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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!

Last edited on Fri May 14th, 2010 01:06 am by xdford

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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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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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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.

Last edited on Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 07:28 am by xdford

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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.

Last edited on Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 07:27 am by xdford

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Hints & Tips No.526
Acrylics for Weathering
By Rod Cameron (Teignmouth)
I have used dilute acrylics sprayed from a household disinfectant or plant spray type of bottle as part of the weathering process including rock colouring and changing the colour of ballast among other tasks.
Hints & Tips No.527
Cutting Track Squarely
by Ted Allan (Sunshine MRC Melbourne)

There are times when track has to be cut as squarely as possible for example tracks to the bridge of a turntable. This task can be made easier by having a small block of wood with an end cut square. Place the block against the track and hold your razor saw for cutting the track hard against end of the wood.
The saw should be in a position that is square for both sides of the track and enable you to cut neatly through both rails in your track.

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A Disclaimer about Hints and Tips

To paraphrase MRE,  Hints and Tips are given in good faith by the contributors that they do work. I often check that the idea will work with others and or that the information given is technically correct and that the procedures given are safe. Ideas that work for others through time and brand differences etc however may not work for you. If you are in doubt please check the advice with one of your modeling colleagues.

Regards

Trevor Gibbs

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Hints & Tips No.528
Planning and Drawing Curves on your base board
by Trevor Gibbs

You can draw centre-of-track curves very easily on your baseboards and/or your frames. Take a scrap length of plywood about three feet long and say 2 inches wide and put a nail near one end in the middle so that it just pokes through the plywood. This device is known as a “Trammel” and the nail becomes the radius centre.

Now using your standard radii, mark off your preferred sized curves down the centre line of your plywood perhaps in 2 inch increments. Drill a hole in these markers which will enable you to place a pencil through and mark your radius centre on your board. This will give you a good set radius mark for your flexible track to be curved over the top of.



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Hints & Tips No.529
Modelling Stucco Walls - Several Modellers

You can model stucco walls using thin card liberally coated with white glue. Sift some powdered poly-filla plaster with a little unevenness over the surface and allow to dry. Keep as flat as possible.
When you think the glue has dried, turn the card over and tap gently to remove the excess poly-filla and you should have a very good representation of a stucco wall, ready for building.
Hints & Tips No.530
Thatched Roofing on buildings
by Several Modellers
You can simulate thatched roofing by laying strands of wool over the roof line of your building, painted or dyed appropriately and trimmed at the roof line.

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Hints & Tips No.531
Access, Access, Access ( with apologies to Tony Blair ... and any one else who repeats themselves!)

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
One thing that I think that needs pointing out about track planning is the absolute essential need for access to all areas of the layout for maintenance and cleaning. I have learned the hard way over the years.
Make sure you can get to everything, do not block things up where you cannot. You may think....."I'll never need to get to that again once it is built." WRONG!!! Sooner or later you need to get to it all. Even my lighting valance is removable to allow easier access.

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Hints & Tips No.532
Using Loctite in Model Railways
By Several Modellers
Loctite has been used for many years to stop threads from coming free for example for crankpins in drivers but can also be used if you need to hold wheel sets in gauge... once the gauge and spacings have been checked... with a higher tensile strength than many other materials, including ACC super glue.
Hints & Tips No.533
Closer Coupling on Mk3 Coaches
By Andrew Lewis
To enable more close coupling on Hornby HST/MK3 Coaches, use Kadee No.5 couplers with a piece of 4mm styrene sheet as a shim to get it to the correct coupling height. Some shops sells styrene as a cheap alternative to Perspex.

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Hints & Tips No.534
The "less is more" school of backdrop painting Part 1

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
First of all, let me start off by saying that I really respect the work of those who do well conceived and executed photo realistic backdrops as well a those folks who do highly detailed painted backdrops.

I am a pretty decent landscape painter, I have done some paintings on canvas so I understand the skill involved. That being said, for me personally, a model railroad backdrop does not have to be that detailed or become a huge amount of work. I believe that the three dimensional scenery and the trains should be the focus of the viewer. I like to let my scenery and my trains "do the talking" so to speak.


With that in mind, I have borrowed a collection of various techniques over the years and come up with what I call "less is more" backdrop painting. To start off, paint the basic sky blue colored backdrop which will become the blank canvas so to speak...



I take a brush loaded with flat white latex paint and establish a horizon line. This should be at about eye level on your backdrop when you are in your normal viewing and operating position. Some stand to operate while others sit. My layout is set at a height that allows operation from my office chair. I am inherently lazy...I do not stand unless I have to!

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Hints & Tips No.535
The "less is more" school of backdrop painting Part 2

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
Next I take some blue on another brush and starting up above the white I begin feathering the blue into the white. I also wet the brush and start to spread a "wash" of the white down towards the bottom of the backdrop. It is hard to describe an exact technique here. What you are looking for is a sky that starts blue at the top and then feathers into white at the horizon and then becomes progressively white towards the bottom of the backdrop. Study the sky on a cloudless or semi cloudless day and you will see the exact effect I am talking about.


Take pictures to use for reference if it will help. I do it from my memory of what the sky looks like on these type days and just by what looks good to my eye. Do not fuss with it too much. As long as your sky is blue on the top, starts to feather into white at the horizon and then becomes almost white towards the bottom, you will be fine.

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Hints & Tips No.536
The "less is more" school of backdrop painting Part 3

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
Now that we have our basic sky formed, for me it is time to add some distant mountains. Once again we are not looking for a lot of detail here. We just want to suggest the basic land forms. Most of my mountains are removable so I took them off the layout while painting the backdrop. At this point I put them back in order to locate where I want my background mountains to be.
I used a pencil to make minimal outlines of the mountains I'm going to paint on the backdrop and then I removed my 3D mountains once again. I used a chocolate brown color that is the same brand and in the same color family of the acrylic tan paint that I use for my base color on my landscape and did a very plain painting in of my background mountain shapes. I leave the edges of my painted mountains kind of fuzzy and not well defined.

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Hints & Tips No.537
The "less is more" school of backdrop painting Part 4

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
The next step has to be done carefully as it is very easy to overdo. What we will now try to accomplish is the look of atmospheric "haze" which will help to soften our background mountains even more and give the illusion of distance. You can either use an airbrush with flat white paint in it or a rattle can of flat white spray paint. I prefer an airbrush but I need a new wide coverage nozzle tip for mine so I had to settle for the rattle can.



Very lightly apply a dusting of the flat white over the peaks of the mountains and on down as far as they will be seen. Put a light mist above them on your sky as well. Open a window so you have adequate ventilation and I cannot stress enough to do it lightly. This will give the effect of very light cloud as you may see in any given distance photos.



From Trevor - Merry Xmas Everyone!

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Hints & Tips No.538
The "less is more" school of backdrop painting ... The Epilogue

By Michael Tondee ( GA USA)
I did the whole backdrop except for the original base coat of blue in one afternoon. If I tried to do detail like I do in some of my paintings, it would have taken me days. I think the overall effect and feeling of distance with the 'less is more" technique is quite satisfying. If you would like to paint trees on your mountains, you can, just use varying shades of green paint in the general shape of the type of tree you want. Again, do not over detail. You do not really see the individual trees when you view a mountain in the distance. It is more like "blobs" of green. I myself do not find anything but painting the mountain shapes necessary to get the overall effect I want.

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Hints & Tips No.539
Realistic Harvesting
By Ted Allan
Many modellers model furrowed fields as though they has been ploughed by a tractor in nicely squared blocks... but the ends finish often in grassland! Tractors need places to turn and the ground is usually ploughed underneath so that at the end of each of the tractor width of furrows is also a half circular ploughed piece of ground. Your ploughed field should then look more realistic!

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Hints & Tips No.540
Making Mountains Pt. 1
By Tim Stephenson
Plaster cloth is a plaster-impregnated cloth, much like the material used for making cast on broken bones. I start off with a design on the height and length that I want my mountain to be. I have found that a large cardboard box or a sheet of foam board will be the background and the base of my mountain. I cut out a section as to the shape and length of the mountains. This will form a "L" shape when looking at it for the side. I now take newspaper and ball it up; you will need numerous balls of newspaper. I then put the newspaper balls into the "L", working from the backside to the front and the bottom to the top. This is what will shape the mountain. To hold the balls in place, run strips of masking tape over balls and extend to the back of the mountain and under the bottom.
When putting the newspaper in place, do not try to keep it smooth. The bumpier the better, the newspaper is what will give your mountain some texture. Once I have shaped up the mountain with newspaper, I am ready to cover it. I take the plaster cloth and cut it into 1-foot sections, for easier handling. I take a section of plaster cloth and dip it into a bowl of water and lay it on the mountain. I start at one end and lay a section at a time, with a 2-inch overlap on the back of the mountain and a 2-inch overlap over each section. This will make it appear as though it is one section covering the entire mountain when it dries. I now put the mountain aside to dry overnight.
It is important that you allow the mountain to dry. All of the water that was put on the plaster cloth has now dripped down into the newspaper and we want the newspaper to dry before we paint the mountain or it could mildew.

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Hints & Tips No.541
Masking Tape Pt. 1
By Several Modellers
Many modellers have problems with sticking masking tape possibly spoiling paint jobs. Sticking the tape on a piece of glass first then peeling it off again reduces the tack of the tape and make final removal easier.
Hints & Tips No.542
Tips for Laying Smooth Roads Pt 1
By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)
I use Durhams brand Water Putty here in the USA but there are other brands around the world. It sets up pretty quickly, so I add a bit if white vinegar to it to give me more working time. (I used red wine vinegar once. It worked OK, but my layout smelled like a salad for about a week.)
The trick, which I credit to Bob Grech, is to use a 2-inch foam brushes. I keep a yogurt cup half full of water handy. As the putty starts to set up, I brush over with the foam brush, keeping it wet. This smooths the road down very nicely. When the water gets too dirty, I dump it (outside - not in the sink) and get some more. By working the surface for about 15-20 minutes after it is poured, I get an even surface.
The putty holds a shape, too, so you can form a crown if you wish. It will not settle into a flat profile.

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Hints & Tips No.543
Masking Tape Pt. 2
By Several Modellers
When masking off work for painting, never use the natural edge of the tape for a masking line on a model. Always cut a new edge once the tape has been applied.
Hints & Tips No.544
Making Mountains Pt. 2
By Tim Stephenson
When my mountain is dry, I am ready to paint it according to the season that it will be used in. Should I want to use it as a North Pole Mountain, I would paint it with White latex to give a snow effect and before the paint dries, I would sprinkle glitter in the wet paint so that my paint acts as glue as well. Once dried, my mountain will have a North Pole glitter effect.

Should I want to use my mountain for other seasons, I will paint with brown latex. This will give the effect of dirt when I am finished. While the paint is still wet, I sprinkle the entire mountain with various colors of Woodland Scenics Turf. I do not use any set patterns of color, just sprinkle it at random as nature would do. The wet paint will act as glue for the turf when it dries. Once the paint has dried I take a mister bottle and spray the entire mountain with Woodland Scenics Spray Cement. The spray cement will seal the turf in place and allow you to dust off your mountain with out pulling up the turf.

I can now decorate my mountain with bushes and trees and any other items that I want to have on the mountain. A roll of plaster cloth will cover 10 square feet and comes in a roll 8 inches wide by 15 feet long.

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Hints & Tips No.545
Tips for Laying Smooth Roads Pt 2
By Thomas Statton (Tennessee USA)
Office supply stores where I live sell rolls of cork that's about 1/16" or 1/8" thick for notice boards etc. It is sticky backed and for model railways makes a great road base. Lay this down as your roadbed. Sand it smooth and then do a skim coat or two with water putty or plaster. Adding a bit of vinegar to the mix gives you longer working time as mentioned and keep your tools wet.
I recommend some staples or small nails to help hold the cork down instead of just relying on the sticky back glue.
Hints & Tips No.546
Masking Tape Pt. 3
By Several Modellers
When masking off work for painting, never use the natural edge of the tape for a masking line on a model. Always cut a new edge once the tape has been applied.

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Hints & Tips No.547
Cobblestone
By Trevor Gibbs
While out shopping yesterday (well as this was written anyway) I was pondering my soft serve yoghurt when I noticed the texture of the foam cup. By the heading of this H&T, you can probably see where this might be going! I took the cup home and cut the main cone part of the body off and it neatly flattened to give a slight curve and the texture I was looking for. While I have not yet glued it to the layout nor painted it in the colour I think cobblestones should be, it looked effective.
Foam is often used in packaging and I do not know why I had not seen this before and I could imagine, painted appropriately, it could be used to represent gravel roads as well.


Last edited on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 06:25 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.548
Tips for Laying Smooth Roads Pt 3
By Hamish West
I use 1/8" Masonite for paved roads. I can cut curves, route a chamfered edge before painting, and then use 1/16" white and yellow chart tapes for the lines. For country roads, I use fine ballast packed down smooth. I have never needed to sand the road. I mix a little grey into black to simulate asphalt in parking lots and alleys, and use buff with some brown [very little] for country gravel roads.
Hints & Tips No.549
Mounting Bulk Cargo in open wagons
By Mike Cheesman
Use a cardboard insert to fill most of the space of a wagon in a 'bulk' cargo such as coal, iron ore, ballast/stone or limestone and you add the scenic materials on the top , to form the visible load mounds. Saves both weight and materials.

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Hints & Tips No.550
Covering your layout during scenery construction
By Michael Tondee (GA USA)
Over the years I have tried many different ways of covering my layout during scenery construction. I have used painters plastic drop cloths and used masking tape or duct tape over my trackage but I always go back to a cheap simple method that works well.
I cover it with newspaper and then take a spray bottle and mist water all over the news paper to moisten it and make it lay down over the track and finished contours. Do not overdo with the water, you need just enough to make the paper lay down. If it starts to dry before you are finished, you can always mist some more on. This is not some new novel trick by any means and has been around for years but I thought I would pass it on as like so many things, simple methods like this get forgotten and lost in the shuffle sometimes.
One can also tear newspaper into track width strips and lay it on track in tight spaces. Then just mist it down and it becomes a very effective way to protect the track and layout.

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Hints & Tips No.551
Etched Number Boards and Road Signs
By Russ Straw
I was playing around with some etched road sign plates and coincidentally some number plates from locomotives. The instructions told me to hand paint the raised lettering but I was having a hard time keeping the paint on top of the letters and not running down between. After stripping and starting over, painting them and letting the paint dry really well, I decided to shave off the paint over the raised lettering and numberings and trim the edge with a razor. I then "painted" the lettering and numbering with Gun Blue to chemically blacken the exposed brass and made the numbers and letters stand out.
From Bob Knight - Another tip is to paint the main colour of the background and place the raised letters down on wet/dry sandpaper with some water. Sand off the paint on only the raised detail and then use the chemical bluing.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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...

Last edited on Tue Jan 19th, 2010 06:17 am by xdford

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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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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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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

Last edited on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 06:10 pm by xdford

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Hints & Tips No.572
Peco Point Motor Switches Pt 1
By Eugene Azzopardi (Melton MRC, Australia)
I use Peco Switches for my interlocklng etc attached to my point motors. Rather than glue them, I use a thin wire tied tied tightly to hold them to the motor. The materials use in the switch cover and the metal of the point motor do not lend themselves to gluing easily and if maintenance is needed, they are much easier to remove.

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Hints & Tips No.573
Cheap Corrugated Steel
By Curt Lange
I enjoy scratch building structures and I am always looking for inexpensive material. Corrugated metal is used widely in trackside structures, but is expensive to buy in scale, and difficult to make from scratch. I found a solution for HO scale that may also work in other scales. It is called "metallic crepe", and is like party streamers, but is available in silver and looks just like corrugated sheet metal. I got mine at a party supply store called "Pretty Party Place" but there are other sources. It comes in 60' rolls and is 1 3/4" wide-best of all, it only costs several dollars per roll. All it needs is a coat of matte medium to dull the shiny finish.
I use that sandwich board [styrofoam between 2 poster board pieces-can get it at art and craft supply stores-it's cheap too] to build the actual structure, then glue the lengths of corrugated steel to it with a good spray adhesive or Tacky glue. The material is sturdy, and there is very little problem cutting out door and window holes.

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Hints & Tips No.574
Using Liquid Cement
By Marty McGuirk
The brush inside most liquid cement bottles is way too large for most models. It is much easier to use a small paintbrush to apply a small amount of liquid cement to the parts to be joined. Just grab a supply of small brushes from your nearest “reject” type shop

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Hints & Tips No.575
More Realistic Roofing
By Martin Smith
Most model railways are viewed from a high vantage point. As a result, the roofs of most structures are clearly seen. Just as we add details to the various scenes that we create, the roofs of the structures are just as important. For peaked roofs, vent pipes and the like can be added for interest and or if you era allows, television antenna's strapped to the chimney. For flat roofs, I will add almost anything such as vent pipes of various designs and lengths, skylights, clothes lines filled with drying cloths and last but not least, I apply a generous amount of engine black paint and sprinkle black ballast on the wet paint to add texture. There are many things that can be added to the roofs of the structures on our layouts and it is only limited to your imagination.

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Hints & Tips No.576
Peco Point Motor Switches Pt 2
By Eugene Azzopardi (Melton MRC, Australia)
As mentioned in H&T 572, I use Peco Switches for my interlocklng etc attached to my point motors. These are a very simple switch being a wiper on a circuit board. Before placing them into service, I remove the top cover (you can see the lugs holding them) and using solder, tin them. I feel the items in these switches that fail contact, basically fail because the copper track oxidises. I have had some of mine in heavy duty service for up to and possibly over 25 years and have not had any problems nor have I had to replace any... touch wood... yet!

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Hints & Tips No.577
Using Tamiya Paints Pt1

By Several Modellers

When you open a fresh NEW bottle, there ought to be a slight odor and a good brush will paint the color on (AFTER stirring not shaking the paint) and within about 20 minutes stop painting and cap the bottle. Do not try to cover and recover a first coat with more paint. Let it dry a few hours.

Store the paint upside down with the cap on TIGHTLY. That adds a few more months of shelf life to the paint in the bottle. Clean your brush after about 20 minutes of painting, becuase no matter what you do with it, that paint will dry on that brush starting deep and turning into a solid while you add more and more thicker coats of paint onto that brush in a futile effort to stay ahead of the drying.
That is probably the finest paint for drying without brush strokes with water clean up that I know of. You can paint with steel wool and it will settle right down flat onto any plastic surface without marks in a hour. (I know, I am half jesting but you get point)
But it drys FAST. And best with small areas at a time. I paint in 15 minute blocks of time with one hour dry minimum, overnight best between areas until its complete.
One word of caution. If you see a Tamiya paint can spray and think you can cover that very big widget in one pass, do it outdoors. There is acetone in that can that may have adverse effects on you in greater concentrations.

Last edited on Thu Feb 4th, 2010 05:42 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.578
Making and Installing Grab Irons/Stirrup Ladders
By Marty McGuirk
I start redetailing my freight cars by adding grab irons to the sides, forming them from .010” wire – which is close to the size of prototype grab irons. I started by creating a bending jig from a piece of scrap styrene with holes drilled 18” and 27” from the edge. The size you will need will depend on your prototype.


To form the grabs, I cut a short piece of wire, bent a 90-degree angle in one end and insert the short leg into the hole. Then I carefully bent the other end over the edge of the jig. It pays to be picky here – not every grab came out perfectly, but I am able to bend enough good ones fairly quickly.


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Hints & Tips No.579
Using Tamiya Paints Pt2
By Several Modellers

Make a point of having several brushes ready to go. Start painting one brush on a project. After 15 minutes that brush is too dry with paint and in need of cleaning up (Windex spray... NOT IN your bathroom sink ....). Move on to the second brush and paint 15 minutes and clean that one up with a bit of windex and water. Then you will have two wet brushes clean and drying while you use the third brush.


You should either be complete with coat number one by then or the paint bottle needs restirring and start over with fresh brushes later in the day until the model is finished.
If you airbrush, do it to it on one or two passes and for best results thin with Rubbing Alcohol. Tamiya paint will dry INSIDE your airbrush faster than you can dunk it into a bucket of windex.

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Hints & Tips No.580
Using Superglue with superdetailing

By Marty McGuirk

Since detailing freight cars means securing lots of small parts, often made of dissimilar plastics, I tend to prefer using superglue to join the parts rather than liquid styrene cement.


The glue or Cyanoacrylate (CA) tends to “grab” the part and hold it in place whereas liquid cement can allow the part to “droop” or otherwise move.

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Hints & Tips No.581
Wiring LED's

By Several Modellers


When you use LEDs for lighting on your layout , each LED should have its own series load resistor. The temptation is to run a few LED's in parallel from one resistor. Trying to run many of them through a common resistor will reduce their output, so a lower value of resistor has to be used to maintain an acceptable current flow to keep them working. The flip side is that if a couple do not light because they do not get enough current, more current flows through the others and possibly shortens their lifespan.

Since resistors are pretty cheap, (cheaper than the LEDs) there is really no reason to try and scrimp on their usage.

(A note from Trevor – I can get resistors at a bulk electronics place for about (at time of writing) $9.20 Australian Dollars a 1000 ... that is right .92 of a cent each! This is good advice as you will not break the bank at those rates.

Last edited on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 08:24 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.582
Using Acrylic Paints

By Several Modellers


I am a artist and I do landscape paintings with acrylic paint that you can buy from Reject type shops. You may like to try using a spray bottle with water to help work the paint to keep it from drying too fast. That will help you blend colors easier. You may like to have it dry faster so you can over lay colors. You can use a hair dryer to do that.


I find it better blend colors sometimes on the painting to get the look I need. So this may help you, but do what works for you. You can always repaint.

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Hints & Tips No.583
Tips for Bulding a Garden Layout

By Several Modellers


Track, plan on no smaller than 8foot diameter curves, This diameter track will allow you to run most everything on the market today.


Track power: If you are thinking traditional track power, spend a little extra and get stainless steel track. It is only a bit more than standard brass track but your conductivity and track cleaning issues will be greatly improved.
If you are thinking radio control and battery, go with aluminium rail... it is cheaper and you never have to worry about cleaning track other than clearing leaves off.
Now in extreme winter climates, use a ladder system under your track. Basically it is a wood or artificial wood like base with 4x posts that should go down deep enough to prevent frost heavy frosts heaving during winter.

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Hints & Tips No.584
Lift offs in a Layout
By Bruce Leslie MA USA
Do you plan ahead for things when building a layout? Thanks to planning for liftoffs, I can easily get to any derailment that happens in my subway tunnels. But, thanks to being very careful about my trackwork, I don't have derailments unless I forget to throw a turnout correctly.

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Hints & Tips No.585
Weathering and Painting the Side of Rails Pt 1
By Don Sali ( Sunshine MRC Australia)

If you have new track that you want to pre weather the sides of ala Hints and Tips No 35 (http://www.xdford.digitalzones.com/hintsandtips.htm), particularly Peco flex track, simply remove it from the sleepers by sliding it out, painting it and replacing it in the sleepering

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Hints & Tips No.586
Weathering and Painting the Sides of Rails Pt 2
By Allan Ogden ( Sunshine MRC Australia)

The cheaper spray paints for the most part do not harm Flex track at all unless there is an acetone component. Therefore you can prespray your track before laying with a rustic red or earthy brown colour ... whatever you think is correct for you and simply clean the tops of the rails and the rail joiner connection after the painting is done.

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Hints & Tips No.587

By Gene Kruger (Quebec)


The effect of the matt-spray toning down the effect of the weathering powders is very well known, especially among armour modellers. It is less about the powders being blown away than about actual toning down of the powders. The solution is to either over-powder on first application...or add additional layers of powder after the spray and just keep layering powder/spray until you are happy with the result.

I have found, that now that I am used to it, I can deal with it. I tend to over-weather the first application knowing that the matt spray will then tone it down to a less extreme effect. If it needs more powders after that then I just do a second application of powder and spray. After a bit of practice I can now get the effect with one application of powders...most of the time.



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Hints & Tips No.588
Fixing Stubborn Axles
by Trevor Gibbs

Every now and then, an axle comes through on a piece of rolling stock which gives it the wagon or freight car it is on, the rolling ability of a brick. I have had a few wheel sets which I have had to look at and the culprit has been blunt “needle points” on the axles. The fix is quite simple, take the offending axle out and remove the wheels gently. With the offending “pin point”, outward, tighten up the axle in a power drill. You could get away with a cordless drill but a power drill is generally faster.
Whilst spinning the drill, hold a file to the point and shape it back to a needle point. A steady hand should produce the result that a lathe would produce. Reset your wheels and reinstall the axle on your wagon or in your bogie or truck and check the difference.

Last edited on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 12:46 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.589
Decalling Your DCC Loco Addresses
by David Willoughby (NSW)
Paint or Decal the Short and Long DCC Addresses on the bottom of the Fuel tank of your Diesel Locos. This is handy if like I do, you have more than one body for your model to represent different eras.

You could also show the date or time line of your particular locomotive models colour scheme for the correct marshalling of the time line of your consists. As examples, Australian National Locomotive CL4 was painted in AN Green and Yellow about August 1982 until it was rebuilt as number CLP14 and beginning service on the 19th of August 1993. Australia's most famous locomotive 3801 wore different shades of grey between 1943 and 1946, green to the 1950's, black until 1963 and green again in its service life.

Last edited on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 03:19 pm by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.590
Tips For Removing Ballast

By Several Modellers

If you used a 50/50 PVA/water mix to lay the ballast,soak with water from an eye dropper & leave for an hour or so.The track should then lift & you can wash the rest off.

PVA is generally speaking not waterproof, simply pour hot water from the kettle on to the area you need to alter and the ballast should come off like a dream. Just make sure it is not boiling water. If the water is boiling and you have plastic sleepers they may warp and cause gauging problems.

A good tool to use to lift pinned ballast track after dabbing water on to the area with a paint brush which has been left for 2-3 mins is an old wall paper scraper. The wallpaper scraper is also good and lifting scatter grass stuck down with a 50/50 mix of PVA solution & water. Soak with a paint brush dabbed in water (well painted it), left it to soak in, then scrape it up. You can also use an old shaving brush to gather the resulting mess, as not there may be not much space for a dustpan.

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Hints & Tips No.591
Tips For Smoother Locomotive Running
By Several Modellers
If your locomotive “limps” or has an irregular rotation at the same apart of the wheel rotation, check for the following.
  1. There could be a burr or imperfection in the drive gear which is causing the worm from the motor to “hiccup” at the same point. Lightly clean your gear with a file so that the teeth are even right the way around
  2. One of the con rods is catching or is bent causing things to tighten up at a certain point. Remove it gently and straighten it up gently
  3. A small bit of grit has got into one of the cogs and is sitting there not allowing the gears to mesh and run smoothly giving the mechanism a bit of a kick each revolution of the gear wheel.
  4. A burr on the conrods. Again, remove and using a drill, lightly deburr the rod.



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Hints & Tips No.592
Nscale Ballasting using Chinchilla Dust
By Several Modellers
For N gauge ballast I use a product called Chinchilla dust available from pet shops, it is very fine indeed, sold cheaply in large quantities generally it is very pale in colour like new ballast. You can always colour it by spraying or using weathering powders. I have always found so-called 'scale' ballast hugely overscale generally speaking use the size down from your scale. But for 2mm any proprietary ballast sold is far too coarse in my opinion. I also use this in 4mm for that fine look in around sidings & oily loco depots.

Last edited on Fri Feb 19th, 2010 05:40 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.593
Making Slates using Plasticard
By Andrew Carroll
I use standard 5 thou plasticard with the slate scribed then cut into strips - it is then laid with a prototypical overlap to get the correct effect.

You can also put in the occasional slipped slate in as well using this method, and it is far easier than cutting and laying individual slates

Last edited on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 03:49 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.594
Fitting Kadees to Bachmann Mk1 Coaches
By David Smith
If you have permanent coupling or semi-permanent coupling is not an option you should use the coupler supplied by cropping it off just behind the hook.
Then take a Kadee 17/18 coupler set, drill through the shank of both it and the Bachmann stub, secure them with a piece of plastic rod or dowel, apply Plastic weld and leave to dry. When finished, the coupling can be inserted in the normal matter, but at correct coupling height.

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Hints & Tips No.595
Wiring DIN and Computer Plugs for Throttles etc
By Several Modellers
If you have a 5 pin DIN socket or computer 9 pin, try filing the area to be soldered with a little needle file. Put the plug in the socket to hold it before trying to solder, it will keep the pins in the right place then tin it.

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Hints & Tips No.596
How do I fix my blackened soldering tip?
By Several Modellers
Have you had your soldering iron on for a while, and the has turned black? Not taking any solder and no amount of wiping on the sponge helps? You have several possible actions. You can lightly run a file over it, and rapidly tin it or dip it in flux when hot (in a well ventilated area!) or give it a quick scrape with a scalpel blade and a big blob of resin cored solder. Steel wool is also effective. As long as you have a small part of your tip tinned right on the point of the tip, the iron will then work.

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Hints & Tips No.597
Soldering Iron Precaution
By Trevor Gibbs
As tempting as it might seem, avoid burning holes in plastics with soldering irons. The vaporised plastic can get into the element area and can corrode it very quickly and shorten your soldering iron's life considerably. The fumes will also not do your own health much of a favour either.

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Hints & Tips No.598
Suggestions for Curtains/ Nets in Houses/Buildings
by Jeffrey Lynn (Melbourne Australia)
I have used painted tissue paper for curtains in a model coach, in the past.

For houses, I tend to use cuttings from sales catalogues and brochures for fabric shops (like Spotlight in Australia, Argos in the UK - fill in a suitable name here for your own country!). We usually get these things in the "junk" mail. Scan them and make by printing multiples if necessary.

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Hints & Tips No.599
Lessons Learned Getting Started in N
By Steve Pirouet (Berks)

1. Go for as large radius points as possible as I find they give the best running and simplest track laying
2. Be prepared to make errors in track laying and relay the track or throw errors away. The lightness of some stock can really show up a gap or poorly aligned track.
3. Just because it is N scale, do not try and cram track in.
4. If you have a curve to a fiddle yard that is tight, you can link code 55 to code 80 set-track to get the best curve in, but avoid radius 1.



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Hints & Tips No.600
Removing Rivets from Locomotive and Wagon Bodies
By Several Modellers
Many models come with moulded on rivets and other details that we may or may not want there. You can scrape them off fairly cleanly by using a chisel type hobby blade in a similar fashion to a plane by having the beveled edge of the blade flat on the surface. It appears to be the “wrong way around” but If you use the chisel blade this way, it will have less of a tendency to dig in to the plastic. Finishing off with Wet and Dry sandpaper in wet mode will assist a better finish

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Hints & Tips No.601
Hints for constructing Brass Coach Kits Pt 1
By Barry Oliver, (Leeds)
1 Clean all surface before trying to solder - glass fibre pencil or very fine wet and dry work well
2 Use decent solder and flux - I use fluxite for some joints and a mildly acid based flux for others
3 Keep your soldering iron tip clean
4 Always "tin" brass parts - this makes it quicker to make the final joint - ie clean each face of a joint, flux it and put a very thin smear of solder along the parts to be joined
5 Trial solder some spare bits of brass together to get used to soldering
6 Trial solder some brass and white metal together - this is the most difficult bit - and keep the whitemetal parts clean

and wash the coach down when you have finished soldering - I use a toothbrush and CIF as a starter.

You do not need a 50W iron - you can solder a comet coach kit together using a 25W one with decent joint cleaning and flux/solder

The answer to good assembly is: Trial runs are good - use the right tools - keep everything clean

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Hints & Tips No.602
Hints for constructing Brass Coach Kits Pt 2
By Michael Bennett (Essex)
Ensure all cusps are cleaned off etch parts. Always bend parts with at least a straight edge in use. Always deepen etched bend lines until you can see a witness mark on the other side it will help it stopping the metal from distorting during the bending process. Check fit of parts before soldering .
Make up some jigs from a couple of pieces of timber with a straight edge/corner they can help with corners of the sides/ends when making joints. Always wash brass after EVERY soldering session . Be careful with heat as it can distort thin brass very easily.

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Hints & Tips No.603
Laying Track on Doors
By John Harriott (Australian Capital Territory)
On a road bed of 12mm exterior ply or masonite interior doors with 3mm cork underlay, I 'drill/melt' a hole in the sleeper with a hot pin and press the track pin with the flat of a set of side cutters or needle nose pliers in a controlled action similar to pressing a bearing. I then apply white glue and when set, I lift the track pins. Then ballast at leisure. This method had worked well in both N scale and HO ever since I laid my first length of flexi track in the '70s.

I am currently experimenting with Trackrite foam in HO but use a similar method to that outlined above. Equally, I use screws and glue to assemble base boards rather than nails.

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Hints & Tips No.604
Sealing MDF
By Several Modellers
Many of us use MDF as a backing for our models. The general rule with MDF is to give a coat of sealer, say PVA acrylic, on both sides,all edges, before scenic papers or plastikard sheets are glued to it. In short anything to prevent damp getting in to the MDF. Modern MDF is quite good at resisting damp and much better than fibre board. The side with plasticard on it will not pass damp, but it might get at the back and then the warp might start, if the board is un-protected. There is also a theory that the PVA or varnish when drying if applied to one side only will cause a surface tension pull and warp the MDF anyway.
Thinned PVA glue can be used as a sealer, or you can go even further and use Cellulose sealer, or even resin... but seal both sides!

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Hints & Tips No.605
Warped roof panel fix

By Dave Nelson (Wisconsin)

With certain warped parts in kits, it is possible to cut them into sections with clean cuts, make them each as flat as possible, and re-cement them together while flattened. This relieves the tension of the warp and if you are lucky it is possible to minimize the mismatches of the sections being mated back together in flattened form.

Another technique I have used, sometimes with success, is to simply bull the part into flatness by gluing it or cementing it (I suppose even screwing it, in some circumstances) to something which is unyieldingly flat and rigid. The hardware store has steel and aluminum "L" shapes that would be difficult to bend, for example, and are fairly lightweight.

There are some rather flimsy kits that need this kind of reinforcement.

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Hints & Tips No.606

Stripping Paint on Shells Pt 1

By Roman Hawryluk (Canada)

The topic of stripping paint off models comes up fairly regularly on the lists I subscribe to so here is a summary of what has been said and shown to work: This is directed at US based models but the same strategies will apply to the different brands of UK Models.

The first thing you need to do is determine the type of paint on the model (factory or custom), the approximate age of the model, and the make.

Post mid-1990's Athearn, all Atlas, all Life-Life Proto, and many Walthers models will strip with 90%+ isopropyl alcohol. It is fairly easily found at you neighbourhood drugstore and is not that expensive (under $4 for 1/2 a litre). Avoid the 70% rubbing alcohol - it will work, but very slowly and may not work at all on some models (read: not all colours come off the same).


All Life-Like Proto 2000, Proto 1000, and Atlas (except the Brazilian made Clay tank cars) will strip to bare plastic with very little scrubbing. Walthers and Athearn take a bit more time (many hours to days). The big advantage with the alcohol is that it will not damage almost all plastics, even after several weeks (don't ask how I know...).

Intermountain factory paint is not paint but rather an ink and will only remove with Accupaint thinner in my experience. But their "paint" is so thin that you can use the iso alcohol to remove the lettering and any pad printed graphics before repainting.

Last edited on Fri Mar 5th, 2010 05:14 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.607

Stripping Paint on Shells Pt 2

By Roman Hawryluk


Enamel paints, old Athearn, and old MDC/Roundhouse will dissolve with Easy-Off oven cleaner. Again you will be left with clean bare plastic. But the solvent in the paint may have etched the surface of the plastic so you will be left with some trace colour (a MDC boxcar painted BN will still have a green tint after stripping).

Brake fluid is the stripper of last resort – it is highly toxic and the additives that are good for your car's brakes are not so good for your plastic model. I have not used it in the best part of 20 years.

Pine-Sol - I have only heard of it being used on Kato models, and only with mixed results. Use only real Pine-Sol brand.

Old Walthers kits (white & blue boxes) will strip bare with ELO (A Note from Trevor – I assume that this is a North American proprietary brand of cleaner).

With all strippers the important thing is to keep the removed paint away from the model - rinse the model with the stripper first before
using water and soap, and don't get any water in the strippers. If there is still paint left on the model after you have washed it in
water, let it dry completely before returning to the stripper.

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Hints & Tips No.608

Stripping Paint on Shells Pt 3

By Roman Hawryluk

Method:

Alcohol: Very easy - just get a plastic tupperware-like food container from the Dollar store that will fit the model. Put the shell in and fill with alcohol. Some people like to use a tall container for pasta, or large mouth jars. Whatever you use, you want it to be large enough to be able to get a toothbrush in next to the shell to help loosen the paint, but only as large as needed to submerge the shell. Actually, submerging the entire shell is not a requirement as you can do half a shell at a time. As long as your stripper covers a bit more than half the width of the shell, you can strip each side separately. An added bonus with using alcohol - if it does not work it is very unlikely to damage anything so it is a good one to start with when you are unsure of the origin of the paint on the model.

ELO and Pine-Sol - use a similar method as the alcohol. More scrubbing during the stripping process is required. Washing with soap is a must.

Last edited on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 04:53 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.609
Stripping Paint on Shells Pt 4
By Roman Hawryluk
Easy-Off needs a little more care as it is very caustic. Wear gloves! Place the shell in a large zip-lock bag, spray the cleaner on the painted portions of the shell, toss it in the bag, close bag and let it sit for a few hours. Check the progress often. When it looks like the paint has lifted, remove the shell from the bag, and rinse with water. Discard the bag with the cleaner. Working over a large sink that can be easily rinsed quickly is a good idea.

For all: WEAR GLOVES (latex are okay but nitrile are better), and make sure that there is sufficient ventilation (I work in a small bathroom with the fan running). Wash the shell with soap (Ivory bar soap or dish detergent) and a soft brush to remove any traces of the stripper and any loose bits of paint. Air dry the shell and then check for any remaining bits of paint in corners and crevices (boxcar doors are the worst offenders).

A warning about stripping Kato shells - nothing works well on their paint, and all of the above affect their plastic adversely by leaching out one of the components of the ABS they use. My advice for stripping Kato paint: do not bother, get an undecorated shell.

Good luck!

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Hints & Tips No.610

Painting Etched Brass Kits
By Bob Knight



These are the steps I give to people who have purchased my etched brass kits:

1) Build Model First
2) Spray/Brush model with lacquer thinner to remove all dirt, oils and contaminents.
3) Air dry with hair dryer
4) Dip cleaned model in vinegar to "etch"
5) Rinse with water
6) Air dry with hair dryer
7) Paint within 6 hours of etch

If you use CA glues (super glues) for any part of the assembly, do not bake your enamel paint.

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Hints & Tips No.611
Using Expandable Foam
By Mark Gasson (NZ)
As anyone who has used it will confirm, the expanding foams are hard to control as you spray them on, and it might seem a bit wasteful this way, but those who use it like being able to carve a railway through a landscape. This way is quick, and the foam is strong and lightweight.



It may be hard to control when you spray it but you can manipulate it successfully at the stage when it has skinned over (it reacts with moisture in the atmosphere) but still soft inside. Use disposable gloves and press it into shape with your hands. It is rather satisfying and the result is a denser (and harder) skin with no gaps.

Last edited on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 04:22 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.612
Ballasting 101 Pt 1
By Raymond Stewart (GA USA)
I use a very fine grade of crushed limestone. After I have made sure that I am happy with the trackwork and all is running nicely, I paint the track and ties with a Rustoleum camouflage dark brown spray paint. I like to ballast my track before I do the rest of the scenery. I do not suppose that it is critical to do one before the other.

I use a spoon for scooping ballast and lay it along the centerline of the track. I then take a fairly small soft paint brush (up to a 1/4 inch wide) and spread the ballast. Some will work to the outsides of the rails. I try and keep the ballast slightly below the tops of the ties, but that is just a personal thing. In real life you see many different amounts of ballast on track.

If need be, I add a little extra ballast to the outside area of the track and use the brush to get it in place.

The last thing that I do is to take something like a spoon or other slightly heavy metal object and tap it lightly along the railheads. I hold it like a drumstick and continually tap the loose end up and down the rail. This will help settle the ballast and help remove any that is sitting on the ties.

I like to use Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (the lower 70% percent is good) to pre-wet the ballast so the glue will immediately soak in and not bubble up on top of the ballast. I place it in a spray bottle that will spray a mist. I then soak a few feet of ballast fairly well with it. Next I use a mixture of Elmers white glue and water, 4 parts water to one part glue and a drop of liquid detergent (for super wetting) in an applicator bottle. If you can find a squeeze bottle with a twist open/close top, that works well. I use an Elmer's white glue bottle that has been emptied. Mustard squeeze bottle is another one that should work.

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Hints & Tips No.613
Ballasting 101 Pt 2
By Raymond Stewart (GA USA)
I place the mix of water/glue/detergent in the bottle and shake it well. You will have some bubbling from the detergent but that will go away if you let it sit for a short time. You can also open the twist top and squeeze some of the bubbles out and then close it.

Now you are ready to apply the glue to the track. Turn the bottle upside down over the track and slowly open the twist top till you can squeeze the bottle and control the drops of glue coming out. Just start soaking (and I mean soaking) the ballast and track with the glue. With the prewetting alcohol and the drop of detergent added, the glue will soak right into the ballast. If it bubbles up on top of the ballast and does not soak in, then give the area another quick shot of alcohol.

This is not necessarily going to look pretty, but leave it several hours to setup and dry. You will be surprised how good it looks once it is dry.

I like to use white glue since it is water soluable and if at a later date I decide that I want to make changes to the track, it is easy to soak the ballast with water and remove it and the track with minimal damage.

Try a test length of track and see how you like it.

Last edited on Sat Mar 13th, 2010 08:57 pm by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.614


Making Rivets cheaply
By Michael Sheridan

A cheap option to emboss rivets is a 'pounce' wheel that is used to trace patterns through paper. It is a sort of sharpened gear wheel in a holder (bit like the front wheel and fork of a bicycle) and you roll it along the surface pressing down. Craft or dressmaker supplies should have them.

You could also make your own by literally sharpening a gear and making a wooden holder with a small bolt for an axle. Methinks using a gear made to mesh with a worm (with the teeth at an angle), cutting the middle of the teeth out and sharpening the remaining outside ends of each tooth you could get a double, staggered row of rivets which would be great for a lot of construction work.

Last edited on Sat Mar 13th, 2010 08:58 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.615

Cleaning Dust from Locomotives

By Several Modellers

For surface debris, the best dust remover is a VERY fine chalk brush. I purchased one at an art store. It has VERY VERY fine bristles. The base of the bristles are very narrow and then it blossoms out to about the size of one's thumb or more.

With a mini-vac and the fine bristled chalk brush, you can get into all kinds of nooks and crannies and get the engine looking great.

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 Hints & Tips No.616
Cleaning Used Engines

By Jay Walsh

On engines that are dirty, especially used or "garage sale" engines, it is usually better to dismantle the engine, clean each part, re-lubricate the parts, then reassemble.

This gives you a chance to wash the dirt grime and cigarette smoke off with a good detergent and warm water. Use a small paint brush to get dirt loose from wheel spokes and in corners. Cigarette smoke is oily and collects dust, so it will not just blow off.

Be careful to get all insulated wheels on the correct side when you re-assemble. It is a good time to make any repairs and mount new couplers, traction tires, brushes, etc. too. It will be worth the time and help to keep your track clean.

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 Hints & Tips No.617
Bringing Out Yellow and White in Painting

By Jay Walsh

Back when we used to do paint jobs on our Harley tanks, we found that a light coat of silver over the grey primer, made yellows, and whites brilliant. It seems to reflect the color better when the color is thin, which we need to prevent hiding detail like rivets on our models.

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Hints & Tips No.618
Thinning Water Based Paints
By Dean Schultz
I have found, when using water-based paints, that a little general purpose alcohol for thinner will speed up drying time and allow a smoother finish. It also seems to thin the paint better than water

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Hints & Tips No.619
Trackside Detail Pt 1
By David Arnold and Chris Thompson
Do not throw away those pieces of track that were torn apart. Paint them a rusty color and lay the ties and rails along the track like the prototypes do. Make your sleepers look distressed and non uniform in shape to really add to the atmosphere.

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Hints & Tips No.620
Trackside Detail Pt 2
By Ben Jackson
Take something really hot to some of those obviously plastic vehicles such as Bachmanns, and paint them so that they look a little heavy weathered. You have a scrapped car that can go ANYWHERE.

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Hints & Tips No.621
Ideas for Animation even in smaller scales Pt 1
By Several Modellers
A helicopter driven by a small motor of some sort with its rotor spinning slowly. A plane in an airport module that looks like it is getting ready to take off. There is a small aquarium air pump under the table and blows up through a small hole in the runway to make the prop spin.
A skip loader. Underneath there is a small motor with a wheel rotating at about 1RPM . Attached to the edge of this wheel is a fine wire that passes up through the layout and is attached to the bucket of a skip loader. The wire flexes to take up the circular motion. No parts to wear out!
Merry-go-rounds, ski-lifts and Container cranes.

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Hints & Tips No.622
Ideas for Animation even in smaller scales Pt 2
By Several Modellers
A guy flying a control line model plane. The plane can be attached to the figure with a length of thin, rigid wire and the figure spins slowly on a motor under the module.
A radar antenna on the top of a control tower that spins slowly with a gearhead motor underneath.
Flashing Crossing lights and Wig Wag signals or opening and closing crossing gates

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Hints & Tips No.623
Making Shingles and Roofing
By Gary Rose (USA)
I use strips (scale 3 to 4 feet wide) of toilet paper. I paint the roof and then while it is still wet I press the paper into the paint using my paint brush. After it has dried a few minutes I go back over the paper with more paint. This looks more like rolled roofing than shingles. Cutting narrower strips and cutting notches into them and then overlapping the strips, they then look more like shingles.

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Hints & Tips No.624
Making Tunnel Accesses
By Several Modellers
a. If the tunnel abuts the side of the layout, cut out access windows in the side of the tunnel.
b. Another is the removable top. Right now, my train on grade level passes under an elevated township over the level grade, 3 inches in N and 5 inches in OO/HO. The train passes under the town, but one end is completely open and all I have to do is reach, and it is a blind side to the layout. But the top is removable.
c. I just left the back part of the tunnels open so I can take the facia off to get at them.
d. My tunnel has a couple of "skylights" in it that are covered over by structures. If there is a need to get into the tunnel, I just move the building.

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Hints & Tips No.625
Construction Do's and Don'ts
By Ben Jaeger
DOs:

-Plan and plan and replan until your plan is right.
-Research prototypical track planning practices as appropriate. What works on the real thing works on the model, space permitting.
-Use as broad curves and as small grades as needed for the length of trains you will want to run.
-Be really patient and make sure you finish and check each step of the process as you go. Do not let small errors build up into big problems. Test track thoroughly and give it some time to show you any faults before ballasting and scenery.
-Keep your wiring as neat and labeled as you can. Think ahead about where it's going to go.
-Ask for advice. Invite friends to help if that suits you.
-Enjoy!

DON'T:

-Rush.
-Put too much pressure on yourself.
-Be afraid to change your plan at any time.
-Be cocky about how long a train you can pull up a steep graded curve.
-Be afraid of any part of the process.
-Let other people tell you what your goals are.
-Stop.

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Hints & Tips No.626
Using Various Containers in Model Building
By Several Modeller's
a... I save my larger spice bottles for sprinkling ground foam for scenery. I even bought one of the big restaurant sized bottles (bay leaves, I think it was) specifically for the purpose.  And a warning: if you do this, label them well. Ground foam can look a lot like oregano but it does not have quite the same flavour.

b... I save my 35mm plastic canisters that film come in - and use them to mix paint for the airbrush and also to mix different shades of scenic material together. You can then sprinkle the scenery right from the canister.

c... Another trick for mixing paint is to use a small piece of aluminum foil and form it over the lid of a paint jar, to make a temporary, disposable 'cap' to mix a small amount of paint in. When you are done, just crrinkle it up and throw it away.


d...Medicinal pill containers from druggist also work very well for the above purpose. For storage of bits and things, for those of you who smoke either cigars or a pipe, the boxes or tins are a natural.

Last edited on Thu Mar 25th, 2010 09:03 pm by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.627
Touching up Models Pt 1

By Gerry Mahlkoff (Florida)

Got to do a little touch up on something you spray bomb painted? Added a detail to something you sprayed with Dullcote? Don't have the color or the Dullcote except in a spray can?

If you are familiar with the clear vacuum formed packaging truck sets or superglue come in, simply spray a little of your color or Dullcote into one of them and brush on. Spray heavily and you'll get enough liquid on a corner to paint a small spot with a brush. Then, just throw the packaging away, which you were going to do anyway.

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Hints & Tips No.628
Touching up Models Pt 2
By John Widmar (Colorado)
When sanding down a loco, carriage or wagon that has been filled in with putty I use a can of auto primer spray paint (gray) and give it a quick spray. It dries in minutes and you can see the rough spots that still need work and start sanding with out much loss of time. A good primer is very fine and will not hide any detail.

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Hints & Tips No.629
Using Coffee Filters
By Russell Straw
Coffee filters make great cleaning rags because they do not turn to lint very easy. I use them for track cleaning and blotting decals to clean them up after the setting solution has dried.

From Trevor -
Sounds like the Coffee Filters could also make wheel cleaners as per an earlier hint Number 21on http://www.mremag.com … now if someone would feed back their experience to me...


Last edited on Sat Apr 3rd, 2010 07:40 pm by xdford

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Make contact, if you've got time Trevor.  :thumbs

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Hints & Tips No.630
An Ersatz Spray Booth
By Dave Dunnell
I made a paint booth by taking two of those big clear plastic storage tubs you can get at Target or wherever... Then I cut squares in one side of both of them, and taped them together top to top with painter's tape. You can take a small fluorescent light and lay it on top. The clear plastic lets the light come through well so you can see what you are doing. You can also screw a brush holder into the side to hold your brush. And when you need to move or clean it, you just take it apart and hose it out.

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Hints & Tips No.631
A little different technique for mortar lines
By John Moore
You can dilute a coat of water based aged concrete and paint it onto brick sheet or building sides. Wait until dry then use a fine sanding stick across the surface to remove excess.

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Hints & Tips No.632
An Alternative means of powering a reverse loop
By Mark Laidlay (Australia)
If you are still using Analogue controls, I used to power reverse loops via a bridge rectifier (or 4 diodes). This meant I always ran trains one way around the loop. Once the loco/s are well in the loop just throw the reversing switch on the controller, then when the brake van is clear throw the turnout and keep driving, no need to stop and no chance of electrical damage.

Trains could be driven either way around a loop by providing a reversing switch between the bridge rectifier and the track.

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Hints & Tips No.633
Tiedowns in N scale
By Gerry Mahlkoff (Florida)
I use fine iron florists wire for tie downs. Even the smallest chain link, 40 links per inch, is far too large for N scale tiedown chain.

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Hints & Tips No.634
Lineside Sleepers as Details

By
Several Modellers

You can simulate a track under rehabilitation by stacking a pile of sleepers by the track to indicate "new": sleepers. The old ones are on many railways simply pulled out and left to rot unless there is an active local program to market them for gardening edging as occurs in parts of Australia for example. Either detail adds to your realism and you can run a "slow section" where resleepering has occurred to give a little operating diversity as well.

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Hints & Tips No.635
Cheap Layout Construction Ideas Pt 1
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Layout building and construction can be much cheaper than we assume and the best visual layout I have seen in the greater city of Vancouver, BC is also one of the cheapest built in Vancouver as well. I am going to suggest some methods that will keep the price of scenery, construction, and structure building down, yet yielding even better results than store bought goodies.

Most of us come into the hobby insecure. We do not know what we are doing so we copy what everyone else is doing; it seems to work for them. But the best I have seen has also been the cheapest, interestingly enough.

Below are some ideas and I hope you can add to them:

1) Some of the best ground dirt I have seen, and am using myself is river silt. I saw this on my buddies layout. He went to an area on the Fraser River in Surrey BC and got buckets of river silt. He then put them through various sieves until it was very fine. Painting the area with combination of water and white glue, he sifted his filtered river silt on and let it dry. Since it is the real thing, his ground dirt looks very "real."



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Hints & Tips No.636
Painting, Detailing and Decorating and Undecorated Locomotive Pt 1
By Mitch Hartman (Illinois)
Starting with your undec loco depending on what paint scheme or roadname you are going to paint is where I plan on what to do first.
I begin by doing all the necessary filing/removing molded on details then depending on just how much detailing you're going to do now you can drill all the holes needed for grab irons, lift rings, cut levers, hoses, wipers, well everything. also this means if you screw up and drill holes in wrong places that you can fix it also so it can be covered up and never seen. Now you can get to installing some parts. This is where the paint scheme comes into play, anything with more than 1 color means taping and masking.
What I do is look and see where I need to lay my tape down for colors. I install all the details parts that I can taking care to leave the areas where I need to mask free of details so there is no interference and can make sure I get the tape completely pressed on and tight to the shell so there is no bleed through.



( A note from Trevor - In H&T No 58 (http://www.xdford.digitalzones.com/hintsandtips.htm) there is a strategy to reduce bleeding of paint underneath the mask which could be worth your while looking at in conjunction with this miniseries from Mitch ... enjoy)

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Hints & Tips No.637
Cheap Layout Construction Ideas Pt 2
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
  1. Track ballast - my friend who used to work for CN as a engine maintenance manager "borrowed" about a half a bag of engine sand, for "sanding" the tracks and used this same sand for ballast on his HO layout. What I was planning on doing was purchasing some sand, and again sifting it to get a finer grade of sand, then use this as ballast on my N scale track.

    3) I made a cheap water tower in N scale, a smaller one, using one of those brown plastic pill bottles you get your prescription drugs in. I bought some auto body putty and rounded the top of one end of the pill bottle, and sanded it down to give a rounded top. I then closed in the bottom and added legs. You can make a variety of things using pill bottles; they come in so many different sizes.

    4) Search construction sites for discarded foam used in insulation. You do not need large pieces as you can hot glue pieces together to help build mountains.

    5) Make your own "plaster gauze" by using cheese cloth. What I do is the usual webbed strips to form mountains. Once this is done, I get a hot glue and hot glue the perimeter of cheese cloth to the web strips. After the perimeter is glued (I pull on the cheese cloth to tighten it up), I then put a dab about every 4 inches to ensure the cheese cloth does not move around for my next step. I then "paint" the cheese cloth with hydrocal or plaster.

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Hints & Tips No.638
Painting, Detailing and Decorating and Undecorated Locomotive Pt 2
By Mitch Hartman (Illinois)
Most paints out now will not require a primer on an undecorated or stripped down loco.
I start with my lightest color. That way if you get paint where you do not want it on the shell, it can be covered over. Now make sure to let the paint dry completely before removing the masking tape or it can peel the paint. When done unmasking and ready for your next color, well now time to mask off the area painted.
This is where patience comes in, you may spend quite a bit of time getting this area masked off exactly where you want it and how you need it so there is no bleed at all and also to get sharp separation lines between the colors. Make sure you work the tape into all the nooks and gaps tightly or else paint will find its way into those cracks. I take a toothpick to lightly force the tape into those areas. Now you are ready for your next color.
Once again take care to let paint dry completely. Now remove all the masking and you can see if there are areas you need to touch up or rework.

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Hints & Tips No.639
Cheap Layout Construction Ideas Pt 3
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
  1. Learn scratch building following the plans from an MR or other magazine. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy scratch building can be. The only thing holding most potential scratcher builders back is "fear of failure." If your master piece is a failure, don't show it to any one and try another. I promise you after your second attempt, you will get to be very good very quickly.

    7) Check out the dollar store tools and glues section. Almost all the super glue I use is from the dollar store. So what if it dries up, another dollar and I am good to go. Use Zip Kicker or the like to speed up super glue drying.

    8) It is a myth that you need material to deaden the sound of engines on a layout. Three of my friends do not use anything to deaden sound; they built their track right on the plywood. There is no noise problem.

    9) Cheap spline method (spline is a method of track road bed building and is normally on the expensive side) = use hard board cut into one inch strips. Make small rectangular blocks about 1 1/2 wide and about 3 inches long. Cut two slits in the blocks, wide enough to hold a strip of hard board. But the slits about 2/3 of an inch in from the end of the block. Then on top of this hard board tracks that you have created, add hard board cut about three inches wide (this is called the hollow core method of spline construction).




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Hints & Tips No.640
Painting, Detailing and Decorating and Undecorated Locomotive Pt 3
By Mitch Hartman (Illinois)
Now you need a glosscoat for the decals to adhere to and this will also help the decal film disappear. Decalling will make or break the paint job. If the decalling looks bad the paint job does not matter. I use MicroSol solution under my decals to get them to adhere and "melt" into the paint.
Let the decal set for a couple of minutes and apply MicroSol to the top of the decal. Decals can take quite awhile to thoroughly dry and set... do not rush them. Now I finish my details. I can use a toothpick to paint the details that did not get painted. Now that all details are done, I finish with my dull or flat finish coat. Practice and patience will go far when painting... do not rush as this can kill even the coolest, oddball paintjob. Now to answer your other questions, I use Polly S and Modelflex paints, these are acrylic/water based paints just for the simple fact that I spray in the house so there are no toxic fumes and easy cleanup.

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Hints & Tips No.641
Cheap Layout Construction Ideas Pt 4
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
10) Buy only quality track, but purchase almost all of it used. I can get Peco turnouts for 1/3 their new cost and in my books, so what if one of them is bad, if that only happens occassionally. Guys switching scales, estate sales, train shows, guys selling off goodies due to a down turn in their economic status are all good sources of used track.

11) Buy white glue by the gallon, you will only thank me.

12) When purchasing "bus wire" for your DCC, household wire is great. Use a knife and strip out the wire from its sheath.

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Hints & Tips No.642
Using Foam to Hold Loads in Open Wagons and Freight Cars
By Several Modellers
Use 1/4 inch/6mm foam rubber carpet padding underneath your loads in open wagons. Spray it black, cut it a little bit larger than the car, then stuff it in along the edge of the car. The foam will then bulge in the middle and wedge the load in. You can form each load as you like, and just pull them out if you do not want loads at any time. This works for all scales.

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Hints & Tips No.643
Painting Mountains
By Douglas Stuard
Nature is not precise, and mountains and hillsides are created over time in a quasi-random fashion. I have found that by mimicking nature (i.e., being sloppy and random) and repeating until you get the effect you like, all works out.

You might build yourself "Mt. Practice" to try some techniques.

Start by painting the dirt areas a base color using thinned latex paint. Light brown or tan works well (look for "oops" paint at your locoal home center). Slop it on with an old worn out brush, no need for pinpoint accuracy. Then make a wash of black (paint or india ink thinned way way way down with water) and drip/spray in on. It will settle into cracks and crevices giving you the shadows and highlights you need. Sprinkle on some ground foam for grass/shrubs and soak with 50/50 water/white glue or thinned matte medium. Let dry. If you do not like it, paint over it and try again!

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Hints & Tips No.644
Dummy” Somersault Signals
By Trevor Gibbs and Ted Allan (Sunshine MRC, Australia)
We were trying to work out either a dummy or working signalling system for a gentleman with motor/muscular control problems. His layout is predominantly Victorian/ Australian so we thought in terms of dummy signals as markers based on the very predominant somersault signals that the old Victorian Railways had.
You can simulate these dummy signals by printing them to size on an acetate/Overhead projection type sheet, and cutting them into disk shapes around the signal usually in the GO position but you could have some distant signals at Stop and the spindly look of the somersault type could be maintained. From normal viewing distance the acetate should not be too obvious.

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Hints & Tips No.645
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 1
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
(A Note from Trevor - This was part of a forum as a response to a returnee to the hobby in N scale and the information contained within will be quite timeless for all scales... Enjoy)

You need to say how big your room is... where is the door, is there a closet that can be liberated, where is the window(s) and will it inhibit anything? Are there any other obstacles in the room (furnace, water heater, etc... and posts)? Are there political boundaries... for example, did your spouse say: "Not over there you don't..!"

DCC

Secondly you are entering the hobby in a transitional moment, as many will have slowly changed to DCC. I once had an older boss who tried to convince me an electric IBM typewriter was all we really needed to run an Army Cadet Corp (I was arguing for a computer). Well as dark ages as that argument appears to you, not having DCC will eventually be like that... so plan on DCC and do not settle for anything less, even as an interim solution. Somehow, temporary solutions become permanent.

So here are some corollaries in starting with DCC:


1) Get your engine decoded. Probably have to pay some one to install it, but do it now, while you are making other decisions. Only buy engines with decoder already installed. My son and I, have around 10 engines that need decoders. In Canada, it costs more so by putting it off, you create a larger problem for yourself.

2) Start becoming familiar with DCC. Many magazines have had DCC “round up” articles, find and reread them at least 4 times in the next 6 months, and learn about the different systems.

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Hints & Tips No.646
Painting, Detailing and Decorating and Undecorated Locomotive Pt 4
By Mitch Hartman (Illinois)
There are some colors you may need to go to Scalecoat or other solvent based paints, but be sure to have adequate ventilation. Polly S does not require thinning or dilluting before spraying. Spray at around 18-22 psi max. Also for masking, I use Tamiya masking tape which is available in a few different widths. This is the best tape I have seen to get tight into the cracks and crannies and also I have never seen any other tape that keeps such sharpness on the edges, I have never had bleed under with Tamiya tape.
Also I keep 91% isopropyl alcohol on hand. If you don't like the results of the paint before you decal, use the alcohol to strip the paint. Do not try to cover over the paintjob as you will end up with 1/4" thick paint job if you keep painting. They are easy to strip and start all over, and yes, I have had to do on an occasion or two!

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Hints & Tips No.647
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 2
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Layout Design:

Do not assume anything yet, but draw a plan of what you would like now, make it simple. Draw up a list of "Givens" - what you must have on your layout - and what you would rather have - what you would like on your layout, if you have the room. Try not to make too many decisions now, but instead just go for the feel of it. (The original Query specified) a room which is larger than most N scalers have. N scaler's tend to build smaller layouts, so yours will be a respectable size.

Accept the fact that you will change your mind significantly in the next year and a half as you become more sophisticated. The corollary of this:  Spend time studying and critiqueing plans in MR and other magazines, as well as the net. Remember you will probably create minimally 6-8 serious plans before you settle down on one or the other.

Last edited on Tue Apr 20th, 2010 05:38 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.648
Modelling Wheatfield Harvests
By Daryl Kruse
Just thought I would share my experience experimenting with Woodland Scenics static flocking material to model a wheatfield harvest. Not sure if this is what the material is designed for, but it seems to work fairly well. After sprinkling it on thickly, I used diluted white glue to fix it in place. The soaked flocking lost its texture and became matted. So, while it was still wet, I sprinkled a additional thin layer of the flocking. This gave it its texture back and stuck to the wet, matted, original flocking. I air brushed it lightly with a golden harvest color so that the original color is still visible underneath for a 3d effect.

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Hints & Tips No.649
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 3
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Clubs

If you can, join an Ntrak club. You will build a module that can be part of your layout, plus learn much needed skills and meet people who will become life long friends, helping you in the hobby.

Important rules:

Remember this vital fact: Money spent here, is not being spent there! This is called "lost Opportunities" in economics. In other words, if you buy 25 engines, you probably are not going to have a layout as your money will be spent on engines, and not on your layout.

Part of the hobby is about compromise. You probably won't have space to do everything, so be prepared to be flexible. Items you might have to scale back on: maximum radius, maximum grade, benchwork height (depending on whether you consider a double decker), either too much track (spaghetti track) or not enough track (then you should be a narrow gauger...lol). Also, not enough room for scenery becomes a common problem.

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Hints & Tips No.650
What is a CDU and Do I Need one?
By Jon Hall

What is a CDU? - It is a Capacitor Discharge Unit circuit that charges up when you are not using it, then when you discharge it, there is a bit more kick to take the point motor over.

Do you need one? - depends on how much power your transformer gives out in the first place, and how many points you want to throw in one action, or if you want to throw lots of points in close succession.

If you just want one point at a time, and you have a 16V transformer, then I would think you would be OK, but if you want to throw multiple points (say a cross over where both points are off the same button) then you might want a bit more. One advantage even with one solenoid is that the coils are less prone to burnout because you do not have the effect of a manual switch keeping voltage going through the coil longer than necessary.

However can be a down side as well especially with earlier circuits. Once you have discharged a CDU  then it may need to re-charge for a few seconds, if you want to select a route that needs a lot of points thrown it can be a bit frustrating waiting for the CDU to recharge, particularly if you discharge it too early and have to wait for it to charge again to have another go.  However the majority of newer circuits recharge quickly and
unless you are trying to change a large number of points at a time in succession, you should not notice a problem with this.

Last edited on Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 08:10 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.651
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 4
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Backdrop

Many people skimp on the backdrop but please, do not. I have seen incredible layouts with horrible backdrops. Make the backdrop a priority item, and put it in, right after you do the bench work (most people plan to do this and do not ... then regret it later). Remember the backdrop sets the theme, and expands the layout; it should not look childish, spartan, or too modern artish. And seriously consider photo backdrops.

Engines

Generally speaking, you will find N scale not as strong as HO) in the steam category. So why not run an excursion steam train (like BC Rail has done in the past with the Royal Hudson 2860 Steam engine) but plan on diesels. Most N scaler's are more contemporary than HO and OO gaugers as the selection is better or more realistic in N scale, than steam in N scale.

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Hints & Tips No.652
Fixing Track – Alternatives to Pins?
By Brian Dobson (Essex)
I used Unibond PVA liberally applied directly to the underside of the Peco Code 100 sleeper base. The track was stuck directly to the 6mm MDF having previously pencilled in the track centre lines using straight edges or curve templates. I slide it into position and left it for at least 24 hours weighted down with anything usefully heavy (like bottles of poster paint). I used crocodile clips to align track ends with track already laid. Absolutely no problems whatsoever, though I have no intention of lifting the track now it is down - I suspect the thin MDF would disintegrate if I tried.

Last edited on Mon Apr 26th, 2010 05:51 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.653
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 5
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Layout Planning

When layout planning first draw your benchwork, without track. Next, fix your visual spots. How will the eye be drawn into your layout? Where are the areas you want to highlight to draw the eye and imagination of the viewer in.

A corollary of this: what is the viewer going to see first when entering your layout room? Try and have set visual areas, then these become your focal modeling areas; and the boundaries transition the scene from one to the next, or one geographic region to the next. So on one wall, you have your rural area, on the next wall your mountain scenery, and on your next wall your urban switching area... to give an example. Then when you have your areas clearly defined, then decide on track.

Initial Track Plan

When drawing track, just concentrate on the mainline first. Is it dog bone, or double dog bone? Is it stub ended, loop to loop, etc? Then after that decision is made, then focus in on your switching and passing siding areas. Remember with DCC, reversing loops aren't the bad guys of the past, and you can have continuous running with reversing loops.




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Hints & Tips No.653
Re Entering the Hobby in N scale Pt 5
By Rick Nicholson (Vancouver)
Layout Planning

When layout planning first draw your benchwork, without track. Next, fix your visual spots. How will the eye be drawn into your layout? Where are the areas you want to highlight to draw the eye and imagination of the viewer in.

A corollary of this: what is the viewer going to see first when entering your layout room? Try and have set visual areas, then these become your focal modeling areas; and the boundaries transition the scene from one to the next, or one geographic region to the next. So on one wall, you have your rural area, on the next wall your mountain scenery, and on your next wall your urban switching area... to give an example. Then when you have your areas clearly defined, then decide on track.

Initial Track Plan

When drawing track, just concentrate on the mainline first. Is it dog bone, or double dog bone? Is it stub ended, loop to loop, etc? Then after that decision is made, then focus in on your switching and passing siding areas. Remember with DCC, reversing loops aren't the bad guys of the past, and you can have continuous running with reversing loops.

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Hints & Tips No.654
Applying Lining to Rollingstock using Decals
By Dave Stafford
Being used to painting 4mm locos, I do get asked on occasion to apply lining to 4mm locos and doing it in 7mm is a bit scary. I find that the best way is to sort out a datum point at each end of the vehicle and, working in conjunction with a 12" rule, try and keep your transfer as closely aligned with the rule as possible.



Another option is to apply a line of low-tack masking tape above the course of your decal , used in approximately the same way as the ruler.



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Hints & Tips No.655
Yet another method of making Coal Loads.
By Lyle Mack
I traced the coal carriage top on a sheet of styrene. It was cut so that it fits snugly in the wagon. Then I added cinders and used a glue water mix to glue the cinders to the sheet. Now I have a car that can be loaded and unloaded. Some cars I just glued the sheets in and alway leave them loaded. This way when I operate the layout I can bring emptys to the mine and haul loaded ones out.



One word of advice is how ever you add the cinders try to not use excess amounts. The weight adds up fast and then your locos will not want to pull too many. There are also some ready made loads on the market that fit specific vehicles. Some are much lighter than what I do so that might be another option for you.

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Hints & Tips No.656
Resin Dust as Filler/Putty
By Lajos Thek
It may sound weird, but after sanding any cast resin model or part, I save the resin dust. To repair / fill / build up parts, I use some (almost any brand) super glue, then press the part into the resin dust. Instant super hard, grindable, sandable, super composite material.
Repeat, until the desired build-up has been reached. I use this method on broken, cracked, screwed up parts made of almost any material, except styrene.

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Hints & Tips No.657
Applying Crystal Clear for glazing
By Tim McMahon
I have never liked the look of crystal coat clear glazing painted “in situ” very much.. so what I do is to put scotch tape over the outside of the window I plan to fill and burnish it really well around the border/window frame.

I then apply the “crystal clear” from the inside and let it cure. When you peel the tape off, SLOWLY, you have flush mounted glass


Last edited on Sun May 2nd, 2010 05:56 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.658
Curving Backdrops and Trackage
By Trevor Gibbs
On my own layout I have a reverse “S section of track which when the back of the layout was openly accessible went a long way to hiding the true length of the baseboards and the trackage. Why? Because removing a straight line removes the reference point of most peoples eyes and the true size becomes harder to pick at a casual glance and your layour can appear larger than it really is. An excellent example is Graham Plowmans page which shows a station on a radius of over 50” or so... subtle curves but a magnificent effect! My own layout also has a long reverse, subtly Ess shaped  yard and track not laid dead set parallel nor straight at the front.
Similarly as I write, I have seen both at an exhibition and a web page the effect of an “Ess” shaped backdrop board and the apparent length of the board is also hidden by a curved yard. Our models are seldom if ever the true size of our prototype so the more illusion we can use the better.

Last edited on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 05:19 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.659
N Scale or any other scale Tunnel Lining -1
By Bob Deveraux (Arkansas)
First I glue a sheet of foam to the plywood. Check to make sure you remove the thin almost invisible plastic sheet on the foam before gluing!    Then I stack the smaller cut sheets horizontally (flat). I use 1/2 inch foam primarily which cuts well with a carpet knife. I also use 2 inch thick foam, scraps from a construction site. Make a cut and then snap it.
For contouring I use a Stanley Surform Cutter which is kind of a like cheese grater section with a yellow handle.  Some people prefer a hot knife but I really cannot ventilate the room to my satisfaction to clear the fumes. I also have a dirt devil vacuum cleaner to clean up the foam shavings. Avoid the white bead foam! It is messy and full of static. Always use pink or blue foam. It is kind of messy but vacuum frequently and you will be fine.
After gluing I paint with an acrylic (water based) paint. If you are in doubt about your paint try it on a small piece of foam first as some enamel paints and some glues eat up the foam. I got my brown paint really cheap from a can someone returned to the Paint Shop. Look around near the mixing area for a suitable earth color. The vertical outside edges were painted flat black to hide the foam strata levels. Outside my tunnel is painted a sandstone color with a thin brown wash.

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Hints & Tips No.660
N Scale or any other scale Tunnel Lining - 2
By John Schaeffer (Virginia)
The easiest thing to do for Tunnel linings is use something like brick paper or embossed plastic sheet. Use a pattern that you like such as stone, block, or brick. Glue it on a piece of poster board. Cut the poster board piece to the size of the sides in a rectangle shape so you can bend it on a curve if you have to. You do not need a roof for the top of the tunnel. Use blocks of wood or foam to brace it up on the outside.
Using hot glue is fast and will last as long as your layout. You probably only need to line 6 to 8 inches from the back of the portal because that is usually all you will be able to see.

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Hints & Tips No.661
Pseudo model water cranes
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
Some soap dispenser bottles and their ilk have push down taps that uncannily resemble water cranes, particularly of the North American variety. A little reshaping of the crane top and a short length of heat shrink insulation to act as the "hose", dark paint and you will have a unique water crane, just like everyone else who reads this!

O scale modellers could do worse than look at Oral B or similar electric tooth brush heads ... worn out ones of course... mounted on an old tube shaped biro body with a thicker piece of heat shrink for the hose.

Now if only I could get my wife to stop thinking greenly and buy a new dispenser instead of a refill...

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Hints & Tips No.662
Subtle Superelevation on Curves
By Tom Stage
What I do is glue strips of styrene to the underside of the rail ties using Testor (thin) plastic adhesive; parallel to and directly underneath the outside rail of the track. For flexible track, wait till the adhesive dries then use nippers to break the styrene between rail ties so that you can "flex" the track.
I would not go higher than 1/32" (0.031") for HO superelevation. Even though my layout is smallish (4 x 8), I have superelevated my mainline. Although the visual effect is subtle, it is still noticeable and I think it adds to the realism of the layout.

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Hints & Tips No.663
Applying Colours for Scenery Pt 1
By Michael Tondee (Georgia)
I cannot emphasize enough how much good lighting and proper choice of lighting is to a modeled scene. I use "daylight" spectrum fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs and I always bring samples of my colors home and check them under the layout lights. I never pick paint under store lights. In the case of the cheap acrylic paints, I will gamble the cost of a small bottle of paint and bring it home and paint a scrap of plaster or foam and let it dry and check it under my lights before using it.

I even bring the paint chip samples home first when painting a backdrop or even painting a room in the house. I say again, I NEVER EVER pick paint for any project home or model wise under store lights.

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Hints & Tips No.664
Shortening a Can Motor Drive Shaft
By Trevor Gibbs
I have tried different methods of shortening drive shafts of double sided Can Motors, particularly Mashima motors in different locomotives. The most effective way I have found is use a pair of Bolt Cutters as the heat will be minimal and you will do less damage to the bearings.

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Hints & Tips No.665
Applying Colours for Scenery Pt 2
By Michael Tondee (Georgia)
This is to tell you of very basic representations of the way I apply color. I usually just dribble some out of the bottle. I then take a brush that has been dipped in water and I just swab the color all over. There is absolutely no need to be neat about it. You want more color in some places than others. You want varying tones and hues of the base coat.
I have a problem using straight tan latex house paint full strength, it appears too uniform to me. I suppose you could attack it with a wet brush as I do the acrylics but I have never tried it. I apply small dabs of color with a toothbrush and then go back over it with my wet paint brush so it dilutes and becomes not quite so intense. Dark brown can be almost too intense so I tend to use it more sparingly.

Also spraying the wet color will make it run down in the cracks and crevices of the plaster work quite naturally. I usually let it sit a while and then go back over areas I'm not happy with, sometimes with the full strength paint, sometimes with more washes. I use grey paint brushed on full strength usually in areas where I want to signify rock.

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Hints & Tips No.666
Applying Paint to Plaster Cast buildings
By Ted Allan (Sunshine MRC, Victoria Australia)
I have done a lot of Linka Kit plaster castings and have found that mixing in Earth toned acrylic paints into the plaster before casting can result in a more realistic stone appearance. Painting it after assembly can look like the building has been painted over a surface which could just as easily be plastic rather than a stone and look so.

Last edited on Mon May 10th, 2010 06:12 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.667
Applying Colours for Scenery Pt 3
By Michael Tondee (Georgia)
The three tones of Ground Foam I use are earth, burnt grass and regular grass. I thought the earth was much the same as earth blend when I bought it. Unfortunately the earth has much more of a green hue than the earth blend which tends to be a lot browner. I feel a little handicapped without that brown shade I need.
At any rate I still did the combination of the three green tones and “in the flesh”, I think everyone can see the dramatic difference that a little ground foam can make.
I apply the ground foam by brushing on the dilute white glue mixture and then just taking small pinches of the material in between my fingers and sprinkling it much the same way a cook would put a dash of salt in soup. This is just scenery soup!
Sometimes on vertical surfaces I will apply the glue mixture and "throw" the pinches of ground foam material at the surface. Placing a little in your palm and gently blowing it into the glue mixture also works well to represent vegetation that has clung onto rock faces.

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Hints & Tips No.668
Skates and Extra Pickups for Steam Locomotives
By Trevor Gibbs
Fitting extra pickups on your locomotives are useful for ensuring that contact is not broken. I have a Pacific which has chassis pickup and Tender return but for whatever reason, the front driving wheel loses contact in an area on the layout beyond a Peco point. It was not a short circuit as I at first thought which was checked with a Multimeter which showed a no load voltage when the engine stopped.
A pickup in the form of a “skate” alleviated this problem and visually was not a problem

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Hints & Tips No.669
Using Masonite/Hardboard as a Track Cleaner
By Paul Jansz
To reiterate what has already been mentioned, the textured face of ordinary hardboard is an amazingly efficient track cleaner. No solvents required, and very little elbow grease. If your layout is a fair size, make up a hardboard sledge with some weight on top for your mightiest loco to move around and the job is done for you; which technique originates at Pendon and is well proven. Scrub off the working face with a wire brush once in a while. It could hardly be easier.

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Hints & Tips No.670
Printing Brickpaper on Computer
By Several Modellers
Usually, companies that produce 'printable' kits or patterns suggest matte photo paper. You will get a deeper colour and crisper detail. Also check your printer setting and confirm that it is set to 'graphics' rather than a setting similar to 'text' or 'draft', or you may get a poorer result.
Paper should be a matt "photo grade" if possible, there are several types. It does not need heavy grade photo paper. Copier paper will work, but absorb ink more, and colours may be variable. You can also use cartridge art paper from an art supplier.

Sealing with varnish may be a problem with solvent types as they all attack the printer ink, as will alcohol based varnish. Spray type Acrylic will be the best, lightly applied in a series of coats, building up. If you have an airbrush, then lacquer can be used, gently misted on and allow to dry, it totally proofs the ink. Any brushing will disturb the finish too much. If you have access to one, try printing it out on good quality paper using a color Laser printer. The colur rendition can be very good and it is quite waterproof.

Colour balance is best judged in a test print, and adjust the colour in a graphic program to get what you want. You can also increase contrast and sharpen the image.

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Hints & Tips No.671
Making Radio Aerials
By Matt Hamilton (Sydney)
This is not my idea but I thought I would share it as I read this tip many years ago in a car modelling magazine.

All of my car and truck models have aerials I have done as the ones that usually come with the car kits just look too thick. making a OO or H0 scale foxtail.

Cut a piece of the surrounding sprue (the surrounding polystyrene plastic that all the parts are attached to) about 4inches long. Light a candle then while holding each end gently heat up the sprue till you feel it go soft then slowly stretch and then let 1 end drop quicky. Lay flat till its cool, cut to length.. the amount you stretch it will determine the thickness of the aerial... it will only take a couple of try's to get the thickness and length you need.

Once cool and the right length you need reheat it at 1 end to make the base by heating and then squashing or pushing it into shape. Then you can also just flatten the base with a screwdriver blade sideways to create the Blade type base.






Last edited on Fri May 14th, 2010 06:37 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.672
Using Slide Switches as Ground Throws
By Several Modellers
Instead of using a caboose industries ground throw, using a small slide switch, with a wire linkage bent at a 90 degree "V" providing an oversprung positive locking mechanism.

Several of us like this idea for 3 reasons..

1. If we want 10 points/turnouts done, we would rather pay 5-10 Dollars rather than $150 plus for Tortoise switch machines/point motors. (and the currencies are all relative)

2. The low profile would look better than a gargantuan caboose ground throw.

3. The switch allows for both frog switching as well as simple signal switching of colour light signals


Last edited on Sat May 15th, 2010 07:22 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.673
Getting Inside Bachmann Pullmans
By Paul Jansz
Do not undo any screws initially. The body is simply clipped onto the underframe with four clips along both body sides. A small blade carefully inserted between bodyside and underframe may be used to gently bow the side to release it from the clips. Take note of the body to chassis orientation so that you do not have the annoyance of putting a body back on, wrong way round.

The seating unit is retained by the four crosshead screws along the centreline of the underside and under it is the wiring to the table lamps and the weight.

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Hints & Tips No.674
Recycling Used Disposable Razors... as a Track Cleaner?
By Trevor Gibbs
Some shapes of disposable razors lend themselves better to this than others but you can recycle the bladehead and handle by gluing a felt pad around the area which would normally contact your facial area whilst shaving. By applying white spirit to this pad, you would have a simple track cleaning tool which would enable you to apply pressure to the track with the handle and give you a bit of reach at the same time.
If you have a heavier amount of gunk on your track, you may need a rub with the track cleaning rubber first but the amount of abrasion you need should be reduced.

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Hints & Tips No.675
Fitting Small Components to Models.
By John Challenor (UK) and David Youngs (Ontario)
Some of the techniques you could use as appropriate to the job in hand:-

Tie a piece of thread ( light/dark coloured, contrasting to the floor! ) to that spring before it disappears into the "black hole". This is especially useful for Kadee coupler springs where you can withdraw the thread carefully once the spring has been placed.
Temporarily hold the component on a thin stick such as a skewer or offcut wood slither from a model with almost anything from plasticine to chewing gum in removable small quantities of course! Excellent for starting off small screws, nuts , bolts etc.
Line the tweezers or pliers you are using with a small piece of double sided tape. The stickiness should be just enough to hold the smaller piece.



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Hints & Tips No.676
Holding” Steel Screws
By Trevor Gibbs
If you have to apply steel screws to your model, stroke your screw driver with an old magnet a few times until it has the magnetic force to hold your screw. Your driver should retain the magnetism long enough to do the task of aligning your screw and holding it until you get it started.

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Hints & Tips No.677
Suggestion for take apart layouts
By Ted Allan and Trevor Gibbs
For our exhibition layouts Eddington and Newry, Ted introduced the idea of using door hinges to Sunshine MRC, one side on each board or frame with the hinge pins removed and replaced by knitting needles. Bend the knitting needles so you have some leverage when assembling/disassembling the layout. This locks the layouts very well and no locating dowels are needed.

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Hints & Tips No.678
Making a Simple Chain Link Fence/Barrier
By John Cossons
I made a simple chain link fence similar those seen in car parks as “barriers” made from discarded rail for posts with chain welded to them. Using cheap brass chain and nickel silver rail.off cuts, I simply used a small amount of solder to hold the brass to the rail. This gives the appearance of welding.

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Hints & Tips No.679
Air Brush Tips and Techniques
By Jim Hanes (Washington)
Airbrushes need lots of attention, just like your trains. Air pressure depends on the material you are spraying. Pressure should not exceed 40 lbs with most materials, but you can reduce the pressure to as low as you want as long as the spray is coming out evenly and smooth.
You can thin any material you want to spray with the proper thinner, acyrlics, use water or alchol, alchol use it sparingly, as it cuts the drying time down, and can plug up the tip.


Each material has a thinner that is recommended for that product. Stick with the basics until you have a few gallons of paint under your belt. Remember, clean your brush after every use, no matter how little the job was. Keeping the gun clean is the number 1 problem for new painters.

Last edited on Sat May 22nd, 2010 09:44 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.680
Modelling Scrap Metal
By Wolfgang Dudler
I use wrappers from chocolates and other sweets, mixed in a blender to shreds which gives an interesting mixture of colours in the scrap metal yard. A wagon load of scrap can be easily made this way, or the shredded wrappers can be baled, glued and given a light rusty coat.

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Hints & Tips No.681
Water Effects
By Tim Stephenson
Using the Woodland Scenics Water Effects, I start with a bead at the base of the waterfall and pull it up to the top. I continue this until I have the desired look of a waterfall cascading down the mountain. Another way that I like better is to take a Teflon cookie sheet and spread some of the Water Effects out on it the same size that you want your waterfall to be. Now take a toothpick and draw lines in it to look like ripples. When it dries, you can peel it off and lay it on the area that you want your waterfall.
The Water Effects will come out white and will take about a week to change to a clear color. If I want any rapids, I will add bumps in the water with the water effects and move it around with my paintbrush. The water effect will also take 24 hours to dry hard.

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Hints & Tips No.682
Making Structures using Card Pt 1
By Walter Huff (Florida)
A few people have asked how I built my structures out of cereal boxes so here is a summary. I made two major structures in the forms of a grain elevator which is a painted structure and a Tool and Die building which has a printed finish.

First thing to do is to create a template. You can draw a building or find something on the internet and print it. My grain elevator was a drawing so let us start with that. I used AutoCad to draw the building but a pencil and paper would work just fine too.
I created the building in Cad and was able to print it directly onto a piece of cardboard. If you cannot print to cardboard then print to a piece of paper and use a temp type glue and affix it to the cardboard. I wanted it to look like a wood structure so the first thing I did was score the cardboard to make it look like wood siding. That is easier to do it now before you cut out the structure.



Cut out the structure using your favorite method. I used a box cutter (razor blade) to cut out what I could then switched to a hobby knife with no. 11 blades and chisel blades for the the windows. Glue your sides together using square wood stock in the corners. Add some bracing using cardboard for the inside. The lighter the cardboard the more bracing you will want. Cardboard will tend to "concave" on the sides and you do not want that.


Cut a bunch of thin strips of cardboard and dress the corners where ever needed and frame out your doors and windows too. like using strip wood but we are gonna be cheap here and use cardboard! Attach your roof and be sure to add bracing where ever needed.Spray paint the whole thing with rattle can auto primer. you want a good base for the finish coat but you may also want windows using clear acrylic plastic with paint filled grooves. I used a dental tool to scrape out a small channel in the plastic. Seal your building so if you use acrylic paint they will not cause the building sides to warp. Finish painting the structures in you choice of colors. and there you have it!

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Hints & Tips No.683
Making Structures using Card Pt 2
By Walter Huff (Florida)
The brick Tool and Die building I made was the constructed the same as the Grain Elevator in H&T #682 except for the finished walls. I did not want to paint the sides so I printed some brick walls on paper and used it instead. I used a building I found on the internet and used it as a template. I was able to print it on cardboard for the template.


I cut out all the windows then glue the 4 sides together take your printed brick (or whatever) and glue it to the sides of the building. If your building is small enough and/or your printed bricks big enough you can wrap the whole thing in one sheet. I did this in N scale leaving me only one seam. Cover the window openings in the cardboard.


I used rubber cement to glue the brick on but use what you like. After the glue has dried trim off the excess paper covering around all the edges.
Now the windows.....do not cut them out but rather cut a "X" in each opening with your hobby knife. Add a dab of tacky glue to all 4 tabs and fold those around inside the structure. This should cover most of the edges of your window openings. check inside bracing and add more if needed. more is better. What you want is to pick it up and say....."Damn, this thing is heavy for being cardboard".


Paint everything black inside then add windows as described in H&T 682. Add the roof structure and roofing. On the Tool building I used Laser labels cut into strips and then painted them whereas on the grain elevator, I used 1000 grit sandpaper for the roof. I then added a base out of heavy cardboard. Cut the base to size and score it to look like concrete squares and paint. Add washes to darken or weather it to you liking.



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Hints & Tips No.684
Making Structures using Card - The Epilogue
By Walter Huff (Florida)
So where do you find building to use as templates? do a Search on the internet using the terms Free Cardboard buildings or Free Paper buildings or Free Cardstock buildings

Find something you like and print it to cardboard or paper. You might have to scale it down to be N scale. I found that if I set my printer to 55% to be correct to print a HO building. Basically look for a structure that fits your needs but do not get too hung up about the color or where the windows are located etc. You can change all of those when you cut out the cardboard.

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Hints & Tips No.685
Easy ways to remove solder from old track
By Several Modellers
  1. I just heat up the rail with a soldering iron, get the old solder to melt. Then give the piece of track a quick flick with the hand and the molten solder will fly off. Do not do this in a room that you care about, the molten solder will do bad things to rugs, carpets, and furniture. Out of doors, or the garage is more like it.
  2. Clamp the track down. Heat the soldered section and quickly swipe it with a small brass or other metal brush. "Quickly" being the operative word.
  3. You can use Solder Wick but the main problem is that it leaves a heavy flux residue (it's a brass braid with a dried flux intertwined). The best method is a solder vacuum. You can pick these up for a few dollars and they are totally reusable.
  4. The resin flux residue from solder wick is easily removed with alcohol and a small stiff bristle brush, like an acid brush. A solder sucker is a little clumsy in many places. If you are using it on a finished layout, be careful not to knock over buildings, accessories, etc.

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Hints & Tips No.686
Making Really Fine Ground Foam
By Several Modellers
There have been several posts informing us how to make the ground foam for bushes, shrubs, but making the fine stuff like grass and fallen leaves can be a different issue. You could try to put the ground foam back into the blender and chop it finer, but it is still not fine enough. The main issue is the type of foam. The cushion type foam is not the best for fine stuff but look at the expanded type foam that they pack furniture and small appliances in works better. Some modellers like using a coffee grinder more than anything. It can be very fast but easier to control the level of cutting than with a food processor with an easier clean up.

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Hints & Tips No.687
Cheap realistic OO/HO ballast
By Bill Walters,
Woodland Scenics gray ballast gets rather pricey when building a large layout. A great substitute is starter or baby chick grit which can be purchased at almost any farm supply store in 50 pound bags for about $6 in the US.
Before running out to make a purchase, however, I should toss in a couple of caveats. First, be sure to read the label on the bag before buying. Some grit is anise flavored and some is dyed with iron oxide. Avoid this stuff for obvious reasons.
Also, starter grit lacks the size uniformity of Woodland Scenics ballast but you can come pretty close by gently striking a shallow container of grit with a heavy mallet then sifting the stone through a screen.
If you are super fussy, do the bulk of your ballasting with the starter grit then dress up the top with Woodland Scenics ballast.

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Hints & Tips No.688
Waterfalls for Coal and Iron?
By Adam Crolley (Ohio)
I made a “waterfall” but this was for my dock area. I have a "ship" being loaded with coal, so when I made the "waterfall" I covered it with "coal". My plan is to attach it to my conveyer and make it appear coal is being loaded into my ship. There is no reason why you could not simulate iron being loaded from an ore dock, grain from a silo or loading sawdust from a pulp mill as well.

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Hints & Tips No.689
Assisting Dullcote to Work Well when finishing Models
By John Winter (Illinois)
The one thing which deters from the realism of any model railroad is shiny surfaces! The easiest way to remove that shine is to overspray the structure or rolling stock with Dullcote (Testors #1260 clear flat lacquer overcoat). Dullcote comes in a small spray can like many other model car colors. I have had people tell me they do not like to use the small cans because it comes out in an uneven spray which causes blotches on the surface of the model.
There is a very easy way to avoid that problem. Shake the can of paint per the instructions on the label. Fill a small bowl with hot tap water. DO NOT heat the water on the stove or in the microwave. The water should not be above 120 degrees F. Set the spray can in the hot water and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the spray can from the water, dry it off, and shake it again for a couple of minutes. Then spray the surface. The hot water will do two things. It will warm up and loosen the material from the bottom of the can, allowing the contents to mix more thoroughly, and it will build up a little more pressure in the can so that it can spray more evenly. This will work with any kind of spray paint under pressure. Remember, hot tap water only. The contents are already under pressure. If you overheat the can, it can explode.

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Hints & Tips No.690
Removing Overspray from Glue Joints
By Hank Kraichely, Missouri
Ever notice that solvent based styrene glues will remove paint? Why not turn this undesirable condition into an easy paint removal method!
Many of us paint our structures using various spraying methods. The results are very gratifying but the overspray can make solvent-based gluing of styrene models a real pain. The paint on the joints prevents good adhesion and can be very hard to remove.
Using a small brush, simply paint the glue on the paint covering the joint to be attached. After twenty to thirty seconds, reapply the glue and using an Xacto knife (with a chisel blade) carefully scrape the softened paint from the areas in question. Repeat the method for any remaining paint.




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Hints & Tips No.691
Vintage Signs
By Don Consolver
When I needed window signs for my corner drugstore and movie theater, I searched the internet for metal reproduction signs and movie posters. There are a number of sites that deal in nostalgic signs and old movie posters. These sites generally feature good, clean photos of their goods. Although the images are small on the web, when downloaded and reduced to N or HO scale, they look great!
It usually helps to print them out using a high-quality color laser printer. For most people, that may mean taking a diskette or CD to the local quick copy place to get the best reproduction. I recommend placing as many images on the sheet as possible, allowing space to trim them out. An 8½x11 sheet will give you dozens of signs, billboards and movie posters. As for paper stock, coated paper (like magazine stock) will keep the image sharper, but may not run through some copiers. Work with the copy centre staff and they may be able to help on that.
To print on actual window glazing, I recommend Highland 904 overhead transparency film for laser printers. This film has a piece of paper attached to the edge that keeps the transparency from fogging as it goes through the machine. Regular transparency film will work, but usually the plastic fogs from the heat. Printing directly on the windows works well for things that are “painted” on the glass, such as a tavern name, but for posters hung in the window, the signs usually look too transparent to be effective. I tried painting the back of the transparency with white paint, but it did not look very realistic.
The advantage to using a color laser copier for these signs, whether printing on paper or plastic, is that the image won’t smear or rub off like it can with an inkjet printer.

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Hints & Tips No.692
Using Websites for Period Layouts
By Don Consolver
Those nostalgia websites have a wealth of information when it comes to painting old Coke machines, gas pumps, and other antique items when you cannot quite remember how they looked. And if you are into building your own scale vehicles, any Google search for that model year of vehicle will bring up dozens of websites with prototype photos of your vehicle. It is an excellent way to see those stock paint jobs from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

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Hints & Tips No.693
Using Telephone Cables for base wiring
By Winston Grosse (Ontario)
I was wiring my DC layout in N scale and did not like the looks of all the wires hanging around. I tried stapling them to the underside of my layout but I was fearful that I might pinch one.
I pondered this thought for awhile when all of a sudden it occured to me. Use Telephone line!!!! It has four different coloured wires in it so I could separate one line fron the other and it's all combined into one main lead. Awesome right? Well I took it a step further and divided one lead into a branch - one lead for my mainline and one for my secondary line. Cleaned up the mess of all those wires anyway....So I am happy

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Hints & Tips No.694
Using Hot Towels to lift Ballasted Track.
By Don Sali (Sunshine MRC Victoria)
I have removed glued and ballasted track fairly easily by laying a hot towel over the track to be lifted and allowing the steaming effect to break the bond of glue and ballast with the track. It saves some of the saturation which can damage the boards underneath, particularly the caneite/homasote/fibreboard genres.

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Hints & Tips No.695
Rescaling a Scale Plan
By Several Modellers
If you have a plan in a particular scale you may need to re scale it to your own scale
So taking an N scale plan, should you have an other than UK based plan in N scale, then to get it to HO is a 184% (close enough) multiplication. British N Scale being 1:148 would most likely be converted to OO scale at 1:76 is 195%. While there are probably few British plans done in HO, the ratio would be 114% increase in size. An O scale plan at 7mm would be 329% from N or 175% from OO.

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Hints & Tips No.696
Removing the Plastic "Pseudo" Handrails and details on Old Triang, Hornby and Older Models
By Several Modellers
Use a chisel-edged blade in a standard craft knife. Carefully pare the plastic away and finish off with wet and dry if it is needed. It's actually quite easy if you are careful. It is worth perservering if you want to generally improve the model and some old models run really well... or you might have sentimental value attached to a particular loco.
Assume that you will need to repaint the boiler after it is done so have your colours or colour matches ready!.

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Hints & Tips No.697
Using Foam Core Board for Structures
By Several Modellers
Recently we have been experimenting with using Foam core board and Gator board for structure building. The virtues are that it is extremely strong and light weight, cuts very easily with an Exacto knife or you can purchase the various tools made for working with foam core which is recommended.
This is nothing new as the idea came from watching a Model Railroading videos and seeing it first hand on someone's layout. So far I like it because it is very easy to work with and unlike styrene or wood it does not need much blocking or support. The biggest plus is that you can build very large structures for practically nothing.

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Hints & Tips No.698
Using spreadsheets or software for Rollingstock Inventory
By Several Modellers
a. I use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with a tab for each major category, such as locomotives, vans, flat wagons, container wagons, open wagons, brake vans , passenger coaches and structures. Each tab has column headings appropriate to the category. My spreadsheet is fairly simple but has worked for me for many years. I also record the decoders and their addresses for my DCC fleet in the categories.
b. I use Open Office's Spreadsheet (similar to Excel) for inventory and cost tracking--sometimes even on the same page! If you are really finicky with how your inventory looks there are innumerable ways that you can customize the tables to look and other things---I find one really does not need even more software cluttering up memory when you need the memory for the inventory and Excel is fairly memory hungry as well.

(A Note from Trevor - I use Open Office exclusively and the cost is ideal - free - rather than a trumped up program that I feel has changed its appearance for changes sake and not much else. And I use it for writing web pages as well as small scale publishing... it works for me)

Last edited on Thu Jun 10th, 2010 06:26 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.699
Recycling Printer Ink Refills
By Winston Grosse (Ontario)
I was cleaning out some old boxes yesterday and found a printer ink refill kit. This same Kit clogged all the nozzles on my printer so I never finished it off!

As I was looking at it I figured that I could use it for something for my layout. Well you know all those hard to reach areas where you need a little glue or glue / water mix to set ballast. It worked well but make sure you clean them out well or you may have coloured glue!

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Hints & Tips No.700
Foam Sheep?
By Ross Hurley (Australia)
You can populate your sheep carrying livestock wagons easily and cheaply not ny filling with plastic models of sheep but taking a thin foam block, the size of the floor of the sheep wagon and cutting different sized slots in the foam to represent “bodies”. A coat of acrylic paint to a sheep colour and it would look to the casual onlooker that there is a “sea of wool” inside your vans. You would not see the proper shape of an animal which if you were driving past a sheep truck you would not see anyway because of the bars keeping the sheep in.

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Hints & Tips No.701
Lighted Uncoupler Tool
By Ernie Hall (Indiana)
From another hint on uncoupler tools, I started of using a penlight and a small heavy piece of wire to split Kadee couplers for shunting. Older style penlights as I used before had metal bodys that the wire could be soldered to, and the light bulb beam although it lit the target area well was more widespread.
I made a more up to date style penlight with an aluminium body and a super bright direct LED bulb. Since solder does not stick to aluminium ,I had to cut a small section of thin tin from a sheet, curve it to fit the pens end and solder the wire to it. Then at the end of the pen on one side I used 320 sandpaper and roughed up the aluminium finish. I then mounted the bracket with the wire with super glue.



Last edited on Wed Jun 16th, 2010 05:48 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.702
Rejuvenating Relaid and Old Cork Roadbed
By Jim Hanes (Washington)
Old cork roadbed can be re-newed . You lay what you have taken up out flat and spray it with wet-water and let it dry overnight. The next day, it is as good as new. I have had to do it more than once on the same sections when I have relaid a section again.

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Hints & Tips No.703
Economic Alternative to Track Underlay
By Robert Walsh (Ontario)
I am using used black carpet underlay under the track. I t can be cut the desired width & on an angle, just like the cork roadbed. It can be any length. It can be ent as in curve to the desired degree etc. Then, glue, or nail the track on top. Be sure to plan this on paper or the layout first. In the past I have used styrofoam, various colours of carpet. I use a grey kitty litter, to spread on the roadbed, with glue, sparingly, then light vacum when dry.

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Hints & Tips No.704
Economic Flush Glazing
By Trevor Gibbs
Following on from Hint and Tip 657, if you want flush glazing economically, try using masking tape over the window cavity on the outside of your window and using white PVA that dries fairly clearly.
Apply it with a dropper from inside and allow it a few days to dry. It should be flush then on the outside. .

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Hints & Tips No.705
Modelling Cables
By Several Modellers
  1. For a non working model crane, I got some black thread I had laying around, weighted a long strand of it and hit it with some spray starch. It has more fuzzy areas on it than I like, but you cannot see them unless your 3" away. Wipe the lines with some weathering chalk and your crane looks the part (Tom Statton, Tennessee)
  2. On my operating clam shell bucket (scratch built in HO) I found some braided fly fishing line of braided construction that takes acrylic paint and was limp enough for operation and more importantly did not twist. The fly fishing line is quite expensive for the minimum amount. (Jim Skewes, Washington)
  3. Try using thin copper wire which you get a reasonable length of and put one end in a vice and putting the other end in a power drill and spin it until the wire is nearly at break point. This will work harden it. You will find that the wire can be kept straight and looked at closely could represent the twisted lines of cable strands and bent around small wheels ( for the pulleys) should help you and yet keep fairly straight... sorry you will not be able to operate it this way but many cranes are static in models anyway. (Trevor Gibbs)

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Hints & Tips No.706
Doing Painting Touch Up Work
By Trevor Gibbs
Doing minor touch up paint work can be really tedious when you have to mix your paint and then clean up your brush, even for the tiniest of touch ups. You have to then get out the thinners and cleaners and spend many times more than the job itself required. For touchups such as handrails, try using a toothpick dipped in your paint. You can brush it against your handrails, building down pipes, or the faces of model people for that matter, then if necessary dispose of the toothpick after you have used it and the time you have saved makes it worth your while to do the touchups more often.
Of course in this day and age of recycling, the toothpick could also become the stem of a shrub or bush on your layout for some scale gardener. Need to paint it a nice tree/wood bark colour? You can always use another toothpick!

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Hints & Tips No.707
Sectional Track Laying
By Several Modellers
  1. Years back in the early 60s when I used sectional track I used to put a track nail in the centre of each section which keeps all sections laying flat. Use a pin vice hand drill and a wire bit a slight smaller than the track nail and pre-drill a hole through the holes in the ties and mounting board longer than the nail. Then put the nail in being carefull not to drive down to far as not to drive the tie into a upsweep shape. If using foam use jewler needle nosed pliers and push the nail place. (Ernie Hall – Indiana
  2. 2. I had a problem with track warping. I just tacked the track down as I went along. I guess the track is not made perfectly flat. (Gary Ford – Texas)
  3. 3. I have had a problem with code 80 sectional track where the middle was a bit depressed so the ends tended to stick upwards a bit. If it is not to severe then simply pinning the ends down works well , if it is really bad then I put the track on a flat board and slip a suitable shim under the middle and gently clamp the ends down flat on the board, this almost always gets the track nice and flat. (Bob Montgomery - Arkansas)

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Hints & Tips No.708
Rust Spots and light Weathering Pt 1
By Andrew Dunn (West Sussex)
I am new to doing proper weathering, so I am still finding new ways of doing things like rust spots, but after I came across this way, pretty much by accident when I put some powders in the wrong place

What you will need

2 or 3 shades or rust colour, I use acrylics, Railmatch light and dark rust, and Humbrol rust
Isopropyl alcohol (from some chemists but getting harder to buy due it being used for bomb making, but is much cheaper than thinners) if not normal acrylic thinners

Weathering powders, I used Tamiya orange rust, have not used anything alse, so let me know if you find something alse that works just as well, or even better with cocktail sticks or small paint brush.

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Hints & Tips No.709
Rust Spots and light Weathering Pt 2
By Andrew Dunn (West Sussex)
How to do it

First, work out where you want your rust spots, follow pictures for reference, or just put them where you think they will look good.

Next, get your rust shades of paint, and have a little play around with the colour, see what you think looks good, then add a little thinner or isopropyl alcohol (only want a drop or two) then get your cocktail stick ready, if you want a larger spot, blunt the end, and use more paint, if you want a smaller spot, dont blunt and use littler paint, the dab your paint loaded stick onto your model, leave for 30mins to dry.

Now get your powder, for the Tamiya ones. I wet the brush with saliva (and the powders taste quite nice too... only kidding) then charge the brush with just a little of the now damp powder and but on a small amont over your rust spot, with maybe just a little below it. Wait a few seconds then with a clean dry finger, pull the powders down once, and you should have a good looking rust spot, with a rust streak.

Last edited on Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 05:23 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.710
Rust Spots and light Weathering Pt 3
By Martin Jones (Wales)
I find Gouache good for streaking rust. The process is similar to that outlined in Hints 708 and 709, although you apply the gouache first, and let it dry. Afterwards run a barely moist flat brush over, to streak the gouache:

The other thing I have found useful when doing rust is to start light, and work darker. The older rust is, the darker it gets, so the darkest will be found in the middle of your spot, where it started. I did a model of a Hopper which I am quite proud of. I used Gouache in the chutes as well, using the apply and streak process described above.

I have found that Powders are great for adding variation in colour to wheels and bogies etc and you can also use gouache for fading and dirt streaks.:

It is well worth trying - and the beauty is if you make a hash of it, it can be wiped off with a damp cloth. Gouache does not need to be sealed with varnish if the models are handled carefully, but a matt varnish seal will protect it.

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Hints & Tips No.711
Rust Spots and light Weathering Pt 4 aka Gouache 101



By Tony Sissons (North Carolina)
Gouache is a water colour. The beauty of it is is that once you apply it you can continue to remove it, by diluting the first application, until you have the finest colouring possible, or a colour to your taste. You can remove it anytime with water.
The original colour that shows when it is fresh from the tube does NOT dry to the same colour when dry, so I advise you experiment a little on a scrap freight car until you learn how gouache reacts. It is probably the best medium for rust spots and rust streaks, perfect for the discolouring along the weld lines of tank cars I find.
I apply it by brush, it dries in a minute or so but can be re-activated, as it were, with a fresh dose of water, and that applies anytime. As you might imagine, perfect to pull rust streaks down the side of the car. It is NOT a medium to use in an air brush as it dries too quickly.

Last edited on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 07:21 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.712
Uses for Blu-Tack in Modelling Pt 1



By Several Modellers
1. I use blutac for heaps of things, one of those being masking for painting. Roll the blutac very thin, then cut with a new blade for a crisp edge and it can be molded to fit around compound curves.

2. I fit knuckle couplers to get the right height before fixing with a screw or glue.
3.  Holding wires inside a loco


Last edited on Sun Jun 27th, 2010 06:29 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.713
Uses for Blu-Tack in Modelling Pt 2
By Several Modellers


4. I use it to mask off the LED's in my signals when I paint them, theres no way I could use masking tape to do that kind of job. It is a bit of a pain to remove the blu tak though.


5. Use an entire strip, peel one side of the paper off and lay it on your work bench, to place each small piece if a model you remove in a nice secure place as you disassemble. The end result is a nil loss of important fiddly bits AND a strip of pieces that is nicely ordered for you to put back in the correct places.


6. I often use blutac for holding HO scale figures while I paint them. I also use it to support parts while glue is drying.


Last edited on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 04:26 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.714


It's a People Thing Pt 1



From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton
Simply buying ready-painted figures and plonking them down at random will look like everyone else’s people, and no matter how well sculpted and painted, they will inevitably look too 'bright' (even shiny!) and toy-like.
We suggest buying unpainted figures (Airfix, Dapol, Preiser or White Metal from Monty's, Dart, Langley, etc), and give them a good scrub in a cup of warm water laced with Vim/Ajax. Then give them a matt (very matt) undercoat of white enamel using Railmatch or Humbrol. Paint it on thick enough to cover the figure, but not so thick as to mask or obscure the detail.


Then paint them with ordinary water-colours straight from the palette. You will need reasonably good brushes – most art shops sell foreign-made packs of five from 000 to 3 for £2 or £3 – a good light, and (in many cases if appropriate ) strong glasses!


Water-colours allow you to produce a texture that is much softer and less 'flat' than enamels, and helps to give that slightly subdued look that is essential to fabric. It has other advantages too – you get exceptionally fine detail more easily, picking out buttons, ties, skirt patterns, creases, with none of the 'blobbing' that comes from thicker enamels. Shading and highlights too become a real possibility. And of course the range of tones and shades available is almost limitless.




Happy painting.

Last edited on Thu Jul 8th, 2010 05:42 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.715
It's a People Thing Pt 2



From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton
The real plus is that water-colours are very cheap and very user-friendly. No smelly thinners or pongy paint, so you can work in the lounge in comfort! They are also very forgiving – if you’re not happy, then simply dunk the figure back in the wash and start again.
Wherever possible, I keep the figure on its base for ease of handling and only separate it once it's finished and ready to be positioned. A worthwhile investment is a pair of decent 'needle-point' tweezers – these will be essential if you're figure working with metal figures which usually have no bases.

Final positioning is a matter of personal choice and judicious observation of the real world and, of course, of photographs typical of the scene you are trying to recreate. Sadly, most figures that are generally available tend to suffer a bit from hyperactivity syndrome! And that applies to animals as well – they are all too busy. If you can, try to select those in more relaxed poses, and be imaginative in how you group them. Remember this technique works well with animals too, so please, let's have no more shiny sheep or polished Friesians (especially if you are modelling the pre-nationalisation railway, as the dreaded black and white Friesians were not plentiful until the late fifties and sixties)!
Personalise your people, and watch your layout take on a life of its own. Happy Painting!

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Hints & Tips No.716


Fencing and Railways Pt 1



From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton
Railways in real life are dangerous places, and in the British Isles – unlike the rest of the world – they were fenced-off against trespass by livestock or the public. As with all the other elements, each company developed its own styles for fences, and this invariably meant something smart and stylish in stations, and something more basic and cheaper for the miles in between.
Each pre-grouping (pre-1923) company had its own ideas, but – apart from the massive influence of the Great Western – many of these were absorbed and transformed by the big four. Most of the corporate and regional variations then lingered until the present day when the greater speed and the dangers of electrical power called for more drastic measures to prevent trespass.
Since most of us model post-grouping through to BR, it is convenient that our accessory manufacturers market a range of products that will meet the needs of the majority of layouts. But, as with everything else in their mass-produced packets, a little personal tender loving care can make all the difference to the final appearance of these lineside features.
Our advice, as always, is to delve into your references and check out as many pictures as you can locate that are 'typical' of your own setting. These will show you a number of valuable pointers towards realism, and will also, I suspect, help you to avoid some pitfalls. There are a few things to look out for … (to be continued)

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Hints & Tips No.716(b)
Fencing and Railways Pt 2
From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton
Fences (almost without exception) are of just two types away from the stations. It will either be an all-wooden post and rail type usually having three or four longitudinal bars, or it will be post and wire with either wooden or concrete posts and various numbers of wire runs. Because the cost of the main posts of this latter type, there is a further variant with more widely separated main posts (usually concrete) and vertical metal strip 'spacers' in between. Check your photos to see what was in use in your chosen area.
These two basic forms each produce different challenges to the modeller – packs of wooden fencing will come in strips of a length more convenient to the package than to the modeller. They are very easy to use on nice flat stretches with fairly generous curves. They are certainly easy to fix after you've painted them (enamels are fine) with a suitable mix of whites, greys, greens and a bit of brown or black. They are also simple to keep upright. Their problem comes when you are fencing the undulating boundaries above cuttings or beneath embankments. They simply won't 'bend' to follow contours.
There is a general-purpose flexible fencing on the market (Peco) designed to overcome this, but in my experience it's easier said than done. The forces needed to bend the bars in the vertical plane will threaten to pull the vertical posts out of alignment. The posts need to be well planted and even then I suspect you will break several of the fairly weak spigots.
The alternative is fairly laborious (what isn't?!), and that is to 'nick' the undersides of the bars on the normal straight fencing panels just where they meet the post. You can then gently bend the next section upwards, then nick the top side of the bar as it meets the next post.
You may have to scratch-build your fencing, as obviously not all styles will be catered for from the packet. The key variations are the number of horizontal bars and whether they are mounted on the face of the verticals, or slotted into these posts. If it's the former, double-check which side they go; towards the railway, or towards the field? A detail, yes, but it's important. Balsa wood or any suitable model strip wood of the right size is ideal and will ultimately be easier to work with and give a more realistic end product.

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Hints & Tips No.717


Teak Coaches Pt 1


From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton
For their day - twenty and more years ago - the Hornby 'teak' coaches were a mixed offering. The Thompsons were very much 'plastic wood' running on the standard BRML1 underframe. The Gresleys had similar finish but this was alleviated by quite nice lettering and a more appropriate Gresley-ish underframe; and eventually Gresley-ish bogies too.
Those who have read some of my previous tips will know me to be a real cheapskate and one who never chucks anything away. So you can guess that I was very unlikely to rush out and spend around £250 on a replacement programme!
I will not go into the engineering upgrades, but I retrofitted some spare Hornby Gresley bogies and re-wheeled as necessary. I also made up some more typical underframes out of plastic strips and angle.
Some coaches went from 'plastic wood' into BR Carmine and Cream, but I wanted to preserve the original lettering on most of them - so something was definitely going to have to be done with the paintbrush. The wood finish was just about acceptable, but far too pale, flat and bland. The interiors (white plastic!) were also much too light when viewed even in passing.
So, out came the 'guts' of the thing and the corridor partitions were painted a much darker brown with reddish brown and dull green upholstery. Much better! But what of the exteriors? To be continued...

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Hints & Tips No.718


Teak Coaches Pt 2

From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton

The old standby of clear gloss varnish wouldn't do the job - the finish needed to be darker and richer. So I had to do a mix which combined the benefits of the varnish with a bit more colour. I'm no DIY fan, but I did happen to have and old (now there's a surprise!) tin of polyurethane 'light oak' varnish in the shed... that was a start. But still too light in tone when tested on a small sample. So a fairly large dollop was tipped into the mixing tray (Tesco shiny tinfoil ashtrays are excellent, as are their plastic spoons and stirrers!). To this was added on one side a spoonful of gloss GWR coach brown, and on the other side a spoonful of Humbrol reddish-brown matt 'leather'.

With some thinners as a helpful catalyst, this was mixed in various quite random proportions and duly applied. The results were really quite worth the few hours of labour - and finger crossing! Matt black underframes and bogies, darkened/weathered roofs, and careful gold touching-up of door hinges, handles and grab rails and my inter-regionals are much improved. Ok, I admit they are not in any way accurate, but behind the V2, they make an attractive and pretty realistic portrayal of 'foreign' stock.

Most toy fairs and second-hand shops will have these elderly coaches at well under a tenner - haggle for them! Then get the necessary varnishes and paints; even a sheet of Pressfix LNER lettering. It is fun and cheap.

Last edited on Mon Jul 12th, 2010 05:42 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.719

Telegraph Poles and Modelling Pt 1

From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton


Let's consider then what makes for a convincing use of that humble 'TP' on our layouts. We need to consider several factors…

1. The appropriate distance between the poles

2. The number of brackets and 'dolls' for their assumed purpose

3. The correct colour(s)

4. Other features

We may as well start with the first point. The distances between poles in real life was not constant. It would depend on the number of wires carried, since the weight/sag of these would obviously affect the pull on the top of the pole. As a general rule of thumb, multi-branch lineside poles can be set closer together than those on an adjacent roadside, which might only carry two or three lines into a village. Check with your photos and test positions on your layout, simply fixing the poles temporarily with plasticine/Blu-tak. I generally work to about 12-15 inches – further apart, and they give the impression of a shorter track distance, but too close and they look silly!


The number of brackets or crossbars is a problem since many lineside poles were truly giant affairs with an unbelievable number of bars and dolls. I have checked – at random – in "Rail Tracks South West" by Peter Gray; 8 or 10 bars are commonplace, often with four dolls each side of the post, while one at [Par] boasted no less than 18 bars! The Dapol versions give four bars as standard – but do provide some bars from poles in station yards or country roads and add them back onto your major 'trunk routes' by the railway. (To Be Continued)

Last edited on Wed Jul 14th, 2010 05:54 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.720




Telegraph Poles and Modelling Pt 2


From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton

Colour is critical – PLEASE, no black or brown (except if they're a brand-new replacement with the engineers still around admiring their handiwork…). Poles weather quickly, and a far better colour scheme is a mix of greyish/greenish hues on the sunny side and just a tad darker on the 'north' side. (A Note from Trevor – South in my hemisphere) Enamels are fine; just test the mixes until you get what you want. Dolls should be white – but its worth noting that the railway telegraph system used the same poles (usually the very top or bottom bar) and their dolls were red. Metal footholds can be weathered black.

Other features should always include the wire stays to support the pole. It's easiest if these run from beneath the bars and are inline with the direction of the run. They can be made from short lengths of (fine) fishing line, or very thin wire. Either way, they need to be taut and neatly pinned to the landscape – about a 45° angle is OK. You can get wire by slitting the case of multi-strand layout wire, or burning it off (which is quick, but smoky!). Gently brush over with rust colour or metallic black.

For stays in villages and public roads, a neat addition is a strip of thin 1/16 inch x 3/16 inch (approx) balsa. Smooth the top side to a half round and then cut a shallow point onto lengths of about 1½ inch – stick the flat side to the base of the stay wire. These served to protect the stay and also make it more visible to the unwary.

Last edited on Wed Jul 14th, 2010 05:53 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.721

Telegraph Poles and Modelling Pt 3

From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton

Although telegraph poles are very attractive lineside features – indeed, quite essential ones – always try to site them on the far side of the track. If they are on the near side, (a) they will really get in the way, and (b) you will keep breaking them!

Another thing I forget is which way do they face? There is a right way, and that is to have the 'doll' at what could be called the 'London-side' of the pole.

Now, onto other matters...

When you reach stations or signal boxes (coming from the London direction), knock out a doll or more to suggest the lines going into that feature. If you remove part of a bar from the pole, so much the better – you can fix that to the signal cabin or whatever, to show the line going in.

If it is a large station or goods yard, you may want to remove several dolls – that is then a good opportunity to have lightly used poles with perhaps one or one-and-a-half bars dotted around, carrying the lines to goods sheds, engine sheds or out into the village.

Even in the old days, 'multi-use' was not uncommon. You can really add character by filling 'electric lights' to your telegraph poles in goods yards or loco depots. Once again, Dapol/Airfix can help. They produce (or did!) electric lights on rather improbable poles for station lamps. Cut the shade/bulb from their mounting. Drill two small holes in your telegraph poles, and make up a tiny bracket with thin plastic rod.

These are delicate but effective. You can add plastic ladders too (Ratio) as the bulbs will certainly need changing.

Last edited on Thu Jul 15th, 2010 05:49 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.722




Telegraph Poles and Modelling Pt 4

From Terry Booker, Footplate Models Southampton

I mentioned that there are more spindly telegraph poles from Ratio. These do make effective electricity poles – I generally reduce them to just the top bar and two dolls, which should (usually) be of dark brown porcelain. Once again, use weathered colours, but you can do these a tad darker to highlight their different purpose.

These too can have the addition of lights in appropriate situations, such as typical rudimentary street lighting near to phone boxes or bus stops in your fifties village scene.

It is worth mentioning that there are – or rather were! – regional variations, especially to track side telephone runs. Main lines, especially in the north of England, used two poles instead of one to carry their trunk routes. This of course is easily done in miniature by using your photo references as a guide and simply gluing two Dapol poles together. However, I think you will need to remove the inner bars from one of the poles.

If you have a large layout currently devoid of, or with inadequate types of telegraph poles, rush out now and buy some packs. It may also seem a tiresome exercise, but if you want to capture the essence of pre-1970 Britain, the humble telegraph pole is a vital ingredient.

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Hints & Tips No.723

Realistic water using Plexglass

From C.J. Leigh (North Dakota)

I know in the past when talking to other model railroaders, there has always been a challenge to creating realistic looking water. There are tons of products out there have give that wet feeling to your layout, and create great streams and creeks, but what if you wanted to create a large body of water such as a lake or in a harbor. Furthermore, what if you wanted to be able to see through it as if looking at a very clear lake.

Friends, the solution is easy. Simply go to your local hardware store and pick up some replacement Plexiglas that is designed for a shower door. The wave pattern is prefect to create the waves upon the lakes surface. Cut the Plexiglas to fit your lake or harbor scene and install. If you want some muddy water, simply paint the bottom of the Plexiglas to your liking.

Last edited on Sun Jul 18th, 2010 07:47 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.724

Extreme Weathering using Sea Salt

From - Several Modellers

In a recent book on weathering, a freight car was painted a rust color, sea salt was added to the side, painted and decalled normally, then the sea salt was scratched off to expose the rust below. This will give a pock-marked area where the rust is showing through the paint.

A variation using ready to run wagons could also be done. Paint areas where you want the rust to be. Artist acrylics are good for these. Wet the side of the car, apply the sea salt and let it dry. Brush paint a darker rust on the surface. The sprayed rust color needs to be lighter than the painted rust color and the contrast will help the apearance.

Remove the sea salt off of the car or wagon using a tooth brush and a small knife or chisel and you have a well worn used vehicle.

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Hints & Tips No.725

Weathering with Chalks and Dullcote
From Several Modellers
In response to a forum question about Dullcote washing away weathering chalks, these responses should be of interest to you,
  1. Thinning the dullcoat can help. I ran into a problem with Dullcote wearing away my chalk. Just keep adding powders in the areas you want to weather properly. You might also try variations of lighter colors or darker colors as well. (Sawyer Berry – North Carolina)
  2. In my experiences it is better to build up the weathering with many small coats of weathering than one heavy coat. Then you have more control over the amount of weathering. (Gary Eicken – New Jersey)
  3. What you need to do is get the weathering the way you like it ( remember dullcote will remove some of the weathing). Re do the weathering- dullcote - re do the weathering- dullcote and so on. Make sure the dullcote goes on lightly. There are also a couple of brands of weathering powders that do not need dullcote to seal. (Reese - Ohio)
  4. If you leave the powder on for a few hours, it sticks better. Then spray from as far away as possible (not the next room, but say 18"). The weathering will always seem less after the dullcote anyway, but better that than the other way round! (Bob Norris - Southampton)

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Hints & Tips No.726

Stencil Idea

From James Johnson (USA)

I was placing an airbrush supply order and I happened upon "fingernail stencil wheels" for painting women's nails with. Several companies make "alphabet and #'s" stencil wheels. I ordered a couple different styles gave them a try. The letters and numbers are really tiny and I thought they might come in handy for all sorts of N scale projects in particular, like the sides of buildings and boxcars, signs, etc.

I know there is a dry transfer decal made for just about anything you can think of, but I thought I'd give this a try anyway. I thought If it works out, it will be nice not having to always buy sheets of number and letter decals all the time which whenI want them, I usually cannot find.

The stencil wheels proved just right for N scale purposes. I think they will come into their own when it comes time to put signs on the sides of buildings and billboards. I paid about $3 per wheel and each wheel contains all the capital letters as well as all letters in lower case and numbers 0-9. One wheel is standard news print type lettering and the other is a more relaxed flowing type of script. I'm very glad I purchased these and feel like it was money well spent as I can think of a bunch of uses for them. They also make stencil wheels with many different designs on them such as ice cream cones that could be used on a parlor sign, twinkling type stars that could be used on a night scene backdrop, or flower bouquets for a floral shop sign, … and wherever else your imagination takes you!


Last edited on Tue Jul 20th, 2010 05:48 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.727
Another Couple of Uses for a Digital Camera
From Several Modellers
  1. Have you noticed when you display a picture on a screen that you have just taken of that new paint or weathering job, or the kitbash. You nearly always find something that you missed with the Mk 1 eyeball. Something slightly misaligned, a slight paint run. the camera shows it up. I have also found it can be useful checking chassis and mechanisms for problems, taking pics at intervals, while moving wheels either by hand or slowly under power, any uneveness will show up. (Mike Smith - Dorset)
  2. I find it a good tool to pick out glaring and embarrassing mistakes like missing out unpainted parts of the scenery. This is expecially if you are using foam. This is because the picture is an ACTUAL image reproduction. What we see is a PROCESSED image. Our mind shows us what we expect to see....not always what is actually there. (Cliff Assuncao- Singapore)
  3. The digital camera is a great tool to use for the hobby. I take pictures of everything to see how it would look from an nscale point of view. Lately I noticed a building that looked straight on the layout was actually was tilted to one side. I saw dents added to a model which looked like the engine was involved in an accident and was placed back on the tracks (Bob Dahl - Nebraska).

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 Hints & Tips No.728

Making Concertina or Coiled barbed Wire

From Anthony Jones (North Carolina)

I thought I would share my method af creating the barbed/contertina wire seen on many prisons and on some industrial facilities. I found it easy to reproduce with a few simple tools.

Tools needed:
Cotton sewing thread
Silver spray paint (WalMart)
Brass/glass/styrene rod
Starch (grocery store)

Dissolve a measure of starch into a llittle warm water. Then dip the cotton sewing thread into the mixture to impregnate the thread with starch. While still wet, wrap the thread around the rod (not too tight). A glass rod is best, but hard to find. Styrene can be too flexible unless you are careful. I found a piece of brass tubing from the LHS works best for me.

Set the thread on rod aside and let it dry overnight, or until the thread is completely dry. After it dries, gently rotate the rod, and carefully slide the rod out, leaving a coil of thread held stiff by the starch.

Lay the coil on newspaper and apply a good coat of silver spray paint. After it dries, turn it upside down and do the other side.

The starch will hold the thread in form for painting and once the spray paint dries it will basically bond the thread like glue and you will have barbed wire to glue to the top of your chain link fence.

Last edited on Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 05:51 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.729
Refreshing Lichen Scenery
From Several Modellers
All Lichen, even the glycerine treated stuff will dry out over time. You can mix up a batch of glycerine and water and either remove and soak it or spray it lightly in situ. It will refresh the Lichen and make it pliable again.

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Hints & Tips No.730
Restoring a Decal Sheet
From Dan Nelson
If you are like me you buy decals ahead of time for future projects and of course will not be used right away they should be stored in a cool,dry dark area. But what if years go by before you get to apply them or you are out at a show and find the long lost set of decals?

A lot of times when they first hit the water and you try to slide them off of the sheet they will Explode or Disintegrate not to worry!! If this happens shoot the decal sheet with a clear coat before using they will then hold together so you may apply them.

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Hints & Tips No.732
Safety in Soldering underneath a Layout
From Several Modeller's
From a question about overhead soldering and how to do it especially underneath a layout...
  1. The obvious answer is do not do it and certainly do not do it if your head or other burnable body parts are underneath the joint. Get your head in there, wear good safety goggles and to do the best you can.
  2. Solder off to one side or the other. Better to have hot solder drip on an arm...than in your face or eye! Strip the bus line...tin the bus line and the feeder with a small amount of solder. Then I wrap the feeder around the buss a few times. Get a small amount of solder on the tip of the iron...touch it to the area.
  3. Do not get too hyper about overhead soldering. Easier done than said! Use paste flux, smear a little on the bus wire, tin it where you want to attach the feeder wire to. Pre-tin your feeder wire, then hold the two together and let the iron do the deed. You might make a small clamp to hold the wires together, so your hands are free with a clothes pin, alligator clamp or similar.
  4. Do it the easiest and safest way. Try to solder it from above. Solder the wire to the track first and drop the wire down. You may have to take portion of your track up again but that may be better in the long run. Do not risk your eye sight or health. One splatter or drop of hot solder in the eye and that would be it. The time you tried to saved under the table will be lost in the hospital Emergency Room. I can solder really good (3 touch soldering) and I do not think I would try it upside down as it is just too risky. Although many aspects of our hobby look simple and easy, they are not. We use power tool and equipment that magnify the level of danger many fold. Always ask yourself the question "Is it safe" before you take the easy route.

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Hints & Tips No.733
Crazy Paving
From Tring and District Model Railway Club

Have you ever tried to reproduce crazy paving in either four mm or 2 mm, and then you will realize how laborious a task it can be. A quick and easy way is to retain egg shells in as complete condition as possible, paint both the inside and the outside to the required colour and then when dry break off a section applicable to the area to be covered and press firmly into place. This will shatter the shell and in so doing make it appear as ready laid crazy paving, to fix, apply a diluted solution of PVA and there you have it.

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Hints & Tips No.734
Need an extra pair of hands?
From Tring and District Model Railway Club
A third or fourth hand is often required when modelling with small or fine pieces of material such as brass, copper or plastic. One method is to use double sided tape upon which the components may be held whilst adhesive or bonding is achieved. An alternative method, especially where sections of metal are to be soldered and require support, is to make use of a potato where the components may be inserted and held quite firm without detriment to the soldering process.


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Hints & Tips No.735
Printing Scalescene Buildings
From Tring and District Model Railway Club
Do you use the buildings etc from this website. Instead of printing onto A4 paper get some A4 labels (Staples ther UK based stationers have had them in packs of 100 sheets at a reasonable price in the past) and print directly onto the labels. This saves a lot of messy work with adhesives and ensures that you have 100% coverage.

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Hints & Tips No.736
Indelible Pens in Model Railways
From Several Modeller's, N Gauge Society
Black Pen - Particularly in N scale, have you ever tried to paint the plated wheel rims on locomotives and stock black, and wished for more control, a thin covering and a lasting job? Indelible (waterproof) black pens will do this, as well as touching up metal loco kits and lettering patches on wagons. Use a pen with a fine point.
Silver Pen - This fine nibbed pen can be used for putting silver rims on black plastic wheels and window frames. Both gold and white pens in several tip sizes are also available. The white pen is suitable for wide markings on wagons and for road markings. For yellow road markings, recolour the white markings with a yellow fibre tip pen.

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Hints & Tips No.737
Toning Done Mortar... using Black(?)
From Several Modeller's, N Gauge Society
To damp down the rawness and bring out the texture of planking, masonry, brickwork, or roof tiles, give them a dose of matt black emulsion before assembly. With your finger rub it over the surface and into the cracks. Very soon it will be slightly tacky, so wipe it over with your hand. We all know mortar does not appear black in external light, but the result is effective.


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Hints & Tips No.738
Improve the running of tenders
From Several Modeller's, N Gauge Society

Find a flat length of track, remove the wheels from the tender and place them on the track and put your 6" (150 mm) rule edge on across the axles. Then see if the rule will move all sets of wheels and axles along the track.

If the sets of wheels do not move together, sort out a set of wheels that will. The variation in wheel diameter is enough to prevent one set turning, by lifting the rule off of one axle. If fitted to the tender one of the set of wheels would be clear of the track! A packet of new wheeled axles may be a better option for you than those originally fitted.

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Hints & Tips No.739

Ground Texture and Colour
From Several Modeller's, N Gauge Society
Having tried various commercial scatters I find them rather 'samey' and dull, especially with time, so have developed my own textures and colouring method. The textures come from things like tea bags, and my wife's peppermint tea, lemon and ginger. Chinchilla sand is a favourite of mine. It's cheap and very fine, just needing some sieving to remove any little seeds. Sieved wood flour is similar to the 'commercials' and has its place, as do coal and ashes, and you'll think of others. My commercial scatters are all mixed together now in one jar, so have ended up a muddy brown colour, but it still provides a good texture base.

For colouring, coal and ashes and the ordinary and peppermint teas do not really need anything, but the others I colour with watered-down emulsions and a pipette. The various emulsion paints are watered down a roughly two to one with a tiny amount of detergent, just as you might with PVA, and PVA itself can also be applied in this way. Before I dribble on the paint I spray the texture material with water and a few drops of detergent dispensed from an old plant spray. This makes the material more receptive to the colour. The paint can, of course, double as the glue. One pipette will do everything because emulsion paints and PVA dissolve easily in water.

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Hints & Tips No.740
Redecalling weathered wagons.
From Chris Pearce (Victoria Australia)
I had to recently decal 170+ N scale wagons for an up and coming photo shoot by the Austtralian Model Railway Magazine and all my wagons had been dulled and weathered from my previous 30+ years of modelling.

All I did was to paint ONLY the decal area with Gloss (Microscale) and when dry put the decal on as usual.

Re-apply a dullcote to the gloss area only and weather the general area again if need be.

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Hints & Tips No.741

Curving Backdrops
From Several Modellers
  1. Sheet styrene worked fine for me. Very smooth and takes acrylic or latex paint well, and makes curved corners if needed. My was mounted on unfinished dry wall, but I know it can also be framed on the back. I got mine at a plastics store in town. I used 4x8 sheets, but I know they can cut it to size as well. (Hal Shanks)
  2. Foam core board is what you need.You can get it at art supply stores,but its kind of expensive. For a cheap source, you could go to an appliance store and ask for a refrigerator box, cut the cardboard to your dimension and mount your artwork with spray contact cement. (Bob Klein)
  3. Several Modellers report using the smooth side of Linoleum!
  4. I work in HO and based my backdrop on .060 styrene strips stapled to the wood frame, then .080 styrene sheet secured to the strips with Weld-On #16 solvent cement (2-3 minute working time; plan carefully!). The cement is very strong, and I am confident the backdrop will stay up and flat. I did mine in three sections: The back (2'x6'), the side (2'x3'), and the coved corner to connect the two. I filled the seams with gap-filling CA, which I built up slowly and sanded smooth. Several years later and the backdrop has not moved. (Rick Krall)

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Hints & Tips No.742

Modelling a River... Colours etc?


From Several Modellers


For the river color, i would use a black or a dark blue color, and then near the shore, fade that color into a tan to suggest shallower water. For the water itself, i use and would recomend Woodland Scenics Realistic Water with their water effects bottle thrown in for fun, this stuff is so good that i even used it on science project. Just make shure you fill all the holes in the layout, even the smallest of ones. (Des Tierney)

I painted the bed with cheap acrylic paints, working from blacks and blues in the centre to tans near the edge. I added real sand and some talus (rocks) to the bed as well. Envirotex Lite makes very nice still water. I did 3 or 4 pours here, each about an eighth of an inch thick. I tinted each one differently with a drop or two of cheap acrylic paint - black for the first (deepest) layer, then blue, then darker and lighter green. This graduated approach gives the water itself "optical depth," so you avoid that clear-as-glass look, and add some murkiness to the water. As it gets deeper, it gets more and more opaque, more the way real water is. (Mike Kitchener)

sMy favorite way is to paint the river surface the color you like. Get a photo for examples , Then use gloss acrylic media to surface over the color. Paint it on so the brush strokes resemble flowing water. It may take a couple layers. Then go back over with white to simulate ripples. (Bob Klein)



Last edited on Sat Aug 7th, 2010 06:05 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.743

Simulated Loco Sand

From Joe Farrugia

I recently ran across a product that simulates clean, white sand rather well. It is a Non-Skid Floor Finish Additive and is a very fine white silica product that I feel nicely simulates the white sand spilled around a locomotive sanding facility. It can be found with the porch and floor paints.



Last edited on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 05:44 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.744

Simulating Clouds – With Polyester Filling?

From Charles Schaedel

I have just tried using Polyfibre fill to simulate a 3 dimensional cloud. Essentially it is teased to shape and glued on the back drop, left alone for light wispy clouds or pre painted with greys of varying intensity to simulate overcast conditions.

Hints & Tips No.745

Shiny Matt Paint ? Pt 1

From Jonathon Buckie (UK)

I have experienced matt paint drying to a shiny finish even after mixing with a paddle in my minidrill. to that end I'm now adding a spot of Precision paints matting agent (PQ14.) to the paint on the pallet before using it as insurance. I normally give models a quick blow over with matt varnish afterwards in any case.

Last edited on Wed Aug 18th, 2010 05:13 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.746
Shiny Matt Paint? Pt 2

From Several Modeller's

Matt paint is gloss paint with a matting agent stirred in. Usually if the paint comes out with a gloss finish, it has not been mixed well enough, or sometimes is just "past it".

The residue that settles in the bottom of a paint tin is usually the matt pigment ... very often I will scoop that out on the end of an old brush handle into a container (like a jam jar lid) and mix it up with more of the paint from the tin to make sure it is well mixed up and will dry matt.



Last edited on Thu Aug 19th, 2010 04:51 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.747

Concrete Southern Region Style Method 1




From Paul Cambridge (North Devon UK)




After undercoating the building with a grey acrylic primer, I painted the Permanent Way hut a sort of concrete colour which at the times was an old tin of Humbrol 'Unbleached wool', which is now no longer available. This painting as it was, turned out to be unnecessary! So proceed as follows directly onto the undercoat. Select some suitable concrete colour; i.e. matt concrete, a matt dull sand and a matt dull grey. I have noted from local examples up here in N Devon, that the SR concrete has a yellow hew to it. I have seen the suggestion to paint a small area of the work with any colour (old bristle brush) then dip into a tub of talc. I believe this was a method used by Martyn Welch. I actually used a satin varnish over the undercoat, then applied the talc. Lightly dab onto the work. You know when it is right when the paint is dry and gritty. Too wet, and the talc will disappear, too dry and the talc will not stick. Repeat using your selected colours, blending the work in. This is art work stuff, not precision modelling!





Last edited on Fri Aug 20th, 2010 05:38 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.748

Concrete Southern Region Style Method 2

From Paul Cambridge (North Devon UK)

Undercoat the building with a grey acrylic primer. Obtain a cheap plastic tea strainer and an old tray. Varnish one side of the building. Sprinkle the talc on as if you were sifting flour over a loaf... (This does sound like a recipe!). Leave to dry for a couple of minutes then tip the building upside down and shake off the surplus talc. Blow off the rest. Do not try this inside the house! Repair any unpainted patches bald patches by lightly dabbing with pain and talc. 

 

Last edited on Tue Aug 24th, 2010 11:20 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.749




Using Freezer Go Between for Rollingstock Storage




From Terry Cunningham (Sydney, Australia)




I find the best thing to use for wrapping rollingstock in confined space is FREEZER GO-BETWEEN made by Glad. There are other equivalents elsewhere in the world but here it comes in a 15M or 30M roll. DO NOT confuse it with Glad-Wrap or you might never get you loco or carriage back again.




I use it for any model fitted into a confined space and have been using it for 20 years or how ever long it has been on the market. I started using it with brass locos as the wrap they came in was often coated with oil & I have been using FREEZER GO-BETWEEN ever since. If you just "loop" it around the model it is strong enough for you to lift it out like in a sling using the GO_BETWEEN as a handle so you don't have to turn boxes up-side-down or jam your fingers down the side to get it out.




(From Ian McIntyre) – Do not put the models in, simply wrap lightly and place into either containers which will hold the model comfortably. A little bubble wrap or “Post Pop Corn” (the foam ball stuff used in packaging) can also be used.

Be careful of foam rubber as some varieties act like sand paper or the corners and edges of your model.

Last edited on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 12:21 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.750
Getting Additonal Traction... from your track.
From Steve Mountjoy (Worcester)
I had one loco on an old layout that would not run up the smallest of inclines. I tried more weight etc. In the end I made the section of track rougher by scoring diagonal lines across the tops of the rails for the length of the incline. After that never had any trouble with that loco (0-6-0) or any other. It would even pull 6 cars up the slope.
There were also no problems with cleaning the track as I just used a standard track cleaning block. To serate the track, I used a very fine cutting disc in a Dremel and just touched the top of the rails every 2-3 mm. It worked for me. Make sure you make your track marks go diagonally otherwise your wheels may make some strange sounds when they go over the rough section.


Last edited on Wed Sep 8th, 2010 04:08 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.751
Winter Scenery - Icicles
From Several Modellers
Winter Scenes are not often modelled and classic snow scenes are difficult but some areas can be made fairly easily including the presence of ice. Melting Ice can be represented by PVA glue left in larger drops at the sides of roads and between tracks. Icicles from buildings can be made also with PVA glue squeezed into thin lines on plastic and allowed to dry. They can then be peeled from the plastic and suspended from the eaves of buildings, mouths of tunnels (but not too long... trains would break them on the way through and Canadian and Alaskan trains specifically have icicle breakers on the tops of locomotives) and other areas.


Last edited on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 03:28 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.752
Modelling Weeds, Straw and Hay
From Terry Lee Rouhier
To model weeds, hay, straw, and grass get some "binder twine" from a farmer/horse owner. If you can, get both new and old twine. The twine is a natural (make sure that you do not get the new plastic stuff) material that takes paint/stain well. It also weathers naturaly. Hang some outside for a year and it will look like autumn weeds, let it lay on the ground and it will get a grayish color. It can be cut in very short lengths and used as some ground cover.

Last edited on Thu Sep 23rd, 2010 03:29 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.753
Urban Junk
From Glenn Atherton
When modeling an urban scene , never forget the garbage that you see every day . It can range from an old news paper here and a rundown shack there , to piles of junk and scrape outside of major industry or railyard. One of my personal favorites is the broken-down car halfway in a body of water. But look around you and come up with your own ideas.

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Hints & Tips No.754
Tyre Tracks
From Christopher Taylor
You can make it look like a car has driven through the dirt or grass. After you have put down the grass, take an eraser and rub off some grass to look like tyre tracks.

Last edited on Sat Sep 25th, 2010 10:09 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.755
Modelling Wind Blown Snow
From Tully Turney
I have a winter layout and model a lot of snow. Here is a tip for modeling wind-blown snow that has fallen over a plowed right-of- way. Pour a thin sheet of plaster into a bucket. When it hardens, chip it out and break it into suitable sizes. Scatter the chips along the right of way and pour over them a very thin wash of plaster and water. Let the material flow naturally through and around the chips. When that thin wash finally hardens, it will have thin "striations" throughout the mix that looks for all the world like wind-blown snow snaking in and out about the frozen hunks of previously plowed snow.

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Hints & Tips No.756
FIREWOOD
From Pat Ward
If you need an inexpensive stack of firewood, simply go outside find a small dead branch on a tree, cut into small pieces, and use PVA glue to create a stack as large or as big as you need. This method could also be used for a pulpwood load. In less than five minutes you have a load for a bulkhead car and money not spent!

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Hints & Tips No.757
Free Loads for Hoppers
From David Viner
I made up a imaginary cement factory for my layout operating scenario that the company used the cheap reliability of the train to ship its giant boulders from its mine to the factory. So, I went to a nearby park and picked some very rough pebbles and small rocks for HO scale (pick them out to fit your scale). I loaded my hoppers and gondolas. They look very realistic, and it was absolutely free! I didn't have to ruin my cars by gluing it, so next time I will pick up materials for a whole new scenario

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Hints & Tips No.758
Derailments on Points
From Jim Wald
If your trains consistently derail on a point, try slightly bending the points slighly to fit hard against the rails. Sometimes the point rails bend out or in and either narrow in gauge and catch wheels or widen and drop wheels between. Adjust the points to fit tightly against the outer rails and adjust the point rails by gently bending until they are in gauge.

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Hints & Tips No.759
Varnishing and Weathering with various Paints
From Marc Smith (Cardiff)
It is a matter of personal preference, but I like to weather all stock. I just prefer it that way. If nothing else, I would reccomend toning everything down with matt varnish. To me, models out of the box tend to look a bit "plastic" - which is after all, what they are.
I use Humbrol Matt varnish aerosol. Keep the can a good distance from the model and spray several coats of varnish. Remember to apply small amounts, as if applied copiously it can "run". Spray in a relatively dust-free environment - dust can settle on the model and look awful. Remember for safety sakes to wear a mask!

For further weathering, I have found that the Games Workshop line of paints are good. I especially like "Ultramarine Blue" because it makes a good faded BR blue. "Graveyard Earth" makes a good dusty colour too. And the various shades of brown are good for rust.

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Hints & Tips No.760
Improving Car Models
From Several Modellers
Many model Cars tend to be a bit “toy like” when first removed from the package. Their appearance can be improved by painting the wheel trims/front lights/bumpers silver, and the rear lights red.

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Hints & Tips No.761
Gluing Peco Fencing
From Richard Johnson
If you want to glue Peco's lineside fencing to make it more coninuous, many solutions will not work. Loctite make a prep coat to be put on difficult surfaces before glueing. It works extremely well as it creates a (very thin) "undercoat" layer on the slippery plastic part that is optimised for using any cyanoacrylate (superglue) on the surface. Fallers Expert glue seems to be useful for the purpose.

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Hints & Tips No.762
Weathering Steam Lcomotive Running Gear
From Several Modellers
There are various ranges of 'stains'..ie chemical blackeners which cover different types of base metals. ''Gun blue''....is one such chemical....sold mainly via gun shops. These chemicals can be applied all over the wheel, including treads, as it does not interfere with electrical pickup.
Achieving the 'oily sheen' appearance of side rods and valve gear can be difficult. Humbrol produce a paint range called 'metalcote' which can be applied, then burnished with a fibreglass pencil which achieves a 'sheen' on the surface.

Remember that frames need attention too with powdered colours to represent the texture of heated steel.

Failing that you could use acrylic paints thined with alcohol and a bit of touch of chalk powders of varying colors for the shades on the rods & wheels.

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Hints & Tips No.763
Mass producing consistent Grab Irons and Stirrups
From Des Tierney
Making wire grab irons and stirrups is fairly easy, Take a piece of brass strip that is the width you require for your grab iron or stirrup. Take a short piece of the same material and double the thickness of your bar for a short length. Now using a hardened piece of wire to the thickness you require and wrap around your bar. Now turn your bar with the wire warp side on and cut your narrow edge in half.
You would then have a number of uniform number of grab irons ready for installation on your rollingstock. Doing a similar operation using thin shim will yield a number of stirrups to enable your scale workmen to climb your rollingstock.


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Hints & Tips No.764
Reducing Derailments
From Richard Johnson (Western Australia)
Layouts often run badly because the stock is not to a common set of standards. Looking at the wheelsets, they are more often the problem than not. Often they are not properly spaced in back-to-back (the distance between the backs of the two wheels).

Presuming your models are all less than ten- twelve years old with current profile hornby/bachmann wheelsets, strike a back to back of 14.5 and make sure ALL of the wheelsets meet this standard. You can pull/twist each axle set to adjust. If you have some of the heavier/thicker wheels, make those wagons 14.3mm back to back. However for consistency it would be better to replace those older wheelsets with current ones. For those of you in HO, an NMRA standards gauge is an invaluable tool with the wheel gauge built in.

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Hints & Tips No.765
Making Tee Junctions on Bus Wires Pt 1
From Trevor Gibbs
If you run a bus wire under your layout as I do for the house lighting in buildings, you may need to be able to tap wires into the bus for extra lighting. To split your wire simply grip your wire firmly with a pair of sidecutters but not to the extent that you will cut through the insulation. Now holding one side wth your non preferred hand, move the sidecutters and maintain your grip on the wire. The insulation will fatigue and split in the area you want the split to occur but your conductors should stay intact.


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Hints & Tips No.766
Making Tee Junctions on Bus Wires Pt 2
From Trevor Gibbs
I tend to avoid soldering for safety reasons underneath the layout (see Hint 730) so any wires that meet the bus wire are simply wrapped around the newly bared wire which I find is mechanically strong enough. Any excess or slack in the wire can be taken up by coiling the wire wrapping it around a screwdriver like a telephone receiver cord. This looks neat and saves the crowded bowl of spaghetti appearance of a bundle of wires under the layout.

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Hints & Tips No.767
Making a Cart Track
From Several Modellers
You can use plaster of Paris for the lane/track though it does no have a long working time to model it. Another way would be to use a water based filler having plenty of water to hand, if you have got a cart measure the distance between the wheels .... using a piece of plasticard stick two cocktail stick with the ends rounded off on it and use it as a tool to create your track.

You could also cut a piece of block of polystyrene to your basic shape of the track,follow the polystyrene block with a covering of plastercloth pushing it into the ruts of the track with a blunt tool, a soft paintbrush and plenty of water will give you time to put any final shape to it, I find a sponge dipped in water a good way to smooth off plastercloth ... the plastercloth will meet the walls if you have them and be ready for paint.

A range that is good for giving earth effects is Woodland Scenics pigments … a word of caution when using plaster/plaster cloth do not sand it smooth otherwise the pigment will not take as well.

While you are making your track, a puddle in it would add interest. You could actually run the appropriate size vehicle which has revolving wheels over the nearly hard plaster/filler. Nothing looks more like wheel ruts than actual wheel ruts. The hard bit is to get the medium at the right consistency to take the rut and not cling to the wheel. Have plenty of water handy to dip the wheels in so they do not stick to the plaster.

Last edited on Sun Oct 10th, 2010 08:08 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.768
Making Plaster Cloth
From Bob Finch and Tom Statton
  1. Dip used fabric softener drier sheets in plaster and apply them to the scenery. They hold the wet plaster better than paper towels, And as a bonus, they do not rip like paper towels do.
  2. Just dip a doubled piece of cheeze cloth in a thinned plaster mix and apply with no more mess than the expensive stuff. I have tried both and now save my money.

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Hints & Tips No.769
No room under the layout for a Point Motor
From Josh Baako and others
If you are like me, space is a limiting factor in positioning switch machines or solenoids under the layout, a simple trick is to put them on top of the layout but hide them inside a lineside structure. That way, if you get a problem you just lift the structure and you can get at it without any fuss.
To make the connection from my solenoids to the turnout tie bar I use 1mm MIG welding wire bent to suit the location, it works fine for me and costs very little.

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Hints & Tips No.770
A simple way, to create a beat up, warped freight car, without scorching the plastic.
From Josh Baako and others
In the past I have used a grill lighter to warp a few freight cars, to get that beat up look. But I found out the lighter would heat it too fast and scorch or catch the plastic on fire. As I wrote this, I had a "vision" the previous day since I have an electric stove, it would create controllable heat, and has no flame!

WARNING!!! The grill gets HOT and so does the plastic! Use extreme caution!!!!

I used a grill price on top of a metal grate from a pizza stone, to create a work area just above the grill.

I removed the weight, although I would suggest leaving it, as it creates a minor heat sink in case you leave it too long. I had to re-heat the car and press the weight in to get mine to fit again, as the heat warped the base of the car, creating a sag look, but messing with the weight & under frame. DO take the under frame off, as you do NOT want to warp the mounting holes for the trucks or couplers! Just keep in mind during the heating, that the under frame has to fit afterwards.

Work slow, heat only long enough to be able to still grasp it with your hands, if you cannot pick it up, turn the heat down, and get it away from the heat, as it being too hot to handle is a sign that you'll end up ruining the project. Again, work slow, one panel, or a small bend at a time. If you plan to warp the sides outward, slowly do so, don't try to go the full length of your intended warp at the start. In the case of sagging cars, I suggest pre-bending the weight to the sag you want, and after the heating process, glue the under frame in, to that it sticks to the sag.

There is a lot you can accomplish here, and it may end up being a trial and error process, so I suggest using a cheap freight car or goods wagon the first time.

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Hints & Tips No.771
Easing a Gradient on open benchwork
From Mike Cheesman
If you are working on a small space layout, one way to make gradients less steep, when you want to cross one track over another, is to have one track on a falling grade, the other on a rising grade. say you want a clearance of 2" over a distance of 48", a 2" rise in 48" is a bit steep, if however one track drops 1" and the other rises 1" you halve the gradient for trains on both sections of track.

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Hints & Tips No.772
Window Signs
From Mike Cheesman
You can get transparency material which can be printed on by ink jet or laser printer. Be careful not to use the ink jet material in a laser though.

Possible uses include names on shop and office windows and stained glass windows in churches because you can print the panels and separations.

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Hints & Tips No.773
Cheap Realistic Trees
From Steve Moss
Need some decent filler trees, for cheap? Check out the local craft store in the flora section. Lots of flora stalks can be stripped and made into good looking filler trees especially with ground foam covering.

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Hints & Tips No.774
Model Rail Photo Lighting
From Several Modellers
You are trying to emulate real life in your photos.

Make sure your entire subject is in good light. You want a single source of light as far from subject as you can. This will give you the widest coverage of your target. Try to make it a single and sharp light as the sun is to us in 1:1 scale. What you are looking for an trying to create is crisp shadows.

It is ok for a shadow to be light, but the edges need to be sharp.

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Hints & Tips No.775
Using Lace to make Ladders
From Allan Ogden (Sunshine MRC, Melbourne Australia)
If you want to make small ladders cheaply e.g. for the backs of signals, get some lacing or material mesh to the spacing between rungs that you need for your ladder, lay it on greaseproof paper and paint it with PVA. When it hardens, paint it an apropriate colour and apply it to your home made signals, back yard ladder jobs and so forth.

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Hints & Tips No.776
Tapping White Metal
From Several Modellers
If you are assembling a White Metal kit... White metal is very soft but it should tap fairly easily. The idea is to turn the tap 1/2 turn in, then turn 1/4 out. This will break-off the metal shavings that tend to clog up the tap. winding the tap in all the way without 'back-turning' it is a sure way to break a tap. (Glen Haasdyk )
You might want to use a thin lubricant such as kerosene or thin oil with a quality tap. (Dick Rasmussen)
Using very small taps soft metal tends to clog tap. I use ith 1/8 turn and back a1/4 and remove tap fron hole every 1/2 turn and blow chips out of hole i use wd40 in spray can for lube. (Jim Currie)

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Hints & Tips No.777
Using a Drinking Straw as Conduit
From Donald Day
I was working on the wiring on the new section of my layout and things are going relatively easy. I had to make some changes to a part of my old layout and now wiring was not so easy anymore. I had to feed the wires for two new turnouts through a layer of plaster, two and a half inches of foam and a hollow-core door.
Four inches total, and getting the wires lined up through the door just was not going to happen until I remembered a trick we used to line up LEDs that protruded through a panel… a drinking straw. Yes, I used a common drinking straw as a conduit and the natural slipperiness of the straw assists in the feeding through of the wire.

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Hints & Tips No.778
Putting Signs in Windows
From Tom Carter
I was in the process of adding some paper signs that I printed out on my non-laser printer for some windows in structure models. You have to seal the printing, or else it will smear when glue, or any moisture for that matter, touches it. I could buy a can of Art Fix Spray, that is used to fix charcoal drawings, or use Dull Coat to seal the prints. This could wind up being expensive,
What I did was to use Scotch Brand Magic Tape to seal the printing behind a thin plastic sheet. The magic tape is best for this as it all but vanishes once applied. Then the sign can be cut to size and stuck to the window with a drop of white glue. Once I used clear box tape to secure the poster to the window, covering the entire window with the clear tape.

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Hints & Tips No.779
Making Thatched Roofs
From Several Modellers
I made a thatched roof years ago using very thick 1/8" string. when it was unravelled, I rolled it with a wallpaper roller and starched it (Wife will tell you about the starch she uses in your collars when ironing) when the string has been ironed, it can be cut to shape and inlaid on the roof piece by piece and it looks effective.
A basic material used for model thatching is plumber's hemp also known as tow. It is a fibrous material which is normally supplied in large hanks and used by plumbers to seal screwed pipe fittings. The hemp is cut into small bundles about 1 inch long and about 0.25 inches thick. These bundles are glued (using PVA glue) onto the card base of the roof in rows working up the roof and overlapping each row. This is similar to the way that real thatch is laid.
You could try using fuse wire laid over the card gable of your thatched cottage and paint and weather it accordingly.

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Hints & Tips No.780
Weathering with Charcoal
From Stephen Gibson (Ontario)
In addition to using chalks for weathering purposes try a similar method with (artists) charcoal pencils. They can be scraped into a cup and applied using a brush, or use it like a pencil for fine work. The effect is more of a 'grimy', dull black. Its also a little more permanent than chalk, although it can be wiped off with some work. Works well for me

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Hints & Tips No.781
Yard Design Commandments Pt 1
From Craig Bisgeier
This series will mainly deal with larger layouts and yards but the “rules” are useful for something we all aspire to in the larger layout... enjoy the series!


Thou Shalt Not Foul The Main
Most modelers do not usually consider the main line as a part of the yard, but it is the most important track in it, or around it. The main line is the artery that carries the life blood of the railroad, passengers and freight. Just as in the arteries of a living thing, if the mains become obstructed it causes major problems to the system. Prototype railways go to great lengths to keep the mains clear, and so should you. Therefore, when beginning the design of any yard, we consider the first commandment before any other design rule. Ideally the main line should only have two points leading to the yard, one at each end. And they are only used when complete trains either enter or leave the yard.
There is an exception... when planning a yard for a lightly used branchline, or a small stub-end terminal yard, it is not always necessary to keep the main clear. If the branch only supports one or two trains a day, there usually is not a problem with using the main.

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Hints & Tips No.782
Yard Design Commandments Pt 2
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Provide A Dedicated Lead Track or Head Shunt

After the main line, the most important track in the yard is the head shunt or lead track depending whether you are talking from an English or North American perspective. The head shunt is the backbone of the yard, it is the track all others either connect to or branch from. The shunter should always be able get to any track in one forward move, and to escape back to the lead from almost anywhere in the yard in one reverse move. Therefore, as many turnouts off the lead that can be arranged so should be facing points or turnouts.
Confused? Try this. Think of the yard as a garden rake. The yard lead is the handle, the various tracks that make up the yard are the tines. As you go forward up the lead (handle), all tracks (tines) radiate up and away from the handle. None turn back in the other direction (unless it's a really old rake...). In this example, all the turnouts off the lead would be facing-point turnouts, with their movable points "facing" the base of yard lead.

Doesn't sound important? If you think about it, any track on a trailing-point switch that has to be served from the lead requires the switcher either to run around a car or cars, or to make a reverse move off of the lead to serve that track, and leave the lead. At the very least, this usually creates a delay with extra moves, limited access to the track or tracks being worked, and the possibility of fouling moving traffic across other tracks.

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Hints & Tips No.783
Yard Design Commandments Pt 3
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Not Foul The Yard Lead Now that we have cleared the main and given the shunter a track of its own to work from, we have to ensure the switching crew can do their job no matter what lunacy is going on around them. Therefore we try to keep the yard lead clear at all times. While designing the yard, try to avoid including crossovers or other trackage arrangements that interfere with the yard lead or the switch crews' ability to keep on classifying indefinitely. Yards with active tracks that cut across the lead will constantly be delayed and in turmoil. It cannot always be avoided, but if you start off with this in mind it will help you avoid situations where this becomes necessary.

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Hints & Tips No.784
Yard Design Commandments Pt 4
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Use Arrival / Departure Tracks If we cannot use the main for anything, and we cannot use the yard lead to move trains in and out, how do we get trains off the main into the yard, and vice-versa? We have to include a special track, or tracks, called arrival / departure, or A/D, tracks.
A/D tracks are sidings off the main with a connection to the yard lead, where trains are stored -- temporarily -- while they are broken down or built up. The shunter should be able to cross over from the lead, grab a rake of wagons from the A/D track and pull it directly onto the head shunt to sort it, or pull a rake from the yard body and place it into the A/D track in just two moves. The A/D track should never be used as an extra classification track because this will subvert its purpose as a holding track off the main. It may work for a while but as soon as another train arrives or you need to put another one together, you have nowhere to put it.
If you have space, it is good to have more than one A/D track so you can handle making or breaking more than one train at a time. Just make sure you can get to each one via the yard lead in just one move. I find it usually works well to place the A/D access track from the lead on the near end of the first A/D track, near where it joins the main, and then build a ladder track just beyond that for all the other A/D tracks.

Last edited on Fri Oct 29th, 2010 09:21 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.785
Yard Design Commandments Pt 5
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Provide A Brake Van Track Whether it is a double-ended or a stub siding, you need to have a place to store brake vans out of the way while classifying trains, but accessible enough to get to them fast. Usually the Brake Van track is located off either the yard ladder, the yard lead or one of the A/D tracks. My personal favorite is off the A/D where you are building or breaking a train anyway, but any easy to get to location will work. It is a great place to display all your brake van models too. If it is a stub track, make sure it is accessed easily from the yard lead and that it is from a facing-point turnout.

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Hints & Tips No.786
Yard Design Commandments Pt 6a
From Craig Bisgeier

Thou Shalt Be Able to Reach Everything Pt 1

It is a fact of life that derailments will happen. Regardless of how good your trackwork is, there’s always a super-light wagon being shoved behind a heavier vehicle, or a hopper with out-of-gauge wheelsets somewhere waiting to pick a switchpoint or be forced off the track. S-curves conspire to throw your passenger cars off the rails. Locomotives stall on spots of dirty track, or on turnouts that have insulated frogs. None of these things are much of a problem as long as you can reach the spot of the accident, because it’s quickly and easily fixed. The trouble starts when you locate tracks and turnouts outside your reach. Placing a critical point 36” or more from the layout edge does not seem like a problem when you have pencil to paper, but once the yard starts to operate, I guarantee it will be your biggest headache.
Save yourself a ton of trouble and misery by planning your yard (and the rest of your railway) so that your operators can reach everything easily. 24-30” (600-750mm) is about the realistic limit for most people to reach and manipulate objects, any farther and they are likely to do more harm than good. Cars on tracks near the front of the layout get knocked over and scenery gets damaged by leaning people. If you must have tracks that extend past 30” deep, make sure the turnouts leading to them are in reach, since that’s where most problems happen. And just because you are tall and can reach farther does not mean your friends or visitors can too, better take that into account. Layout height makes a difference too, as does distance between decks on multi-level designs.

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Hints & Tips No.787
Yard Design Commandments Pt 6b
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Be Able to Reach Everything Pt 2
Plan for success. If you must make your yard wider than you can reach from one side, all is not lost. Consider a shallow operators’ aisle on the other side of the yard. This is a great solution for double-track layouts, and can allow you to split the yard into two manageable halves, and do more work with two switching crews. Just 16” of aisle is all that is necessary, and a few feet to either side allowing the operator to reach the critical points around the turnouts/points. This can be a duck- or crawl-under without access to the rest of the aisles, as a yard operator generally stays in one place during a session.
A pop-up, however, is not a substitute. Do not design a yard that needs one to reach distant tracks because you will be using it far too often. Either have a permanent operator back there and give him space to work, or do not bother.

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Hints & Tips No.788
Yard Design Commandments Pt 7
From Craig Bisgeier


Thou Shalt Provide A Run-around Somewhere on or off the head shunt, be sure to provide a short siding or set of facing crossovers to an adjacent track. This allows the shunter to run around a car or two, especially a brak van. If there is no run-around it can be very difficult to tack a van onto the back of a departing goods train without making the driver back his whole train into the brak van track, which is not very prototypical and upsets all the other guards.
A run-around is also very important if you have yard or industry tracks with trailing-point switches within yard limits. Provide enough length to run around at least one passenger car if possible. The longer the run-around the better, and more than one is better yet. However, if space is at a premium, just enough space to run around one long car is probably enough.

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Hints & Tips No.789
Yard Design Commandments Pt 8
From Craig Bisgeier
Thou Shalt Not Overcrowd The Yard All yards have a certain threshold number of wagons they can hold and continue to function well. Go beyond this threshold amount and the yard quickly clogs, making it very difficult to work with. Now, all yards have busy times where several trains arrive at once and the yard crew is overwhelmed for a short time. A clogged yard quickly becomes a bottleneck, brings the railway to a standstill and frustrates everyone.
A good rule of thumb is to calculate how many average length cars you can hold in the body of the yard when all tracks are full, without fouling any of the points. Then take that number and divide by two. This number is your threshold amount. Depending on your yard design it may be slightly higher or lower, but generally a yard that is half full -- is full. Start getting more crowded than that and things get clogged up fast. But do not be afraid if traffic surges now and then, driving the number of wagons beyond the threshold -- as long as the yardmaster can clear some of them out of the yard in short order it is not usually a big problem. If the condition becomes chronic, it is time to start pulling wagons off the railway.

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Hints & Tips No.790
Yard Design Commandments Pt 9
From Craig Bisgeier


Thou Shalt Keep in Mind the Prototype A yard is a dynamic object, constantly in motion and so should your yard be. Remember that the purpose of a classification yard is to collect incoming railcars, rearrange them and get them on trains that will take them to their destinations. But there is usually a limit to how many cars a yardmaster can classify in a set period of time, both on the prototype and model. If more cars are coming into the yard than the yardmaster can handle, the situation deteriorates and becomes unworkable fairly quickly. So, you could say there is a threshold amount of cars that can be run through the yard within a set period of time as well.


This threshold number depends upon the size and physical restrictions of the yard, how good the modeler is at classifying cars, and if the train schedules allow the yardmaster to get rid of cars regularly on outbound trains as quickly as they arrive. The schedule, or timetable, becomes very important as you start pushing the upper limit of throughput. Remember that on a large model railway layout a big yard could have a few hundred wagons through an operating session -- but if everything converges on the yard at once, no yardmaster is going to be able to keep up with that. Scheduling carefully can keep things busy most of the time without overwhelming the crew.

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Hints & Tips No.791


Yard Design Commandments Pt 10a


From Craig Bisgeier


Thou Shalt Make It Easy To Run Pt 1

Let us say you have followed all the commandments and designed yourself a great yard. You owe it to yourself and others who will operate the yard to give some thought to making the model-human interface simple and easy to run. After all, the best yard in the world will not get used if no one can figure out how to make it work. Here are some things you can do that will really help operability:


1. Provide a large, easy to read schematic control panel with color-coded track lines to differentiate what each track is. For instance, make the body tracks white, the yard lead red, the A/D tracks green, etc.. Label anything that might be unclear or vague. Physically separate adjacent tracks with different purposes to emphasize their difference.


2 Keep the mechanical complexity down. Wherever you have a crossover where two turnouts always operate together, control them with one toggle switch. Use a diode-matrix panel or similar control structure to automatically throw turnouts in a yard ladder for a particular arrangement. "But isn't that complex?" you ask? Yes, but it makes a stressful job easier at ShowTime, so it counts as a simplicity plus.
  1. If the panel continues to be complicated despite your best efforts, think about breaking it up into two or more sub-panels, especially if there are distinct groups of turnouts more than 2-3 steps apart. For instance, I recently operated on a layout where the entrance to the yard, an area with about 7-8 switches, was controlled by a separate panel from the yards' throat and ladder tracks. It helped keep the complexity on the main panel down, a welcome break
  2. Be very careful with your trackwork. Good trackwork makes running a yard fun and challenging, but bad trackwork can take a good design and render it useless. If cars keep derailing every time they are pushed over a bad turnout, or over a spot that's out of gauge, neither you or anyone else will want to work in your yard. As long as you're making an effort to design a good yard, put some effort into building it well too.
  3. If the panel continues to be complicated despite your best efforts, think about breaking it up into two or more sub-panels, especially if there are distinct groups of turnouts more than 2-3 steps apart. For instance, I recently operated on a layout where the entrance to the yard, an area with about 7-8 switches, was controlled by a separate panel from the yards' throat and ladder tracks. It helped keep the complexity on the main panel down, a welcome break
  4. Be very careful with your trackwork. Good trackwork makes running a yard fun and challenging, but bad trackwork can take a good design and render it useless. If cars keep derailing every time they are pushed over a bad turnout, or over a spot that's out of gauge, neither you or anyone else will want to work in your yard. As long as you're making an effort to design a good yard, put some effort into building it well too.

Last edited on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 03:13 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.792
Yard Design Commandments Pt 10b
From Craig Bisgeier


Thou Shalt Make It Easy To Run Pt 2 5. Provide a handout with a schematic diagram of the yard and a line or two describing the different functions of each track to new operators. It will help them get familiar with the routine and up and running in less time than if they had to puzzle it out for themselves. You can also distribute this handout to visitors, allowing them to gain an insight into how the operation really works.
6. Design to be able to reach everything easily, either from the front of the layout or from an operators aisle behind. Derailing a few wagons in a spot you can only get to with a long stick is sure to ruin your night, and maybe other people's too. If you have to stand on your tippy-toes to reach and can only nudge it with your fingertip, it's too far away.
7. Before operating sessions, try to provide a schedule to the yard crew describing the types of trains arriving and departing during the session, approximately the time they come and go, and what type of goods or passenger equipment they drop off or pick up. This will help the yard crew organize their work, and be able to properly block the wagons in most trains. A properly blocked train is easier for the crew to run, and gets its work done faster.
I realize that it takes a pretty fair-sized yard to fully implement many of these concepts. The modeler with a smaller space, however, still has much to gain by using these criteria to help design the small yard. Perhaps there is not room for a full length brake van track. The inclusion of a short run-around, possibly also used for a nearby industrial switching area, lets you do quite a lot of operating within a little space. You don't need 2 or 3 A/D tracks, having one that also functions as a siding off the main line will work, even if it's not ideal. But no matter the size, you always need to have a lead as long as your longest body track. The trick is to be creative in how you design, and do the most with the space you have.

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Hints & Tips No.793
Running Wires down a Light Pole alternative
From Jack Hanks
Instead of running wires down a light pole which would be used to power street lights etc, it is sometimes easier to drape them down and into a nearby structure. You can use brass tube for the light pole as your return, the structure hides the wires and the connection looks authentic.

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Hints & Tips No.794
River Bank Rocks

From Ed Mason
I have a raw edge of ceiling tile used as a base for my saw mill area that runs up to a river. In an attempt to make the edge look as natural as I could without tapering it down to water level I first coated it with white glue and then piled up ground corn cobs against it. Once the glue was dry I brushed away the loose corn cob and had a really neat looking rock river bank.

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Hints & Tips No.795
Another source of Coal Loads
From George Poole
For coal, I use blasting sand. Go to a sand blasting company and ask them for black blasting sand, it looks just like coal and you can fill your cars up. 
(A Note from Trevor - you could also use card inserts in your vehicles and just use the sand to cover the top and simulate a full load. However with 4 wheelers and the weight issues that sometimes occur, blasting sand may actually help you achieve a weight increase and provide you with a load at the same time.)



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Hints & Tips No.796
Creating Mini Scenes on your Layout
From Dana Gill
To create a few miniscenes on your layout and add a little visual interest...
1. Have a victory parade for the home Team including a supporter with no gas in his or Her car( Depending on the era's modeled) with some one pushing the car.
2. Drive your Safety inspectors crazy with accidents about to happen( some one about to fall in the manhole or fall out the window.)
3. Have some one about to get into trouble ( rail fan + scrapyard + junk yard dog)
4. Show someone sweeping the station , fixing the leaky water tower, or doing some repairs at the station)
5. Have a loose tiger or any other wild animal in your town ( think of all the possibilities you could create in that scene .
6. Have some hijinks in your town or country side and a few old timer's sitting by saying that they never did that.

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Hints & Tips No.797
Stapling Foliage
From Alston Pyke
Staple any bushes you have made of lichen etc to your layout. The bushes will naturally conceal your staples and they will be better held to the layout.

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Hints & Tips No.798

An alternative way to Mask paint

From Lester Larew

When you need to paint two colors on the same model, first paint the 1st color, wait to dry at least 24 hours, then use any masking tape to make your line. Now, spray the area that is to be painted the new color AT THE EDGE OF THE TAPE with dullcoat, sealing the tape. let dry for 30 min. or so and then paint the second color. What a great paint line this leaves. No bleeding, just a great line

Last edited on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 02:51 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.799
Rust

From Brett Duffek
Making wheel faces and structures look like they have "real" flaking rust areas: I gather the type of rust that is more on the orangy side (i.e. newly forming) by sanding it off of various surfaces with fine sand paper of about 120 grit. Then I "reduce" this with finer-grit sandpaper, 400-500 grit will do, by placing a small amount in a folded piece and rubbing the sandwiched rust into a very, almost scale-like dust.
I use a drinking straw cut to about 2" in length to dust things with the super-fine real rust powder after first painting with roof brown water based paint. Shake off any loose rust immediately. The result is a 3-D type effect on wheel faces, metal roofs, or any other object that could or would be seen close up by operators or visitors.

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Hints & Tips No.800
Foam base board idea

From Nick Sherwin
As I wrote this I had just met a man at a model rail show. He had a beautiful layout made entirely out of white foam, built up in layers to form a hill. The foam was painted out of a mix of water, white glue and dirt he had brushed up (scraped on a hard surface with a brush is a better description) from dry clay under his house.


The next bit was a thin layer of old carpet felt underlay, with some large trees and an array of small trees/shrubs. It looked really effective and occurred to me that an effective layout base could be made from recycled materials.

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Hints & Tips No.801
Illuminating Model Cars

From Stephen Watson
One place that many people tend not to put lights is model cars. It can be done! I drilled out the headlights on a plastic Hot Wheels car, and put one Minitronics bulb in each hole. Now the car has working headlights. Also, I lit up a double deck London bus, for a nice effect at night. Red bulbs make nice tail-lights, especially in a heavily trafficked area. Alternatively you can put in an LED and some fibre optic line drilled into the area of the headlights.

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Hints & Tips No.802
Using Wood sticks while modelling
From Matthew Ross and Martin Smith
I have had wonderful success with cutting down "Popsicle Sticks" to what size needed and glue the various grits of sandpaper or wet and dry onto that piece. Glue both sides of stick. It is easy to remove and replace the sandpaper with excellent control of the sanding process.
Tongue depressers and Ice cream sticks or broken sanding sticks etc make great HO scale picket fences. All you have to do is scribe the pickets, cut them to length, paint them and glue in place.

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Hints & Tips No.803
Kadee Grease'm Substitute
From Several Modelers
The question was asked “When putting together micro-trains couplers (say "Underslung Body Mount Short Shank Coupler Conversion Kit" five times fast ), the instructions call for Greas-um. I assume any powered graphite will work ...” and the replies were...
Oil or grease is not a substitute for dry graphite in this case. The graphite can be burnished into the surface creating a very slippery/dry lubed working of the parts. This won't attract dirt and has minimal resistance to the moving parts. Just don't apply too much graphite, you do not want it tracking around the rails. A tube of Kadee greas-um will last many years. I even use in on some sticky locksets and cylinders. (Ron Perkins, Massachussetts)
I use a product called "neolube". It is a slurry of graphite and teflon in alcohol. Just apply a small drop and when the alcohol evaporates, the parts are coated with a light film of dry lubricant. It is not nearly as messy as powdered graphite and stays where you put it. (Charlie Schildt - Illinois)
You can just use a tube of dry graphite from the hardware store. Don't use oil or grease for couplers.
You do not need a whole lot of graphite either. (Tom Statton - Tennessee)

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Hints & Tips No.804


Failed Water Effect Experiment


From Ken Cleghorn (New Zealand)


I spotted a resin product in a local hardware store and thought it would make great water effects on my layout, so I brought it and set up an experiment to see how it looked. I glued some extruded foam to a scrap piece MDF, painted the "river" area a dark green, glued some pebbles in place, then poured in the resin mix. The moment I opened the can I was concerned, it looked too runny and fluid for what I want to use it for. But this was a test so I went ahead and made a "mix" to which I added some dark green paint.

It was a nice day so I had set every thing up outside because I knew it would stink the whole house out otherwise.

It took an age for the resin to set. I may have miss-judged the amount of hardener to add. Then I noticed little holes on the top of the foam where the resin mix had dripped, oh oh? Later most of the resin escaped through the hole in the foam. The resin was definitely reactive with the foam.

Conclusion: It pays to set up small experiments with products you are unfamilar with, To have this happen on the layout would have been a total disaster. This product would work well for still water but not for flowing water effects. This particular product was not a good product to use indoors as the fumes are very strong. It is reactive with extruded foam but not with styrene or other plastics, like the bowl I mixed it in. Other experiments will follow with other products till I find one that I can use to model a fast flowing river with rapids.

Happy modelling.

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Hints & Tips No.805

Getting wider track centres on curves

From Several modeller's

Because of the overhang particularly of longer goods and passenger stock, track centres need to be wider unless you have the very broadest of curves. The smaller the radius you have the wider the track centre needed. I have 2 inch track centres for my straight sections. Two methods l use:
  1. a. Use a longer straight section leading into the curve where the outer track uses an slightly longer straight section before curving to change track centre spacing to 2 in.
    b. Use a longer and gentler easement into the outer curve using flex track. (Greg Allen)
  2. If you "spike" your straight and curved rail (or hold it in some way), the easement will come automatically. (Wolfgang Dudler)
    What I do is offset my straight track from the curve (this is good practice regardless), and the easement curve also works as your transition from close track spacing to standard. Say my curve would wind up 3” (75mm) from the edge of my baseboard were it a set track 90 degrees, I would actually lay the straight track about 2.75 inches and ease the curve to join the straight. Works well for me (Bob Hewett)

Last edited on Fri Nov 19th, 2010 04:24 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.806

Using Rerailers

From Several Modellers

Rerailing tracks that come with many mainly outline sets are regarded as non scale items but here are a few suggestions to help you make up your own mind

a. I use one as INSURANCE for difficult areas to reach - such as inside tunnels. (Don Gibson)
b. I use rerailers on hidden trackage, in tunnels and staging yards. i also use a “Rix rerailer” in my staging yard. There once was a time when a rerailer saved a 40 year old ambroid combine from taking the one way trip down long fall gulch (to the unforgiving concrete floor). I doubt I could reassemble the car given my current lack of visial acuity. (old age) (Fred Hemmings)
c. There are NO rerailers of any kind on my home layout nor are there any on clubs layout. With weight, wheel set and coupler standards along with excellent trackwork there is no need for rerailers. (Anon)
d. I use Kadee magnets for rerailing cars when replacing them on the layout. This also puts the cars in the yard for a train later. (Joe Barker)
e.Having rerailers in hidden areas and staging tracks does make sense, as cars tend to be handled on staging tracks with 0-5-0 shunters - greatly increasing the chance of wheels off the track. (Jim Skewes)
f. I have some rerailers in the leads to the staging tracks - just 'extra' insurance. We also have rerailers at the club on each end of each staging track and at the entrance to the staging tracks(helps with 'operator error'). (Jim Bernier)
g. While they are not realistic, they can be disguised as crossings (Graham Ross)

Last edited on Fri Nov 19th, 2010 04:18 pm by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.807
Soldering at Close Quarters


From Allan Wedding (Lincs)

One way I protect a piece whilst soldering another fitting close by, is to press wet toilet tissue (bathroom tissue?) onto it as a heat sink.

Last edited on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 01:54 am by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.808
Simulating Granite

From Gary Chester (Adelaide)

You can simulate chunks of granite by breaking white foam BY HAND into chunks and painting the faces rough and smooth with an acrylic granite colour. Have a few of the faces of your granite covered by your ground cover and shell type “ground level” material and you can simulate those granite tors which are common to many countrysides.

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Hints & Tips No.809
One Accident – Two tips
From Bob Montgomery (USA)
The other day, I was working under the layout and saw that my Xacto knife was rolling off the edge and instinctively I went to catch it. I did manage to catch it , blade first in the palm of my hand.
The wound did not seem too bad until I noticed the tip of the blade was missing. It was left behind. Fortunatly my Mother In Law was visiting and she is a Registered Nurse. She started sterilizing the tweezers, while I amd thinking “no way”, but we had to get the piece of blade out. So I thought I have some very powerful rare earth magnets, got one of them and sure thing it yanked the broken tip right out of my hand. A little disinfection a band aid and all is well.


The good side is that what was left of the blade in the knife handle is the perfect shape for cleaning the inside of the rails after ballasting. So keep a small rare earth magnet around and don't throw those dull blades out.

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Hints & Tips No.810
Smoother Riding Rolling Stock
From John Waitkus
When assembling carriage or goods wagon kits with bogies, adjust the screws that retain the bogies (assuming that is how the bogies are attached - most better cars have this feature) so that the bogie on one end of the car is fairly snug, but can easily swivel (but no rocking). On the other end of the car, adjust the bogie so that it will rock just slightly. This will give your car a three-point stance, allowing it to travel smoothly over uneven trackwork, yet keeping it from unnecessarily rocking.

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Hints & Tips No.811
Making Signs for model buildings

From Lionel Strang (Canada)
I make signs from printouts using my computer then stick them to rectangles of styrene before mounting them to buildings etc. The white edges of sheet styrene can look very ordinary so I paint them black with a felt tip marker. The inconsistency of the pen is also enough to give a degree of individuality.

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Hints & Tips No.812
Colour Coding your Wiring
From John Waitkus
A simple solution to "what wire goes where" is to color code your wire. Make sure that you use only one color for each type of connection. Some examples; Red for Block Power, Black for Common. White for Switch Machine Common, Blue and Yellow for Switch Machine Power left and right direction. This is important even for DCC layouts to keep the polarities correct such as Red for Outer and Black for Inner Rails.

Also, make sure you use a large enough wire size for the application. 18 gauge wire will work fine for layouts up to 4' by 8'. If your layout is any bigger, get a larger wire for your connections. This will assure that you do not get a voltage drop to the remote sections of your layout.

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Hints & Tips No.813


Using Drywall Screws for Benchwork


From John Waitkus


When constructing benchwork, drywall screws are a very handy (and economical) way of attaching your benchwork. Since we are mainly using wood, get the ones with the coarse threads. Using a power drill with a phillps bit speeds the process.



Last edited on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 09:54 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.814
Keep your Locos Clean
From John Waitkus
One of the most common problems that locomotives suffer from is intermittent electrical contact. Most of the time this is due to the accumulation of "crud" (a mixture of oil and dirt). Use oil and grease sparingly. More is not better! Oil only as necessary. Frequently clean the places on the loco where electrical contact is made. This includes the wheels, motor contacts, and on some locomotives, parts of the frame.
Crud can also accumulate in moving parts of Valve gear of steam locomotives so take care that the buildup of oil-dirt-fluff does not build up to excess.

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Hints & Tips No.815
Modelling Safely Pt 1


From Several Modellers
Model railways are fun! But remember that we need to be careful of what we are doing while having that fun!!
You need to be thinking about safety any time you are working on your layout. We use tools that can cut, chemicals that can be toxic, and electric devices that have the potential to shock us. The fact that there is the possibility of harm should not dissuade us from engaging in model railroading. Hazards can be anticipated and avoided by a little planning and common sense.
Keep your work area clean and well lighted. Use goggles or safety glasses when cutting or performing striking operations where there is any chance that a chip or piece might fly off towards your eyes. Always err on the side of safety!
It is really not necessary to go out and buy one of every tool there is in advance of your need for them. You can start with a very simple set of tools. But be sure that you have the right tool for each job before you start to do it since it is much easier and safer to use the correct tool for each process. Buy the more advanced tools individually as you need each one. Be sure that your tools are in good shape before using them. Check them out before and after each use. In particular, cutting edges must be sharp. A dull tool is an unsafe tool. Heads should not be loose on their handles. Striking faces should not be mushroomed or chipped. Generally speaking, most tools are a one time expense. Buy the best that you can afford. Cheap tools are usually not worth the money you spend on them. They are not made with precision. Cheap cutting tools don't hold a sharp edge. A dull tool not only is unsafe, it can ruin your project while it is cutting you! Some cheap tools have even come apart when being used.

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Hints & Tips No.816
Modelling Safely Pt 2
From Several Modellers
Some of the paints that we use give off vapors that are toxic if breathed in large quantities. Experienced modelers will paint with an air brush in a spray booth that will exhaust any overspray to the outside. Beginners do not usually have that equipment, so be sure to work only in very well ventilated areas when painting. It is a good idea to wear a cartridge type filter mask that is rated for paint while working. Dust masks are not good enough - they will filter out the particulates but let the vapours through to you.
When painting inside, remember that the odours can infiltrate into the main part of the house to the annoyance of other family members. And the vapours are usually flammable so be careful of open flames - stove and water heater pilot lights, smoking etc. It is a good idea to wear gloves when painting. Avoid direct skin contact with solvents, many of which can be absorbed directly through the skin into the system.

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Hints & Tips No.817
Modelling Safely Pt 3
From Several Modellers
We mostly deal with relatively low voltages. Direct current electricity is fairly simple to understand and low voltage circuits can be worked with safely by beginners. But it can also cause fatal shocks when abused, so be sure that you know what you are doing before doing it. Read and follow directions! In particular, do not open any mains voltage appliance (such as a power pack) unless you really know what you are doing. Make sure that the earth pins on all plugs are in good shape so that any stray voltages will exit to ground through the line cord and not through you!
In countries where they exist, it is a bad idea to use "adapter plugs" to plug a 3-prong plug into an old-fashioned 2-hole socket. If necessary, have the socket rewired - by a professional electrician unless you really understand 110 volt  or 240 volt current. And absolutely under no circumstances should you cut the third, grounding pin off a plug to get it to fit a 2-hole socket.
When soldering, remember that the end of the iron is very hot! It is best to have and use a stand for your iron that is designed for the purpose of holding it safely. Melted solder is also very hot. When working overhead (usually under the layout) be careful that excess solder does not drip down onto you causing painful burns or cause eye injury.
When using power tools be careful to wear tight fitting clothing. Do not wear loose or flapping items such as ties or unbuttoned shirt sleeves that have any chance of being caught in the tool you are using. Keep your fingers completely out of the cutting area. Use a wooden "pusher" to control your work in the area of saw blades and cutting heads. Wear safety goggles at all times. Stand aside from the area through which the work might fly if caught by the machine and kicked back at you.

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Hints & Tips No.818
Black Connecting Rods
From Several Modellers
Casey's gunblue can darken connecting rods depending on the actual metal used and could provide a thin permament coating (Ian Fisher -Liverpool & Burton-upon-Trent )
I have seen some amazing looking rods done with a substance called Neo-Lube. (I think that's what it's called) It is sold from a mail order magazine type thingy, called Micro-Mark. It is a powdered graphite in an alcohol. (Rod Cameron - Teignmouth)
I have used on a couple of locos a thick felt tipped black marking pen. Finish with a quick brushover of diluted steel grey paint.
Seems OK - try on an old loco first.
(Robert Hall – Wigan, Lancashire)

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Hints & Tips No.819 Peco Point Motor Pin Extension
From David Youngs (Canada)
For extending the length of the Peco Point motor through baseboards, I squeeze mine with a pair of pliers and squash it at right angles to the movement.
There was a commercial mounting many (now gone) that dropped a tube over the pin and stuck a small nail down through the tiebar into the tube. As for getting the right size tube ...
From Nick Wood (Newbury)
I replace my drive pin in the Peco point motor with a piecec of piano wire. A drop of Araldite and push home and allow to set.

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Hints & Tips No.820

Sand Texturing, fairly easily

From Several Modellers

You will need a litre or two of acrylic paint in a sand colour close to what you require for your layout. You will also need a supply of table salt
  1. Paint the area you need to be sand textured, (Beach, Quarry etc) with a thick layer of the acrylic paint.
  2. Put a liberal dose of salt on the painted area and allow to completely dry. The salt will only stick when it is completely dry but the amount of moisture in the paint is not enough to dissolve the salt.
  3. If your scenery section is completely removable, tap the excess off into the rubbish bin, otherwise use a vacuum at a low power setting to remove the excess salt.
  4. Paint another coat of paint over the top making sure that any gaps are filled.

The results of your efforts should give you a sandy texture your scale people would be proud to swim from... if it were a beach!


Last edited on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 03:52 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.821
Scaling Drawings Using a Word Processor
From Kevin Knight (Queensland Australia)
You need a model size picture to work from in that detailing or scratch building project. A method I have used in the past is to save a scanned drawing as a JPEG and insert it in Word although most word processors will be OK for this. This allows you to make the size of the picture fit the page or whatever you want really. If you scale the "page" on the screen to be the correct size for an A4 sheet, you can then size the drawing up to fit using a clear plastic ruler taped to the monitor or held there if you do not trust the sticky tape to come off cleanly.

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Hints & Tips No.822
Making your own Rivet Press
From Rene Vink (Netherlands)
Etched kits often require small etched holes to be pressed out as a rivet. One option is to press the rivets out by hand. No matter how accurately you work the etch will bend and the rivets will be irregular. Professional rivet tools cost over $150. There is no doubt in my mind that these tools deliver superior quality. They'd better, for that price!! But such prices inspire me to find a solution of my own that will do better than hand riveting but will cost much less than a stock riveter.
The good news is that I have found just that solution. Basically I took a pair of long nose pliers, drilled a hole, installed the cut off head of household pin, countersunk another hole and that's it. Costs €4,95 plus one hour of work and works great. See the whole story on the tools section of my site http://www.modelrailroading.nl

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Hints & Tips No.823
Fake Fur Grass
From Adam Crolley ( Ohio)
I read in an Model Railroader a few years back now about using faux fur for tall grass or weeds. I tried it and it works great. Buy a yard or however much you need/want. Put white glue down and spread it in the area you want and place the material so that the backing is on top. Let it dry for about 12 hours then take a razor blade and slowly cut away the backing at what ever height you want.
I found a tan color that works with my autumn theme but you can dye the material. After cutting the backing off I used a cheap comb and ran it through the "field" to gather loose fibers. I then sprayed it with cheap hairspray and ran a comb through it again to stand up the "grass".

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Hints & Tips No.824


5 Hints for Kit Construction


From Kyle Montgomery (Ohio)
Recently I have attempted to build a Truss Bridge kit. I'm still a novice when it comes to kit construction, and this was my first kit bash. Needless to say, I learned a lot. Earlier this week I was writing a post for my blog and tried to come up with 5 tips I would give a fellow beginner who was just starting out with kit construction.
Here's the list I came up with:
  1. Read the directions
  2. Have the necessary Tools
  3. Paint the plastic pieces
  4. Layout all the parts before you start gluing
  5. Be careful with the knife
I would be interested in seeing what everyone would come up with as their own 5 important tips. I would imagine the more experienced modelers might have a different list, as mine dances dangerously close to "duh" territory.
A Note from David Starr, New Hampshire - Paint makes a tremendous difference in the looks of a model. Even if the plastic is moulded in the right color, it wants a coat of paint to kill the shiny plastic gloss.
(Thanks to Kyle for his permission... he has an interesting website at Ohio Valley Railroads)

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Hints & Tips No.825
Fibre Optic substitute
From Richard Enlow (Mississippi)
Believe it or not TOP quality very heavy pound test clear or green or mauve or magenta etc etc Monofilimant FISHING line works like a charm. The trick is to Razor cut the ends very true to square. (That means the cut is perpendicular to the axis of the length) and have source light close to the receiving end.

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Hints & Tips No.826
Modeling Dirt... Using Dirt
From Aggro Jones (California)
I use real earth to model earth. Locally I have dirt that fits my needs. proper composition, texture, etc. But it is the incorrect shade. You can pretty much adjust the color of dirt you have too the color you want. I have been doing this since the '90s.
As one would imagine, first you process the dirt. Gather the dirt from outside in a bucket. Add water and mush it into heavy paste. Then pour the paste on to a giant glass dish or metal baking sheet. Ignore the strange looks family members will give you and bake it in the oven for 1 hour at 450 degrees. That should kill the bacteria and any living creatures lurking inside. It also should be dry when you are done. If not just let it dry.
Crush it down into small chunks enough to absorb the next step. Take a large bowl, mix up various colors of cheap acrylic paint with water. By itself, the dirt I have is too dark and too gray. So to tone it I use a bunch of orange, yellow and white. How much added will vary depending on how much you want to alter the color. I used a lot in this heavy wash. I dump the dirt and wash into a big rubber maid container and blend it around well. Keep mixing it. Every day I give it mixing to keep it aerated. Eventually after a few days it will be completely dry and be nice and altered.
Crush it down with a blunt object. Fist, hammer, mallet, brick, whatever. Keep smashing it till you get what you want. I sift mine into various grades. To make it safe for use on a train layout, so you do not get metal bits into the locomotive motors. So we must put the dirts in large zip lock bags with several strong magnets. Shake it round, jostle it and what not and eventually metal particles cling to the magnets. Taken them out clean them off. Keep shaking them up in the bag until no metal particles are collected.

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Hints & Tips No.827
Be Aware of Solvents
From Trevor Gibbs
A few years ago now, I built an exhibition layout as a memorial to a friend using a Foam base. It was basically done as a work in progress using Foam scenery . In the early stages I made the mistake of using some spray paint to paint a road way.. that was a big area and many overscale pot holes appeared.

The moral of the story... before committing to using materials as in H&T 802, do a test section on the material away from your precious work. It may save you a lot of grief later.

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Hints & Tips No.828
Using a Bicycle Speedo as a Scale Speedometer
From Alan Jones (Queensland)
I model in HO so this may not apply to you but you will be within 10% or so in OO. I bought a pushbike speedometer which I plan to fit into an old boxcar. Evidently you can use it with a magnet on an axle and set the wheel diameter to 33" and it will read scale speed.

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Hints & Tips No.829
Using Tooth Whitener as a Lapping Compound
From Trevor Gibbs
Some of the tooth whiteners (different brands in different parts of the world) are excellent mild abrasives for lapping together model gear boxes to make sure that parts are working well together when first fitted together or being run in. I work with North American based stuff so this is really useful for Athearn gears boxes, particularly the older ones. there is no reason why this should not work for the power trains of other model brands

Apply the polish sparingly to all contacting parts such as gear teeth, gear axles etc and a bit of gentle running for a short while, strip the gear box and thoroughly clean and lubricate all the parts with appropriate grease or oil. The running in process is sped up and your mechanism should be a lot smoother.

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Hints & Tips No.830
Making Felt Tunnel Liners
From Several Modellers
You can make very effective tunnel liners from the dark grey static type foam that computer components often come in. The foam can be set at the height over the track and arched easily. Some modellers use a light coat of either plaster or PVA glue to reinforce the arch by suspending it over a large diameter tube to dry before locating over the track and scenery.

If your train happens to derail inside the tunnel, it will have a "softer landing" against the tunnel sides and your hands will have a degree of protection from stray bits of wire when fishing out your trains.

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Hints & Tips No.831

Quick Tips Pt1

From the Victorian N Scale Collective (Melbourne Australia)

To remove paint from urethane and whitemetal castings, just use caustic soda mixed with warm water - John

To easily saw cut through Lead Weights in locomotives, paint some turpentine on your hacksaw blade – Chris Pearce

Last edited on Thu Dec 16th, 2010 03:21 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.832
Quick Tips Pt 2
From the Victorian N Scale Collective (Melbourne Australia)
Soft Wire brass for hand rails can be purchased from craft stores, notably Spotlight and Lincraft here in Australia, (Jim)
Strong Handrails for locomotives can be made from .008” to .010” music wire, very cheaply in rolls (Chris Pearce)


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Hints & Tips No.833
Quick Tips Pt 3
From the Victorian N Scale Collective (Melbourne Australia)
Making roof Fans or other details for your models can be easy... all you need is an existing model with the desired shape with some sort of modelling clay such as plasticine, Blu Tak or DAS Modelling Clay and Plastibond. Press your fans into the mould material, being careful how you remove the “master” from the mould. Mix the plastibond to the right mixture, pour into your mould and let it set. Once it has set remove carefully from the mould and carefully file to size.

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Hints & Tips No.834
Quick Tips Pt 4
From the Victorian N Scale Collective (Melbourne Australia)
The best glue for Urethane models to time of writing anyway is either the ZAP range or Loctite 406. Most other Superglues to date give way too easily (Phil)
To locate small parts on a model for glueing, just use a toothpick with a small amount of Blue Tack on it. Then you can dip the part in a small dob of glue and locate it easily on your model. ( Ian)

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Hints & Tips No.835
Use of Old Biros Pt 1
From Trevor Gibbs
While pondering what to add into Hints and Tips to get this far ( I am almost embarrassed to tell you it was quite a few years ago as you read this) I was staring at my pen. The pen was one of those "kilometrico" numbers but any brand cold be adapted to do these "tricks". I was also building some dummy signals and LED lamp posts from small lollypop sticks which while they work well, look a bit bland. It occurred to me that the Pen when it spent its life as a pen, instead of becoming landfill could have a number of parts recycled.

I have been using Biro tube for years to provide a drive sleeve for my can remotorings but the insert that holds the ink tube and roller could be drilled out and placed over my lamp post and signal sticks to become a passable lamp post or signal post base. The ends of Bic Biros could be made into larger flower tubs when placed open side up or small manhole covers when turned into a road surface.  A red coloured end could provide a disk to make a round sign for a petrol/gas station or even a Coca Cola type sign.

The hexagonal tube of Bic Biros or round tube for that matter could become pillars for a building depending on your scale and the tubes themselves can become loads for flat wagons and cars. Round Biro Tubes can become small culvert pipes under your track.

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Hints & Tips No.838
Several Methods of making Road Signs Pt 2
From Several Modellers

5. Taking a few digital photos, use paint to extract the sign parts and print them using either methods 1,2 or 3

6. For road signs I use card stock. My old inkjet printer seems to do this sort of thing very well. For street signs such as Parking ones I back it with aluminium foil so the reverse side has a metallic finish. The signs in my shop windows and the overhanging signs and sandwich boards outside my buildings are also printed on card stock.

7 I print mine on photo paper & color the back with a silver "sharpie" marking pen This gives the tarnished weathered look as the silver is not quite a bright silver.

With a bit of imagination, you can use similar techniques to make low relief building fronts, backdrop scenery or images for your card building surfaces.

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Hints & Tips No.837
Use of Old Biros Pt 2
From Trevor Gibbs
Clear hexagonal tubes can be used for small bay windows on buildings or in Z and T scales a hexagonal green house. You could glue several tubes together to make a larger scale greenhouse in conjunction with some clear plastic which could have come from old jewel cases from CD's or DVD's.

In larger scales the brass coloured taper at the writing end of a Bic Biro could be transformed into weather shield caps or “pole umbrellas” for signals and tops of flag poles. Tubes could represent water or drain pipes once emptied and given an appropriate coloured paint. Thicker tubes could be the basis of a water crane in OO or HO. Different thicknesses of metal at the water column joints could be represented by using shrink tubing over the tube cut neatly to make a collar. Refer back to H&T numbers 213 and 214 and you will see how to make a searchlight from the cap of a Bic Biro. The same strategy could be used to make a headlight for a locomotive in a larger scale,

The point of this exercise is to show that we need merely look sideways at many of the objects we were otherwise going to throw out for a host of details that could benefit our layouts and the cost is zilch. You can be fairly creative using some ideas from others here and there and developing your own from them.

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Hints & Tips No.838
Several Methods of making Road Signs Pt 2

From Several Modellers

5. Taking a few digital photos, use paint to extract the sign parts and print them using either methods 1,2 or 3

6. For road signs I use card stock. My old inkjet printer seems to do this sort of thing very well. For street signs such as Parking ones I back it with aluminium foil so the reverse side has a metallic finish. The signs in my shop windows and the overhanging signs and sandwich boards outside my buildings are also printed on cardstock.

7 I print mine on photo paper & color the back with a silver "sharpie" marking pen This gives the tarnished weathered look as the silver is not quite a bright silver.

With a bit of imagination, you can use similar techniques to make low relief building fronts, backdrop scenery or images for your card building surfaces.

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Hints & Tips No.839
Underlay & Track-laying Pt 1
From Brian Macdermott
I use the following products and methods.

1. The usual 2" x 1" framework, with 10mm wood fibre insulation board screwed to the framework. I'm afraid there is no trade name on the fibre board I use.
2. Cover the fibre board with wallpaper lining paper - the heavier the grade the better. Pin down with track pins about every two square feet (or enough to prevent it moving).
3. Work out roughly where the track will lay using Peco templates or actual track and mark this with pencil.
4. Obtain 'Fun Foam' from Hobbycraft - often on special offer. These are A5 and upwards and about 2mm thick, but very 'dense'.
Don't worry about the glaring colours (pink etc.!).
5. Lay and pin the foam over your marked out area, extending beyond the edges. A couple of pins per sheet is ample.



Last edited on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 07:27 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.840
Underlay & Track-laying Pt 2
From Brian Macdermott
6. Paint the foam area with a dark coloured emulsion.
7. Pre-spray or paint your track with track colourings.
8. Lay track.
9. With a sharp scalpel, cut away the residue foam without cutting through the lining paper below. (Can be done with care.) Cut at an angle to give a shoulder. Touch in the now exposed areas with dark emulsion.
10. Ballast the track.

You will find that lining paper, foam and paint act as an insulator against any wet methods of ballasting and track weathering etc. The other bonus is that the lining paper 'floats' above the fibre board and acts as a sound deadener, enabling one to hear the 'clickety clack' as trains roll over track joins.

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Hints & Tips No.841
Underlay & Track-laying Pt 3
From Brian Macdermott
This may horrify layout building professionals, but works well if you have a permanent layout. If you are making gradients or high embankments with the fibre board, it needs strengthening as below.

1. Cut the board to the shape and length required. A Stanley knife with new blades is ideal.
2. Cut some strips of 1" wide thick card (Hobbycraft - about 34" long).
3. Lay the board on a flat surface, and glue the card strip along the lower half. Pin this to the edge of the board. Do the same on the other edge. You will be amazed how strong it is when dry.
4. Cover with lining paper and 'Fun Foam' as above.
5. Cut foam-centred board to different depths to allow a gradient, or same size depths for an embankment.
6. Glue these to the fibre board and then glue your strengthened boards to those.
7. Lay track etc. as above.

It will not stand you leaning on it, but it will hold fast and strong for a long, long time.

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Hints & Tips No.842
Flower Bed edges , Lineside Conduit, Square Downpipe etc
From Trevor Gibbs
Again as you read this a few years ago now, I was looking at the rim of a piece of plastic container I was about to cut up for making signals at the time and thought that the rim could make a retaining wall edge or flower garden edge or even lineside conduit, depending on its size, or in the larger scales Square (actually rectangular) downpipe. Upside down could make a horse trough or flower bed in the smaller scales. Sunk into the ground makes a smooth inspection pit for a garage area.

The rims are freely available for the effort of cutting them from your otherwise spent containers and come in a variety of shapes and with a colouring of paint will have the origins of the model masked very well.

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Hints & Tips No.843
Model Railway Operating Guides Pt1
Adapted from the NMRA web site authored by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm
1 - Understand the Layout
Try to understand the layout setting, philosophy and the owners rules of operation. Obey them even if you do not agree with them or you can think of a better way.
2 - Ask Questions
Ask questions if you are unsure.
3 - Understand Uncoupling Guidelines
Understand the uncoupling guidelines. Ask if it is OK to handle carriages and wagons or not.
4 – Do not Handle Locomotives
Do not handle the locomotives. If it leaves the track, ask the host what to do. If he wants you to re-rail it, look before handling. Be careful of grab irons, valve gear and other detail parts!
5 - Understand Owner’s Rules
Understand the owner’s rules for placing or removing faulty carriages, wagons and locomotives. Above all, tell someone if you are having trouble with the equipment.

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Hints & Tips No.844
The Layout Environment No 1
From Nick Stanbury
Several readers of MREmag and other publications and Web Sites have commented on or questioned the effects of humidity or heat on a layout’s environment. These are two important considerations that really need to be considered together. I am no expert but can offer some thoughts in note form on the basis of my practical experience, mostly gained when layout building several years ago in a previous home (in sunny East Sussex).


1. Even in a ‘living room’ environment with the benefit of reasonable insulation and regulated heating (or cooling) and ventilation, the ambient room temperature and humidity can vary quite significantly. In addition to the external effects of changing seasons and weather (which can never be excluded completely), the people using the room will emit heat and water vapour which will have at least a temporary influence.

2. If the layout is in a basement, cellar or roof-space, or outside in a shed or garage, it is likely to suffer much more extreme variations in temperature and humidity unless the immediate environment is exceptionally well insulated and finely-controlled heating and ventilation is available. In comparison with the ‘living room’, it is likely that a true basement (as distinct from a cellar) will have a fairly even and reasonably comfortable temperature but suffer from higher humidity. A cellar will be even cooler and will often be distinctly damp, depending upon the surrounding ground and the extent of any waterproofing in the walls. On the other hand, a layout in the roof-space will suffer little from dampness (unless the roof itself leaks!) but will be uncomfortably hot or cold for much of the time!

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Hints & Tips No.845

Model Railway Operating Guides Pt2

Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm

6 - Understand Radio or Telephone Rules
Understand any radio, telephone verbal communication rules. Listen before speaking!
7 - Check Your Way Bill list
Check your lists before leaving the yard and during the run to determine and anticipate wagon forwarding and switching problems. Try to know what you are going to do before you do it.
8 - Run At Prototypical Speeds
Run the train at prototypical speeds and do not run too fast! Try to match prototypical stops and starts. Do not reverse the locomotive while it is moving.
9 - Stay With Your Train
Stay with and/or keep an eye on your train particularly with walkaround layouts. Do not stand at the end of aisles and watch the train disappear in the distance. The whole point of "walk around" layout planning is to try to create the illusion of really being in the cabin of your steam or diesel locomotive.
10 – Do not Block the Aisles
Do not stand in the narrow parts of aisles. Also, do not try to carry on a conversation or distract yardmasters or operators when they (or you) should be doing something else.

Last edited on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 11:04 pm by xdford

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 Hints & Tips No.846
The Layout Environment No 2 (cont)

From Nick Stanbury

3. It is generally easier to add heat rather than remove it but, in either case, true temperature control or air conditioning is potentially both difficult to arrange and expensive in areas not within the ambit of any household facility. Whilst extremes of temperature will scarcely worry the layout-owner when he is not building or operating the layout, they may play havoc with its infrastructure and the models themselves. The same is true of variable or generally high humidity, although a simple dehumidifier can help considerably (see below).

4. Some care needs to be taken when constructing baseboards as all timber products are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Whatever is made can be permanently affected (e.g. distorted) by the cumulative effects of subsequent changes in the environment in which it is housed. If used, softwood, chipboard, MDF etc. will all shrink or expand at varying rates; WBP plywood is probably the most stable common baseboard material (and has other advantages too in terms of strength and lightness).

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Hints & Tips No.847




Model Railway Operating Guides Pt3




Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm




11 - Know Clearance Points
Know clearance points. If a siding only takes three wagons, do not try to put four into it! You will save yourself considerable embarrassment if you observe the fouling point for all points and avoid throwing the points under a wagon or locomotive.
12 - Pull Before Put
In general, perform pickups before setouts. Check the way bill list carefully and you might save yourself some time down the road by pre-blocking a wagon or two for the next town.
13 - Obey Signals
Observe and obey signals. If a signal is not working, assume it is displaying its most restrictive aspect and be governed accordingly.
14 - Report Problems
Report maintenance problems to the “train controller”. Do not shout it out! The host probably has a list to keep track of problems. Report your difficulty as tactfully as possible.

Last edited on Tue Jan 4th, 2011 06:18 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.848


The Layout Environment No 3


From Nick Stanbury
  1. Track will also expand and contract with varying temperature – and almost certainly at a different rate from the baseboard materials. Rail joints can open or close, perhaps permanently, and rails anchored by soldering (e.g. at baseboard joints) can become stressed to the point of failure. Some years ago, I found this out a few months after I laid the track on new baseboards – the timber had clearly expanded (presumably by absorption of moisture) despite the layout being in an inside ground-floor room and all rail joints were too open – the opposite of what one might reasonably expect. One preventative measure, which I adopted reluctantly, is to divide-up full (yard) lengths of plain track by inserting an intermediate joint.
  2. The above comments apply in principle to other facilities such as a modelling or DIY workshop. Good quality tools and machinery do not take kindly to variable temperature and humidity and will soon rust or otherwise deteriorate if it is not otherwise possible to protect them, e.g. in properly designed storage cabinets.



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Hints & Tips No.849


Model Railway Operating Guides Pt4

Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm

15 - Locate Points Before Throwing
Locate points before throwing. If necessary, get despatcher permission to unlock and throw mainline or passing siding points.
16 - Leave Points Aligned Correctly
Before leaving a town, be sure points are aligned correctly and locked if appropriate.
17 - Be Patient
Be patient with other, especially new, operators. We all had to learn sometime.
18 – Do not Distract the Other Operators
Do not engage in non-operating related conversations in the layout room during timed operations.

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Hints & Tips No.850
The Layout Environment No 4
From Nick Stanbury

Although I have not needed to use a dehumidifier in a layout room, I have used one in a damp basement room; it worked well. A ‘room sized’ portable unit will cost £150 – 200 new and is typically rated 200 – 250W, which if left on overnight will use about 2kW of electricity, not expensive to run even if no off-peak rate is available. If needed, a humidity-controlled extractor fan can be bought for as little as £7 or so and its running costs will be negligible.

I apologise if some of my points appear obvious but they will serve their purpose if they help anyone to review the location and environment of an intended (or existing) layout before anything or anyone suffers avoidable damage or discomfort.

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Hints & Tips No.851
Layout Owners Model Railway Operating Guides Pt1
Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm


1 - Command Control is Ideally Required
Regardless of the trackplan, you should have a command control system; brand is not important as long as it works. One of the key causes of new operator dissatisfaction is having to remember all of the secret switches, blocks, methods, procedures and policies governing the operation of their locomotive. The most effective system is transparent to the operator and requires no sermons on how to use.
2 - Motive Power Must Run Smoothly
Equip your operating fleet with the best running locomotives and place all others on the repair bench for repair or rebuilding. This should be done even if the operating fleet may be prototypically incorrect. A highly detailed, prototypically correct, but poorly running locomotive frustrates the best operator. Do not continue to use a locomotive in need of repair. Advise operators how to determine locomotives in need of repair or just wheel cleaning.
3 - Less Than 2 Derailments Per 100 Wagons Moved
Excluding operator errors, the mechanical condition of trackwork, rolling stock and locomotives should result in less than two derailments for every 100 wagons moved.
4 - Insure Operator’s Comfort
The most enjoyable sessions take place in a climate controlled room which has adequate heating and cooling. Climate control assists in meeting directive number 3 since layout expansion and contraction is less. Floors should be ideally be carpeted and there should be strategically placed stools for tired operators. Layout height should be comfortable and of an average height.

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Hints & Tips No.852
Modular Shelving Support Systems as a Layout base
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
I am a firm believer in using the modular shelving support systems which mount slotted steel channel vertically on 16" centers, with shelf brackets that hammer into the slots. The upper level is supported from the back, there are no aisle-edge view blocks and the resulting framework is more than adequately strong to support anything short of 1" scale live steam.

At present I am building a layout with several levels, all supported in the aforementioned manner. I have drilled the shelf brackets and screwed them to 1" by 2" horizontal joists, bringing the plywood sub-roadbed down to the tops of the brackets. Total upper level thickness, including 3/8" subroadbed, is less than 3" for a 24" wide shelf, and there is space for lower-level lighting (cheap miniature Christmas Tree bulbs) and all the upper-level wiring needed. A fascia of hardboard can be shaped vertically to match the scenery and bends easily for curved edges.

This system will probably NOT work for a peninsula unless there is a view block down the center that is both vertical and sufficiently strong to handle the twisting effect of the shelf bracket system. Of course, if the two sides of the peninsula allow a T-shaped upper deck, the twisting effects of the two sides will largely cancel each other out. (In my case, my peninsula has a non-structural stud wall somewhat off center. I can chin myself on a shelf bracket without generating any visible stress.)

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Hints & Tips No.853
The Layout Environment Pt 5 – Dealing with excessive heat Pt 1
From Jim Campbell,
A modeler in mremag explained how the temperature rose in his shut-up 'parlour' on a hot day and how the brick work was radiating heat just like a storage heater. Well, that is exactly what it had become. Although he had insulated the roof and floor, there was no mention of the walls.


There are two problems here. The one that modeller referred to in how to protect the track but the first problem has to be to reduce the temperature within the room. In that way the track expansion becomes less and easier to deal with. Always start by treating the cause and not the symptom.
The first approach should be to reduce the heat gain to the space and to do that I would recommend insulating the walls. Timber battens would create a small air space and then insulation board of some kind. The brick wall will still heat up but its effect on the room would be greatly reduced with heat gain slowed down and reduced. There would be the added benefit of lower heating bills in winter.

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Hints & Tips No.854


Layout Owners Model Railway Operating Guides Pt 2


Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm
5 - Aisles Must Accommodate Operators
Operators come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Aisles should be wide enough to allow operators room to pass. Narrow aisles require careful scheduling to prevent boxing-in an operator. Back-to-back operating stations or positions must be avoided and adjacent positions must allow adequate elbow room.
6 - Point Controls Easy to Understand
Fixed operating positions, such as yards, should be equipped with standard control panels. Layouts designed for walkaround control should use simple point controls mounted on the fascia panel directly below the turnout. Switches must be easy to throw and provide positive indication of point direction. A direction convention such as "up=reversed" and "down=normal" must be adopted and consistently applied.
7 - Track Must Be Easy to Reach
Cars occasionally and quite mysteriously jump off the track. Rerailing is much easier if the operator can reach the track without ladders, stools or a sky hook. Avoid hidden staging tracks since chances are 50-50 there will be a problem when entering or leaving. And finally, the probability of having a derailment is directly proportional to the degree of "reach" difficulty.

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Hints & Tips No.855
The Layout Environment No 6 – Dealing with excessive heat Pt 2
From Jim Campbell,
The next step to consider is reducing the temperature in the space. To do this I would fit a fan in much the same way as I suggested to deal with humidity but in this case control the fan from a thermostat. I would not necessarily run the fan during the heat of the day as to do so would only be to draw hot air into the space. No, run the fan as the outside air temperature drops below that that has developed internally.

The fan will now have a cooling effect. It may be beneficial to run the fan for an extended period through the night, reducing the air temperature to say 15 degrees C. This draws heat out of the building fabric which then takes longer to heat up the next day (a technique known as night purging and becoming very common in commercial buildings in this sustainable age to reduce loads on air-conditioning systems). Incidentally, if insulating the walls is not an option then this use of a fan will be even more beneficial.

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Hints & Tips No.856
Layout Owners Model Railway Operating Guides Pt 3
Adapted from the NMRA web site by Cliff Robinson. Keith Gutteriez, David Barrow and Richard Kamm
8 - A Communication System Must Be Provided
On larger layouts, telephones or radio should be used to insure proper and timely transmittal of train orders without distracting other operators. Guidelines for using radios must be understood and followed to avoid interference.
9 - Switch Lists and Spots Must Be Readable
The simplest switch list is usually the easiest to understand and use. Always specify pickups first to make room for setouts. List towns in order of arrival. List cars alphabetically. Intra-town car moves should be uniquely marked to avoid accidental removal. Identification of all industry spots must be unambiguous and easy to see.
10 - Limit Visitors and Trainees
Limit the number of first time operators (Trainees) during normal operating sessions. Best case is when a regular operator shadows a trainee during an entire session, explaining things as needed. Trainees should be allowed to make errors without fear of embarrassment. Visitors should be discouraged from coming during operating sessions.

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Hints & Tips No.857
Waterfalls and Rushing Water
From Dave Johnson (Pennsylvania)
Here is an alternative for water falls and rushing water. Purchase a tube of clear silicone, and some waxed paper. Spread a thin layer on the waxed paper with your finger. Spread it in lines going the same direction. Make it longer and wider than the area of the falls. After it dries, use scissors to cut to fit. You can use the same silicone to glue it in place.

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Hints & Tips No.858
Alternative to Venetian Blind slats used as roofing Pt 1
By Gary Flack (New South Wales)
Here is another source of Free roofing that you might want to consider. I purchased some time ago some white metal cattle wagons that had the Venetian Blind slat provided for the roof. The only problem was that when I tried to fit the roof they where 2/3mm short.
After some thought and while I was throwing some plastic soft drink bottles in the bin, it occurred to me that these were curved and whilst not the exact curve would be able to be fitted and held with glue.

They have been in place now for a few years without any sign of bowing.

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Hints & Tips No.859
Alternative to Venetian Blind slats used as roofing Pt 2
From James Brook (New South Wales)

I often use cans for four wheel wagons as the curve is usually just about right, but they tend to be too short for most bogie vans.

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Hints & Tips No.860


Ballasting around Points
From Several Modellers
I use very little ballast under and around turnouts. Especially around the points and guard rails. Paint the sub road bed the same color as the ballast and use very little ballast and you will have good results. It take a little practice to be able to put the right amount of ballast down. It is easier to add than to take away too much.
I squirt a small amount of oil around and under the throw bar between the head block ties to keep any glue from sticking things together. Use the labelle with the little needle to feed the oil in just where you want it. Make sure the oil you use is compatible with plastics.
With using a ballast coloured paint, you can now get textured paint that looks even closer to ballast. Just check to make sure the texture doesn't make the throwbar drag, can be sanded down just under the throwbar. Also, with any painting, if you have any foam on your layout, be sure the paint is friendly to your baseboard material (take a small piece an try it) or just use a latex paint as an undercoat.
One thing I did while ballasting my diorama was to work the points while everything was drying. This helped me spot a few places where it would have snagged and let me clean them out while it was still wet. Oil or Vaseline will prevent the gluing of the throw bar.

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Hints & Tips No.861
Backdrops using Trainz
From Trevor Gibbs

A few years ago now as you read this, I made a backdrop by using the Buildings in Auran trainz and taking screen shots of them, and pasting them to Paint or Gimp. The picture is then printed and pasted on to foam core board, the edges of which are painted a grey or black colour. Rather than make my layout fit the backdrop, I can make my backdrop fit my layout by printing out as close as I can to what I want or envisage.


When you do the screen dumps onto the Auran "baseboard" put some scenic green underneath it and rotate your building and or your view so that you get the full "sunny side" ... which in the case of you in the Northern Hemisphere is the South aspect of Trainz compass.
The pictures are printed on sticker A4 size paper then cut out and applied... and it is fun!

Last edited on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 07:26 pm by xdford

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Now That's a great idea!

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Hints & Tips No.862
Avoiding Scenic Damage

From Mike Slater (Wisonsin)
Something I learned at the Hobby Shop I work at. When we re did the store display layout about ten years ago we started making roads out of plaster. The roads has bass wood strips on the side for forms. When I got on top of the layout the roads started to pop off of the plywood and crack. What was need was a strengthener in the plaster.
I stapled Woodland Scenic's plaster cloth to the plywood between my forms, sprayed them with water to activate the plaster, then pour the plaster between the forms. To this date I can get on top of the layout and have no damage to the roadways.

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Hints & Tips No.863
Testing your Track Work Pt 1
From Adam Crolley
If I can give just one piece of advice to anyone. TEST ALL your track work  before proceeding to ballast and scenery. I just replaced a point that I had put in place 2 years ago. It had always acted a little "funny" but I was only running engines and 1 or 2 cars. When I running full trains 6-10 cars and traffic increased, I suddenly got a large number of derailments. Turns out the point was defective. I tried to hurry things along, so please heed my mistake!

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Hints & Tips No.864
Accommodating and planning for a Helix
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Take a machinists try square and stand it next to your tallest piece of rolling stock (on a piece of flex track on a flat surface.) Make sure you are measuring the tallest point - which may be an extended pantograph if you model heavy electrics.
Whatever measurement you make is your MINIMUM required clearance. Go from there. Now, be aware that the decision you make will limit you to that clearance figure forevermore. If you do not run North American or Australian style double stacks, triple auto racks and loaded Schnabel cars now, you will not be able to run them up the helix in the future - so plan accordingly.

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Hints & Tips No.865
Testing your Trackwork Pt 2
From David Martin (New Jersey)
Nothing is more important in model railroading than track work. Check and recheck and check again all points, frogs, and joints. Solder all joints - using the splice plates - and provide feeder drops every couple of metres. Use a track gauge along the entire length, and when laying flex track, use a flex track alignment gauge.

Every extra minute you spend on checking track before mounting, painting, and ballasting will save you hours of needless suffering.

And finally, do NOT buy cheap sets of points! Pay the extra and buy top quality; Peco is great stuff and not all that much more than the junk. (And the difference is cheaper than hair replacement therapy!)

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Hints & Tips No.866
Making your Curves Superelevated, before or afterwards
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
The method of achieving superelevation is best is somewhat dependent on how your track was originally laid. If the track is simply laid on a flat surface, with or without cork or other roadbed, it is probably easiest to shim under the outer rail. Do not overdo it - in OO or HO, one millimeter is plenty - and do taper the entrance and exit over at least two carriage lengths. If the track is laid on a narrow cookie-cut subgrade elevated on risers in the classic L-girder configuration, it is possible to twist the subgrade and avoid the shims.
If you have decided to go whole way and incorporate spiral easements, the superelevation begins at the point where the easement meets straight track (the actual point of tangency) and reaches maximum where the easement becomes a fixed-radius circle (the actual point of curvature.) This is true no matter which method of superelevation you adopt. It is also true regardless of the brand of track or code of rail.

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Hints & Tips No.867
Backdrops and “High Sky”
From Robert Hahn
For my around the room layout, I chose a sequential set of background pictures that were appropriate for my distant hills, farming, and seaside settings. The tops of the sequential photos are matching sky blue, (with gradual variations). I matched the blue from the printed backdrop electronically at the paint store and painted the plywood above where the paper scenes would be located.
To make it unique I then used a glue stick to attach sets photos of my preferred buildings to the painted backdrop. The photos went on smoothly, and could be realigned if necessary.


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Hints & Tips No.868
What do we mean by Prototype?
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
The prototype is the original - which, in model railroading, usually means the 1:1 scale 'thing,' whatever it may be. (Is there a prototype for that privy?) We may choose to try to reproduce it EXACTLY, down to proper placement of every rust spot and dirt speck. (Doing so makes you a "precisionist". Rivet counters insist on counting OTHER PEOPLE's rivets!)
On the other hand, we may be content to reproduce the image of seeing the prototype from a reasonable real-world distance also known as the three foot rule which depending on your scale between about 130 scale feet for 7mm O scale up to nearly 500 feet for US based N scale. This is much quicker and simpler than absolute precision.
Whether or not it is as good, better or worse is a matter of individual judgement, not open to debate or discussion, different for each individual. The extension of, "Prototype," to encompass such things as appropriate rolling stock rosters and operating procedures is an accepted practice, though not recognized by most dictionaries. It all comes down to each individual's perception.
Given the number one rule ( that it is YOUR Layout, those who choose knowingly to put the entire matter on disregard have a position just as valid as that of the individual who has modeled Upper Noketry right down to the last blade of rye grass and chunk of ballast.

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Hints & Tips No.869
Magnetic Uncoupling of Bachmann Couplers
From Brian Kirby (London UK)
About fifteen years ago, I was delighted when Bachmann brought out their range of Blue Riband couplings with their various mountings, prior to this my standard coupling was the narrow Airfix type, which was a similar size. The trouble was, they still needed those hideously ugly "uncoupling ramps", which looked awful and would hinder locos like the Bachmann 03/04. A few months later i came up with this solution. The operation relies on the "tension-lock" principle to stay coupled over the magnets.
I attached modified steel staple clips (as found in their thousands on packaging) to the coupling droppers and bent to about 120 degrees pointing upwards. When over the pairs of magnets (hidden under the track about an inch apart), they pull down, causing the coupling heads to lift clear. To re-couple, the couplings are pushed away from the magnets and the couplings re-engage.
The Pairs of Magnets come from Kitchen cabinet magnet catches and are buried under the track but are quite strong enough for this purpose.
This works best on Bachmann Blue Riband or "narrow" types, since the hooks are non-ferrous. Other tension-locks, including the new Dapol and Heljan "lookalikes", have steel hooks, which could become magnetised and stick together.

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Hints & Tips No.870
Blocking Light in Model Buildings
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
The ultimate light-blocker in my experience is aluminium foil, which can be used to form a rough set of interior partitions as well as wall and ceiling lining. It shapes easily with fingers only and, if used as a ceiling lining, reflects the light back down into the structure.
One caution - if used too close to a high wattage bulb, aluminum foil will concentrate heat. I have been using the ultimate `el cheapo' bulbs - 2.5v christmas string lights powered from a 1.25v AC source, and have not had any problems.

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Hints & Tips No.871
An alternative to Wetting when Ballasting
From George Pitman (Washington State)
I got very frustrated when trying to prewet the ballast pile as recommended by all the experts. I tried a couple of different sprayers but one was bad and the other one worse. It seems like it is extremely difficult to thoroughly wet the ballast without disturbing it in some way. So in desperation, I tried something else.

I went out to the garden shed and cut a little piece of landscape fabric. It's that black plastic stuff that water runs right through but weeds can't bust it. I just laid the piece of fabric on the ties and flooded that with the sprayer. Then I lifted it off. Voila!! It's all wet! A little bit of ballast but only a very little bit stuck to the fabric and a little bit was on the tie tops. But the ballast itself looked pretty much undisturbed. I took a credit card and scraped it along the ties and got all of the stragglers back into place. Then I glued as normal.

I found out that the credit card trick works after the glue is applied also, to take care of any ballast that gets displaced by the glue up onto the ties. The caveat is that I am using the cvmw tie strips and I am applying the ballast before the rails are down so it's easier to scrape with the credit card. But having rails on might work better to support the fabric slightly off the rails to keep it from contacting the ballast..

I also discovered that the wet water mixture doesn't have to be sprayed onto the fabric, you can just pour it on.

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Hints & Tips No.872

Pinching pennies (again)... for point levers From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Old-time ball pen cartridges were brass - and made great sleeves for turnout throw mechanisms made out of bent paper clips. The modern cartridges are plastic, so I just had to spend a dollar for tubing I used to get free. Oh, well. Some modern improvements are not. The paper clips are still pretty cheap but do not use the colorful plastic coated ones – they are too flimsy.

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Hints & Tips No.873
A Wash line as a Detail
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
A realistic wash line would have to be a single strand from a piece of flexible wire - rather fragile, but then, it's not going to be subjected to the kind of battering that catenary has to take. A little white (modern nylon) or tan (older hemp) paint, then bend the tabs of your al-foil wash over it. Anybody feel up to modeling clothespins in OO or HO scale?

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Hints & Tips No.874
Use of Mirrors
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
An idea which was suggested at a club to which I belonged involved a street which ran into the back wall about four feet from the aisle, with track in the street and industrial spurs on both sides. One of the members wanted to put a mirror at the end of the street, then paint reverse-lettered signage on the back walls of the buildings which would then become visible.
This would have the effect of doubling the apparent area and make the ends of the layout less defined, giving the illusion of more depth. Have fun experimenting!

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Hints & Tips No.875
Detail “Ghosts” Pt 1
From David Foster
Just as it is possible to show where vehicles have been by tyre marks in soft material and scuff marks/deposited rubber on concrete/tarmac it is possible to show where barrels and pallets have been stacked and moved away.

On soil there may be indentations… these can be pressed in while the modelled surface is hardening just the way you would leave tyre tracks.

On grass anything left for a day or so will flatten the grass and leave a discoloured imprint where the grass hasn’t had its diet of sunshine. Anything left for a long period will leave an increasing mark right through to no grass at all.

On hard surfaces…
Once the general surface has been established and the basic detailing of dirt/spillage/grime/weather has been worked over the whole area specific areas can be built up…
Where anything stands for long two things occur
1. the general ongoing build up of weathering doesn’t occur under whatever is standing.
2. a rim of crud often forms around the standing material ; either splashed there by passing traffic or washed there by rainwater run off. It may also be that sweeping doesn’t get right into the corners.

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Hints & Tips No.876
Pros and Cons of Lift Bridges
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Lift-up: Hinges need to be at or above rail height. Length is limited by ceiling height. (John Armstrong was designing for a two-level layout, and the upper level was high enough to duck under, but not to clear a long bridge section.) Some provision has to be made to hold the lift in the up position. Obvious clash between high objects in the vicinity of the hinge line.

Drop-down: Hinges below the roadbed. No clash between scenery elements. No need to secure after lowering. Length limited only by height above floor. The major disadvantage, vulnerability to being damaged by passing people, is avoided by having the drop-down at the hinge side of the door that had to be opened to use the passageway. The open door, suitably stopped, protects the top of the drop-down segment.

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Hints & Tips No.877
Tinted Glass in Structures
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
You could resort to tinting “glass” or you could consider putting some kind of partition behind the windows. It could be dark grey, or (getting really fancy) covered with interior-scene photos cut from magazines. I personally use clear (more or less) plastic salvaged from used overhead projector slides. It has a bluish shade that resembles aged window glass.

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Hints & Tips No.878
Ice Trays for Many Uses
From John Speed (Arizona)
I found a set of icecube trays were perfect for using to mix my paints and stains in. Lots of spaces to use for water, paints, alcohol, stains, etc. Plus, other sections for water to rinse. Also, depending on the type you get, they usually have a good lip around it to hold your brush which can be handy when going back and forth from the bench back to layout, via a duck under. I have found they rinse out easy with acrylic paints.
They make great trays for small parts such as wheel sets, couplers, screws, etc. Also, they stack nicely.

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Hints & Tips No.879
Holding Tiny Parts with Ice Trays
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Plastic ice trays are ideal for holding the tiny parts needed for a superdetailing project, whether locomotive, scenery or anything between. The round edges are gentle on scenery, and the 'hollows' are big enough to hold fairly sizable objects.

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Hints & Tips No.880


Detail “Ghosts” Pt 2
From David Foster
To model this…

Decide at what point in the general weathering the pile is going to arrive.
You don’t want to put barrels or boxes in place because you won’t get down between them so use discs or squares of masking tape to keep the areas covered by the objects free of the following washes or sprays of weathering.
When you get to the stage of weathering at which the objects are removed take away the masking tape.
Before continuing with later weathering delineate the “clean” areas with a highlighting colour (dark or light depending on what will have formed “2” above).
Then carry on as before.
You can of course work this same pattern several times on the same area where several piles have been placed (not exactly on top of each other) over time… bearing in mind that earlier evidence will get scuffed out:- especially the outlining marks.

You can also place a new pile on top… or put another way the marks can show where a pile has been reduced…

Spills and water run off will make their ways around standing boxes and barrels leaving distinct marks that remain after the objects have gone…

The same can be applied where pallets have stood… they take a bit more work for the footprint of the pallet.

It can also be applied to ties, rail, ladders... anything that would be left in one place for a time... it could even be the mark of a ladder left on a flat roof.

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Hints & Tips No.881
Detail “Ghosts” Pt 3
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
One distinctive detail that shows up where beat up steel drums are left standing on end in the weather is the circular rust stain they leave when removed. It should be possible to reproduce this using a model drum like a rubber stamp, going from a thinly-brushed (on a scrap of something flat) not-quite-mixed layer of rust colors to the dock, wash rack or whatever. Then add a couple of drums that don't align with the rings of rust, or maybe some really rusty ones that do.

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Hints & Tips No.882


A Toothpick is a Modeller's Best Friend Pt 1


From Several Modellers


a. I came across a box car that had the wrong built date on it. At first, I thought I would just let it go and run it as it was, but then as things like that always seem to do, it started bugging me, so I started trying to figure out a way to erase it. In the past, I have seen a number of methods for removing decals, but instead of those, I decided to try a sharp tooth pick and a little spit (not to be gross) and carefully but quickly rubbed the tiny numbers off of the car without doing any damage to the paint.


b. You can use them from stirring paint, for checking consistency of plaster, as a sculpting tool, you can use it for painting tiny detail , you can file them to fit as shim anywhere, in a pinch you can use them instead of insulating joiner.

    c. Toothpicks can also be used as load in N scale and Z , can be use for small lumber in OO and HO. You can put masking tape on with one in tight areas and use one as a painting handle for small parts.

Last edited on Thu Feb 10th, 2011 02:34 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.883
Increasing Lamp Life
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Burning an incandescent lamp at 50-60% of its rated voltage will extend its life by a factor of five to ten, as well as give the yellowish color that is most commonly seen when looking at illuminated rooms from outside.

Something that was done years ago, which I haven't heard much about lately, was to paint "neon" signs with fluorescent paint and illuminate the whole town with a UV light. With a valence and baffles, it should be possible to keep the UV on the models and off (and out of the eyes of) the spectators.

Incidentally I use 2.5V Christmas string bulbs at 1.5V for my own structure lighting.



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Hints & Tips No.884
Maintenance Pt 1
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Layout maintenance, and its corollary, rolling stock maintenance, are as inevitable as sunset. Even our old friend Murphy has a couple of special cases to his general rule that apply specifically to model railroads:
  1. If something has moving parts, they will eventually stop moving, or move in ways not intended by the designer.
  2. All colors fade with time. Some just fade faster.
  3. (For our readers who use the Queen's English) Permanent way – is not.
  4. Anything that can warp, bend or stretch out of alignment - will.
  5. The Biggest problems always occur at the hardest-to-reach places.
As a long time aircraft type, I am a firm believer in setting and maintaining a maintenance schedule for any rolling stock which is powered, has lights or is otherwise any more complex than a tin box on wheels. When the time comes, the unit is routed to the shop (removed from staging) and replaced with a like serviceable item (or close approximation) from the reserve line. Even the little tin boxes on wheels are routed to the rip track for a quick look-see at wheels and couplers every year or so.

(A Note from Trevor - due to looking at this too early in the morning, you actually have 2 extra hints above this one inserted as of Friday - Cheers)

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Hints & Tips No.885
A Toothpick is a Modeller's Best Friend Pt 2
From Several Modellers
a. Burn a few toothpicks and use the ashes to weather models,
b. You can use their sharp tip to gently scrape paint splatter,
    c. A toothpick is an excellent glue applicator as well as grease/lube...
    d The flat style of toothpick can be used to build model shipping pallet for pennies
e. The plastic ones are great to use as styrene rods too. Good for plugging unwanted holes.

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Hints & Tips No.886
Maintenance Pt 2
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)

Fixed plant (Impermanent way?) is handled by restating the old military axiom: "Once is an incident (Derailment, break-in-two, locomotive stall or stutter.) Twice is coincidence...." Three times is NOT enemy action (Al Qaida has not attacked my layout,) but proof positive that SOMETHING is in need of investigation and repair. If this develops during an operating session, procedure is to run slow order work-arounds until Timetable 7:00AM. At that point the world pauses in its orbit and stops turning until repairs are completed and the MOW chief signs off on the job. (The same guy is the Road Foreman of Engines, the Master Mechanic and the RIP Track Super, so sometimes the world gets stopped for several real days.)
Since I have yet to reach the point where any scenery was other than temporary mockups, I don't know how I will deal with maintaining model foliage. That bridge will be crossed in the future, since the new layout just getting started is intended to be my last.
Love may make the world go round, but constant maintenance keeps the machinery running.

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Hints & Tips No.887
A Toothpick is a Modeller's Best Friend Pt 3
From Several Modellers
You could rescue a screw location by sticking a toothpick with a dab of glue on the end in a stripped-out screw hole.
Another use would be as the basis of the boom on a light-duty jib crane.
I use them to hold up trees on the layout as well. I drill a hole in the bottom of the tree, glue in a toothpick and push it into place in the foam base. It makes for a very sturdy tree.
I got a piece of scrap wood n drill some holes about toothpick size for painting them. Then I use them for wooden fence post or posts along roadways and parking lots. Stick a few more in the block and they are also good for holding plastic tubing upright for painting.
Good for thin or fine line painting

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Hints & Tips No.888
Using Satellite Photos/Google Earth etc
From Charles Beckman (Nevada)
Checking the satellite photos of an industrial area a few miles from home let me see track layouts and unloading sites invisible and inaccessible from public streets. Fascinating.
The one thing that becomes obvious in a hurry is that the prototype has a lot more space to work with than we modelers do! Guesstimating one scene I examined recently from the 60 foot boxcars on the track, the one curve off the main into an industrial area is about 720 foot radius. If I built to that standard, my garage would not be quite big enough for a Christmas tree loop...

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