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HINTS AND TIPS - THE FOLLOW ON - Hints & Tips - Reference Area. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Sat Nov 28th, 2009 06:32 am
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xdford
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Updated May 14, 2010, changes in

I edit the Hints and Tips column in http://www.mremag.com and it is going to take a while before the ones I have are published by Pat so rather than hang on to them entirely I thought I would submit to this forum, ones starting from further down the track as I see a lot of "welcomes" but not so much else... No offence fellas and ladies but we need more input than "good to see you" if we are going to keep our modelers.

If you would like to comment, rather than write a reply here,  mention it here with comments about "great hint" etc, perhaps you as readers could PM me with input or start a parallel thread and mention your input there.

To put this in perspective - we have only got to about H&T 183 in MRE mag where as I am actually up to about 1126 as of today in my "store". No doubt, some of our beginners and experts need either help or reminding with some of the techniques on offer. I would love to get the hints over 1200(-You'll notice that I have increased my ambit amounts in this edit!) so if you want to contribute, go ahead!  BTW, Thanks to Bob and a few others from this forum among others for their kind permissions to use what they have done so far!

I hope this is not sounding like a repeating record but you can read the hints published so far on http://www.xdford.digitalzones.com/hintsandtips.htm

Part of the reason for starting on 499 was that it is a reasonable hint in itself to get the ball rolling and when I started writing this column, by the time mremag got to 498, YMR participants will nearly have the full set of what I had at the time. I thought I would get to Saturation point about the 650-700 mark. Probably what I will have is a "Bakers 1000" allowing for any repeats or similar hints but hopefully also, there are enough hints to effectively help any newbies that write here!

Finally, I'll keep em coming but it would be nice to get a couple from this group unsolicited from me... regardless of how simple you might think they are!


Regards and Happy Modeling

Trevor

Hints & Tips No.499
Making a Door into a Layout
By John Lupe
I have very little space for a layout and I determined that I could not make a permanent one. I decided to buy a hollow core door for the base. I used a router to rout out many holes and shapes from 1 (ONE) side of the door. enough to have good access but not too many to weaken the door.

With these areas routed out I then attached pink foam sheets to the other side. (the top side, where the track, mountains and scenery are going.)

Once I glued the track down (foam roadbed with hot glue, and soldered the rails), I drilled holes through the door near track for the feeder wires. I then soldered the wires and ran the wires into the door. I then stood the door up against the wall and ran all of the wires inside the door using the access panels that I routed out.

The beauty of this method is that my small 60" X 34" layout is portable and can be set on any table or on any floor to do the work WITHOUT it being unbalanced or damaging any of the wires.

The layout is still a work in progress but I have all of the track wired in this fashion with no issues. ...and I plan on running all the other wires inside the door for lighting etc.

(A Note from Trevor) Due to a confusion I posted a reply to the effect that I have not had correspondence with John for a while.  I understand that he set the router to a shallow depth, and routed about the area he knew feeder wires were going to be. The hole was then drilled through the foam and door once the track was laid. Being a small layout, the current requirements are not high so the wire could be tucked into the groove, covered with tape and directed to his control panel. Setting a depth on the router of 1.5 to 2mm should be sufficient, studying my own doors as I write!

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 Posted: Sat Nov 28th, 2009 06:42 am
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Hints & Tips No.500
Dirt Roads
By Sam Swanson
Mix fine clay soil with diluted white glue to a consistency of peanut butter. Then spread it on the roadway about 1/8" thick and work in ruts with the end of a paintbrush. Next sprinkle dry clay on the non-rutted areas and let the road dry thoroughly. For the final touch, rub the road with a stiff brush or your finger to give it that dusty, hard-packed clay road appearance.

Hints & Tips No.501
Making Fir Trees using Circle and Spiral methods
By Will Annand (Ontario)
A trip to my local Dollar store and a $2.00 purchase left me with enough material for a forest of fir trees. I purchased a 100 pack of wooden skewers and a pack of green scouring pads. As with ground cover, variety is key. I have developed two methods of building my fir trees.
For the circle method, take a scouring pad and cut out circles of varying diameters. Take a wooden skewer and cut it to the desired length, the height of the tree plus ¾ of an inch, this allows you to push the trunk into the base. Mark the flat end of the skewer at ¾ ” from the bottom, this becomes ground level. Then simply combine the pads and the skewer. Take a circle and push the skewer through it, repeat until the skewer is full.
For the spiral method, substitute the circles of scouring pads for strips cut from the long side of the pad. A couple of strips of different widths. After preparing your skewers, take the strip and push the skewer through near one end, spiral the strip and push it through again. Continue until the strip is complete. You can add a thinner strip to the top of the skewer if needed.
Once the trees are completed, stand it in a spare piece of foam, the white bead foam is ideal for this.
Give the tree a spritz with your glue Mix and sprinkle on some fine ground foam of fine sawdust. This gives the tree some texture and adds to the realism. Repeat the above procedure until you have a good sized stand of fir trees. When you are ready to plant the trees, drill a hole into the base of the diorama where you want the tree to be, dip the bottom ¾ ” of the skewer in glue (full strength) and plant the tree.

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 Posted: Sun Nov 29th, 2009 06:06 am
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Hints & Tips No.502
Old Wood Appearance
By John Ogrodowski
One tip is to make unstained wood look old and gray is to lightly go over the wood with a dull pencil.
Hints & Tips No.503
Making a Yard Office
By Peter Hillson
Railways and Railroads often build yard offices out of old wagons and freight cars, I have seen boxcar, refers, and cabooses converted into office space. Just remove the wheel sets and frames, built up a foundation out of scale timber (10x10's or 12x12's), add a stair case, doors and a window or two if necessary.
Hints & Tips No.504
Making Scenery - An Alternative
By George Kerwer
Instead of interwoven corrugated cardboard covered with plaster dipped paper towels, I am using inter woven self-stick fibreglass spackling tape covered with aerosol can (insulation) foam for elevated terrain (hillsides, tunnels, etc.). It expands quite a bit and requires a lot of trimming; but is very light and rigid. After trimming, I plan to paint it with a neutral (gray, tan, green) latex paint and work up the scenery from there. I would be interested to know if anyone else has tried this and what their results were.

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 Posted: Sun Nov 29th, 2009 04:26 pm
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Hints & Tips No.505
Making a Smoke Stack
By John Hanks
I used a plastic extender section from an old vacuum cleaner to make a concrete industrial smoke stack. Just a few details like steps, a square base, and lightning rods disguise its origin.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2009 05:37 am
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Hints & Tips No.506
Making Hay and Straw Bales
By Will Annand, (Ontario)
You can make hay and straw bales out of small blocks of wood or foam and fine sawdust.
1. Cut a small square of wood or foam about the size of a bale of hay.
2. Dip it in your glue Mix..
3. Cover it with the fine sawdust.
Sawdust from different types of wood is different colours and would represent different types of hay.

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 Posted: Tue Dec 1st, 2009 06:37 am
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Hints & Tips No.507
L-Girder Benchwork
By John Paulson
I built my current layout using L-girder bench work and am please with its flexibillity. I started with the wooden L-shaped wall brackets, but if you plan to build a free standing layout you should build the L-girders first.
The L-girder is a 1X4 of dimensional lumber with a 1x2 glued and screwed on end along the length of the 1x4. I built two girders running the length of my layout with the 1x2 along the top edge. Then I mounted them on top of my wall brackets. If you are building a free standing layout use 2x2 lumber or whatever you would like for legs. Add cross braces to the legs for additional rigidity.
I divided the depth of my layout by 3 and mounted the L-girders at the two inner intervals. Then for the yard area I added 1x2 joists across the girder from back to front so I may mount a facia directly to them. In the yard they were spaced 12" apart but this can be increased to as far as 16" if you use thicker more rigid sub-roadbed. In the mountain areas I used 1x3 and 1x4 joists as there are many grade and scenery changes.
With all this in place I laid out my sub-roadbed on top and added 1x2 and 1x3 supports from below. I could put them anywhere and add or remove joists as needed. The L-girder benchwork is now my preferred method. I have built a few layouts using other methods but none offer the flexibility. I can run my DCC cables along both girders and now I always have a safe place for wiring. My layout is L shaped and is designed to be moved.
There are two tracks that will need cutting and the layout will be easy to move with a person at each end using the ends of the L-girders for handles.

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 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 05:00 am
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Hints & Tips No.508
Preserving Weeds for Foliage
By Will Annan (Ontario)
When I recently was given several old packages of Spanish and reindeer moss, I noticed how brittle they were. Robin Matthysen, a dear departed friend and fellow model railroader passed along the following recipe, he claimed it would stop most weeds from drying out.
Robin Matthysen's Weed Preservative recipe is l00 ml. glycerine, l00 ml. acetone based Nail Polish remover with 200 ml. rubbing alcohol.
The glycerin is usually available at a drugstore or pharmacy, the other items can be obtained from the local dollar store. Robin said to use rubber gloves and only work with the Mix in an area with adequate ventilation as the acetone has harmful vapors.
Immerse the weeds for about five minutes, working with small bundles of them at a time and then lay them out to dry. It will take a week to a month for the weeds to dry, depending upon the humidity. If you do not like the colour of the moss or weeds you are using, you can add a portion of dye to the Mix to precolour the weeds. There is seldom any odor from the acetone, as it evaporates completely.
In my case the moss was already dried out so it was suggested that I soak it in a bucket of water overnight then let it dry for half a day before immersing in the weed preservation mix.

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 Posted: Thu Dec 3rd, 2009 07:24 am
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Hints & Tips No.509
Benchwork
By Larry Doub
I have found a very easy form of making benchwork. I think it should be called Open/Box type. As I was trying to decide how I was going to build my bench work, I just happened to take down an old King Size waterbed, with the underside dressers, 6 feet long and 20 inches wide. All I did was take 2 by 4's for the legs, screwed in the ends, and 1 by 6's cut down the centres as braces. Very strong indeed.
Just fill in the gaps and pick your top material. Also it gives you storage space without having to build shelf's or drawers, as the drawers are already built for you. Also you could build down into it to run lower level track for staging. Lots of possibility here. This way if I move, it will come down without much work to dismantle.
Hints & Tips No.510
Hot Glue
By Dan Charles
I have found an easy and more realistic way to attach track to the roadbed. I found that a low temp. hot glue gun is great for gluing down track, it is easy to pull up if you muck it up, and you do not have large nails sticking up in the most unrealistic way! It is also easier to use. No more hammers and nails for me!

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 Posted: Fri Dec 4th, 2009 03:48 am
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Hints & Tips No.511
Hard Shell Base   By John Anderson
To form your hardshell base, many have used cardboard, screen with plaster soaked paper towels. Cardboard has its merits, easy to work and form, but lacks positive strength and this can cause cracking in your shell.
Screen helps to give the lateral strength to eliminate stress cracking but is rather expensive. The alternative, believe it or not is free! Onion sacks, orange bags are a nylon mesh type screen and used in conjunction with cardboard or scrap lumber give you a wonderful base to drape your paper towelling/plaster on. This gives you the lateral strength needed to eliminate stress cracking and gives you a solid hard shell that will last a lifetime or until you build your next layout.

Hints & Tips No.512
Building Materials  By Vince Crysler

Building Materials: Our club(Montreal N-Trak) has built many of our modules with the cast off materials of construction sites and home renovation projects. Usually people do not mind if you help them get rid of their scrap material. We have hardly spent a dime on lumber or styro-foam over the last six or seven years. This is one proven way of saving money, recycling and keeping module construction moving!

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 Posted: Sat Dec 5th, 2009 05:21 am
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Hints & Tips No.513
Access Hatch
By John Hanks
One way to hold an access hatch in place when it rests against the layout from below is to simply hold it up with bungee cords . I have a removable harbor surface that has been held up against the bottom of my layout in this way for some time. I remove it about once a week. No screws/no latches.
Hints & Tips No.514
Migrating Rails
By Jim Campbell
I used to have a problem with migrating rails that would shift and short out my power blocks. Big problem as there are 67 of them on my N-Scale layout. Place a flat surface item, such as a single edged razor blade, dental chisel, etcetera, on the inside surface of the rail and hold it there. Squeeze a sufficient amount of hot glue into the rail end space, from the outside, to fill that space. It is O.K. if the hot glue also attaches that rail area to the roadbed, as it will hold the track alignment in place. Let it cool and trim it with a sharp tool. With a little practice you will be an expert.

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 Posted: Sun Dec 6th, 2009 04:53 am
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Hints & Tips No.515
Windshield Wiper Streaks
By Martin Kinsley
A subtle yet effective detail are Windshield wiper streaks. These can be made by simply cutting a small piece of masking tape to the shape of a windshield wiper blade arc and placing it on the windshield in the area of the wiper. This will depict an area wiped clean by the windshield wiper blade. Later spray a light coat of "Dull Cote" across the entire windshield. When dry, remove the tape and presto you'll have a clean windshield that was just wiped by the windshield wiper blade. The "Dull Cote" will indicate a dusty or dirty windshield, except for the cleaned area that was just wiped clean.

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 Posted: Mon Dec 7th, 2009 02:53 am
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Hints & Tips No.516
Vacuuming a Layout
By Paul Hawdon (The Buffer Stop, Melbourne)
Some years ago I obtained a micro vacuum set.

It consists of a set of brushes, crevice tool, wands and 1 metre hose all in miniature with an adaptor to fit to an existing vacuum cleaner. The wide brush just fits across the track and is good for use after the rails have been cleaned.

The wands are great for getting between scenery, under bridges and even into tunnels. I also made an adaptor to fit to a smaller vacuum cleaner for when we go to exhibitions. This also has a shoulder strap.

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 Posted: Tue Dec 8th, 2009 06:09 am
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Hints & Tips No.517
Reducing and Banishing Derailments on a Layout Pt 1 - Check and adjust wheelsets
By Various Modellers
Wheel sets that are gauged properly and centred on your axles are the base of your rollingstock. Check all your wheel sets on every piece of equipment before it goes on your railway. Most manufacturers work to reasonable tolerances, but
variations in gauge do occur. An NMRA gauge makes it easy to check this dimension.
Wheel sets that are out of gauge can generally be adjusted by twisting a wheel along the axle until they match the gauge. Be careful to keep the pair of wheels centred on your axle or you may wind up with a "dog leg" vehicle, where both axles may be in gauge, but the vehicle is angled when sitting on the track and the wheels tracking forces flanges into the rails making them prone to derailing.

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 Posted: Wed Dec 9th, 2009 04:21 am
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Hints & Tips No.518
Making Rivets Consistent when building
By Trevor Gibbs with thanks to Frank Kelly (Melbourne)
Making rivets consistent is not easy but here is a description of a tool which should make the job easier. Make a stand from MDF with a vertical rod. Find a tube very slightly bigger than the centre punch you would use to make the rivet impressions. Make a clamp to clamp the tube to the vertical rod. Now make a further clamp with a stop, aligned so that the centre punch can only go so far up the tube.
By aligning your metal underneath and raising your punch to a preset height determined by the metal you are using and the size and weight of the punch, allowing it to drop from the preset height should give you a fairly consistent rivet pattern. You can make rivets in styrene or brass doing this.

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 Posted: Thu Dec 10th, 2009 07:33 am
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Hints & Tips No.519
Reducing and Banishing Derailments on a Layout Pt 2
By Various Modellers
Inspect your wagons and carriages carefully and make sure all wheels contact the rails with even pressure. Cast, rigid truck frames sometimes warp slightly during shipment or storage. In extreme cases they can be warmed under hot tap water and gently twisted until they are square again. Keep the pressure on the moving parts until cool and carefully remove the pressure. It should then stay straight!

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 Posted: Fri Dec 11th, 2009 03:15 am
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Hints & Tips No.520
Helping you use "Blind" Fiddle Yards
By Various Modellers
If you have a fiddle yard that you cannot see the back of, consider using a light source and a light dependent resistor embedded in the track, set up so that a warning light or LED is switched on when the train covers it. There are some very simple circuits which allow you to do this.
I personally prefer LED's because the switching process is much more instantaneous than a globe which can take a few seconds to warm up and the "indication" may be a fraction too late.
If you are still on Pure DC rather than DCC, you can modify the "Diode Protection" outlined way back in H&T No 81 shown on http://www.xdford.digitalzones.com/hintsandtips.htm




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 Posted: Sat Dec 12th, 2009 02:57 am
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Hints & Tips No.521
Reducing and Banishing Derailments on a Layout Pt 3 - Sharpen the switch point blades
By Various Modellers
The movable switch points must be tapered to fit tightly against stock rails and provide a smooth passage for the wheels. Commercial switch points often have blunt ends because they are stamped rather than cut which can catch the wheel flanges and cause derailments.
Using a small file, taper the top edge of the point into a smooth transition. If you can slide your fingernail smoothly over this transition, the wheels will also pass easily.
Also check the gauge across both switch points as some are thicker than others. This can mean that the turnout can be in gauge when it is lined for one route, but off in the other direction. File material off the inside of the thicker point to correct the gauge.



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 Posted: Sun Dec 13th, 2009 03:41 am
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Hints & Tips No.522
Cleaning up Burrs on your models moving parts
By Various Modellers
Sometimes the operation of your locomotives and other moving parts such as Kadee coupler shanks can be stymied by burrs where the axis of a gear for example sits on its spindle. Take a drill that is marginally bigger than the hole you want to clear and spinning it with your fingers, create a chamfer which should de-burr the axle hole of your gear. Most models are very good with their tolerances but some do get through. You can use this technique to washers and siderods as well as gears.

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 Posted: Mon Dec 14th, 2009 07:07 am
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Hints & Tips No.523
Building a Layout and Allowing for track expansion
By Trevor Gibbs
Winters in Australia are relatively mild affairs, but our extremes are such that they can still play havoc with tracklaying. Many years ago I laid a new section of track in mid winter in my parents shed which slewed sideways quite dramatically on the first really hot day. Cutting a short length out enable it to be straightened.
While I do not recommend waiting for a "mid-range" day, make sufficient allowance to that your joints are very close if you are laying track on a warm day and allow for expansion on colder ones to avoid hassles later.

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 Posted: Tue Dec 15th, 2009 02:23 am
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Hints & Tips No.524
Using Simple Controllers
By Various Modellers
If you are still using DC and you have an older controller, either handed down or from your first train set, you may be a bit disappointed by its lack of control. Really old controllers worked on the basis of "starving" your loco of electric current and thereby controlling its speed. Hammant and Morgan did go some way to rectifying this by using a High and Low resistance switch and a Half Wave/Full Wave switch as well.
Newer motors can be so low in their current draw that even these better controllers are "not very good" and in some case have no control at all. If you have older controllers, consider using or building even a simple transistor or voltage regulator controller which will give you a vast improvement in your operations.

Hints & Tips No.525
Using Tarpaulins over Cattle wagons
By Brian Macdermott
While searching for something else, I stumbled across a letter written to me in the 1980s by wagon expert, Dave Larkin. He mentioned an S&D line photo I had sent him as having a cattle wagon with a tarpaulin right over the roof and down covering the open area of the sides. His explanation was that this was probably not a leaky roof, but had been put on to calm some nervous animals. Perhaps other modellers could consider this when you get your newer model cattle wagons!



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