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Hi All,
I found these in the last couple of days,  Thinking they had been lost, I figure they better not be lost to posterity.  I started collating the Hints and Tips for the MRE Express news sheet when Brian Macdermott needed a break. Because of my input he asked if I was interested in taking it over for a while... kind of grew from there.  So H&T will go on for a bit yet, just the early ones!  Hope you find them useful,

Trevor

Hints & Tips No.1
Conflats
Brian Macdermott 
I like to have variety with my OO Conflats. Sometimes I run them as 'empties'; sometimes I run them as loaded with a 'full size' container; and sometimes I run them with the 'half size' AF insulated ones. The first two are no problem, but the small ones get thrown around and even fall off.

I solved the problem by using 'tacky wax'. This enables them to stay in position, but be easily removed with hardly any trace. I realise that real containers were held on by chains, so if anyone can tell me a method of modelling that convincingly (yet still enabling easy removal) I'd be glad to hear.

Hints & Tips No.2
Brian Macdermott
What do you do if you are enjoying a pleasurable running session and everything suddenly shorts out?


When this happens on my layout I will almost always find it has something to do with the previous train movement. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a metal-wheeled wagon bridging an insulated rail gap on a reverse loop.

  

Last edited on Wed Oct 27th, 2021 12:21 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.3 Going round the bend
by  Robbie McGavin 

I have affixed the added details to my Hornby N15 with superglue (steps, cylinder cocks, pipes, etc). It will run round Setrack radius 3 with no problem. It will also ‘just’ go round radius 2, but will derail unless run slowly. A beautiful model, indeed!


Hints & Tips No.4
Simulating buildings on backdrops
by Trevor Gibbs

I have recently built a memorial exhibition layout and needed some backdrop buildings. I had a reasonable success by using the Auran Trainz computer program. I made an English style streetscape with buildings and footpaths then taking screen dumps from different angles of the buildings. I then printed these up and cut the building fronts out and glued them to the backdrop... usually plain sky.

My first tries at this have turned out a bit darker than I would have liked but gave the impression I wanted in the time frame I had to get the layout ready. With experimentation you can get that aspect right too! Good luck trying it out!

Last edited on Thu Oct 28th, 2021 08:07 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.5
Wagon tops
by David Chappell

If you have a collection of, say, closed vans, most likely they will all have the same colour roofs. Coaches are similar, especially if they are all from one manufacturer. Prototype vehicles all had different colours, bodies and roofs due to weathering, dirt, brake dust etc. I thought I would get over this 'out of the box sameness' easily.


In a small cupcake aluminium case (Mr Kipling and all that) I put a small quantity of a dark grey paint of a darker colour than the first van. I then brush painted the first vehicle. Then I added a few drops of, say, black, stirred the little case and painted the second vehicle - hence a little darker. Then I added a few drops of another colour (for example, brown) and painted the third: then a few drops of say orange and painted the fourth and so on. You can leave one in the manufacturer's original colour if you wish. Numerous wagons all with different colour roofs with very little cost and wastage of paint!


Paint choice is obviously up to the modeller - I use matt on some occasions, acrylic on others. Colours can be to the modeller's choice – greys, browns, leather, gunmetal, orange, rust, etc. If you want to experiment first, cut a 12 inch long by 1 inch piece of scrap plastikard and practice on small areas of that before you let yourself loose on your wagons or coaches! It's good fun!

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Hints & Tips No.6
Ergonomics
by Brian Macdermott

If you are designing a roughly waist height layout for your own use (as opposed to a club), it is worth giving some thought to your control panels – particularly if you are DC with lots of switches.


Many control panels have switches mounted on schematic track plans. Before you commit to drilling holes, work out how far down the lowest switch(es) will be. If you have to bend to operate that switch (even slightly), you could do well to re-think. The unwritten laws of railway modelling state that the most awkward switch will be the one you use most!

Last edited on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 03:57 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.7
Simulating Trees
by  Trevor Gibbs 

You can simulate a great grove of trees against a backdrop by using green-coloured cotton wool balls cut in half and teased out a bit then glued to your backdrop as bushy clumps. The absence of tree armatures won't be a problem and give you a sense of 3D.

Use universal dyes or appropriate food colourings sprayed with a cheap air brush in a few different tones. The cost? A few cotton balls and some sprayed universal or vegetable dye diluted with water - like most of my other ideas for this column as close to zilch as possible. If you can see part of the forest floor, a few deep brown vertical brush strokes where the base of the trees would be would/should be enough to simulate the trunks and will be fairly short anyway.
After all you are concentrating on the trains going past aren't you?

Last edited on Sat Nov 6th, 2021 05:16 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.8
A flick of a switch
by  Brian Macdermott

When referring to DC reverse loops, conventional wisdom says that one should drive a train into the ‘reversible section’, stop, throw the double pole/double throw (DPDT) switch, reverse the controller and then drive out.


Here’s a little trick if you have a controller with switchable forward/reverse.


Drive your train into the reversible section. With the train still moving, flick the ‘backwards’ switch on your controller with one hand and - at precisely the same time - flick the DPDT switch as well. This may take a bit of getting used to, but I can now keep my trains moving with no perception of the polarity change whatsoever.


Older tender-drive locos may give a bit of a twitch, but more modern Bachmann and Hornby are easy. As far as I know, this does no harm to the motors. 


A Note from Trevor -  Brian did add a codicil about his H&T  asking "Does anyone have any views on this?"  Personally where Return Loops are concerned, I would prefer to have two switches apart from the throttles reverse switch, one for the loop itself and one pointing in the "intended forward" direction on the main line allowing the throttle to reverse the train for shunting etc. I will elaborate on this further later


I am quite happy to add any conversation to any thread in this series but if you could PM me and I will include any discussion you may make!

Last edited on Wed Nov 10th, 2021 11:53 pm by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.9
Close coupling
by  Brian Macdermott

If Roco close-couplers prove to be ‘too close’ on your layout, here’s a tip. Put a Hornby close-coupler on one coach and a Roco on the adjacent one. This gives a very good compromise.


Hints & Tips No.10
Train protection
by Brian Macdermott
When I isolate a loco/train on my DC layout, I always turn the controller on a fraction in reverse. I occasionally find that I have accidentally isolated the wrong section. Turning the controller on for a spilt second will show up the errant train and being in reverse prevents it from running into anything ahead of it in my linear hidden sidings.

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Hints & Tips No.11
A good point
by Paul Jansz
Paint the rail sides on point work with the rail joiners in place, ahead of laying. So much easier when one can freely approach the job from all sides, and both electrical continuity and freedom of action can be tested before final positioning.

Hints & Tips No.12
Scenic Scale Measurement
by John Challenor

No matter whether it is a simple fence or something more complicated it is just as important to keep all your scratch-built scenics to the right scale.

To assist me, I have made a scale ruler from a scrap of plastic with a straight edge. I work in 00 scale, so my ruler is marked in feet at 4mm intervals. To remind me I have also marked on it ‘1mm = 3 inches‘. I do my homework and find out the sizes of the originals; better still, whenever I can, I go and measure them.

Unless you have a very good eye for these things you may be surprised how far out you can be.

Last edited on Mon Nov 15th, 2021 05:42 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.13
El Cheapo uncouplers
by Trevor Gibbs

For Hornby uncoupling, rather than buy specialised ramps, an old friend of mine used the covers from shirt boxes cut into strips to fit into the track and given a slight arch. All he did was pin the ramp onto the board through the track and the system works well. I intend to use this for the memorial layout I have built for him.

Hints & Tips No.14
Panic Button
by Martin Walls, (Australia)

I run my power controllers through a power board that plugs into a power point fitted with an RCD safety switch (Residual Current Device).

The test button for the RCD makes a very handy ‘panic button’ for cutting track power quickly. This is useful when trains are on an intercept course at one of my many Tri-ang diamond crossings.

Last edited on Thu Nov 18th, 2021 07:18 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.15
Wagon loads
by David Middleditch
Line the interior of a wagon with three layers of cling film. Build the load inside this.
Pit props: Short thin buddleia twigs glued together with PVA.
Coal: Plaster base painted black with coal on top.
Timber: Matchsticks at an angle glued with PVA.
When set and painted, the load can be removed and the cling film peeled off. It should then fit back into the wagon with a working tolerance. With coal and similar loads, I also set in a small wire loop. This can be used to hook it out. Painted black it is quite unobtrusive.

Hints & Tips No.16
Tender problem
by Nicholas Rothon
There is a problem with some of the BR1C tenders fitted to the Bachmann Standard locomotives. The coupling seems to be too high to use with Peco and Hornby uncoupling ramps.
The problem can be resolved by substituting one of the stepped couplings from the Bachmann Mk1 coaches. Some may have been saved if the couplings on the coaches have been changed to Hornby close-coupling variety. 

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Hints & Tips No.17
Ready to go
by Martin Walls, Australia
At the end of a running session, I try to remember to stable my trains within arm's reach of the controllers and return the points to their normal settings.
This is done to make sure I can fire-up the trains without too many problems when visitors wish to see an impromptu demonstration. This includes having my more reliable locos available for use.

Hints & Tips No.18
Crisp lining
by Simon Baldwin
I was recently painting a Bratchell 317 into 'one' livery and was having a terrible time with getting a crisp edge on the rainbow lining. The solution was to run a sharp knife along the edge of some masking tape (against a ruler). Then, masking up using a template or careful measuring gave a very crisp edge and, as the tape sticks well together, it is easy to re-use on the set. It can also be moved around for the other stripes. Now to go off and find some 'one' transfers, anyone??

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Hints & Tips No.19
Good use for an old aerial
by Martin Walls, Australia

I have salvaged a telescopic aerial from an old radio. This is extended when required to nudge stalled locomotives.


Hints & Tips No.20
Alternative magnifying glass
by Roger Norman
If trying to ascertain detail from a photograph, don't use a magnifying glass. Instead scan the photo, enlarge it and print it or better still view it enlarged on the screen. You will be amazed how much detail this shows, especially with old photos which can sometimes be enhanced with the likes of Paintshop Pro.


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Hints & Tips No.21
Cleaning wheels quickly
by Trevor Gibbs
Cleaning wheels is not the most enjoyable task in the model railway field but there is a way of making it easier and minimising the amount of pick up and scraping you need to do.
1. Get some reasonable strength paper towel (the quilted type is ideal). Wet a small area of the paper towel with the white spirit. (Do not use Turpentine for this!
2. Lay your paper towel over the track with enough ‘slack’ that you can run your wheels on it.
3. Using a little pressure, move your vehicle up and down the paper towel by hand and watch the towel get dirty. Move your towel over a bit when the track of the treads gets dirty until no more comes off. Voila one cleaned vehicle in a few seconds!
You would expect that the towel would tear to shreds quickly and eventually it does, but it is very easy to get through a whole yard of vehicles. Every now and then you get a ‘severe case’ but your task is really minimised!
By judicious holding of powered locos, you can get wheel treads of these also clean by self powering the loco.  Hope this helps increase your operating time and pleasure!




Hints & Tips No.22
Southern Railways lamps/hexagonal glass shades
by John Challenor

I have just modelled some of these - a bit fiddly, but I was quite pleased with the results.
I used some old semi-translucent plastic beads (back to the daughter’s discarded junk jewelry), making two shades from each bead. The beads were cut in half and each half was hollowed out with a hand-held drill bit. The outside was then filed to give the hexagonal shape. A wheat grain bulb was glued in and the plastic at the back of the bulb was painted to look like part of the lamp. The ‘shade’ was painted with fine lines to simulate the glazing bars.
Fitted to brackets made from scrap plastic, they look fine attached to buildings and lamp posts.

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Hints & Tips No.23
Train control panel
by Trevor Gibbs
Even though my layout looks like it is a chase your tail round a short circuit affair, it is genuinely run as a point-to-point. However I needed a prod to remind me which engines were at which end of the line.

.I am making a board with my imagined schematic for each of the imagined stations on it drawn laterally with a piece of galvanised metal, but tinplate will do. I paint the schematic on, mask off the track schematic and overspray with black. My engines have a fridge magnet which I cut up and paste their numbers on. If I have a short session, I simply move the magnet to the ‘next station’ if the loco is in transit with a train or around the turntable for the appropriate end of the line when it is stabled. This could add a bit more to your realism even if you seem to be a tailchaser!


Hints & Tips No.24
Virtual Planning
Trevor Gibbs
To try and see how a track plan may or may not work, I have used Auran's Trainz program to draw up the layout and test run the layout using virtual trains before committing to the carpentry. While I have not seen it, I am led to believe that Hornby's Virtual Railway can do the same using Hornby's track system. Trainz does not take long to learn the basic steps... sharp inclines on ridges still defeat me a bit but track layout, building placement, and even signalling becomes easier to visualise


The advantages of this is that you can set up the operating scenarios to run your trains and see if those scenarios work and workout your scenery at the same time. Rather than taking your model time away, it could save you time at the drawing board and even more time from making mistakes in the translation of what you visualise compared to what you finish building. The alterations are a lot easier to manage in the virtual world.  

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Hints & Tips No.25Cheap Weathering 1
by John de Vries-Kraft (Kamloops, BC Canada)


I found a cheap way to partially weather those shiny freight wagons. Ever see the hard-water stains around and on your water taps? Get some of your tap water into a small disposable dish/cup and add a very little (two drops?) cheap flat black acrylic paint. Dip brush into this light mixture, spread unevenly to entire car body. Blow any gathered droplets and smear a pinch of white paint with your fingers. Douse remaining car body with tap water.


t;"When it all dries in approximately five minutes, note how the hard-water stains stay in the fine cracks and crevasses.


Hints & Tips No.26
Liquid Lead
By Kunio Toyohara, (Tokyo, Japan)


The June 2008 issue of the Japanese railway modelling magazine "Tetsudo Mokei Shumi" carries a report by Mr Takeshi Inoue of Tokushima (on the island of Shikoku) regarding the effects of weighting locos with small lead granules (‘liquid lead’ to you?). He reports that his brass steam locos have suffered from boiler/steam dome/smoke box/cylinder casing ‘explosions’ caused by swelling of the lead granules used as additional weight. The lead was fixed in place by pouring lacquer over the granules, and Mr Inoue reasons that the lead had swollen from oxidation by contact with atmosphere when the lacquer aged and peeled off.


I personally have doubts about this theory. I have kept a jar of these lead granules in my drawer for more than 30 years, and there is no sign of swelling. Air pollution must be definitely lighter in Tokushima than here in Tokyo. Could it be something in the lacquer that's promoting the reaction?


It has been known for decades that lead granules fixed with diluted PVA (wood glue) or CA (super glue) swell under chemical reaction, causing model boilers etc to burst with the lead turned white poking through the open seams. (Well, it's a very slow process that takes years to happen. No casualty reported yet.)


Using paints such as lacquer as fixative has been the recommended ‘safe’ way (until now). Not fully filling the void with lead and leaving sufficient room for expansion is another way (or, the only way until we know what is causing the swelling in the above case).


The question remains - how much room is sufficient room?

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Hints & Tips No.27
Cheap Weathering 2
By John de Vries-Kraft (Kamloops, BC Canada)
Try dipping a wagon into a pot that has just been used to boil potatoes.
First remove the couplers and wheels or bogies and put a dab of petroleum jelly where the trucks are attached. Not too warm to avoid warping the body. The starch in the water will dry on the wagon. Granted, the missus might scratch her head wondering why you took the water. A little salt will increase the stain results. If you don't like the results, just dip the body into clean water and stir it. Just don't eat the plastic.

Hints & Tips No.28
Couplings
by David Chappell
The newer, small Bachmann type couplings are much less obtrusive than the earlier bigger ones.  For Dapol wagons (if the modeller doesn’t like the larger style which Dapol use) all one has to do is pull the coupling out (a clip fit) and push in its place the flexible Hornby type. It is the same clip fit. The couplings are sold in packs of 10, code R8099 (I think!)

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Hints & Tips No.29
Cheap Weathering 3
By John de Vries-Kraft 
Use a cotton swab dipped lightly into rubbing alcohol and apply streaks to car bodies in a downward motion. Maybe add a pinch of flat-black or white acrylic paint or even flour. This will duplicate the effect of rain on the wagon leaving vertical streaks.
Hints & Tips No.30
You have been framed
By Allan Hornsby
Shops that do picture framing are a free source of building material. The off-cuts from mat boards are usually available at no cost and are of good quality stiff card that tends to be warp free. Just remember, if you do laminate them, then use an odd number of thicknesses.

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Hints & Tips No.31
Lifting the lid
By Trevor Gibbs

Clear styrene lids make great windows on models. There is just enough opacity to cast a reflection. Things like older brake vans just do not look complete without them. To add to the opacity put them in place with white glue - enough will seep on to dull the surface even more. I got mine from yoghurt containers but anything will do. Cost - next to nothing!


Hints & Tips No.32
Storage
By Roy Thompson
When I buy an Indian or Chinese meal, I wash out the foil dish the rice comes in. This can be used for mixing paints or holding a small amount of PVA glue etc. The plastic lidded dish the main meal is in becomes a useful storage container once washed. Plus they stack up neatly once you collect a few.

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Hints & Tips No.33
Oil Depot Tanks
By Trevor Gibbs 
I do not have room on my current layout for an Oil Depot but when I did have space in my junior days, I used either tins from Quik (Nestle Strawberry was good) or smaller coffee tins.

Turning them upside down and screwing the lid to the board meant they could be removed easily if needed for moving etc. In these days of computer labelling, it would not be that hard to make a convincing sign or even a ‘wrapper’ to go around the tin with rivets, small ladders printed on etc. Once again, the cost is not high!

Hints & Tips No.34
Scenic Shakers
By  Roy Thompson


I find these expensive at almost £3 for an empty plastic container with a funny lid. Have a look around your kitchen and you may be surprised how many of these types of container you can find in varying sizes.


Ones I have found include peppercorns, parmesan cheese, herbs and spices. If you know anyone who works in catering they often have larger catering sizes, which are excellent once given a good wash.

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Hints & Tips No.35
Making Rail look Scale in 00/H0,
By Trevor Gibbs

I have been 'weathering' my rail for a few years simply by getting out one trusty paint brush and painting the sides, particularly of Peco code 100, with a Russet or Tuscan box car colour. I personally use Tamiya type acrylics. You can simply run a paint brush along the rail sides, before or after ballasting and not worry about the effect too much. In fact mine was done after ballasting because I was not happy with the effect of the shiny rail at the time.


I have been asked a number of times if my track is Code 70 or 83 rather than the 100 as removing the sheen from the sides of the rails in this way, hides its apparent height. This is also lowered by use of ballast. Dregs from the paint bottle are especially effective as you can get simulated a build-up of grime and grease, as does occur. You can even skimp a bit and just do the sides which are seen from a viewers angle.

If you need to solder a wire to the rail, it is easily cleaned by simple scraping off the paint and retouching it afterwards.


Hints & Tips No.36
The Ultimate Modelling Glue?
By Andrew Morling  


Quite by accident I may have just discovered the ultimate modelling adhesive. It sells under the brand name of MANICARE here in Australia and is used for attaching acrylic fingernail extensions.

It contains cyanoacrylate [super glue], and methyl ethyl ketone [for polystyrene] as well as an adhesive for acrylic. It is applied with a brush in the cap, which is quite practical as it does not set as quickly as straight super glue.

I have been trying it on every kind of plastic I can find and it has not failed me yet. It will even stick the old resin plastic used in early Tri-ang trains. On polystyrene it sets quicker than plain MEK and is very strong once dry.

Despite the apparent innocuous use that this product is designed for please ensure that you have adequate ventilation when using MANICARE or similar products and do not smoke while using it. The use of some form of eye-shield would also seem to be a sensible precaution.

So, just join the orderly queue at the cosmetics counter of your local Pharmacy and tell the girl you want to have longer fingernails...



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Hints & Tips No.37
Wagon loads or uncouplers
By Roy Thompson
The long wooden stirrers you get in McDonalds or Starbucks etc. make excellent plank loads when cut up.

Or you can cut and attach a square piece of scrap plastic sized to fit between your vehicle ends to one end of the stirrer and you have a wagon uncoupler. Simply place between the vehicle under the "striker" bars and lift when the couplers are slack.


Hints & Tips No.38
Making Hedges
By Trevor Gibbs


You can simulate a lot of hedges using green steel wool scourers cut into appropriate strips and glued vertically. This works fairly well. You could sprinkle the outer surfaces with ground foam such as Woodland Scenics to give a bit more texture closer to viewing distance.  If you really want to do it for next to nothing, you could grind up your own appropriately coloured foam

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Hints & Tips No.39
Kit Assembly Hint No.1
By Donald Hess 

Putting tape on really small parts keeps them from flying when cutting them off the plastic tree or sprue.  Rail nippers are best at removing parts.

However in tight small spaces a sharp Exacto #11 blade or its equivalent is your friend. Use a cutting motion and never bear down as this might snap small parts.

Hints & Tips No.40
Weighting Model Wagons
by David Chappell


For improved running of model 00 wagons, I weight them all to about 50 grams. I have a small set of scales which covers the range. Where you put the extra weight (usually anywhere between 10 and 20gm) is up to you! In a wagon with a load, it can go under or in the load and van roofs often come off. Open wagons with no load are the worst problem, and one has to use 'liquid lead' (tiny lead pellets) glued in the underfame, however, it is well worth the effort. The local car tyre fitter will have small weights at 5gm and 10 gm (for tyre use) and will part with some for a donation to their tea tin! Their weights are self adhesive, too! Incidentally, I also weight kit built coaches to 150gm.

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Hints & Tips No.41
Using Superglue With Clear plastic
by John Poland

For many situations, using 'superglue' (CyanoAcrylate) with clear plastic is not a good idea as the plastic can craze. However, there are some situations which arise that the best option is to use 'superglue' to fix in windows.


First dip the windows in 'Future', or a similar brand floor wax (it's a trick I learned from building scale aeroplanes). The floor wax creates a barrier and prevents the fumes from crazing the 'glass', and you'll be amazed at how crystal clear your windows will be.


Hints & Tips No.42
Kit Assembly Hint No.2
By Donald Hess 
Skewers and Toothpicks make excellent tools for painting and glue applications. Not only can you stir paints with them, but you can apply really tiny amounts of paint and glue accurately with the sharp tip.

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Hints & Tips No.43
"Scrap Metal Loads"
By Trevor Gibbs 

Ever wondered if you could recycle your washed aluminium foil or foil chocolate wrapper? Roll your foil into tight balls about 1/2" or so diameter then take a pair of slip joint pliers and using the jaws mould them into cubes.


Being Scrap metal, they would be discoloured so paint them with a rusty orange/brown colour. A number of cubes and you therefore have a load of scrap metal for that otherwise unemployed open wagon... and you can enjoy your way on two fronts to make them!


Hints & Tips No.44
A Revised Way Of Cleaning Wheels
By Ted Allan 


I use cotton cloths such as Chux with white spirit. This has a couple of advantages over using paper towels in that the surface is microscopically rougher so than it cleans the wheels better, the cloth lasts much longer so there is less mess and are capable of providing contact in the case of powered wheels through the holes to the rails.


(Note from Trevor - The paper towels were a very good idea when I first learned it... and this version from Ted becomes an even better idea!)

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Hints & Tips No.45
Kit Assembly Hints No.1
By John Schaeffer
When making up full size structures, where it is possible, build only the two sides of a building that you are going to see from the normal viewing positions.

You can then use the other sides as raw materials for other projects, and possibly expand the number of buildings shown on the layout.


Hints & Tips No.46
Cheap Brick Surfaces
By Trevor Gibbs

Need some cheap brick surfaces in smaller areas? I got some from recycled plastic plates with the grooved "tread" on them. In fact, as an exercise I built a loco shed in N scale for a club exhibition layout I was helping restore and used the plates surface on the outside, coloured a deepish brick red so the line work regularity was not quite so painfully obvious. If you are really keen, you can paint over with white paint and wipe the excess off to fill in the mortar cracks.


So wash your otherwise disposable party plates mates! Like a lot of other things I do, cost virtually zilch!


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Hints & Tips No.47
Kit Assembly Hints No.2
By John Schaeffer
When cutting thin wood for scratch building, put some masking tape on the back side of the cut. This will assist in preventing the wood from splintering.


Hints & Tips No.48
High Quality Brush Painting
By John Challenor
On the question of painting without expensive spraying equipment, many years ago I asked a car body restorer how he got such a good paint finish with brush application. The answer was to use several coats and to rub down between each one.

Each successive coat had a little more thinner added, and gradually finer grade wet/dry paper and rubbing compound was used.
It is best to buy decent wet/dry paper, this is not particularly expensive but the finer the grade the finer the finish. Rubbing compounds, various household / car products can be employed. Otherwise you can practice with almost any left over paint / scrap materials.



Last edited on Sat Jan 8th, 2022 06:43 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.49
Scale Looking Rail In N Scale... Not Quite So Cheaply!
By Trevor Gibbs, (Australia)
I saw an article many years ago, I think in Model Railroader about a modeller who had taken his N scale code 80 track and lowered it into his baseboard. What he had done is cut his track pattern into the top of his plywood with a router suitably adjusted and "sunk" his track plan into the plywood. The track was laid and ballasted over and the effect for the late 60s or early 70s was terrific and would probably still withstand scrutiny today! Why? Because not only is the height of the rail an issue but also the thickness of the sleepers in standard Peco N scale track.

While I cannot remember if he had done so, he may also have painted the rail side to lessen the effect visually of the height, similarly to what I suggested in Hints and Tips No.35. Taking this hint one stage further, you could use a router to cut out a very shallow base area for your buildings so that you do not get the modellers bane of having one corner of the building standing “proud” of your baseboard... after all buildings sit on foundations in the ground, not on top of it. Fill in your scenery up to the building and it will look as though it is meant to be there.


Routers and other power tools are becoming progressively cheaper and this may be an option for you... hope these ideas help you!


Hints & Tips No.50
Kit Assembly Hints No.3
By John Schaeffer


Use Windex or similar Window cleaners to thin acrylic latex paints for the airbrush.  It dries faster and cleans up easier. However be aware that some versions of this type of product may contain ammonia which is not kind to some plastics so do a test section first!

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Hints & Tips No.51
Using and Reusing Thinners.
By John Challenor


A tip from my local model shop (!), common or garden white spirit is a lot cheaper than some of the "named" brand equivalent thinners. In nearly all cases it is just as effective.

And to save the pennies even further, save all the dirty thinners you have used washing out your brushes etc., in a clean lidded glass jar. Leave. Gradually the paint sinks to the bottom and the relatively clean thinners above can be decanted off and re-used for cleaning. This seems to work for all types of thinners.

Hints & Tips No.52
Hi Rise Buildings
By Trevor Gibbs, (Australia)

I saw a layout at an exhibition with a couple of very tall (for a layout) model buildings in a city scene which from normal viewing distance looked very effective. Looking closely I presume that they were a plywood box with normal building tiles glued around them, consistently one colour such as deep blue which gave the window effect.
Such a tile system could work very well on a backdrop to give a low relief depth but give the impression of more. Seeing a tile dealer for a remnant would be your cheapest option! You might even fool people at first about the detail and depth in your windows with moving characters in the office areas that look like the people admiring your work!

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Hints & Tips No.53
Fitting Handrails And Grab Iron Details Easily
By Donald Hess (PA USA)

A little CA (Super glue), MEK or related glue when sliding grab irons through holes makes them go through easier. When wet it acts like a lubricant. Reaming the small holes with one turn of an Exacto No.11 blade also really helps.


Hints & Tips No.54
Animation
By Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland)


Although I work in larger scales, any movement or hint of movement can add that "something" to your village in any scale. Most often it is done by the train moving through your scene.


There are also many other ways to induce movement regardless of scale. Small electric/battery motors can be mounted below the base board, above a fisherman can cast his line, an axe man can cut logs, a painter can paint a wall.....Simply moving a figurine left and right by having the shaft of the motor glued to the base of the figure will give the impression of life in the village.
More intricate animation can involve boats moving on their anchors in the breeze to cars moving on roads. It is up to your imagination and your ability to see a small motor or gear and think of an alternate use in your scene.

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Hints & Tips No.55
Visualising Scenery.
By Trevor Gibbs (Australia)
Some people do not tackle scenery usually using the excuse "I'm not artistic enough" or similar. Here is an easy way of being able to see how your scenery COULD turn out.

Cut some cardboard cartons into strips about 40-50mm wide. Start by stapling or tacking (cobblers blue tacks are good ) about an inch (25mm) or so of the strip to your base or frame then arc it upwards to the shape of your rolling hill. If your strip is not long enough to cover the size hill , simply staple another one on end and keep going. Place a number of strips about 120-150mm (4-5") apart parallel roughly where you envisage the hill being.

These strips will give you an idea of your shape and you can bend and crimp your strips to get the effect of hills, crags and cliff fronts. You can then make a simple lattice using strips and thread them through your laterally placed strips. This will give you a more solid base to look on and you can still make changes by crimping the card.

If you like what you see or you can visualise, make the frame a little more solid using hot melt glue and then you can cover it with whatever scenery you prefer to use, Chux cloths painted with PVA is good for this... or tear it out and try again for very little . Good luck...,


Hints & Tips No.56
A Cheap and Simple (and very effective) Viaduct
By Tom Welsh (Sunshine MRC, Melbourne Australia)


In building the exhibition layout “Chuffington” we needed a rather large viaduct of unusual ess shape. The track is elevated at that point and the shape would not be covered by a commercial offering. We made viaduct sides from some 3mm MDF board and bent it to the shape of the trackwork.


While we probably could have just painted the MDF, we elected to get some very coarse spent belt sander belts and glued them to the outer surfaces. We then cut the belt so that the arches were open and treated the insides of the arches the same way.


A coat of an earth tone paint and the origins of the material would not be known. This technique could be applied to any size bridge. You can see a picture of the bridge at http://www.sunshinemrc.org.au/chuffington01.htm .

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Hints & Tips No.57
Laying Track on a Helix
By Max Bashtannyk and Peter Mitchell

If you are building a helix and laying track, instead of using track pins or nails, try using small screws and washers laid between the sleepers screwed to the plywood, using the washers to hold adjacent pairs of sleepers.


We have used 6mm x 4 gauge screws with 1/8” washers to hold the track as they are small enough not to cause any problems for American style Kadee couplers. Pre-drill a pilot hole in the base board to make process a lot easier.


This will allow you to make tweaking adjustments to the curvature of the track using a stubby screwdriver in between the layers of the helix. When the weather changes and you get the usual rounds of expansion and contraction of your track or a kink develops in the track imperceptible to all and everything but your constantly derailing 2-8-0 for example, you should be able to move your track without taking the helix apart.


Using Murphy's law, this could happen in the worst possible corner and this at least is a way of minimising your efforts to correct it.


Hints & Tips No.58 
Minimising Bleeding Of Paint When Painting And Spraying,
By Trevor Gibbs

You can reduce the amount of bleeding under masking tape when spraying your models quite considerably.


Paint the colour you want to be masked off and allow to dry thoroughly. Apply your masking. Then respray your model with the original colour. If there are holes in the masking, the overspray of the original colour will fill the spots where your secondary colour could have overrun the first colour. Allow to dry again.


Then spray with your secondary colour. Because the "holes" have been blocked, you should minimise any overrun you had under the paint masking and your lines should look quite neat! Now it should be easy to paint your blood and custard or chocolate and custard cars and keep the lines!


Only wish I had this info myself when I was painting the black stripe on my Canadian Budd Rail Cars. My thanks to Paul Hawden of The Buffer Stop, East Preston Victoria for his initial input for this technique.

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Hints & Tips No.59
Preparation Of Kits For Assembly And Painting
By Donald Hess Most kits come in packaging straight from the mould. Pre-washing a plastic sprue in very luke warm water and detergent removes release agents from the plastic used in the moulding process. This makes it much much easier to paint later on.


As A follow up...
I would not recommend the use of detergent/washing up liquid as this, too, leaves a film on the surface. The best material to use for cleaning models is one of the bathroom cleaners which contains a limescale remover. I use Waitrose's own but any other will do. A trade name familiar to some would be 'Viakal'.
Julian Saunders


Hints & Tips No.60
How To Prevent Flange Snags On Rail Joints
By Crandell Overton (Vancouver Island, Canada)
Extruded rail stock is forced through a die and then cut with a sharp instrument.  It will have sharp edges.  If you are using flexible sections of track and joining them together along a curve, you will potentially meet with frustration when you find one or more engines or rolling stock items derailing in one or two places consistently.


There are several causes for derailment along curves, but a simple aid to nip this in the bud involves filing the ends of every rail section with a metal file to smooth off any burrs or sharp edges. As your engines become larger and more demanding of fine track laying skills, particularly larger North American steamers, the wheel flanges get forced toward the outside rail head on curves close to the minimum stated for your engine. You can imagine what can happen, when the flanges encounter a wider gap than desirable, and one with sharp edges or burrs on the flange faces and the tops of the rail heads.


To help this, file a slight bevel (or a chamfer in other terms) on the vertical inside face of the railhead, and also on the flat top surface at the very ends where they were cut to rail stock as well as to turnouts (points). That way, your wheels will encounter an easier camber that will accommodate their passage, and not a sharp and jarring surface that will toss them this way and that.


(A Note from Trevor – this hint comes up in Free-mo type specifications in North America where modules are involved and this operation needs to be done because of alignment of the track. It is also very useful as Crandell points out for curves in general. I actually tried it on already laid track on my “memorial” exhibition layout and it has worked fantastically well dramatically reducing the derailments on joins and smoothing the passage of trains!)


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Hints & Tips No.61
Air Brushes
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

If you are going to do a bit of painting, you might like to invest in an air brush.
My own is not an internal mix but a simple external mix sprayer by Revell if I remember rightly but I have seen similar under the Humbrol name. Powering it is also quite easy as I use an old spare tyre blown up to 50psi (350kpa).
While I would really love to have a better airbrush and a compressor etc, I find that I just could not rationalise the expense on the amount of work I would be doing with it and my results have been OK. I have found the Tamiya brand acrylics work well diluted with rubbing alcohol in such mixes.


Remember to work in a well ventilated area and have fun.


Hints & Tips No.62
How To Avoid Unsightly Solder Globules On The Sides Of Rails
By Graham Plowman (Sydney, Australia)
How many times have you been to an exhibition and looked closely at the track on a layout and seen huge great big lumps stuck on the sides of rails, accompanied by melted sleepers? It looks unsightly and ruins any possibility of realism or photography.


A little careful planning when building a layout plus the technique described here will see those solder lumps gone for ever! Why do modellers solder wires to the sides of rails ? Well, the answer is simple: lack of planning. Traditionally, modellers cannot wait to get track laid and then they worry about the electrics later. In other words, the track is already laid before wiring starts.


The answer is to solder wires to the undersides of the rails as the track is laid. To do this, pull the sleepers off the track, solder the wire to the underside of the rail, then file down and replace the sleepers. The wire can be poked down a hole drilled in the baseboard and there you have it: a tidy connection, no melted sleepers and no unsightly solder globules. Once ballast is placed around the track, you will not even see the connections which is a much better appearance than the traditional solder globule!

This technique also works well with foam underlay ballast.  You can see a full explanation on  style="font-size: 12pt;"my web site at  http://www.mrol.com.au/SolderGlobules.aspx  style="font-size: 12pt;"and find links to other Hints and Tips as well  


From Dave Poynter - Further to Graham Plowman's 'Hints and Tips' advice on soldering: the addition of a little flux to the rail before soldering will make the solder stick and flow much more easily, so the joint can be made neater and less 'blobby'. Plumbers' flux works very well and is available from most DIY outlets. Just apply a thin smear with a cotton bud first.


Brian Lambert -While not wishing to start a war of words, I have to point out that the reply to Tip No.62, given by Dave Poynter, is very fraught with potential problems!


I’ll explain… Most non-electrical fluxes contain a mild acid which helps clean the surface of the items to be soldered. In most applications such as plumbing or soldering a brass/metal loco etc., special fluxes are used and once the parts have been soldered they have to then be washed under ideally running water to remove all traces of the acid contained in the flux. This is not a practical approach when dealing with electrical joints and therefore any residue of "Plumbers flux" will, overtime, start to cause the soldered connection to separate and become high resistance, leading eventually to total electrical failure and even the joint falling apart.


So, for electrical work, never use any additional flux or only those specially sold for the task.
Using resin cored solder (‘Multicore solder’ as its sometimes called) which is sold specially for electrical work is really all that’s needed, together with ensuring both surfaces are clean and grease free. I prefer, whenever possible, to use a fibre pen to clean surfaces. Use the correct size of soldering iron wattage-wise (I use a 25 watt iron for most electrical work) and ensure the iron's tip is in a first class condition. Finally ensure the iron is up to full working temperature. Switch it on and then leave for a full five minutes - is my recommended practice. The use of a sponge pad, dampened with a little water, is also an ideal means of cleaning a hot irons tip to remove all oxidisation and old solder etc. There are also commercially produced special soldering iron tip cleaning products available too.


Try and pre tin the items before joining the two together. Tinning is using the soldering iron to heating the items and then applying a little of the cored solder to coat the individual parts in solder. Either twist items together or hold them in contact with each other – use tweezers or long nosed pliers etc. - as they may become hot. Then, with a little of the cored solder placed onto the clean hot irons tip to ‘wet’ it, apply the iron onto the joint and allow time for the heat to transfer through the joint. If needed, add a little more cored solder to the items being soldered (not onto the irons tip) to ensure a good flow of solder into the joint. Then remove the iron and don’t move the joint for around 5 or so seconds, until the solder is seen to solidify and become a little dull in appearance. Job done!
Finally, and before turning off the iron, wipe its hot tip on the damp sponge to remove all traces of solder and flux, as this will ensure the tip remains in a good condition ready for the next job.

A Note from Trevor - the description from Brian has been one of the best word pictures I have seen on the subject. In defence of Dave Poynter, I believe I have seen a non corrosive Plumbers flux for use with copper pipe etc which is what Dave may have been referring to.


However, given the amount of tarnish which can occur on nickel silver rail (which is neither nickel nor silver in its content), some corrosive flux can assist the cleaning and solder flow at the joint but it would be imperative that the flux be washed totally washed off once the soldering is done.

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Hints & Tips No.63
Preventing Joints From Flexing Under Heat Expansion
by Peter Mitchell (Sunshine MRC, Melbourne Australia)
If you make a Helix or put a curve into a tunnel, the chances are that, when the track expands, the joint will move and create problems for stock negotiating the line. When you lay your track, to overcome this, put a small block of 3mm styrene or MDF on the outside of the curve adjacent to the rail joiner and glue or screw it to your baseboard, hard up against the sleepers.
The most logical expansion of your track will try to go outwards and the blocks will prevent that happening and keeping the joint aligned which may otherwise be a problem for wheels picking at your track joints as they roll through.
Use this in conjunction with Hints & Tips No.60 and you should improve reliability.

Hints & Tips No.64
Timber Loads
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
Those extra long and thicker match sticks, which are used for lighting the barbecue or fire (depending on your season of course) can be used as coarse timber loads for model building sites or used for model fence or billboard posts. It would depend on your scale and needs as to what length you cut the sticks and where you place them.

You could go so far as to glue a set of 4 or so together and make model tree trunks. To do this, glue and allow to thoroughly dry before sanding them to shape, painting and adding foliage. Perhaps you could make log shapes or stumps... just paint the outside a suitable bark colour and the ends to a tree ring colour!


From Peter Gomm - Other sources are lolly stick, stirrers given out by coffee shops, it just needs modellers to look out for other normally thrown away items.


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Hints & Tips No.65
Making Roads Disappear
by Brian Sheron (MD USA)
Having roads that run into the walls of your layout room can pose a visual challenge. Having them end abruptly does not look good, and trying to paint an extension onto the wall may not look realistic. One way to have the road blend into the distance is to bend the end of the roadway material up and curve it to a point to one side.

You can now put foliage on either side of the road, and it will give the effect of the road curving off in to the distance. 

Hints & Tips No.66
Making Road Surfaces More Realistic
by Graham Plowman (Sydney, Australia)
I made a steel bridge, similar to one found in the Western Region. The road surface for the bridge has been made using sheets of fine grade wet & dry paper. The surface has been further rubbed with a further sheet of wet and dry paper to make the road surface smoother and take away the glass 'reflectiveness' by rubbing the dust back into the road surface. The result is very effective and has also been used on Ashprington Road's platforms.




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Hints & Tips No.67
Using Masking Tape As Curtains And Shades
By Trevor Gibbs
If you use clear styrene or similar for windows you can make effective shades using masking tape. Simply apply the masking tape glue side out on the "window" and using a hobby knife cut the shape of the shade as it would appear from the outside. The adhesive of the masking tape will hold onto your window, the mottled shape can represent curtains folding and give the hazier effect of curtain blockout and the cost - precious little!

Hints & Tips No.68
Making Stone Walls
By Peter Betts 


Walls are made up from 6mm thick balsa wood sheet. When complete and before bedding the wall down in its correct place on the layout, each individual stone of the structure is roughly marked on the balsa with a ball-point pen. Then, using a very hot soldering iron, the outline of each individual stone is burnt into the balsa wood. Thus a three-dimensional representation of the stonework will be evident, something that is lacking with the use of stone paper.

After completion, the stonework is painted all over with a light creamy grey water-based matt acrylic paint of a colour simulating the mortar between individual stones. Make sure that the paint fills all the crevices in the stonework. Next make up a wash of the base colour of the stonework using water-based paint, mixed with a little plaster and water. Paint this mixture onto the surface of about half the individual stones at random, trying to avoid too much paint getting into the crevices. The plaster will help give the paint an ultra-matt and slightly gritty in texture.



Next add a little black to the paint mixture, and pick out a number of the remaining stones. Then add a little white, yellow or red, and pick out a few more stones until all are painted. Finally view the finished article and decide whether the resultant colour effect is what you had in mind. If it is too dark, make up a lighter shade of the base colour and paint over the darkest of the stones. If too light do the opposite. If too yellow or too red, pick out the worst offenders with a complimentary colour.


Always err on the too light side because when all is finished and the wall stuck in place on the layout, it is very easy to darken the whole thing with a wash of much-watered-down Matt Black paint.

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Hints & Tips No.69

Using Modern Vehicles on Older Period Layouts
By Brian Sheron (MD USA)
 
 
You are at a model train swap meet, market, or your local hobby or toy store, and discover some commercial vehicles (e.g., a cement truck) that are being sold for a bargain. (I was in my local hardware store and found Boley HO International trucks for $2.99 each!). For all intents and purposes, it looks like a vehicle from the era you are modeling, except that the front of the cab has a modern grill and headlights, You do not want to pass up this bargain, but the vehicle era is just wrong!

Do not despair. Think about where you can locate this truck on your layout so that the front of the vehicle is facing away from the viewer! If the viewer can't see the front of the vehicle, then who cares whether the front represents a vehicle from the 1990s or the 1950s? The dump truck shown on my website is a modern truck on my layout (which models the Long Island Rail Road circa 1964).

Hints & Tips No.70
Covering Unsightly Corners On Buildings
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

If you have a structure which has a corner not quite flush etc, you can cover the "blemish" with a thin smattering of ground foam to represent ivy vines. Just put a thin layer of PVA glue on the surface and sprinkle some foam. You may even be able to collect enough from your trees which have lost their "leaves" on your model forest floor to do the job.
 
You also have the advantage that people might think you are into superdetailing your models rather than finding fault with your assembly... and keeping quiet about it!


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Hints & Tips No.71
How To Create A Plowed Farm Field
By Tom Welsh ( Sunshine MRC, Melbourne Australia)

Use a piece of corrugated cardboard with the corrugations facing outwards. Paint on some glue and sprinkle on some soil colored scatter. Signs of Weeds or old growth, not overdone, makes the scene work better.


Hints & Tips No.72
Simple Signs From Your Computer
By Brian Sheron (MD USA)
As you drive around, you probably may not notice, but everywhere-yes everywhere - there are signs. An easy way to make all sorts of signs for your layout is to create them on the computer. Once you get them to your liking (font style, size, color) print them out on plain white paper. I have also found that surfing the web can turn up pictures of posters, signs, etc., that you can drag into a drawing program, and then print them on out.

Spray a thin sheet of styrene plastic with artists adhesive and glue the paper with the signs, posters, etc., printed on it to the plastic. When the adhesive is dry, use an Xacto or sharp hobby knife and cut the signs out. Because they are mounted on styrene plastic, you can attach them to any other plastic surface with styrene cement. You can fit many on an A4 sheet so get to it.

Last edited on Sat Feb 19th, 2022 08:01 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.73
Making Putty For Models
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

If you are into using sheet styrene for scratch building, do not throw all your offcuts and shavings etc away. You can make a putty like paste by dissolving these etc in a bottle with some MEK which you can use to fill in imperfections, holes, joints and any other area requiring touching up prior to painting.

Wood modelers can also make a "putty" by mixing shavings or saw dust from your parent timber in PVA glue to make a paste which can be used for wood siding, planks etc where imperfections occur.

While I have not tried it, I have read from several sources that you can make another type of putty with super glue and baking soda which I assume you can use with Resin and white metal etc. However, as cyanide is a principal ingredient in the super glue, please remember to work safely with it including working in a well ventilated area and using eye protection.


Hints & Tips No.74
Tips About Yard Design.
by Jeffrey Wimberly (LA, USA)
1. Try not to cram a lot of tracks into a small space. Why? If the tracks are close together and a carriage or wagon derails and goes over and you have never heard of the domino effect, you may soon have a real life example.


2. Give yourself at least one staging track and have it connected to the main at both ends. Two would be better. This gives you plenty of area to make up and break up trains.


3. Avoid making spur tracks that are going to trap your locomotive behind a line of wagons. Always have an escape route.


4. Most importantly, try not to make a complex design. The more complex a design, the more things can go wrong because of a simple mistake.


Simplicity of design is simplicity of operation. I am in the hobby to have fun, not trying to find my way out of a Rubik's cube switch yard.

Last edited on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 05:46 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.75
Extending the Life of Track Cleaners.
By Peter Betts, (Sydney, NSW)

When track cleaners such as Peco or Fleischmann track rubbers start getting worn down, glue them to a piece of 5mm thick balsa wood. This will double the life of the track cleaner as it will not crack up when it gets thin.


(Note from Trevor: This terrific hint could also very likely work well with an offcut of MDF or plywood... and when my track cleaner gets thin, I will certainly try it! Thanks Peter)


From Andi Dell


I've glued Peco track rubbers to off-cuts of plywood for many years. Painting the wood a bright colour first helps to locate them on the layout or in the toolbox.


A further note from Trevor: This is a good variation and adds to the pool, thanks Andi! 


Hints & Tips No.76
Ballasting Track.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne, Australia)
The orthodox method of ballasting track is to spray the laid ballast with a mixture of water and detergent before applying glue to the ballast. This is so that the glue uses the surface tension of the water to spread around the ballast. Conventional use would say to spray the ballast carefully which is what I used to do.

However you may save a bit of heartache and a few washouts of your ballast by spraying slightly UP and AWAY from your track so that the water falls as mist ala light rain (scale rain?) on your track and allowed to soak your ballast. I have found that many PVA glues tend to be dilute enough and will spread so I usually make three runs of glue over the centre, and the two edges and allow gravity and the "wet watered ballast" to do their stuff. If you have a particularly strong glue dilute it to 1:2 or 1:3.



In any case leave it overnight and lift spikes holding your track in the morning! Clean your excess and away you go! If it is not tight enough, repeat the process where ballast is loose.


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Hints & Tips No.77
Wax Paper Behind Windows
By Brian Sheron (MD USA)
A lot of model railroad structure kits come with clear plastic for the windows. If you do not want to model an interior on these buildings, and/or want to put an interior light in them for night time scenes, but do not want people to see the unfinished interior, glue a piece of wax paper behind each window.

The wax paper will still allow an interior light to show through, but will diffuse the light and not allow the unfinished inside to be seen. 


Hints & Tips No.78
Landscaping your village
By Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland) 

Railway Modellers have been using polystyrene for years and it is possibly the best and quickest way to get your basic shapes formed.

If you are using "water" I suggest covering your base board with polystyrene except for the water area. This gives your layout a quick three dimensional effect. The polystyrene may be only 12 or 19mm (1/2 to 3/4") but the effect of rises and falls on your landscape will be rewarding. These undulations can be made with a file, saw or blade dragged over the surface.


Do not be afraid to dig in...you can always re fill the area by gluing more polystyrene back in. To get the mountain effect , just create the height you require by gluing layers or making box sections with the poly. Once the desired shapes are made cover with either newspaper and water/PVA glue mix or use a commercially available plaster material which just requires wetting. Paint and apply ageing effect to the rocks and grasses and trees.



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Hints & Tips No.79
Concrete Pillars
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne, Australia)

I have found some brands of plastic disposable shavers have wonderfully shaped handles for making concrete retaining wall pillars or bridge pylons or similar items on a layout. Simply cut off the shaver head and there you have it.


Some brands of shavers are rather garishly coloured but they can be repainted into a concrete grey colour with simple acrylic paints and applied to that special bridge or retaining wall requiring a pillar. Let you imagination run riot!

Now of course if the shaver manufacturers would cooperate with us and recognise their products true value to us, we might not even have to repaint them in future. They could even mottle the colour to represent the weathering of the concrete!!! :)



Hints & Tips No.80
Making Brass Buffers Look More Realistic.
By Peter Betts, (Sydney, NSW)


If you receive brass buffers with a loco kit or coach kit, plate the buffer heads with solder as this will simulate the “polished” steel surfaces of the two buffers together. This is done by cleaning the surface, applying flux, touching the surface with a hot soldering iron, and then wiping off any surplus solder with a rag.


( A Note from Pat Hammond - Do this before inserting the buffers into plastic stocks and, of course, don't try it on plastic buffers)

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Hints & Tips No.81
Diode Protection for Sidings.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne, Australia)

Model Railway and Railroad conventions dictate that a loco will run forward when the right hand running rail is Positive. We can use this to our advantage to protect locos overrunning sidings which are close to the baseboard edge and doing themselves (and our wallets) a fair bit of damage. At a discreet distance from the end of the siding, cut the rail on the LEFT hand side (as you enter the siding) and insulate it, preferably with an insulated joiner. Now bridge the gap with a 1 amp diode (a 1N4004 will do) with the bar of the diode towards the dead end of the siding.
style="font-size: 12pt;"You will be able to drive in but hopefully not too far. However reversing your loco will have it able to be driven out. There is a bit of a voltage loss of about .6 of a volt but because you are starting the loco, I doubt that you might perceive it. If your loco goes the wrong way because you misunderstood these instructions, just reverse your diode and test it.


DCC operators cannot quite do this, but it is quite prototypical that engines had to use a small rake of wagons to get another wagon parked in a siding because of light rail, insufficient clearance over the cylinders etc. Protect your siding with an “Engines must not pass this point” sign and insulate as above. Now have a Normally Open pushbutton switch with wiring bridging the insulated gap. When you are sure that your loco is set to go the correct way push your bridging button and you can drive your engine out. It is not as surefire safe as with DC operations but it will do the trick.


A Note from Trevor - This Hint and Tip generated a few replies these are among them...


From Nick Stanbury


ADDITIONAL PROTECTION WHEN PROPELLING STOCK INTO A SIDING

Imagine if you will a long dead end siding, such as a terminal platform road. If a train is drawn in, the only protection needed is that described in the initial Hint and Tip, using a single diode to bridge a rail break an engine length or so from the buffer stop. But this will not help if a train or rake is PROPELLED into the siding and could hit the buffers before the engine is denied current. So, another diode is needed to bridge a second (outer) break (preferably in the same rail), positioned a little further from the buffer stop than the length of the longest rake you would back in.


You will also require two simple on/off switches. One switch is connected in PARALLEL with the outer diode, so that when 'on', that diode is bypassed and a train being DRAWN in can approach the end of the siding in the normal way. That engine cannot however hit the buffers as the inner diode will deny it forward current. The other switch is connected in SERIES with the inner diode, so that when switched 'off', the train engine remains isolated whilst another engine approaches the rear of the rake and draws it away.

There is still a problem with a DMU or similar train having pickups at each end and I am contemplating a solution using a photoresistor embedded in the track... watch this space...


From Paul Plowman
The idea of protecting terminal buffer stops and siding ends with a diode has been around for many years. Many modellers have used it successfully. However, there is a major shortcoming with the idea; it does not prevent over runs while propelling non-powered rolling stock such as coaches and valuable Pullman cars.


I suggest an alternative arrangement: Place an insulated joint in one rail about six inches from the buffer stops; locate all of the insulated joints in the same side rail throughout the layout; connect all of the protecting sections for each control area to the common terminal of a two-way switch; connect the two terminals of the switch to the track supply. In one position of the switch the protecting sections will have the wrong polarity and any metal wheel crossing an insulated joint will cause a dead short. The circuit breaker will then drop out and stop any further movement of trains. The operator then throws the two-way switch to clear the short circuit and the offending rolling stock can be recovered without the intervention of the hand of God. The switch is then returned to the protecting position.


The switch could be a two-way sprung push-button, which has to be held down while recovery takes place. With DC the circuit breaker would have to be of the type, which only rests after power is cut off, not one that resets automatically immediately the short circuit has been removed. The reason is because the short circuit occurs only momentarily.
style="font-size: 12pt;"I admit to not having tried this idea in practice but it should work with any item of rolling stock fitted with metal wheels and with DCC. It certainly worked with DCC yesterday when I accidentally wired up a pair of droppers the wrong way round.


From Paul Harman


Trevor Gibbs tip for DC is excellent, but DCC users should not be disillusioned as the technology to extend this technique to DCC layouts is already with us.


Users of Lenz Gold and Zimo decoders, that support asymmetric braking, have it easiest where the simple diode can be replaced with a Lenz BM1 module - which is little more than a network of five diodes that can be made easily for a few pence. It is a very simple solution that will make trains stop (with inertia) when being driven into the dead end, but allow them to be reversed out with full control of functions retained, and all the sound and lights still on.


For those DCC users that have other decoders, Brake on DC or brake signal insertion modules can be used, which is a little more complex to install, and will require a push button or similar to enable the train to be reversed out, but a useful safety stop can still be achieved.


From Graham Plowman


Trevor Gibbs raised the topic of diode protection for sidings. I have a much simpler solution: Don't design and build a layout which has track close to the edges of the boards!

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Hints & Tips No.82
Weathering with Chalks.
By Jeffrey Wimberly (LA, USA)

Ever seen a shaving cream brush? It'll come in handy. You will also need powdered chalk or tempera. These are available in the fabrics/art/craft section of stores. Get every colour you think you might use, then throw in a few more. You might want to do combinations.

To weather the model, darken the walls slightly with a sprayer filled fill a solution of leather dye and rubbing alcohol. The proportion is not important, just a little dye to a lot of alcohol. It will not take long to dry. Now, this is how I bring out mortar lines on brick walls. Dab the shaving brush in the tempera a few times, I like to use a light grey, and wipe it across the wall, then up and down. Now wipe it off with a moist finger. Now you have beautiful mortar lines.

If you want to show up the lines a little more in two or three places, like maybe the wall was patched at some point, just dab on some white chalk with your finger. To fix it all in place, just spray with dull-coat or matte-finish. That is all there is to it. I have been using this method for many years.

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Hints & Tips No.83
Grassed Areas
By Peter Betts, (Sydney, NSW)

Where grassed areas are needed, there are three main techniques used as follows.


(a) Zip texturing. In this method, dry plaster mixed with powder paint of the required colour is sprinkled though a tea strainer or stocking onto areas wetted with water from a spray bottle. This method is popular for mountainous American and Australian scenery where vegetation is not at all lush. However, in my opinion it cannot simulate a Typical British scene. Moreover, zip texturing will not stand up to any sort of abrasion, and, in most cases, will deteriorate quickly.


b) Grass carpet. With this product that can be bought from model shops, a paper-backed sheet of grass can be stuck down over large areas. This is the method that I have used myself extensively. Grass carpet is a very hard wearing and long lasting material, but has the disadvantage of displaying a too-even, bowling-green-type finish. I get over this problem by attacking the carpet with watered down bleach over selected areas, particularly on steep slopes. Where the bleach is applied, the carpet will go browner, or if you use too much, go yellow or white!


(c) Scatter material. A traditional method of simulating grass is to scatter died sawdust over a pre-glued surface. In my mind, this material is far too coarse, and looks awful. Woodlands and other companies produce a granulated dyed foam material to be scattered as vegetation and this is very good but quite expensive. Rather than buying the stuff, which is usually too dull in colour for British scenes, I make my own by breaking up lumps of polyurethane foam, dipping these in thinned-down bright-green paint, and when thoroughly dry, munching up the pieces in a coffee grinder.


In my view, the best grassed scenes are obtained by a mixture of (b) and (c) above.


Hints & Tips No.84
Simulating Industries.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne, Australia)


Modellers might do well to try to simulate larger industries rather than actually try to model them. Where many larger industries come off the “main line” you can often see a fence and a gate with vehicles at the siding or sidings but the industry itself is nowhere to be seen or way out of sight behind trees or hedges and you are not really seeing very much at all.


So for example, where here in Melbourne we had the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) sidings coming off the main western line on the Broad Gauge to Adelaide, we could see the lines ( there were quite a few sidings there) into and past the gates but not much else as there was a series of trees and bushes blocking the “view” of the factory buildings etc. Yet such an industry generated the need for many goods wagons (tanks, containers, vans/boxcars and flat cars of different types which added to the operating variety of trains working into the area.


To simulate it, any old siding with a fence and gate with views blocked by trees or walls can generate a lot of varied traffic on your layout... and you hardly have to build a thing!

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Hints & Tips No.85
Glazed Windows.
By Jeffrey Wimberly (LA, USA)

I cut clear plastic from those hard to open plastic containers that shops put everything in. It takes a 20 minute demolition job just to get the thing you bought out.


I cut these to the sizes I need for the windows then spray them with Matte-Finish. Dull-Cote would probably work too. They dry to a nice glaze. They also enhance your structures interior lighting. Put a bunch of these into a building and it only takes a small light to light up every window that has glazing.


(Note from Trevor – this is a very good variation of an earlier hint and I will have repainted many of mine with a dull coat clear by the time you read this)


Hints & Tips No.86
Modelling Stone Buildings.
By Peter Betts, (Sydney, NSW)


The basic structure of any building can be made up using card, styrene or metal, depending what medium you work best in.


My favourite material is double-sided printed-circuit board material (PCB) because it is very strong, can be cut out using a guillotine, can be soldered together, and last but not least off-cuts of the material can be obtained free. To the basic structure is glued a thin veneer of balsa wood, and then the stonework is burnt on with a soldering iron and painted as described above.


Of course, you could make the structure from balsa wood from the start, but in my opinion, such structures are too weak, and vulnerable to damage.

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Hints & Tips No.87
Track soldering and DCC tip
By Bob Montgomery (Arkansas)

If you solder your track joints and run DCC , make sure you remove your DCC loco's from the track before soldering new joints. The static etc. generated by soldering can damage decoders. Do not ask how I found this out. Just felt that I should pass it on.

Also it may be a good idea to disconnect your DCC power supply when soldering rails, I have not fried that yet , but why take a chance.



Hints & Tips No.88
"Recycling computer parts Pt 1.
By Jeffrey Wimberly (LA, USA)
Old PC power supplies make very good power supplies for structure lighting and signalling devices. On my previous layout I used one to light over 50 structures. On my current layout the same PC power supply is pulling nearly 50 bulbs (not LEDs) and is not even starting to strain. Try that with an old train power pack.


(A Note from Trevor... There are a number of web sites which deal with making a power supply from an ATX Power supply but please use safety precautions. If you do not feel comfortable dealing with Mains power which you will have to do if your Power Supply box does not have an off switch, then get an electrician ... within your club... to help. Later feedback suggests that some form of thermal overload protection in case of a derailment is essential as Computer Power supplies are not as robust as our made to purpose ones)

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Hints & Tips No.89
Retaining walls
by Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland)
Retaining walls and sea walls can be made from the foam used as an expansion joint in building construction. This material has a peel off cover exposing a very adhesive surface, simply apply whatever material you prefer to imitate rocks (aquarium stones are ideal), slate, boulders or brick to this surface.

Fill between the stones with a grout of a similar colour (or contrasting colour) and you have a very quick wall in whatever size you require. This method also works for paths and roads


Hints & Tips No.90
Joining two styrene surfaces using Waxed Paper .
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)


When joining two pieces of styrene either using ACC (Superglue) or MEK, make your join over waxed paper and allow to dry. This way your styrene does not pick up another surface or paint with the glue or stick to the other surface which may mar the appearance of your model.

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Hints & Tips No.91
Recycling computer parts Pt 2
By Thomas Statton, (Tennessee USA)

Old floppy drives and CD Roms are good sources for small motors and screws. The case should have small gauge wires and connectors for the LEDs and such. Gears and misc. parts can be gondola or open wagon junk loads when painted a rust color.


(A note from Trevor – I also used a small motor for an American 0-6-0 from a CD ROM to replace an open frame motor and a small double connector which I could not locate commercially for LEDs in the headlights of a diesel so I could remove the body totally. The motor runs very well)


Hints & Tips No.92
Laying Flex Track around curves .
By Chris Thompson, (Whyalla, South Australia)


Ever notice that the inner rail of flex track makes itself longer as you curve it? Of course you have. By judicious laying you can maximise the length of rail you have left over by keeping this length intact and feeding it into your next section through the chairs and effectively staggering your rail joints.


Your joints will be easier to maintain and straighten, and problem causes more easily found should your trains find cause to derail over the same joint area. You can “straighten” out the joint by using a spike to hold the track in gauge through the plastic sleeper.


(A Note from Trevor ... Staggered joints work well and I use them. However I am a little reluctant to solder joints on curves, as other modellers I know have done, living where I do. The temperature can go from about 0 degrees Celsius to 40+ in my garage as I have had trouble with expansion in the past. Those of you who have a more moderate climate regime or temperature control in your rooms may not be so reluctant to solder as I am.)

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Hints & Tips No.93
Recycling computer parts Pt 3
By Thomas Statton, (Tennessee USA)

Old computer device ribbon cable looks pretty good as corrugated iron when painted a silver color. Just cut to length and glue it to your fence frame material. A little rust colour will assist the image.


Hints & Tips No.94
Mixing Flex Track with Set Track curves .
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)


Early in 2008 I saw a 4x8 layout which was a “work in progress” similar to what I have done with my own memorial layout “Newry” at an exhibition. The purpose of this layout like my own was to show what one could start out doing and was on unpainted Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF).
The builder used Flextrack for the “straight sections” and Peco 2nd and 3rd radius curves for the end curves. Points were a mixture of set track and Streamline as the need arose. This allowed for some slight offsets of track to improve the “prototype appearance” and not having dead straight sections of track. It also allowed for more freedom with the geometry not being totally dictated by the lengths of set track that would have been used.


Sidings in particular looked good done this way. You get speed of laying, accurate curves, “prototypical straights” and the overall cost of your trackwork is reduced.

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Hints & Tips No.95
Recycling computer parts Pt 4
By Kevin Smith, (Saskatchewan, Canada)

You might actually want to keep an older working computer around. You do not need a lot of speed to run things like decoder pro, make inventories of your stock using spreadsheets such as Open Office or Excel or using simple drawing packages for layout changes or simple structures. You can then keep an older computer in the layout room. And a PC with a sound card might also become the basis for a sound system on your layout.


(A Note from Trevor – You might want also to save the H&T files on an old computer just so you can refer to it and wonder why you kept an old computer under your railway - ala this hint! :). Thanks Kevin!)

Hints & Tips No.96
Applying Ground Texture and Ground Foam Pt 1.
By Bruce Leslie, (MA, USA)


I do not like flat, uniform ground surfaces. They look fine in a park or on a golf course, but most of my ground is supposed to be more wild, unkempt terrain.


First, I use Gypsolite which is a locally available plaster material but there are equivalents all around the world, to skim coat the surface. This type of plaster is naturally gritty, so even on a flat area like a foam sheet, the irregularity makes a big difference. The Plaster is naturally a light gray, so I squirt in some dark brown craft paint until the mixture is a light tan. I spread this stuff around and let it dry, usually overnight.


I do not like uniform tan-colored surfaces either, so I make up a thin green wash with craft paint and water. I apply this unevenly, in a camouflage pattern, using the base plaster color. This dries pretty quickly, in a half-hour or less.


Then I paint on thinned white glue, about 1 part white glue to 3 parts water. I use an old 1/2 inch paint brush, and do a few square inches at a time. Finally, I take pinches of turf in my fingers and apply them, generally putting brown turf over the tan plaster, and green turf over the wash areas, but not being too fussy about either. Applying the turf bit-by-bit is a lot slower than just sprinkling it out of a jar, of course, but I get much better control.


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Hints & Tips No.97
Making Models on Flat Surfaces .
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)
Depending on the level of kit or scratch building you are doing, the ideal is to work on a flat surface. Many kit manufacturers recommend using plate glass and it is well and good if you have this. However you can get a fair degree of dimensional flatness and stability by using at least 12mm MDF or Particle Board up to about 15 inches square or so.If you are doing metal construction, a piece of MDF like this can work very well as a surface plate for marking. You can probably get an offcut from a cabinet makers work shop for zilch and even under the most prolific of hobbyists using Exacto knives or similar, it should last quite some time before it needs replacing.


Hints & Tips No.98
Extreme Wear and Tear .
By John De-Vries-Kraft, (Kamloops Canada)
Every railway has that extremely decrepit looking vehicle which although it may be "roadworthy" looks as if it had seen much better days usually sitting on a siding out of the way. I did help this guy with his shiny looking gondola... he said it looked too new and a bit toyish. We can all relate to that.

So,in a few moments I took the gondola and removed the wheels and couplers. I then ground it against a small rock, bent the sides of the gondola and scraped the ends so it looked as though it had taken a fair bit of punishment carrying stone etc... which it had by that time... just not carrying stone.


I then removed the "extra" plastic flashing from the scraping...presented it to the guy who was quite impressed. You could go one stage further and paint it a non descript grey and rust combination. Reinstall the wheels, add couplers, and voila, DONE and well used."

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Hints & Tips No.99
Applying Ground Texture and Ground Foam Pt 2.
By Thomas Statton, (Tennessee USA)
You can make ground foam yourself by using offcuts and chopping it up finely in an old blender. Craft paint works great for dying home made foam. This should work for sawdust too.

To adhere it to my terrain, I prefer using glue instead of wet paint as has been suggested. Most Latex Paints dry fairly quickly and can leave some ground foam unsecured.


Hints & Tips No.100
Stirrers as Fence Palings.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)
As mentioned way back in H&T No.37. The long wooden stirrers you get in McDonalds or Starbucks etc. make excellent plank loads when cut up.

When researching for this, I found a thread in Model Railroaders forums titled “You made that out of what...?” and one of the suggestions was picket fencing made from the same stirrers. You simply put the stirrers as palings on your fence frame, cut to length, paint an appropriate ochre or worn weathered colour and voila... one picket fence.


Last edited on Thu Apr 7th, 2022 08:12 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.101
Applying Ground Texture and Ground Foam Pt 3.By Art Hill, (MN, USA)
My variation is as follows. Rather than straight paint, I mix the paint with premixed drywall seam cement, and sawdust, with a little water and Lysol. I paint that on and put the Woodland Scenics colored ground foam on while wet. Of course you can use your own ground foam or Sawdust if this suits you better.


vary the coarseness of the sawdust to get different textures. For closeup scene, I will put some color variation on between the paint and the ground foam. Several colors of ground foam also helps a lot.

Hints & Tips No.102
N Scale Layouts as a Proportion of OO/HO.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)


N scale has proved a real boon for those of us who do not have the space availability for a larger scale layout. The temptation is to try to cram as much in a space or to take an OO/HO track plan and halve it for N.

Rather than take this approach, by all means cut down the use of space. However if it is at all possible either try to use the same size layout for N as you would the larger scale except alter the double track spacings etc, or split the difference and where you would have had a 8 x4 layout, reduce it to say 6 x 3 feet rather than 4 x 2 as tempting as that may be.


The illusion with such a small layout is lost a little mainly because the detail is within the field of vision of most people. By making it that fraction larger and making peoples heads move to take it in, the illusion of a railway is somewhat restored.


I feel that the same illusion can be lost when steep gradients in larger scales are used on smaller layouts. A gentle grade or curve leads the eye away and looks very effective in its own right.

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Hints & Tips No.103
Trees from Grape Stems.
By Peter Daniels (South Devon MRC UK)

Depending on your time of year, Grape stems when they are available make very good tree bases from which to lace with Ground Foam or Teased cotton balls to form typical European trees particularly in N scale . After being allowed to dry a bit, painting the stem in a natural wood colour should preserve it.

You can also enjoy yourself on two fronts, both making the trees and providing the raw material by consuming the fruit! The heights of trees? Basically whatever length you are prepared to eat!!!


Hints & Tips No.104
Using Clay Kitty Litter as Talus.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)
You can use small amounts of Kitty Litter of the clay variety to simulate the small rocks at the bottom of rock faces and ledges which have chipped and eroded from cliff fronts. This material is known as Talus and will appear in many areas at the bottom of hills, undulations etc.

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Hints & Tips No.105
Putting Blinds and Curtains in Windows .
By Thomas Statton (Tennessee USA)
I did a Google Images search for "blinds" and "drapes" and just saved the images I wanted. The images were then re-sized to fit using MS Paint.


The curtains were then printed out on an ink jet on copy paper. I sprayed them with some clear coat to seal the ink. and Dull Coat works also. I found a light coat of dull coat on the window glass (inside) made them look better. I used a heavy coat of clear coat on the drape and then placed the glass onto it while it was still wet. Others have told me that they did not have much luck with that method, but it worked on the ones that I did.

I also used some clear water based glue I found to do some other ones. That stuck REALLY well. For plain blindsI just used plain old masking tape stuck to the window.


Hints & Tips No.106
Billboards from Business Cards.
By Trevor Gibbs and others


On a Modern layout, some business cards are so colourful and ornate that they could make very effective Billboards for virtually no cost apart from that accrued by the person handing it to you. Such boards could go in your background and you could actually impress a sales representative to hand you a few for a number of projects if you find a particularly good one ...with a little flattery perhaps?


An older business card could also actually date your layout to a more specific era.

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Hints & Tips No.107
Painting Clouds with "Not Much Talent"


by Thomas Statton (Tennessee USA)
I have zero artistic talent, but this method is really easy to use. However, I need to practice blending them together.
I downloaded cloud pictures off the web and printed them out in the appropriate size, just in black and white to save ink. I then printed them on some card stock and cut out the clouds with an Xacto knife to make templates. I used some cheap flat white and grey spray paint, putting a little grey along the bottom of the template to represent the bottom of the clouds and treated the rest with shots of white. Any overspray of the white under the template looks like rising thermals.

You can see examples on http://cs.trains.com/trccs/forums/p/136637/1533209.aspx#1533209


Hints & Tips No.108
Track Laying Safeguards 101
By Martin Hollebone (TR Models North Hants)


When laying Track and Ballast... Check and ensure that all loose track pins have been removed from the track before running trains. The magnets are strong enough to attract the pins into the motors and cause damage.
When laying loose ballast never run the trains until the glue has fully dried and the track has been vacuum cleaned to ensure no loose ballast remain. Especially be careful when laying loose ballast be very careful while distributing around point blades.

(A note from Trevor – A Special thanks to Martin for kindly allowing me to use the hints on his shops web site)

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Hints & Tips No.109
Short Circuits on Peco Crossings.
By Trevor Gibbs, (Melbourne Australia)

I mainly run North American, specifically Canadian over Peco Streamline track on my home layout. On some of my slightly older engines, the tread is very slightly wider than the gap that Peco allows particularly over their short diamond crossing (of which I have one), and bridge unintentionally between one track and the other. I would have a similar problem with some of my British locos as well!

If a train is sitting on the other track, it can sometimes jolt into movement when the tracks are bridged or the crossing loco stalls entirely if it bridges the common rail which I use. To cure this, get some clear nail polish and paint it on the rails by the joint.


Hints & Tips No.110
Using Cartons for carrying rollingstock
By Brian Macdermott

Here in the UK, I have used some cardboard boxes from the supermarket which were initially used for the delivery of large baguettes for carrying rollingstock. These boxes are about 30" long, about 12" wide, and about 15" deep (about 750 x 300 x 375mm).

I store my boxes vertically with the end labels all facing the same way up. I also try to keep different the locos from different manufacturers in separate cartons.

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Hints & Tips No.111
Details No.1 - Modelling Security Cameras
By John Rumming (Western Australia)

I made security cameras for my buildings in the black domes by using a half round craft stone. I went to the local craft store and bought a packet of acrylic jewels. I got a piece of wire and bent a 90 degree angle in it about 1cm from the end.
For my layout I used a 7mm Black Cabachon stone (as the jewels are made of plastic), I heated up the end of the wire and pushed it into the jewel. Cut the other side a good distance from the side of the building and attach this the building. Your “security camera” is now installed.


Hints & Tips No.112
Railways in Pavement No.1
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
There are many situations where railways run in road areas usually in dockland and industrial areas. These areas can be modelled by a (very) careful application of plaster making sure your flanges do not get caught and ride high.
I have made a number of my own crossings and other areas over the years by cutting styrene sheet and stressing the material e.g. expansion lines to represent concrete, sanding to represent bitumen surface or dragging a razor saw to represent wood grain. And it is easy to modify and fit and your track will not be distressed by the setting plaster

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Hints & Tips No.113
Railways in Pavement No.2
By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)
When it comes to building Railways in pavement, I use the same technique for street running and level grade crossings. My crossings are made using Water Putty for the roads on either side of the track, and then styrene between the rails. Styrene sheet is pretty thin, so I use a second, narrower strip underneath it, sitting on the ties. That brings the top piece up enough that the spike plates do not interfere with it.

Use grey acrylic paint for both the road and the strip between the rails. That provides a good colour match, and by using a common, unmixed colour, I can easily touch it up if it gets nicked or scratched.


Hints & Tips No.114
Smaller Scale Buildings as Background
By Brian Sheron (MD USA)

If you have an HO or OO scale layout, and have an urban scene with HO scale building fronts against the layout wall, you can create the illusion of depth by gluing N-scale building fronts along the roof edge of the larger scale building.

It will appear that these smaller scale buildings are in the distance. If you have an O scale layout, try using HO or OO scale building fronts.


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Hints & Tips No.115
Controlling maximum speed on transistor throttles.
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
I use inertia transistor throttles on my layout with a minimum and maximum speed set. The maximum speed has been particularly handy when visitors come to see the layout. It is approximately set to the fastest speed I would want a loco to go and I do not have the grief of kids or adults who are kids at heart trying to run the train at slot car speeds, particularly if the adjustment is out of reach.
The modification would be easy on existing plain transistor throttles. Place a potentiometer between the throttle and the return side connecting the centre leg and the right as you look at it from the top to the right leg and the return "rail" of the throttle. Increasing this resistance decreases your maximum speed but it also means you have better control over more of a speed range for your throttle... and that is a good thing.


Hints & Tips No.116
Running in a Locomotive
By Stephen McCallum (Coquitlam BC, Canada)
I have a section of track that I can just let my loco run on [an oval for instance] then I let it run for half an hour at about a third speed then a half hour at half speed. What this does is 'break in' the motor and gears. I then do the same thing in reverse. Unless there is something truly wrong with the loco I have found I never have a problem with the running ever after doing this.
Of course if you run it on a temporary track set up on the carpet etc it will pick up lint and such, but barring things like that, once broken in it will give you years of fun. That and maybe lube it once every couple of years.
(A Note from Trevor - Check out Stephen's website at http://fsm1000.googlepages.com)

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Hints & Tips No.117
Planning a Layout With Templates
By Bob Heath Barchester (Spain)
When checking my planning on a full size board and being a cheap skate, I cut up varying widths and lengths of corn flake packets to represent track and turnouts and then lay them out on my board as closely as I can to the intended layout design.
Although this is not 100% accurate, it does show me when a thing is definitely a no no. If things such as clearances start looking a bit tight, then I take a lot more care with laying the card out, before committing my self to cutting and laying track.

Hints & Tips No.118
View and Scenic Blocks on Layouts
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
Rather than have just a hill blocking your view, you may well be in the situation where you can divide your layout into vignette scenes but a straight simply painted sky panel extending over the length of the hill.
If your middle layout backdrop does not have a hill, you can use low relief buildings to disguise your backdrop with the means of your trains transversing between scenes up to you. It could be a simple tunnel opening or buildings placed at such an angle that the transition is not obvious.

It can sure make your layout look bigger than it is if your visitors cannot see it all at once.

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Hints & Tips No.119
Bending Styrene Plastic
by Brian Sheron (MD USA)

Scratch building models may occasionally call for bending styrene plastic strips into unique shapes, such as arcs or compound bends.

An easy way to do this is as follows: trace on a piece of paper the shape or curve into which you want to bend a styrene strip. Place the piece of paper on a piece of wood, preferably something soft into which you can easily drive a nail. You can either trace the curve onto the wood with carbon paper, or just make small indentations along the traced shape on the paper, so the indentation carries through to the wood. Tapping a small finishing nail does this fine.

Remove the paper and then drive small finishing nails along the shape marked on the wood, about one inch apart. Lay the piece of plastic against the nails, drive another nail on the other side of the styrene strip to hold one end in place. If the curve is not too severe, you may be able to bend the styrene into the shape you want using the nails as a guide.

Now, get a hair dryer and hold it near, but not too near, the plastic. Try to heat the strip uniformly. As the styrene strip heats up, it will relax in to the shape into which you have bent it. Be careful not to heat it too much or it could melt and distort. You can test when it has taken the correct shape, because it will no longer be sprung against the nails, and should lift out easily from the mould.

Hints & Tips No.120
Locomotive Safeguards
by Martin Hollebone (TR Models North Hants)


A few basic pointers in maintaining your locomotives smooth running...


Never pick a locomotive up with your finger tips touching the running gear on the sides of the locomotive because it can damage the alignment of the running gear.


Never try to clean the wheels or electrical contacts with 'wire wool' or sand paper. Being made of steel the wire wool is attracted by the magnet and will cause damage. Steel wool also causes electrical shorts within the locomotive.


Never clean the track with wire wool as it will leave strands which will cause a short across the track and trip fuses and/or circuit breakers within the controller.

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Hints & Tips No.121
Transition Curves
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

Transition curves assist in making your engines traverse the curves on your layout much more easily. Start your curve a little further back on the straight than you normally would have and have a much more gradual curve before leading into your main curve.

This can still work If you are using a mixture of Flex track and Set Track Curves as suggested in H&T No.89, use a half curve as well as your full curves and stretch the flex track to take up the slight difference between the straight section and the curve. Your Engines will lead into your curves a lot better and your trains should run smoother because of a smooth transition.

Hints & Tips No.122
Weathering
by Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland)

Applying a diluted mix of Indian Ink and Alcohol to the timber aspects of models will give that a natural aged look that can "Make" a display. Like everything you need to experiment, starting off with a weak mix until you get the required effect. Paints used for ceramics are also a good source of creating that used and weathered look.

Last edited on Thu May 12th, 2022 06:58 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.123
Graffiti Decals from your Computer
by Brian Sheron (MD USA)

With the advent of home computers, you can now make your own decals. Obtain some clear decal paper compatible with your printer (i.e. ink jet or laser jet). Your computer will have a variety of fonts. Scroll through the fonts and you will likely see a number of them that resemble graffiti.

I also found a web site that has downloadable Graffiti fonts. Go to http://www.graffitifonts.com

Start typing typical graffiti phrases. When you have all the graffiti you need, hit the print button, spray the decal sheet with decal sealer, let it dry, and then apply graffiti to you rolling stock, retaining walls etc!

Hints & Tips No.124
Use of Different Ballasting and Rail on Sidings
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

Sidings are not so well maintained as main lines and as the main line gets re-ballasted, the source of stone may well be different from when the line was first laid. Sidings do not generally get re-ballasted or relaid at the same time.

Use a darker tone of ballast on your sidings or “muddy it up” a bit to achieve the effect. You could also use slightly different rail types or have the main line slightly visually higher to accentuate the difference with the track. Weeds will also accentuate the difference and look very effective for little cost.


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Hints & Tips No.125
Colour coding Wiring
by Martin Hollebone (TR Models North Hants)

When wiring your layout to operate points, lights, power feeds, etc., always use different colour multi-stranded flexible wires. Plan first with a diagram and record the colours used for each function for future reference. You will find this invaluable when checking for faults later.

Hints & Tips No.126
Handling Small Screws
by John Rumming (Western Australia)


Small screws have a habit of moving and dropping off the screwdriver at the worst times. Use a tiny bit of Blu-tack or similar on the end of the screwdriver and this will hold the screw in place. Magnetised screwdrivers are also useful.


(A Note from Trevor – you can also temporarily magnetise a screw driver by stroking it with a magnet along its length for a minute or so... eventually the strength will go but it will be enough to do your pressing job)

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Hints & Tips No.127
Telephone and Power Wires
by Loren Hall (Washington State, USA)
If you string your cables on your layout between telegraph poles, plain thread will droop in a unrealistic manner because there is no wire in it like the real thing. Pull your cables through some bees wax or such. Lay the thread on the wax, cover it with your thumb and pull the thread through. This will help to stiffen the thread. The wax will help to stiffen the thread and mimic the effect of wire.

Hints & Tips No.128
Mixing of Different Ground Foams or Scatters on the layout
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
Regardless of whether you make your own Ground Foam and Scatter, or buy commercial quantities, you should make, or use, different 'dye lots' with different intensities of green and other colours.
Nature does not generally have absolutely consistently coloured greens and neither should you. A bit of judicious mixture of the different dye lots in localised areas should improve your grass scenery appearance markedly.

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Hints & Tips No.129
Straws as "Household Decorations"
by Ron Lesperance (Windsor ON Canada)
A large red plastic straw from Mcdonalds, cut in 1/4" lengths, makes nice flower planters. Glue some green foam inside for evergreen plants. Cut in 1/2" lengths and you have nice garbage drums for the loading dock. You can put in some white paper to represent garbage. Best of all, you do not have to actually paint them!

Hints & Tips No.130
Plastering Basics No. 1 - Preparation & Mixing
by Stephen McCallum (Coquitlam BC, Canada)
Put on a pair of cheap rubber gloves to protect you from the slight caustic affects of hydrocal (which is widely used in North America) or plaster (everywhere else). This will also be handy for when you are painting.

Spray with water the area you are going to add the plaster to, if it is porous - for example, plaster, wood, cardboard, etc.. This prevents the material from sucking the water out of the plaster and leaving it brittle and flaky.

Use containers you do not want to use anymore, such as margarine tubs - plastic containers are best as they is easier to clean up after each batch.



Use about 500 mls of plaster to 250 mls of water. An old rubber spatula is a good stirrer and you should always add the plaster to the water. Add the plaster slowly and mix thoroughly until it is has the consistency of thick cream.

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Hints & Tips No.131
Painting the Sides of Layouts
by Joe Saliba and Charlie Ramsay (Sunshine MRC, Melbourne Australia)
Exhibition layouts, in particular, need to be presented as being finished and home layouts can do with effective presentation when shown to your family and friends.
You may be very surprised as to how much more presentable your layout becomes with a suitable paint around the fascia of the layout, compared to the nails, screw heads and dirty fascia that comes with working on a layout.
(A Note from Trevor – When Joe painted up an exhibition layout of a club associate and my own 'Newry' layout, the impression was almost unbelievable. Ours were painted in a Royal Blue colour in a gloss enamel... and worth the time and effort to do it!!! Thanks Joe)

Hints & Tips No.132
Plastering Basics No. 2
by Stephen McCallum (Coquitlam BC, Canada)

If you are going to colour the plaster first then understand that doing so may introduce salt to the mixture. Some dyes like clothing dyes have salt in them. This is important to know because it shortens the usage time by about half or even less sometimes.

You only need about one teaspoon to one heaping table spoon per cup of water. Add the dye to the water before adding the plaster. Mix thoroughly.

You can also decrease the setting time by half by simply adding 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the water before adding the plaster. If you want the plaster to take longer to set because you want to shape it, make a rock. or a cut in the mountain etc. then add about 2 teaspoon of vinegar to one cup of water.


If you are using dyes and want a slower reaction time add 4 teaspoons per cup. Understand though that adding too much vinegar will weaken the plaster.

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Hints & Tips No.133
Details No.1 – Culverts
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
You can make a simple culvert under an embankment by drilling a small hole and inserting a piece of tube or (better still) a half tube where any water would flow.
Paint it a silver or grey tone to represent concrete or steel piping and perhaps detail it with some sediment, if water is not flowing through it, or use some thin white glue strings to simulate a slowly draining amount of water, perhaps into a slough type pool down the bottom.
Hints & Tips No.134
Plastering Basics No.3
by Stephen McCallum (Coquitlam BC, Canada)
If you are using paper towels or cloth in constructing your scenery, try to make them about the size of your hand, but no more that twice the size. Cut or tear them if you will. Tearing is better because it is more ragged. This makes them easier to place, handle, use and shape.

The best paper towels are the brown rough thick ones used in public washrooms. As for cloth, old cotton is best, unless you want to use cheese cloth.

Always clean the container before reusing it, otherwise the old plaster will cause the new plaster to set super fast because it will be seasoned.

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Hints & Tips No.135
Running on lower voltage
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

If you are still using any sort of Globe as compared to using LEDs, run your power pack at a lesser voltage than the rating quoted by about 70%. If you have 12 volt globes, try running them on say 8 volts, 6 volts should be cut down to 4 etc.

This extends your globe life remarkably and will cut down the heat factor in your train area.

Personally I run all my lights bar a few Headlights with LEDs. At 80,000 hours rated life and I am 67, I don't expect to change too many and the heat is a whole lot less. I can also run from old Mobile Phone charger transformers and get quite a few lights, well LEDs running for virtually no outlay.


Hints & Tips No.136
Plastering Basics No.4
by Stephen McCallum (Coquitlam BC, Canada)
With pre-dyed plaster lumps, you can use it for talus at the base of hills and cliffs.

You only need a thin layer of plaster to do the job. It is going to hold up ground foam, not hold up you walking on it. ¼ inch is more than sufficient for most. This will support a 5 pound rock
for instance. Notice I said “support”, not thrown at.


Also keeping it thin at the beginning makes it easier to cut later if you need to. If you let the plaster dry for a day or two and then return to add more, remember to spray it with water first.

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Hints & Tips No.137
Using Black light or ultraviolet lights
by Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland)
Combined with fluorescent paint applied discreetly to buildings, fences and car headlights etc “Black Light or Ultra Violet lights can make an incredible effect for your village scene. Generally the ultraviolet lights are tube-type available from Electrical and Hardware stores.

There are several sizes depending on the size of display you want it on. Try mounting the light above or at the rear of your display. Or make a hill to conceal your light in your display. Caution...the effects on your display is addictive... paint stars on the backdrop, in the night sky...timed daylight to night scenes...

Hints & Tips No.138
Keeping Nail Packets intact
by Loren Hall (Washington State, USA)
Those little flip open packages of nails or hardware are also the ones you put on the layout and immediately hit with your elbow and scatter the contents all over the place.


Put a reasonably strong flat magnet under the package and the contents will not fall out when tipped over.

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Hints & Tips No.139
Use of Wahl Oil
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

For many years, some modellers have been using Wahl clipper oil to help with their locos maintaining good electrical contact with the track. This was dramatically shown when a friend bought an older Rivarossi Cab Forward locomotive to an exhibition which was running very raggedly. A few drops of Wahl Oil on the track and you would not have thought you were viewing the same engine!

There have been a number of spurious claims made about the product ( traction increased for example... physics tells me that oil and traction are not compatible) but the conductivity is improved if only a few drops are applied every 3-4 metres/10-12 feet or so. Like many other areas in this hobby, just do not overdo the oiling.

Hints & Tips No.140
Weathering on Level Crossings
by Fred Scotland (Sydney, Australia)

Level crossings always look far too clean out of the box but many times are "over weathered" by modellers.

Try to apply a small amount of dark wash (a watered down black) only to the hinge and connecting rod areas of the gates. These were the parts that were greased regularly and we would expect them to be greasy always. Over weathering can make the gates look simply "grimy" and "uncared for".

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Hints & Tips No.141
Aerials and Plastic Plugs in models
by John Rumming (Western Australia)

You can make excellent Aerials using old plastic sprues from the moulding trees of model kits. Clean any rough edges from your sprue then heat the sprue up with a candle and stretch slowly. At first it will be thin, and as it cools, it gets thicker. This looks like a thick base and thin top. Cut to size and you have an aerial shape .

If you have a hole in a plastic model that needs to be filled say for an unwanted headlight opening, use a similar technique. Fill in your hole and glue with MEK or other type glue and sand to finish.

Hints & Tips No.142
Alternative Catenary
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

You can make catenary or trolley wire for trams by stripping suitable sized copper wire and hardening it. You do this by placing one end in a vice and using a power drill, hold it reasonably tightly and start spinning the drill chuck while holding a tension.

You would think the wire would twist all over the place but it spins on itself and becomes quite rigid. Try to stop spinning before the wire actually snaps, usually just out of the drill chuck or vice. You can then make a jig to create your favourite catenary shape or length, cut the wire to length and shape and solder away.

I have also used wire in this way to make model signs for my own and club layouts, especially small signs like whistle and speed board signs for trackside details. You could use the copper wire from catenary offcuts in this way if you do not use these for the wire hangers!

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Hints & Tips No.143
Water Effects
by Rob Smith (Labrador Queensland)
Clear silicone like those used to seal bathroom basins and showers etc can also be used to imitate the ocean waves and ponds. This can be applied directly onto your village base board. Simply apply the colour for your water scene to your base board (use two or three colours to get the effect of different depths) and place beads of silicone clear caulking in rows to represent waves.
Experiment with the distance apart to get the effect you are after. You can shape the waves using a flat stick...it pays to experiment with the effects. On the shore line place some PVA glue and sprinkle sand and you will have instant beach....don't forget the driftwood washed up on shore.

If it is a pond, slough or river scene, get some aquarium stones which are available in a good range of colours and use these on the edge of the silicone and up the river bank.


Hints & Tips No.144 - Making a Turntable
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)
You can make a simple turntable from a length of timber (preferably plywood for dimensional stability), a reversing switch and a stereo jack, preferably one of the thicker ones at 4.8mm.

The stereo jack is wired so that the plug is on the turntable bridge side, while the socket is on (or in) your baseboard. Get it exactly in the middle of your bridge. The socket goes in your baseboard and is wired by a reversing switch to your track. The reversing switch is to get the polarity right, when your locos are rotated.
You can then sink your turntable into your baseboard or sit it on top and raise the track to it. You will need to make some sides for the turntable bridge - either a girder made from styrene or card above the rail, or a girder to cover the wooden bridge. You will also need to construct a model fence at rail height. 


You should now have a basic turntable to give you years of enjoyment and trouble free service.

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Hints & Tips No.145

Help With The Small Things Pt 1
by Bob Heath - Barchester (Spain)

Bluetac : Very good for holding things temporarily in place, or even permanently in some cases. I use a tiny little spot under the feet of my figures so that they can easily be moved to new locations without marking the original spot.
Buttons : Good for many kinds of wheels, pulley's etc.
Chalk : In various colours can be ground up and used for weathering.
Coffee grounds : Keep these and dry them out and the result makes a very good scatter material.
Containers : You will need containers of all shapes, sizes and materials for all the bits and pieces that you will inevitably collect. You can't have too many, believe me.
Craft knives : You don't have to lash out here with the big bucks to get you started. Try the plastic ones with the snap-off blades that are sold in all the tool places.
Cutting mats : Again not essential but they are kind to your craft knives.


Hints & Tips No.146

Fences No.1 - Making a Simple Wire Fence
by John Rumming (Western Australia)
Panel pins driven into the baseboard at regular intervals can start this one.
Get some beading wire on a roll and wrap it around the first pole. Then go to the second and wrap once around that. Continue until your fence is done. You can space them so you can get 3-4 lines down, making a great looking fence.
Thin cotton will also do the trick if the wire is not going to be stressed.

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Hints & Tips No.147
Ballast Removal
By Vicky Makin (Qld, Australia)
This instruction will work for those that have ballasted using PVA (polyvinylacetate) glue. Selleys Aquadhere (AUS) or Elmers (US)(correct me if I am wrong).

Your first step is to wet the ballast with water, between the rails and on either side. I could not find my eyedropper so I dunked my finger in water. Allow to sit for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then dig out the ballast on either side of ties that have a nail into the tabletop and pull out nails.

Using something suitable, utility knife or putty knife (I used a 1/2 inch wood chisel upside down because I could not find my utility blades) gently push the blade under the ballast and pry the track up. Once one piece of track has been lifted the rest will follow. What you have left is ballast ready to be scraped up. I used my chisel for this and it did a very neat job. Then clean up the area ready for relaying track.

You can recycle the ballast if you wish and the track can be cleaned up by washing with water.



Hints & Tips No.148
Fences No.2 - Making a Chain Link Fence
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne, Australia)
Referring back to a similar sounding H&T (No.142), you can make fence poles using slight thicker wire by stripping suitable sized copper wire and hardening it. You do this by placing one end in a vice and using a power drill, hold it reasonably tightly and start spinning the drill chuck while holding a tension.
Plant these in your base board at regular intervals and go to your local craft shop and buy from bridal veil material known as Tulle. If the craft shop is a good one they should even have silver or light grey. Get the tension and angle where you want it, remember that in 00, 40mm is a 10ft fence. Glue the strip of Tulle to your fence poles - and you have one modern chain link fence. A simple hole or tear will add to the detail of the fence.

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Hints & Tips No.149
Recycling Materials for Railway Use
by Martin Hollebone (TR Models North Hants)

Long time readers of this column would be aware that modellers are encouraged to recycle all sorts of material.

When your or your neighbours are unpacking that new washing machine, or TV do not throw the foam packing away. It is ideal for railway scenery such as hills, cliffs, etc when given a light coat of plaster and it is FREE.

Many other household items that normally go in the bin can be used on your layout so next time you throw something out; think again. For example, tea leaves, saw dust make good scenery textures and cardboard tubes and containers make all sorts of shapes.

Hints & Tips No.150
Help With The Small Things Pt 2
by Bob Heath - Barchester (Spain)

Double sided tape : If you get a short length of this material and stick one side onto a flat surface, thick card, wood or similar, then the exposed sticky surface is ideal for standing your small people and animals on whilst painting them. When the paint is dry the figures are easily plucked off the sticky surface. The piece of tape can be used time and again. You could of course use any sticky tape and just apply a little glue to the tape backing to attach it to your holder with the sticky side up.


Florists wire : Brilliant for making tree trunks in any scale also for hand rails, signal operation, fencing wire etc. Comes in varying thicknesses.

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Hints & Tips No.151
Ground Goop
By Andy McMahon and Sheila Perry ( Beccles, Suffolk)
The basis of all the groundwork on Newton Halt was a mixture called ground goop which we read about in an American model railroading book that Sheila bought at an exhibition. Like most things we adapted the recipe and experimented with it. Virtually everything, other than structures and the road was covered with a thick coat of ground goop consisting of sieved soil from the garden, PVA, water and a touch of raw umber acrylic paint.
This dries to a hard realistic finish and looks fine when exposed by thin undergrowth. We even coated the internal surfaces of the dykes before applying the 'water'.

Hints & Tips No.152
LEDs for Headlights
by Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne Australia)

I am still on DC because I like my throttles and like playing with controlling braking. Headlights are another issue as the old globes varied with the track voltage and were non directional. I have now fitted Golden White LEDs as Headlights to most of my locos. They are fairly constant with their intensity and look good.

Because you have to put a regular diode in line with the LED as well as the load resistor, if your motors are the sensitive type make a block with diodes in reverse parallel, that is Cathode to Anode at both ends and put this in series with your motor. Because Diodes drop 0.6 of a volt, your motor will need a higher starting voltage and you will hopefully be lucky enough that the loco will start just after the headlight goes on. If your Diode is sensitive, you may need two diodes in Series. But the headlight effect is worth it and they do not shine constantly in reverse!

Last edited on Mon Jun 27th, 2022 11:40 am by xdford

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Hints & Tips No.153
Auto Uncoupling MU Hoses and Power Cables
by John Rumming (Western Australia)

Use the insulation from wire to imitate Multiple Unit Hoses and Air Hoses for the trains. Remove the wire and they will drop naturally. If you keep the wire in them, you can bend then to the shape you require, providing that they are solid core wires
In larger scales in particular, if you would like moving and auto coupling Multiple Unit hoses and power cables, then do as above but add a magnet to the hose. On another loco or carriage, glue a small metal piece to the body which will act as a “receptacle” for the hose or cable.
These will hold together and create the look of true hoses. You cannot use a magnet on each item as well as the hose as they may repel each other. To uncouple, just release the coupler and drive away. The hoses will detach by themselves most of the time!

Hints & Tips No.154
Help With The Small Things Pt 3
by Bob Heath - Barchester (Spain)

Keep it clean : This doesn't just apply to the track and rolling stock wheels but to the whole layout. Don't let bits of rubbish and dust accumulate as it's the first thing that viewers see, either of the layout itself or in any photographs you take.
Knife blades : Try and get into the habit of putting the blade cover back on when you have finished using it, or sliding the blade back into it's holder. These blades are deadly when they come into contact with the users flesh 

Matchsticks : Same as kebab sticks, again depending on scale, wagon loads of cut timber, timber stacks in yards, it's imagination time. Matches come in a wide range of thickness.
Masking tape : 
Has a textured surface that takes paint well, good for wagon and truck covers.


                 

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