Frequently Asked Questions
our club and our layout
Bow Valley Model Railroad Club often gets questions about
model railroading and our club so we thought we would provide some
basic information on the subject.
are the most often asked questions we get: Click on a question
to go directly to the answer.
1. What scale is your layout?
2. How long does it take to set up your layout?
3. Who owns the layout? What about the trains?
4. Where do you set up your layout between shows?
5. How do you make your scenery?
6. Can I join your club?
7. How can you run several trains (locomotives)
on the same track at the same time?
8. Where can I get model railroad items?
9. How much does it cost? How much did your layout
What scale is your layout?
most frequently asked question about our layout when we display
it at model railroad shows is "What scale is this?" Our
modular layout is HO scale.
represents the proportion of the size of the model to the real thing.
Scale is often spoken of as a ratio. For example, a real locomotive
would be 1:1. HO scale is 1:87.1. This means that an HO locomotive
is about 1/87th the size of a real one -- you would need 87 HO locomotives
lined up end to end to equal the length of a real locomotive of
exactly the same type! Actually, HO scale is 3.5 mm to the foot!
are several popular scales:
small, increasing availability
small, may be difficult to work on
layout in a smaller space
be harder to work on details
common, very limited availability
popular, very good availability
standard, good availability, runs on HO gauge tracks
than HO so not usually combined with HO
compromise on size
very common, not a lot available
size, easier to work on
up more space
for garden layouts
up more space, cost
a complete reference to model scales, see Wikipedia
List of scale model sizes
often confused with scale is gauge. Gauge represents the
distance between the inside of the two rails on a piece of track.
A real railroad (in North America) has a gauge of 4 feet eight and
one half inches!
HO scale trains run on HO gauge track. But they could run on N gauge
track -- if they represented narrow gauge equipment. People would
be the same size but the distance between the rails would be smaller.
Trains built to run on G gauge track come in different scales --
that is they are slightly larger or smaller in size but the distance
between the rails is the same.
How long does it take to set up your layout?
depends a bit on the size of the layout. You would think smaller
layouts would be a lot quicker to set up than larger ones but, in
fact, when we have a larger layout, we also have more members on
hand to help. On average, we can set up a good-sized layout for
a show in about two hours.
Who owns the layout? What about the trains?
club helps members build the tables for the modules but after a
member displays a module in three shows, the module is then owned
by the member. Members are responsible for obtaining all the track,
buildings, accessories, scenery, locomotives and trains that go
on their modules. So members own their own modules and trains.
The club owns the digital control equipment (DCC) used to run the
trains at shows but members may also obtain their own DCC components
to use on their own home layouts or on the club layout at shows.
Where do you set up your layout between shows?
club does not have any permanent space (and therefore doesn't have
to pay any rent!) so there is no place where we can set up our
layout in between shows. Some members set up their own modules
in their homes either as part of their home layout or stand alone.
How do you make your scenery?
are many methods to make scenery. Plaster, Fiberglas and
foam can all be used as a base and shaped as required. This is then
painted or stained and covered with various materials such as ground
foam, fine gravel, model trees and any number of other items. In
addition, some members have painted backgrounds on their modules.
Any model railroad hobby shop will have books to show you how to
a general rule, our club has found that plaster scenery is relatively
heavy and tends to chip when carried around a lot so most of our
modules are relatively flat. This reduces both the weight and the
likelihood of chipping. We can create depth by using buildings,
trees and other structures. We have some modules which use pink
construction insulation foam for scenery as this is very light.
Our river modules are an example of this type of scenery.
Can I join your club?
probably not. As our club has no permanent space, it just
meets in members' homes and this limits the number of members we
can accommodate. Our club meetings are very well attended so there
is usually no extra room for more members. Nevertheless, we occasionally
do have space to accommodate one or two new members, so contact
us if you are interested.
How can you run several trains (locomotives) on the same track at
the same time?
If the operators get talking to people or are distracted in some
other way, interesting things can (and do) happen!
a technical point of view, we use what is called Digital Command
Control, or DCC. The particular brand we use is made by Digitrax.
A high-frequency square wave AC voltage of about 12 to 16 volts
is applied to the track at all times.
DCC command station receives signals from a handheld radio throttle,
translates the signals into digital commands and then sends these
over the track circuit to locomotives which have a digital decoder
installed in them. Each locomotive decoder is programmed to a different
address and the commands sent out by the command station contain
the address of the particular locomotive which is to respond.
this method, individual locomotives can be started, stopped, reversed,
have their speed adjusted, their headlights turned on or off, various
sounds activated, and so on. The whole system works very much like
an ethernet computer network but with signal packets sent over the
rails instead of over a special cable.
you want to set up a small train set of your own, you don't have
to get this complicated. Just get an ordinary locomotive and an
ordinary power pack along with some track and you're in business.
"Ordinary" HO trains use variable voltage DC current on
the rails and you cannot control multiple locomotives on the same
track at the same time.
Where can I get model railroad items?
are some good model railroad hobby shops in Calgary. See our
Links page for details.
are usually model railroad items for sale at model railroad shows
and other similar events.
is an annual model railroad auction (October) and an annual model
railroad flea market (spring) in Calgary where used or previously
owned items can be obtained. Watch the Calgary Model Railroad Society
link on our Links page for details as they become available or check
with local hobby shops which often have brochures for this type
see most of the vast array of model railroad items currently in
production, see the Walthers Model Railroad Mall on our Links page.
Many of the items listed can be obtained at local hobby shops. If
they don't have an item, they will probably be able to order it
for you. Remember, though, any prices quoted on this site are in
US dollars and local prices may be different.
modelers sometimes order model railroad items using the Internet
from e-Bay, model railroad suppliers, and many other sources. If
you know what you want, have a good idea of its value, and can determine
its condition, this can be a useful source for such items. If you
have not done this before, its probably a good idea to check with
someone who has used this method previously as they can give you
valuable tips on what to watch out for and how best to proceed.
How much does it cost? How much did your layout cost?
can spend anything from a few dollars for used equipment up to hundreds
or more for good quality items. Larger scales (O and G) are generally
more expensive. Visit some of the local hobby shops to get some
idea of costs.
the last few years, the quality and variety of model railroad items
has vastly improved and, as you might expect, prices for higher-end
items have changed accordingly! Also, the Canadian dollar has a
significant impact on what you will pay for many items since most
manufacturers price their products in U.S. dollars!
for our layout, we don't want our wives to know so we can't really
say! It changes as members change their modules and add more rolling
stock (locomotives and trains).
further information, see our Links
Valley Model Railroad Association, Calgary - 2021