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HINTS AND TIPS - THE FOLLOW ON - Hints & Tips - Reference Area. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Fri Nov 24th, 2017 01:50 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1996
Substituting Curves for Straights
by Trevor Gibbs
I like running trains around long sweeping curves. My own home layout is an 8x4 with an El yard so not terribly big. If lateral room is not too much of an issue, make your straights into curves as large as possible. It is more realistic, more pleasing to run on, operates better, and just plain looks good! My largest “straight” is actually a curve with a radius of between 36” and 60” and it is good watching trains on it rather than whipping into a geometric straight section of track like a “mad mouse ride” at a side show. I have seen layouts with 100” plus radius “straights” which look even better. I have shown some people pictures of my layout and they are usually surprised at the size when I tell them as the curves and scenic hill divider give a lot of vignette scenes.


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 Posted: Mon Nov 27th, 2017 11:44 am
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Hints & Tips No.1997
Fading Lettering on Weathered Freight Cars/Goods Wagons
by Wayne Hobbs

For fading decals or printed lettering when I weather my freight cars, I mix up a shade of paint just a tiny bit lighter than the base car colour, and airbrush it very lightly over the printing. This achieves the same effect for me as a wash basically, but I never seem to have the results with washes that other modellers seem to be able to get.

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 Posted: Thu Nov 30th, 2017 04:31 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1998
Organising Small things cheaply
by Daniel Kleine
I use several “Pill Organizers” to store and organize small items such as, screws, washers, nuts, chains, springs, and detail parts. These boxes have an individual locking lid for each
compartment so you can simply open the compartment you want, and tip out the contents. This works better for me than a tackle box with one lid for all containers, since I do not have
to fight gravity to retrieve the small parts with my finger.
These boxes are available in a variety of sizes and configurations new and used at your local Good Will or Salvation Army thrift store. I often pay as little as 10 cents and never more that $1.00 each. The graphics on the lids never bothered me, but you can remove the printing with steel wool or a plastic compatible stripper.


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 Posted: Sun Dec 3rd, 2017 02:30 pm
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Hints & Tips No.1999
Making Log Stumps cheaply
by Charlie Comstock
If you have logging on your layout, you will most likely need stumps and lots of them. I needed a plethora or two for the Oregon Cascades layout and I had neither money
to buy them nor time to make masters and cast them.
The great outdoors came to my rescue. A short walk netted branches from a local tree. Since I model in HO, I needed branches 1 / 8 ” to 5 / 8 ” (3mm to 15mm) diameter. I saw them to length and a band saw if you have access can speed up this step. I use two cuts for the top of the stumps, one from each side. I make sure they did not quite meet in the middle, then I snap the stump off of the branch leaving a ‘crest’ . Chain-sawn stumps have a bevel cut in them while hand-sawn stumps generally have flat tops because it is harder to cut going up. I cut the bottoms of stumps for level ground straight across. I cut stumps for slopes diagonally, eyeball-estimating the angle of the slope.
I plant stumps by dipping them in a small puddle of full strength white glue, then press them in place. For really steep terrain where stumps will not stay put, I hot-glue them in place. Hot gluing goes fast but leaves behind enough monster spider webs to make it look like “Shelob” – the giant spider from Lord of the Rings – lives nearby. I prefer white glue for that reason.
If I am modelling very recent logging, I am done but for older stumps I dribble an India ink and alcohol mixture on them (a few drops of ink in a tablespoon of alcohol). For a little extra detail, paint one side of each stump with white glue, then sprinkle with fine ground foam to simulate moss which tends to grow on one side of a tree.


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 Posted: Fri Dec 8th, 2017 07:05 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2000
Quick Interiors
by Charlie Comstock
W hen modelling buildings, windows can become a problem. It is all too easy for the giants in the aisles to see a building is merely an empty shell. I wanted to avoid this problem, but I did not want to take the time to fully detail the interiors of all my structures.
I decided to cheat a bit for a warehouse on my layout. This warehouse is a 3-story background building, so I first added floors so you cannot see out of a 2nd story window when looking in a 3rd story window. The bottom story does not have windows at one end but I did model two loading doors as being open. I made the bottom floor from a piece of .040” styrene. I brush painted it brown leaving the streaks to look like floor boards. The 2nd and 3rd stories have lots of windows, so they got full floors I made from some stiff cardboard I had.

I glued runners to the inside of the walls so the cardboard floors could slide in and out from the rear. I also glued some scrap stripwood to the underside of these floors to stiffen them.


I put some HO packing crates I had on a flat bed scanner and imported the images into my computer. I combined the pictures of the crates in a photo editing program making random stacks of them. I used a solid black background behind the crates. Then I printed them on my ink jet printer and trimmed them to size, did a bit of origami and glued them to their floors with ACC. I also added a few crates, pallets, and barrels in the doorways where they would be readily visible.
Not bad for a few hours work.


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 Posted: Mon Dec 11th, 2017 03:23 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2001
Using Cork Tiles as a Base
by John Lansell
I use cork tiles as my base over a regular baseboard. I leave the tiles packet open out of their packet and settle down for a few hours to season them. I then staple one end with a staple in each corner and one in the centre then just tack them down. I always pull and stretch them a little, so they do not bow up in the middle, although a staple soon sorts that out if it happens. The beauty is if you want to change the scenery etc, it all can come up, including the tile leaving a pristine baseboard underneath.


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 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2017 02:28 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2002
Safety Shut off switches
by Rupert James
Have you ever returned to your workshop or layout room after several hours to discover that you forgot to unplug a soldering iron or glue gun? On a couple of occasions when this happened
to me, I scolded myself for what might have been. A simple solution is at hand with a countdown wall timer and an electrical power board I store my soldering equipment, glue gun and “memory compensator” in the same place. It has become a habit to use this device whenever I solder or hot glue.
I am now so conscious about shutting things off that I usually cancel the timer manually when finished. However, if I do forget, the timer will shut off the hot tool.


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 Posted: Sun Dec 17th, 2017 12:08 pm
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Hints & Tips No. 2003
Painting Small Detail Parts
by Dennis Blank
For painting small detail parts, I use a piece of electronics breadboard or perf board and use MicroScale Kristal Klear to mount the parts. The Kristal Klear can be easily softened with water after the parts are painted.


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 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2017 04:07 pm
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Hints & Tips No. 2004
Removing Cast On Detail Parts
by Several Modellers
For removing small detail parts, I use curved blades: They lack hard edges adjacent to the part of the blade that touches the surface, so you are less likely to gouge it. X-Acto #10, 12, 22 and 25 are examples. I prefer the 10 and 22. Medical scalpels are great for this kind of work. Some have very small blades that can reach into tight areas. (Rob Spangler)
One thing I’ve done in the past is wrap masking tape around the various blades, leaving only a small part of the blade exposed, to help me not nick anything I do not want to come off (Andrew Kerchov)
Once I have cut most of the detail off, I switch to a single-edged razor blade and scrape the rest off flush. Practice scraping with the razor blade held almost perpendicular to the car body. Avoid using blades with angled points (David Branum)


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 Posted: Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 09:21 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2005
Keeping Structures Square while Gluing
by Several Modellers
I use several machinists blocks in different sizes to keep things square while I am gluing them together. Use a chisel blade in your hobby knife to remove any glue or foreign matter on them. If you sand them, you risk changing their exact right angle. (Bruce Petarca)

I use Lego Duplo blocks left over from children's younger days and several mini clamps to keep my foam core based structures square. They have the advantage that PVA does not readily stick and easily washes off (Trevor Gibbs)


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 Posted: Tue Dec 26th, 2017 07:38 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2006
Cleaning Die Cast Locos of old paint
by Alexander Haynes
I have a couple of older die cast locos I wanted to repaint so observing, I took note of two suggested paint strippers.
Oven cleaner – No-name brand from the local Independent Grocery store, works cold or at a temp of 200F degrees in the oven. I used it cold, sprayed the part and let it sit for two hours.
It turned the paint back to a liquid (gummy) state and was easily washed off, some picking required in corners and around fine details. Overall not a bad result; however, it did leave the
metal with a very dark grey, dull appearance.
Isopropyl Alcohol – I did not have any 91% on hand so tried just the 70% strength. Soaked the part in a tub of alcohol for two hours. At first glance it appeared to do nothing, but when handled, the paint came off in sheets. The alcohol seems to have attacked the bond between the paint and the metal. A lot of picking will be required around fine details, but I have a couple of brass brushes in my outdoor workshop and will try them. It also left the metal with a bright shiny appearance, almost like brand new.”


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 Posted: Fri Dec 29th, 2017 04:39 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2007
Reviving a Pin Vice
by Ken Rickman
After several years of use, my smallest pin vice chuck had worn to the point that it would no longer close on very small bits. Rather than replacing it, I renewed it by grinding away a little of the inside faces of the jaws using a very thin diamond blade in a Dremel tool . This restored the sharp corners of the jaws, allowing them to close down to 0 again.


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 Posted: Mon Jan 1st, 2018 03:13 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2008
Repairing a Broken Brake Line or Cable
by James Eager

Every year, train models become more detailed, with smaller and smaller parts. Some kits are harder than ever to build. Things like safety chains and brake lines have become so thin and fragile that removing them from parts trees has become difficult to do without breaking them, even with a razor blade or clipper- bladed tweezers.
When I was assembling an InterMountain kit of a cylindrical grain hopper, I had a brake line that shattered about 1⁄2 inch from the end. The normal solution is to contact the company that made the kit and beg for a replacement part. Intermountain is good at supplying parts, but I did not want to wait on this one, and I wanted to try something different. What would a railroad have done to repair the line? One possibility is to replace the damaged line and weld it in place. Another type of repair is to wrap a leaking line in a sealant material.

The second solution gave me an idea, so I got some black thread from the sewing kit. The thread was just a tad larger in diameter then the original line. With sharp scissors, I cut a piece of thread to length. Taking liquid model cement like Testors Plastic Cement, I let the thread soak up the glue, put the glued thread into place, and held it for a few minutes with tweezers. Once the glue set up, it stayed in position, and within a very short time hardened to shape. The solvent glue bonds it to plastic pieces on either side. I chose black thread, but you can choose whatever colour suits your fancy or matches the model. 

I learned this technique while doing a large sailing ship model many years ago. The attached lines got stiff and hard, but retained the rough line look.


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 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2018 02:13 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2009
Save those Signs
by Larry Brinker

Railway crossing signs are always in danger of being broken, especially when close to the edge of a layout. I drive a concrete coloured flat head screw in the signs location. The screw has to be magnetic. Brass and aluminium will not work. With a one-hole paper punch, I punch out a circle from a magnetic tape strip or a fridge magnet from one of those advertising crowds and paint it concrete. Drill a hole in the punched-out magnet to accept the post of the sign and glue it in. The sign can now be positioned on top of the screw. A wayward arm will just knock it over, not break it. When you want to clean the track in that area, just move it out of the way.


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 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2018 03:06 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2010
Representing Sand Loads
by Phil Shaw
Sand is one of those materials which is not good on a model railway should it get into mechanisms etc, but sometimes needs to be represented for loads in vehicles, near loco sanding stations or beach scenes. Mix a small amount of plaster with a sand coloured acrylic, mould it into a rough block shape and allow it to dry thoroughly. When you are ready, sand it down using coarse emery or wet and dry paper and collect the dust and treat in the normal fashion. If the load you are doing is a sand load for a truck, use a small block of foam underneath also painted with the sand colour and sprinkle on the plaster while it is wet.


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 Posted: Wed Jan 10th, 2018 02:18 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2011
Covering Concrete Floors around layouts
by Trevor Gibbs
An option is carpet tile, which usually has its own pad or underlay attached. It is available from carpet specialists and big-box home stores. Tiles have the advantage of being easy to replace if a disaster happens. Many offices when they are updated have carpet tiles and mine came courtesy of my brother who supplied enough to do his shed, my shed (complete with layout) and our mothers back room for free. Be aware that modelling can also be messy. Painting, plastering and water based scenery can make carpet look bad but if mine gets a major piece of damage, a swap of tiles fixes it in no time.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 13th, 2018 02:29 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2012
Making a Foam Cradle
by Matt Hardey

I frequently need to work on the underside of steam locomotives, and bought a pre-cut foam cradle that served me well for a time. When not working down below, I generally keep the locomotives on a sheet of 1⁄2” foam on the workbench to prevent bending small detail parts or scuffing of the finish on the workbench top.
One day I happened to have several small foam cubes nearby and used them to prop up a tender at an angle to better visualize the surface I was working on. The thought struck me that a wedge would provide better support. So I pulled out a block of soft foam and started shaping it with a razor knife. Cut blocks and wedges from soft foam What I wound with is a series of blocks and wedges that I can place around my locos. The foam surface has a very high coefficient of friction, particularly with other pieces of similar foam. Once placed on the surface, the block or wedge will not readily move, yet it provides unparalleled simultaneous access to both the sides and the bottom of the unit under repair.


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 Posted: Tue Jan 16th, 2018 01:55 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2013
Safer Disposal of Old Bladed
by Matt Hardey
Most model rail enthusiasts collect odds and ends that may come in handy later. A few years ago I was pondering the safe disposal of X-Acto blades and razor blades. Many areas still have manual garbage pick-up and unless the blades are protected there is always a chance that somebody could get cut.

As I was thinking about how to dispose of the blades safely, I just happened to open a Tic Tac container to pop a mint. Voila! The
mints were almost finished, so I quickly consumed the rest and tested the opening for the knife blades. They slid in perfectly. To store the used razor blades, the paper on the container needed to be split between the cap and the body to allow a bigger opening. Once this was done (using a dull razor blade), the cap could be pulled out and a razor blade safely stored. Any small plastic container big enough for a razor blade works, but these mint containers are heading to the trash anyway, so why not use them?


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 Posted: Fri Jan 19th, 2018 01:53 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2014
Picking Up Small Parts
by Marty Petersen

The other day as I dropped a small part on the carpet and could not find it, it dawned on me that I could use a lint roller to pick up the part. Getting the part was super easy. In the past I would spend 15 minutes looking for a small part, laying with my head sideways trying to see it! The dogs always wondered why I would do this. Anyway, by simply running the lint roller over the carpet, it picked up the part I lost, and a few other things that I had dropped before. The Scotch-Brite lint roller works well. It comes with more than 50 sheets so it lasts a long time. I will share the cash with my dogs, as it was their lint roller I used.


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 Posted: Mon Jan 22nd, 2018 03:35 am
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Hints & Tips No. 2015
Poster Putty
by Dave Dexter
Try using poster putty to hold those pesky small screws to your screwdriver when attaching your coupler pockets. I also use it for temporary mounting of HO people on my layout until I am sure I like their placement. Use it to hold small parts on a piece of wood or cardboard for painting. The uses are endless!


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