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60 Minute Model Railroading


Think you don't have time to build a model railroad? The best layouts are built overnight, they're built a little bit every night. Get in the habbit of making a little modeling time part of your routine and you'll be amazed what a difference these "short" breaks do for your spirit and your layout. You can usually break down even the biggest of projects into smaller chunks that can be finished in an hour. But if you want to get something done from start to finish in an evening, here is a list of some of the things you can do in an hour or less that will make a difference.

1. Make a Track Plan

track plan
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While you probably won't come up with your best plan in your first hour, you can come up with some pretty good ones - and a few that you can rule out.

Start by making scale drawing of the space you have in your room, or your platform size. Then make a bunch of photocopies. Anytime you have an hour (or even less) to spare, sketch out an idea or two.

Then walk away. The down-time in between drawing plans is critical. You can clear your mind and come back with a fresh perspective.

After a few sessions, you'll start to zero in on what you like, what works, and what you'll have to avoid. Then it's time to start spending those hours building!

2. Install Switch Machines

switch machine
®2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Begin automating your layout by adding switch machines. Depending on the machine you choose and the installation required, most can be installed in an hour or less. Even non-conventional installations. And taken one at a time, that big intimidating yard ladder can be powered in several enjoyable evenings.

3. Load a Car

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A new load can make a big difference in how a car looks. From hoppers to flatcars, there are lots of options when it comes to making things for your trains to haul. And if you're looking for an easy project for an evening, an open load is always a winner. From coal to scrap steel, from paper to mysteries under wraps, the open loads pages have carloads of ideas.

4. Weathering

EMAX 92206
©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Nothing makes a model look better than making it look worse! A little weathering can enhance a model and make it look much more realistic without adding any extra details. Whether you choose to do one car at a time or work on a large batch over several evenings, a few hours spent weathering will have an immediate impact on the look of your roster.

5. Install a Decoder

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you are using DCC control, there is a pretty good chance you have a few locomotives that are waiting to go into service for lack of a decoder. Most decoder installations can be done in about an hour. Some much, much less. What better way to spend an evening than adding a locomotive to your roster?

6. Ballast

sweeping ballast
©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you have a large railroad to ballast, it can be quite an intimidating project. But take it just an hour at a time, and before you know it, you'll have covered a lot of right-of-way.

7. Add Some Scenery

®2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Nothing will change the look of your platform faster than adding even a basic layer of scenery. Finishing the scene could take a long time as you add extra details, but just getting up that first coat of plaster allows your mind to fill in many of the missing details.

8. Forest in a Flash

finished forest
©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Now that you have some scenery, it's time to get something growing! A wooded hillside can be a daunting task if you plan to model every individual tree, but focusing on the big picture, you can cover several acres in an hour.

9. Scenic Details

©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Sometimes scenery is not about covering a large area, but creating a small and memorable detail. There are an infinite number from which to choose. This list will give you just a few good ideas.
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