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Review of the Kato 126-4014 ‘Big Boy’

So, I got my hands on a the N-scale Kato Big Boy recently, admittedly more of a display piece given my emphasis has been on Japanese rolling stock. That said, it is a fairly impressive piece of work.

Building the Double-Size Corner Module

It’s nice to have a spare minute or two to come back to long-neglected projects...

Easing into Turns

I've mentioned previously that the tight radius of conventional T-Trak corners is a bit of a minus for me. While tight radii in and of themselves are one problem...

Only you can ... make a tree

Okay, so that's conflating two different aphorisms, but there's truth to that: only you can make a tree (or what looks like a tree) on your railroad.

Thinking Above the Box, Too: Scenery on the Cheap

Wow, it’s been two years since my October 2014 Model Railroad Hobbyist article. If you remember, the article was about using sheets of foamcore to build a trial layout.

Definitely Not Just A Guy Thing

I’ve said—as have others—that the Japanese love their trains. The cool thing, though, is that it’s not just the guys. Women are unabashed admirers of Japanese Railways, too...

Powering a Tomytec Tetsudo Collection Train

Tomytec produces a line of static N-scale train models, named the Tetsudo Collection (aka Railway Collection) aimed at the collector who is not necessarily interested in running trains, but who nonetheless is interested in collecting replicas...

Adios, Arnold: Replacing Arnold Couplers with Kato Buckeyes

As model railroaders, we routinely make concessions to scale. Either overscale details (like handrails) or loss of detail altogether. Thicker wheels. Larger flanges. And more. But for N scale, Arnold (aka Rapido) couplers should not be one of them...

Standing on the Shoulders of Others

Plagiarism is such an ugly word. Maybe call it “unattributed borrowing.”

T-Trak with Flex-track

Kato's Unitrack is literally the connective agent that makes T-Trak work. But it is comparatively expensive.

Modeling Japan

Okay, as should be obvious, I’ve taken quite a liking to Japanese rolling stock. Here’s a bit of an explanation why, and—more importantly—some useful information for others who are “similarly afflicted.” ;-]

Japan Earthquake - Google Person Finder
Not surprisingly, Google has taken this down. It's been many years since the Tohoku Earthquake...

Hobby Shops in Akihabara, Tokyo (and elsewhere)

There are a few sites on the web that list hobby shops in Tokyo—and in particular, in the Akihabara—but on a recent trip with a layover in Tokyo (and on a return trip in 2014) I was able to visit a couple of them first hand.

Useful Links

With some down time during the holidays, I've taken the time to put together some links that I've found useful.

Imitating KATO Ballast

Since my Shelf-Top Modules are reliant on KATO Unitrack, the logical ballast medium was KATO's own product...

Gage vs Gauge

A minor rant, but meant in good nature: I've hear a rumor (I'm trying to find it again, and am beginning to think it's just apocrypha) that the NMRA is pushing the spelling gage instead of gauge...

Prototypical Manual Switch Stands

Those stubby Caboose Industries manual ground throws may have a prototypical precedent, after all...

Oh, that's what it's for, too?
This was originally sent to the RPO at Model Railroader magazine...

Scam Alert - Magazine renewal

If you don't already know, be very careful of magazine renewal notices...

Making the Grade

There's quite a fuss being made over on Trains.Com right now, on the matter of degrees and percent, and the like. Probably much more fuss than needs to be.

Shelf-Top Module Photos

You asked; here they are... Just the module pictures. Please see the related article for the details.

Shelf-Top Modules (formerly 'Shinkansen Extensions')

A set of module standards based on, and plug-compatible with, official T-Trak modules.


As with any job or recreation, railroading (and model railroading) has its own vocabulary. I don't know if I can do justice to the whole field, but here are a few terms that might be useful to those new to the hobby.

Choo-choo-choosing how to Run your Trains

I'm of the opinion that there are two kinds of Model Railroaders, namely the ones that love to just run their trains around the track, and the ones that want to "run a railroad."

En-gauging distinctions

I see this all the time, and I'll say that I've been guilty of it myself over the years. It's the use of the terms scale and gauge, and in particular, the use of gauge when the person means scale.


As I'm modeling a freelanced west-coast line that runs from the coast through the Sierras and into the desert, it almost goes without saying that I'll have at least one precarious trestle crossing a granite-lined chasm...

Oh Shay!

There's something really nuts going on in the brass locomotive market right now. I mean, really nuts.

Hand Laid Track

"Way back when," my first "real" layout was on a framed 4'x8' piece of plywood, and I used store-bought (Atlas #4, I think) switches and flex track...

Welcome to the Model Railroading section...

I've been interested in Model Railroading (as compared to "Toy Trains" ;-) for ages now... it goes back as far as I remember, and got its start with an AHM train set and an oval of track one Christmas...