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HINTS AND TIPS - THE FOLLOW ON - Hints & Tips - Reference Area. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Tue Jan 12th, 2010 06:17 am
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Hints & Tips No.552
Weighting Down Locomotives more effectively
By Tony Burzio
Many locomotives are a bit lighter and have a bit more room for weight because of being DCC ready. You can increase weight by using Tungsten which weighs about 50% more than comparable sized lead sheet and has the advantage of being non poisonous. Powdered Tungsten can also be bought from golf shops, mixed with a resin or white glue and poured into locomotive shells.
From Peter Nolan - Fishing Shops in the US also sell a mouldable tungsten putty which is useful as extra weight.

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 Posted: Wed Jan 13th, 2010 07:44 am
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Hints & Tips No.553
Exterior Concrete Grade Plywood for base boards
By Mike Sheridan
I use 'shuttering' plywood for my boards. It probably has a different name in the US - it's used for making moulds to pour concrete into on building sites, so is pretty damp-proof. However, it does not have a nice veneered surface (can even have shallow knot-holes in it) but as it gets covered in track, ballast, buildings and scenery that does not matter, and it is a lot cheaper than the 'good' (furniture grade) stuff.



A  Note From Trevor - This is known as exterior grade builders ply in Australia and is actually used for a little more than forming concrete here. 

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 Posted: Thu Jan 14th, 2010 03:10 am
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Hints & Tips No.554
Using a Multimeter 101 Pt. 1 - Your Electrical Safety
By Several Modellers
Many modellers buy Multimeters but really do not have much of a clue as to how they are, or should be, used.
Multimeters consist of a Voltmeter to check voltage for both AC and DC circuits, an Ohm Meter to check electrical resistance and if a circuit exists... more on this later, an Ammeter to measure Electric Current (but something that is seldom done) and a tester for diodes and transistors.
The cheaper Multimeters come with a variety of markings but the first you should take notice of is the HIGHEST AC Voltage. Turn your dial from OFF to the highest AC voltage and hold your prods in your hands on the insulated red and black handles. Hold the prods to each side on your track. Why? You are checking for the presence of any voltage and by this you are safeguarding yourself against any stray mains voltage, however unlikely this is a possibility of occurring.
Checking for mains voltage is a good habit to get into every time you check a circuit regardless of where the power points are or if you think a circuit is disconnected from mains power. The voltage will be rectified for the meter and will be safe. And importantly you will be safe if you know it is there.
If you have an old analog meter without an OFF position, leave it set at highest AC Voltage at all times.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 15th, 2010 05:16 am
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Hints & Tips No.555
Bus Wire for DC or DCC
By Trevor Gibbs
Regardless of whether your layout is large or small, DC or DCC, you are going to be affected by Voltage drop sooner or later. The rule of thumb is that the longer and thinner the wire is, the more resistance it will have. You might have 12 volts at the power source (your throttle) but by the time it gets to your engine, it may drop quite dramatically. Even a volt will drop your engine speed very noticeably.
So while you cannot totally eliminate aberrations in voltage supply, for your furthest points away, use thicker wire from your power supply to your track. If your layout is wired in sections, run a pair of wires under the length of the section and drop short lengths of wire from the track to the pair of wires, known as “bus” wires. This will reduce your voltage drop and end your reliance on rail joiners as your only means of electrical conductivity.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 16th, 2010 07:02 am
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Hints & Tips No.556
Using a Multimeter 101 Pt. 2 – Checking DC Voltage
By Several Modellers.
The most basic of power requirements is voltage to your track. In any event you should always set a Multimeter to a higher value than you require so if you are using DC purely, set your voltage to 20 Volts in the DC range. The positive (red) wire of your Multimeter should be connected to the right hand side of your track for the forward direction and the black to the opposite rail.
Now along the track, start your train by turning on your controller. You should see the voltage start to rise on the scale. Take note of what voltage your engine starts to move at. Now run to your preferred mid range speed if you can and check the voltage as well as your preferred maximum speed if that is possible.
If your voltage scale is set too low, a digital multimeter will read “1” on the scale by way of internal protection. Simply turn it to next next highest scale. If your connections are reversed, you will see a minus sign in front of your figure. Simply reverse the connection of your probes.
The path of electricity through your meter is running parallel to the path through your locomotives motor, hence the meaning of the words parallel circuit. Voltmeters should always be connected in parallel to the load they are checking.
For your own interest, lift your engine from the track and check the same settings on “no load”. You should find the voltage goes up. In automotive terms this is like the revs increasing in your car engine when you move your gear selector out of drive and into neutral or park.

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 Posted: Sun Jan 17th, 2010 05:54 am
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Hints & Tips No.557
Using MIG wire for throwing points
By Peter Fitzgerald (Melbourne Australia)
I use Tortoise Switch Machines for my point work and I have found that 0.9mm MIG wire works quite well for both spring and “un-sprung” Peco points.

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 Posted: Mon Jan 18th, 2010 02:29 am
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Hints & Tips No.558
Using a Multimeter 101 Pt. 3 – Checking Electrical Resistance A
By Several Modellers
The most common use that most modellers use their multimeters for apart from the voltage check is to check that their circuit is “viable”. To do this turn your scale to the lowest number on the Ohm scale, represented often by the Greek letter Omega. Hold your prods together and you should ideally get a zero reading but you may get as high as 3 or 4 Ohms showing. This is because the battery is not necessarily full strength and will peter out with use. Older Analogue type meters have an adjustment to achieve Full Scale Deflection or FSD to get zero.
If you place your meter across the track, regardless of your setting, you should virtually see a “1” on the scale which means infinity... it also means there is not a short circuit. If you see some resistance, it may be that the meter is reading either a locomotive on the track and you are measuring the resistance across the motor brushes or in extreme cases measuring back to your power pack. However it should never read Zero or the 3 or 4 ohms which you should be reading as Zero!
However if you are checking for the continuity of wire, it should read the “zero” or 3 or 4 ohms between the point it starts and its end point, which you will reach by the use of your probes. If your circuit reads “1” , then your wire is an open circuit and then it may need to be checked or replaced...

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 Posted: Tue Jan 19th, 2010 06:16 am
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Hints & Tips No.559
Making a Barbed Wire Fence
By Michael Roach (Ontario)
To simulate the barbs on a single line of barbed wire fence, get an old piece of window screen - the plastic type, not the woven metal. Carefully cut a single "thread" from the screen. The remaining "barbs" left on both sides make perfect looking scale barbs with almost the exact spacing as the prototype.

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 Posted: Wed Jan 20th, 2010 04:00 am
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Hints & Tips No.560
Using a Multimeter 101 Pt. 4 – Checking Electrical Resistance B
By Several Modellers
You can also check the resistance of any number of resistors. This is handy as the colours of the colour code are difficult to distinguish on the blue background now common on many resistors. Set your meter to a value higher than you think the resistance actually is such as 20K (20,000 ohms) for a 10K resistor. If your meter reads “1” then the setting needs to go up the scale because you may have read the value wrong.
However do not be surprised if your reading is 9950 or 10125 for example rather than dead on the money for the value you think the resistor is. The value shown on your resistor is a preferred approximate value and usually has a 5% or so tolerance. Therefore a 1000 ohm resistor could range between 950 and 1050 ohms and still be acceptably within tolerance. It would actually be unusual to have as high a variation as this but be prepared that this may be the case.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 21st, 2010 01:30 am
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Hints & Tips No.561
Making Steel Coil Rolls
By Several Modellers
Take an old calendar, cut into strips slightly narrower than your flat or open wagons and paint it with a matt black finish. Roll it up into coils and use a thin band to represent the binder to keep the coil in place. These can be removable of course so you can vary the traffic and amount of it on your unit trains

A Note from Doug (Dooferdog)

Don't bin your calendars next year! Turn them over and use the white side as ring-bound jotters for a particular new layout, a new project, diagrams, sketching, planning out the footprint for scratchbuilt models etc. The fine white surface will take a clean fine line from a 2B pencil or biro.......the long tall ones are particularly suitable for planning out platforms full size as long as it's not over about 12 ft long!

Thanks Doug ... from Trevor

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 Posted: Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 05:06 am
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Hints & Tips No.562
Staging reverse movements across a junction station
By Trevor Gibbs
You can simulate a lot of traffic between mines and smelters, collieries and power stations, car factories and distribution points, steel mills and factories if you are modelling a junction station and you have a staging yard. Simply set your loads say coal hoppers in a train to traverse your station in one direction hauled by a locomotive. In the reverse direction have an identical set of hoppers empty possibly hauled by the same numbered locomotive.
If the train is on a “merry go round” type service where there are balloon loops for quick loading/unloading then the vehicles can be in the same order if your realism extends to having individually numbered vehicles, or reverse order if it is a siding at one end. You can simulate a lot of action and you do not have to renumber a number of locomotives as they simulate the return workings when they are perpetually in fact running in the same direction. Just do not spoil the illusion by having them come back too quickly or even “crossing themselves” while on full display!

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 Posted: Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 05:54 am
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Hints & Tips No.563
Using a Multimeter 101 Pt. 5 – Checking LED's and Transistors
By Several Modellers
You can check LED's, Diodes and Transistors using a Multimeter. Select the DIODE symbol (usually about 5 o'clock on the last few meters I have owned) and apply your probes. To check Diodes and LED's the probes must be connected the correct way around. The positive probe is to be connected to the Anode which on an LED is the slightly longer leg and on a Diode on the end which does not have a bar and the negative to the Cathode which is the shorter leg of the LED or the Bar end of a Diode. You should get a reading and in the case of an LED, it more often than not will have enough power to light up.
Reverse the prods and check again. If you get a reading in both directions and if you happen to be testing an LED, it does not light, your diode could well be destroyed and best course is to ditch it.
To check a Transistor, place your positive probe to the BASE of the transistor and use your negative probe on the other two legs or in the situation of a TO3 bodied transistor, the leg marked B and the other leg marked “E” and the body which is the Collector. If you get a reading this way around, you have an NPN type of transistor.
If there is no indication, reverse the prods and check again. If you get a reading this way around, you have an PNP type of transistor. If there is NO reading in either mode, then it is a fair chance that your transistor is or could be blown.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 08:11 am
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Hints & Tips No.564
Modelling Run Down Sidings and branchlines
By Several Modellers
When modelling seldom used or old sidings, use a couple of techniques to make it obvious. Paint the rails a rusty colour and if you are handlaying track use wider sleeper spacing. Using Flexible track is also very easy, simply cut the tabs between the sleepers and space them a little more and even give one or two a slight slew.
Dirtier ballasting or evidence of mud also helps establish a “hierachy” of your track.

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 Posted: Sun Jan 24th, 2010 02:33 am
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Hints & Tips No.565
Simulating Gradients
By Several Modellers
You can simulate gradients on an otherwise level track modular layout without actually doing any carpentry should the need arise. The eye expects fence posts and telegraph poles to be 90 degrees vertical so if a train goes past a set of fence posts or poles which lean like \\ (although not as dramatically as just shown in this word picture) in a trailing direction, then straighten up like ||| and then lean the other way like ///, the visual appearance is the track dropping into a small valley dip, levelling off before climbing out again. You would not want these to be steeply leaning in themselves but rather create the illusion of a slight grade. Alternatively you could visually steepen an actually built grade using the same technique so the grade appears “worse/steeper/more dramatic” than it actually is.
Illusion is what this hobby is often about and we can do our best to exploit that for the drama of model railways.

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 Posted: Sun Jan 24th, 2010 11:39 pm
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Hints & Tips No.566
Close Coupling

By Brian Macdermott

If you have Roco close-couplers fitted to your Hornby Maunsells, you may (like me) find that they are difficult to fit together. I run these in fixed sets, so, once they are done, they are done. Place the coaches on a straight stretch of track. With your left hand, offer that coach up to the one held by your right hand so that they touch. If they don't couple immediately, gently and slowly lift both coaches vertically about a quarter of an inch - you will hear the couplings 'drop in'. Gently lower the coaches back to the track, and Robert is your relation!

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 Posted: Tue Jan 26th, 2010 06:07 am
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Hints & Tips No.567
Designing a Town

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
Some model buildings have the “footprint” ( the size the building occupies” on you layout) information available on the box. For example quite a few of the Walthers cornerstone structures have this info available on their site. If you can find this about the buildings you visualise being on your layout, it will help you plan for specific structures. You can make cardboard patterns of the footprint and lay it on your board.
As a caution, if you have any sort of mountains on your layout, avoid getting tall buildings too close to them as it will diminish the size of the mountains.

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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2010 04:04 am
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Hints & Tips No.568
Paper Buildings

By Trevor Gibbs
I saw many years ago where quite a renowned modeller had a number of background buildings which were directly copied from plans in the various model magazines. At first glance nothing unusual about that except what he had done was copied and cut out the paper plans and simply coloured them in using coloured pencils and located them on his layout, probably far enough away that drawn lines and textures such as corrugations could not be picked up readily by people viewing the layout.
It would be a good way to put a lot of buildings in cheaply, effectively and quickly without having to scratchbuild or detail a lot... or even build kits!

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 Posted: Thu Jan 28th, 2010 06:08 am
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Hints & Tips No.569
Manicure Board

By Martin Smith
Flash is a problem on all plastic kits especially when the parts are attached to the sprues and moulding tree. When I work on small plastic parts, I have found using a finger nail manicure board, located in most beauty departments in various grits will help to neatly remove the small burrs from these parts. Or if you feel so inclined, glue an offcut of wet and dry abrasive onto an icecream type stick to have the same effect.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 28th, 2010 10:41 pm
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Hints & Tips No.570
Using Simulators and Observation towards more realistic operating

By Trevor Gibbs
I started out my career in the South Australian Railways and as time progressed, I had the opportunity to drive a few trains or locomotives around the yard for testing etc. Probably the lasting impression was the inertia that had to be overcome ... and stopped, which I try to replicate with my own controllers. Not many of you would have been so fortunate as myself in that regard but you should spend a bit of time observing the prototype, as close as you can to the point of control if possible. You can also practice driving on the various simulators either Trainz or MSTS or best of all from the point of view of realism of movement, momentum and braking is the Japanese B V E Program which is freeware.
I am not advocating your valuable hobby time be overtaken by simulators and I very seldom veg out with the ones I have but it is sometimes very easy to slip into “flanged wheel slot car mode” and we can forget what drew us into model railways in the first place. And there is a lot of satisfaction in replicating as best we can the operating as well as the building of the real world.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 30th, 2010 05:53 am
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Hints & Tips No.571
More Realistic Cattle Wagon “Weathering”
By Martin Smith
Cattle Wagons can be made to look more realistic after you put signs of straw on the floor. I use ordinary saw dust or saw dust from a belt sander, spread it on the deck and glue it with a mist sprayer.
A friend bought a kit of a trackside cattledock, which came complete with little plastic cow pats. The instuctions advised in all solemnity, that they should be painted "in appropriate colours" before fixing in place. Perhaps these could also decorate your wagons...

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