Wipe the tops of the rails clean. When grasses are applied, it's looks OK to miss a few patches.
  • Next I ballasted the tracks with Woodland Scenics ballast, using thinned white glue to keep it in place.
  • For a rolling landscape effect, I added berms from foam chunks cut to shape, glued in place and painted.
  • I moulded some rock faces and glued them to the sculpted foam and base board. Experiment with the materials and colours ...generally dollar store acrylic paints work well.
  • Woodland Scenics grasses in a variety of colours were spread and glued down with the white glue solution.
  • Woodland Scenics clump foliage makes great bushes, and trees when glued (Super 77) to some roots and twigs.
  • The roadway was made with featherweight spackling tinted to gray with black acrylic dollar store paint. Rails from 36" flex track were tacked to the board to provide a crib to contain the spackling. When cured, the rails were removed and the surface sanded. Powders can be rubbed into the surface to create the wear marks from road traffic. You can even try painting cracks in the road.
  • I added buildings that were all bought used. I then kit bashed some and brush painted them all with dollar store paint.
  • A ten-inch backdrop was built from sheets of foam core (1/4" foam with paper on both sides – also from a dollar store). The images are photographs that have been cropped on my computer then printed and applied to the backdrop. This backdrop was from a small town where the train station was on the edge of town. Commercial backdrops are also available. 
Fond Du Lack HO switching layout
Randy's Fond du Lac switching layout
Fond du Lac

This is another starter layout representing a small industrial switching area. It is built on a 12" x 72' board. It can handle large locomotives and will provide hours of operational fun when it is built ...to whatever level you choose. The 10" high backdrop of this layout is actually photos from a larger layout. The relief buildings are also made from photos, cut and glued to foam core. The sky is spray painted.
Fond Du Lack HO switching layout overview
The complete Fond Du Lac layout. Less is more?
This little layout provides lots of switching action in a small space, and a natural industrial area that can be worked into a larger layout. The layout weighs only 8 pounds, so it is easy to store on end in a closet when not in use if layout space is limited.

If these layouts have taught me anything, it's don't fuss too much! Have fun. Try things. If something doesn't work well enough, try something else. It's all about experimenting with materials to get the desired effect. Not enough materials? Spend time at your local hobby shop; go to auctions and train shows (when we can!); ask your friends if they have excess materials on hand to sell.

Build one or two of these little layouts and you'll be ready for the big dream layout. If you plan well, the small experimental layouts could become a part of your larger plan.

The most important thing of all is to get started. Let the fun begin.
It took me 30 years to get started.
Bill: Thanks Randy! Those look like fun projects. in fact, I have some "scrap" foam in my basement, and some track, and a few buildings. Right, I'm off to the basement!

Until next time, stay safe and have fun with model railroading!


Bill Schneider
Senior Project Manager
Rapido Trains Inc.
USA: PO Box 796, Higganum, CT 06441
Canada: 500 Alden Road, Unit 21, Markham, ON L3R 5H5