Many site visitors may be new to the hobby or new to using the Internet. This page contains definitions and explanations for a few of the common terms used in model railroading and when surfing the internet. A review of these concepts will help you have a better web experience and enable you to better access and understand the information on my site.

Model Railroad Basics
layout trackplan scale prototype
NMRA turnouts control/power gauge

Layout: the term used to refer to how an individual sets up his or her model railroad. Layouts can fit in a briefcase, fill entire buildings, or circle your property (garden railways).  My site will focus on Michigan rail lines both past and present.   back to top

Trackplan: the track design used to establish a train's potential routes through a model railroad layout. Three primary trackplan/layout types are defined here: Loops allow a continuous run without many wiring or switching complications. Out & Back may require a reversing loop but allows the train to make a journey to a location and then a return from that location. Point to Point is the most realistic in terms of replicating prototype operations, but will typically require more space to provide a satisfactory experience. These types of layouts can be combined in any way: the most important thing is that the trackplan should satisfy the owner's interests and provide enjoyment.
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Control & Power: the type of power and control system used to operate the layout. This can be as simple as a power pack and two wires, or as complex as a separate room with a radio controlled dispatcher and digitally programmed and controlled locomotives.   back to top

Track & Turnouts: model railroad track is available as a variety of fixed radius curves and straight sectional pieces. There is also pre-fabricated  flexible track and miniature wood ties and rails that can be used to actually lay track by hand. A "turnout" is a set of rails that splits into two or more different routes and is often called a "switch track" or "switch."

Scale: the ratio between the model and the real thing. There are six primary "scales" in model railroading: Z=1:220, N=1:160, HO=1:87, S=1:64, O=1:48, and Gn3=1:22.5. For example every actual 1 foot of distance in HO scale represents 87' of distance in the real world.   back to top

Gauge: a standard established to ensure compatibility among common users.  In the real world, "standard gauge" rails are 4'-8 1/2" apart, while "narrow gauge" rails are less. This term is sometimes interchanged for "scale," as the letters in model railroad scales often stand for a common measurement. For instance, N scale originated in Europe as a "N"ine millimeter gauge modeling system.   back to top

Prototype: the real thing, or 1:1 scale! The term can also refer to a specific railroad or set of practices. For example, "My favorite prototype is Conrail" or "Gee, pouring model coal into my hoppers from a measuring cup isn't like the prototype!"    back to top

NMRA: National Model Railroad Association a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting model railroading and establishing standard practices. Joining the NMRA offers many valuable opportunities for growth and learning within the hobby.

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Computer/Internet Basics
browser navigation scroll bars
image links resolution text links

Browser: A software program designed to view web pages. Browser programs open a "window" that is used to display web content. is best viewed with Internet Explorer.
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Resolution: the number (in area) of pixels (dots of light) used to display text and images on your screen. For PC/Windows users, your screen resolution is established by activating your Start menu (bottom left) then choosing "Settings," "Control Panel," then "Display," then choosing the "settings tab" and  moving the screen area slider control." is best viewed with a screen resolution of 800 x 600. 
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Navigating on the web: to get to, you either entered "" in your browser's address bar or you clicked on a link from some other site or search engine. Just above the bar that shows the site address, you will typically find navigation text and/or buttons to help you move around on the web. You may wish to select "Standard Buttons" from the "View - Toolbars" drop-down menu if you do not see any navigational buttons (you should see the words "File," "Edit," and "View" at the top left of your browser window: clicking "View" will show you the "Toolbar" drop-down menu where you can choose "Standard Buttons"). Using the "back" and "forward" buttons will help you get back to a "main" page in the event that you land on a page that does not appear to have internal web navigation. Internal web navigation includes buttons, text and images that turn your mouse pointer into a hand, or prompt an image or text change to indicate a clickable area which allows you to go to a new page. 
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Scroll bars: these are the little mini-windows on the right side and bottom of your browser window. There are little arrows at each end, with a dark bar indicating that you can click either on the bar or the arrows to move your screen view to the left, right, up or down. This allows you to see more information on a page. You have probably used your right scroll bar to move this far down on the page... but it's important to take note of these bars because they let you know when there is more information available that you might not have seen.  I made every effort to present the data and images on so that they do not extend beyond the width of a normal screen view.  Consequently, you can check out my site with minimal use of the left-to-right scroll bar. 
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Underlined text: text that has been underlined often contains a "hyperlink" to a page or location related to the underlined text... this means you can click "back to top"  and this hyperlink will take you back to the top of this page.

Image links: Many of the smaller sized images found on the layout pages are linked to full size images that provide a much more detailed view of the modeler's handiwork. If your mouse pointer turns into a hand over an image, you can click to view the larger photo in a full window. However, please be advised that doing so may take up to a minute or so depending on your browser and connection capabilities, and when you get to the larger image you will need to use your "back button" to return to the original source page.

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2015 knf

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site updated: 01/04/15