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HINTS AND TIPS - THE FOLLOW ON - Hints & Tips - Reference Area. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Sun Jan 29th, 2017 09:01 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1896

Goods Yard Ballasting Pt 1

by Mike Lehmann

One of the key things about yards is that crews will be on the ground a lot. Instead of a nice profile that drains obviously away from the track, you will find a much more level surface that is easier to walk on. So much of the look involves simply adding extra ballast to make it pretty much level between tracks. In real life, there is almost always still some drainage , but it will be shallow and hard to see. In OO/HO and smaller, that will be all but invisible.

Another factor in making walking the ground more feasible is that the ballast will be finer. In OO, use N scale ballast, for instance. There are variations in how ballast sizing is labelled, so go by eye as much as what the description by scale says.
When bonding the ballast down with matte medium as I do, the last step is to sprinkle fine textured ground foam for weeds and grass etc, between the rails and the tracks. I gently pat it into the still-wet ballast, which generally gets it to stick without additional matte medium that might wash it out of position.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 1st, 2017 11:52 am
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Hints & Tips No.1897

Goods Yard Ballasting Pt 2

by Rob Spangler

Appearance of yard tracks will vary by location and era.  Many a steam era yard was black and gray from the use of cinders, while the same facility may start to take on the colour of the surrounding dirt in more recent times.

Heavily used areas of a yard typically lack much in the way of weeds or other growth. A combination of toxic stuff in the soil, and foot traffic from crewmen, tend to keep such things under control.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 4th, 2017 10:44 am
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Hints & Tips No.1898


Making Track “messier”

by Several Modellers

Making track in general and yards in particular and look less 'clean' is quite easy. I use dark grey ballast and paint the track black for grime or a burnt umber/sienna combo to mimic rust spots. I also space many ties unevenly and even put in some grass or ground cover especially on the ends. There is also nothing wrong with adding some railway related junk, including stray wheel sets. (Kevin Cullinan)

I find it best to ballast as usual, then come back with your dirt, you can add up slowly till you get the look you like. (Ron Bell)

I have used sifted fireplace ash to model the sort of cinder ballast used in some yards. I have taken photos in modern times showing track where the cinder ballast is still in place after all these days, which is remarkable, but is now breaking down and starting to allow the growth of vegetation. (Dave Nelson)

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 Posted: Mon Feb 6th, 2017 11:26 am
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Hints & Tips No.1899


Hiding the transition between trackside and backdrops

by Gordon Gill

I have a city scene which is meant to be alongside my yard tracks but the depth to the roadways etc looked very artificial. Following a suggestion from a friend, I made some “fences” that looked like rusty galvanised iron printed from paper and stuck these to the backdrops. They hid the roadways very well and took on a forced perspective which is what we as modellers “ask” of our backdrops anyway.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 9th, 2017 09:32 pm
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 Hints & Tips No.1900

Safety when using a Glue Gun

by Brian Clogg

When using hot glue to glue cardboard strips I wear a pair of oven gloves. They are gloves as opposed to mitts , are pretty flexible and keep my hands whole and mostly unburned.

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 Posted: Mon Feb 13th, 2017 02:52 am
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Hints & Tips No.1901

Keeping Dust down with Carpet

by Mel Perry

My layout is in our garage where you will have more dust than anyone wants. About 10 years ago I carpeted our patio and garage with 24” washable square carpet tiles. They have worked out much better than what I expected. If I slop something on the floor (I am super clumsy) it is up with the tile and wash it off with either the garden hose or in the kitchen sink. The carpet tiles are easier on the feet than concrete, they help deaden sound and help keep the garage warmer during cooler weather. The carpet tiles are a big help by totally eliminating concrete dust. They are heavy enough that my workshop vacuum cleaner does not pick them up.



If you are able to crawl,(which I cannot any more), they are much easier on your knees and you do not ding your clothing which your better half will appreciate. They also do not hamper my under layout creeper or my roll-around doctors chair.


All in all the carpet tiles have been the best addition to my model railway venture in years.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2017 11:59 am
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Hints & Tips No.1902

Staining Wood Structures

by Marlon Medina

When dealing with wooden structures, I treat them like I would furniture, assemble, then stain, just remember to clean all excess glue from the joints. Once the glue dries, the stain will not penetrate it. As far as liquid, I have had good results with 90% rubbing alcohol (less water content than the 70%), mixed with the stain colour you want to use. If you use commercial wood stain, remember that it will take longer to dry completely.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 18th, 2017 04:22 am
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Hints & Tips No. 1903

Using Fibre Optics for lenses

by John Hill




Fibre optic pipe (not the glass fibre) comes in several diameters, if you hold the end of the fibre close to a heat source like a soldering iron, the fibre end will soften and form a dome. The longer you hold the fibre in place, the large the diameter of the dome up to a point. I use this to make lenses for models without lenses, experimenting is key, give it a try.

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 Posted: Tue Feb 21st, 2017 03:59 am
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Hints & Tips No.1904


Checking DCC wiring and failsafe mechanisms

by Several Modellers

It is a quick test, using a coin such as a quarter/20p or 20 cent bit, touching both rails, and the short circuit system on your track power supply should send out a "beeb", then shut down. First, turn on the power to your track. This test shows the system is working correctly. An acquaintance stated that his railway did NOT pass this test, meaning that his system did not shut down, which caused a fire in his power supply.

You only do this for a second, at various places (power districts and /or blocks) Once you remove the coin, the system should turn back on.
I use Digitrax, and do this every once in awhile, especially if I suspect a problem. ( Richard Bignioux)

My layout has its own sub-panel attached to the main service panel. There are breakers for room lighting, power to the extra outlets that had to be installed and to the layout itself. Near the layout control panel, there is also a switch that kills the power to the layout.

If you do not know how to do electrical work, HIRE someone that does. In a former life, I was a licensed electrician. Get the needed permits to do your work. After the subpanel, lighting and the main power to the layout was run, a quick call to the city/county code inspector can be made to have him inspect your work. This can save you a major headache should you have a fire that can be traced to undocumented, uninspected wiring. (Marlon Medina)

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 Posted: Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 10:04 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1905


Safety in the Railway Room

by Several Modellers

Smoke detectors should be hardwired with a battery back up, the battery should be changed once a year. Fire Extinguishers should be checked at least once year. You should do some research on the type. One that shoots liquid will not be ideal for an electric fire or for a foam fire. If you conduct club running sessions, a wall displayed map of your house with exit path shown would be wise.


For your family you should have a plan in place should there be a fire a place where you set aside a location to meet to insure everyone is accounted for and is out, get everyone out FIRST and then call 911/999/000 for help. (Mike Wolfe)


Many people do not know this BUT houses are not made to fire proof -- they are made to last in increments of minutes to allow for people to EXIT the house before it structurally fails.
For example :
Between the house and the garage is a door that is usually installed and is called "B" Label door. These are usually"30" minute doors. They will fail in thirty minutes after which fire will come through that opening.
Floor joist commonly used these days are manufactured truss or I joist. Once fire hits these they will fail within 15 to 20 minutes. Many fire fire fighters around the country will not enter a house after it has been on fire for 30 minutes because of the possibility of structural failure of the floors . (Rick Western)

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 Posted: Sun Feb 26th, 2017 09:02 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1906
Making Your own uncoupling levers

by Dan Stokes


I wanted some uncoupling levers for my own locos as a bit of extra detail but I did not have actual measurements, but a couple of suggestions...


There are a few types available from the likes of Details Associates, maybe other manufacturers but to get the look I wanted, I just got some good photos of the front/rear end of the locos from the web, then eyeballed the measurements based on where the bends are in relation to "landmark" features on the front of the model.
A bit of warning on making your own, though... I made my own for a modern GE Diesel and because of the weird, complex angles involved, took me about 3 times to get it to look right. I think I am OK now ( twitch twitch)

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 Posted: Wed Mar 1st, 2017 08:20 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1907


Installing Miniature Globes

by Dave Everard

Here are a few suggestions that might make installing the lights easier, hopefully. Miniatronics bulbs have fairly thin wires. One way to stiffen them would be to glue the ends of the two leads together with CA. Don't glue the whole length of the leads together. Just glue enough to allow you to get the leads out of the bottom of the hole.

Do not strip the wires before trying to feed them through the holes. The bare wire ends are sharp and they tend to get caught in the sides of the opening. The insulation is not as sharp and will not hang up as much. If the wires are already stripped, cut the bare ends off. You should still have plenty of length the make the connections. If the wires are very thin, fold the sharp ends back on themselves so you have a rounded end going into the hole.
Twist the wires together. That will make them stiffer. If the wires have to go around a bend, pre-curve the first bit before in
Inserting the end in the hole. Alternately, if you have a piece of wire that you can get through the hole, put it through, then CA it to the ends of the bulb leads and use it to pull them through the opening.
Lastly, consider using LEDs instead of bulbs. LEDs will last a lifetime whereas the bulbs will eventually burn out and then you will have to replace them again. You can get pre-wired 0402 warm white or bright white LEDs on eBay which will fit quite nicely into the ditch light housings. If the housings are metal, paint a little clear nail polish over the LED and the start of the wires. If you do use LED's, don't forget resistors.

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 Posted: Sat Mar 4th, 2017 11:59 am
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Hints & Tips No.1908

Coupling Resistors to LED's

by Randy Rinker

It does not matter which side of the LED the dropping resistor goes on, electrically it is the same. It DOES make good sense to be consistent whichever way you do it, not from a sense of one way being better than the other, but from being able to come back later and recognise what you did. Same with any wiring, really. Keeps it easier to understand. It is quite tempting, when you are 5 feet short of red wire on a Sunday evening, to splice in a spare piece of blue wire just to finish the project, but next year when you have a problem in that section and try to troubleshoot it, you will be confused to no end when the red wire you are tracing suddenly turns blue. Be consistent and document your work, and things will be much easier to maintain going forward.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 7th, 2017 11:00 am
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Hints & Tips No.1909


Avoiding Excess Glue Blobs

by Dave Everard

If you are using the thick styrene glue, the best solution for the future would be to change the type of glue. Styrene cement does not so much stick the pieces together like wood glue as it dissolves the two surfaces so that when the glue dries the two pieces are essentially one, like welding steel.

This can be accomplished with water thin solvent cements. I use Tamiya Extra Thin Cement which is applied with a brush, The easiest way to apply it is to put the two pieces together and then paint the inside of the seam with the solvent. The 'glue' will wick its way into the joint. A couple of applications may be required. When the glue dries it leaves no built up residue like the gooey stuff does. Even if some of the thin cement gets onto the visible surface it will not show once the model is painted. This glue will not fill gaps.
There are much cheaper alternatives to buying commercial styrene liquid cement like the Tamiya stuff. Many modellers use MEK (Methyl Ethyl Keytone) which does exactly the same thing and is available from most hardware stores in much larger quantities for less money.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 10th, 2017 11:11 am
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Hints & Tips No.1910


Using MDF for scratchbuilding

by George Paxton

I use a lot of MDF (medium density fibreboard) for structures and even sub sides of model cars. Strong and dimensionally stable. Also comes in thicknesses down to 1/8 inch/3mm. MDF cuts smoothly, sands smooth and does not have the rough surface of chipboard.
A note from Trevor -
You should be able to get free off cuts from a cabinet maker or joinery suitable for most projects. Be aware that MDF dust is not good for you and is thought to be carcinogenic so use standard precautions.

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 Posted: Mon Mar 13th, 2017 07:23 am
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  Hints & Tips No.1911


Twisting Bus wires together

by Phil Easton

You get all of the benefits of twisted wire with a fairly relaxed twist, about one twist per two inches. I stick a screwdriver through the two spools, clamp it in a vise, then twist the wires with my fingers as I pull them off the spools. I start with a tight twist (or a knot, with some wires) to keep the ends together. For longer runs, tie the far ends together, put them over a hook or nail of some kind, chuck the other ends in an electric drill, pull tight, and run the drill till you have the twist you want.

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 Posted: Thu Mar 16th, 2017 05:59 am
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Hints & Tips No.1912


Twisting wires together for cables

by Dean Barry

I also make decorative jewellery as a sideline. I use the drill method when making jewellery and tightly twisting different colours of wire together. Using the same skill, I have also used it to twist light beading wire into "cables" for making a suspension bridge and tie-downs as well as cable loads .

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 Posted: Sun Mar 19th, 2017 06:30 am
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Hints & Tips No.1913

Eliminating Reversing Flicker with LED Headlights on pure DC

by Martin Donoghue

If you are using LED headlights on a DC loco, you can get flickering when the loco reverses because a break in the contact with the motor still spinning will cause a backward voltage called back EMF or BEMF. A simple method for eliminating the reverse light flicker in LED headlights is to attach a 0.1uf capacitor and a 1K resistor both in parallel with the LED itself. The capacitor will absorb the reverse BEMF spikes and the resistor will keep the capacitor discharged.

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 Posted: Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 07:52 am
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Hints & Tips No.1914

Fading Paint Weathering

by Mark Anson

Railway rolling stock does not keep the “just out of the paint shop” for long in real life and usually the paint fades over the service life of the carriage. For fades, I mix 1 part white, 1 part light grey and 2 parts Windex (or whatever thinner you use) and then airbrush on the fade in very light passes. As with all weathering I find it is really easy to over do it and much harder to go for an understated effect. A very light grey fade is one way to get a fleet of clearly weathered cars quickly without drawing the eye to any one car.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 24th, 2017 10:25 am
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Hints & Tips No.1915

Speeding up Painting when Weathering

by Clyde Willison

I use a standard hair dryer to speed up the time between coats. That lets me work on a couple of projects at a time. When it is to the level I desire I continue with the weathering and then final coating to fix all the colours. I do not have trouble with most colours including blue and green.

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