Welcome to St Agnes

Views of the Layout

Further Views

Map of the “St Agnes”

Operating the “St Agnes”

The Budd Cars

The Transistor Throttles I use

Building my Throttles

Calculating Scale Speed

Using a Model Lathe 1

Using a Model Lathe 2

Using a Model Lathe 3

Making Searchlight Signals

Ersatz Ground Signals

Making Dummy Signals

MRE “Hints and Tips”

Exhibitions and Layouts

Building a Layout in a short time frame

Simple Street Lighting

Simple Cut out Buildings

Canadian Trees

Updated July 2017

Hints & Tips No.376

Answering Questions... at home or at an Exhibition

By Roger Joel (Alton MRC

How many exhibition layouts have we seen where the sullen operators skulk behind the layouts appearing to openly defy anyone daring to ask a question.

Yes it can get a little tiring answering the question 'How did you make the rocks on the layout', for the umpteenth time in a day, however I reiterate the idea of encouraging the future members of the hobby. A friendly response also helps to create a positive attitude at the exhibition and so hopefully encourages visitors to return another year. When exhibiting we always try to have at least one group member available behind the layout to answer questions.

Hints & Tips No.377

Painting Pt 8 - Drying and Handling

By Steve Cook (Alton MRC)

It is essential to care for your brushes in order to get the best results every time.

For oil based paints

  • Clean a brush by dipping it in brush cleaning fluid (e.g. white spirit) and wiping it on old newspaper, repeating the operation until the majority of the paint has been removed.

  • Give it a final gentle swirl in the cleaning fluid.

  • Take a small amount washing-up liquid or liquid soap and gently work it into the bristles.

  • Rinse under running water and gently squeeze out the excess water between your fingers

  • Tease the bristles back into shape

  • Store in a tube that will protect the brush from damage and contamination

For water based paints, the operation is the same but using water as the cleaning medium

Hints & Tips No.378

Communicating Your Layout

By Roger Joel, (Alton MRC)

Most layout builders establish a location and historical period for their layouts. Having done so they then fail to communicate this to the spectator or at best make a passing effort by pinning a scrappy piece of paper to any convenient part of the layout. The thought that you put into the study and accomplishment of the period and location deserves much better than that.

Anyone familiar with the Pine Bluffs exhibition layout will remember that we have adopted a fictitious newspaper for the period and fitted extracts to the front of the baseboards as do a number of exhibitors. These extracts are mounted in sloping panels which are positioned so as to be close to the item/mini scene to which they are referring. Of course it is not necessary for all exhibitors to go to these lengths, just make sure the information is well presented and visible is enough.

Hints & Tips No.379

Painting Pt 8 - Applying Transfers and Decals

By Steve Cook (Alton MRC)

Pressfix or Methfix transfers, once applied, should be over coated with varnish to fix them permanently in place and prevent damage when the model is handled.

If the model has waterslide transfers, it is best to lay them on a glossy surface to minimise the visibility of the carrier film. To do this either paint the whole model or just the transfer area with gloss apply the transfer (decal) and finish with a satin or matt varnish to fix them in place.

Hints & Tips No.380

Cassette Alignment

By Bob Hughes Crewe MR&ES

Solder a short length of paperclip on the outside of each rail at the end of the cassette. These clips will then engage to fixed track at the end of the layout providing both positive alignment and electrical connection. On a micro layout with short trains they don't need fastening down to stop them moving.

I have done this on the San Vince de Rey which is N scale but they will work with any track gauge or scale.

Hints & Tips No.381

Contoured Hillsides

By John Rutter - (Wirral & North Wales MRC )

On Corwen East we used a technique of re-using old cardboard tubes - kitchen rolls are particularly good, to form a lightweight substructure for "tall" scenery.

  • The tubes were roughly assembled into the area to be filled and a rough contour marked on them.

  • The tubes were then cut to the required length and angle and glued in place vertically with hot melt glue. We found that there only needs to be a run of glue where the tubes touch.

  • Final trimming to contour was done with scissors.

  • We used a rigid foam base, however, the fully glued tubes will, more than likely, be self supporting once set.

  • The ends of the tubes were filled with scrap paper a to prevent leakage nd the whole covered in plaster bandage. It may be lighter to use PVA/kitchen roll. We found that the plaster layers became heavier than we would have liked.

Hints & Tips No.382

Staples as Lampholders

Several Modellers

Staples can be cut in half without being stapled and filed: these are then usable as lamp holders on locomotives, coaches and brake vans. You could create simple lamps from plastic sprue, even turning them with a power drill and using a basic file.

Hints & Tips No.383

Blue Tack

Several Modellers

We have found "Blu-tack" useful for making N gauge wagons and coaches heavier, as it has a high density and can be compressed into a small space. It is also useful for OO wagons.

Hints & Tips No.384

Representing Bigger buildings

By David Millard (Northamptonshire)

You could always model a stadium or other large buildings in low relief or as a back scene ie just give the impression of the railway going by the stadium. This will save space.

Hints & Tips No.385

Quick mountains

By Adrian Hall (West Midlands)

Ever wanted light but quick scenery? Then my tip is to use the expanding foam in a can. Quick and easy to use spray it in the area you wish to have any cliffs or mountains etc and it will expand up to something like 40 times it's original size to fill the area chosen. Very easy to carve with a bread knife and no messy polystyrene to cling to everything and clean up. Be very careful how much you use though as it does expand to cover everything in its path. Track, other scenery, everything.

A Note from Trevor - I have seen this material used but by many reports it can be among other things difficult to apply and control. Also it is not cheap! However to each their own and Adrian's method may work well for you!

Hints & Tips No.386

Hiding the Backdrop Entry/Exit

By John Rumming (WA)

Have you got an entry or exit with a hole in it? If so, hide it from view with a building or a group of trees. This will mean the train will disappear behind into the back of the scenery.

Hints & Tips No.387

Removable building bases

By James Fenton

You can easily mount buildings on the layout to make them removable. Go to your local Dollar store and buy a packet of household sponges. Cut a sponge to be a tight fit inside building. Glue the sponge to layout, fit building over it.

Hints & Tips No.388

Printing White on Black using one of the major Word Processors

From the Victorian Model Railway Society

You do not have to use a graphics program to produce white text on a black background or many other combinations of text and background colour for that matter. This explanation from a club member shows you how.
1. Type the required text setting font (typeface and size).
2. Indicate the paragraph to be treated. Select Format, and in Format click Borders and Shading.
3. Then go to Font in Borders and Shading, and expand the character spacing by 0.5 point; then select white as font colour.
4. Choose grey shading, applied to paragraph.
5. Click cursor to verify these choices.

Now you can make signs for your layout to your hearts content.

Hints & Tips No.389

Modelling Brick Walls Pt 1

By Rob Pearce

Almost any railway scene is going to contain at least one building with brick walls. Brick walls are not the easiest things to model realistically.

Many modellers include card models for buildings, and these generally have the brick walls printed fairly well, but without any surface texture. Kits of buildings with brick walls have an appropriate surface moulded in, and for scratch building there is embossed plastikard available.

These surfaces provide the contours for brick and mortar, but they are of a plain, semi gloss colour which looks entirely wrong. Our aim is to achieve a realistic brick wall appearance, including variations in brick colour and mortar lines. The method I have used is fairly simple, but rather time consuming.

Establish an approximate colour. If using "brick red" coloured plastic this is not entirely necessary, but from a grey plastic base I apply a good coat of brick red enamel with an airbrush. Onto this surface I next apply the colour variation of the bricks. To get an idea of this it is worth while photographing some representative brick walls. These should be of the correct era for what you are modelling.
Now comes the laborious part. Using a fine brush, I paint individual bricks at random in a variety of colours. These can range from white through to black, and include various shades of brown. At this stage what I am doing looks entirely wrong - the colours are far too bold. But that is exactly the point. Any paint applied this way will appear strong and bold, which is not the effect required.

When the wall has reached the point of appearing to be suffering a severe skin complaint, the next step is to soften this down to a more appropriate level. This is actually very easily achieved by spraying on a thin, and hence translucent, coat of brick red enamel. This has to be done with an airbrush to get the thickness right.

Hints & Tips No.390

Modelling a Dry Stone Wall

By Andrew Cockburn

Cut strips of card board to the height, shape and contour you want your stone wall to be. Coat with PVA glue on both sides (unless the stone wall is part of the back scene) and hang up to dry overnight with weights to keep it straight.

Next day coat with suitably coloured Woodland Scenics ballast or small stone from your friendly local pet fish supplier and cover your card with the stone, glue in with PVA, allow to dry and place on your layout.

Hints & Tips No.391

Modelling Brick Walls Pt 2

By Rob Pearce

Once I am happy with the colouration of the brick, I set about applying the mortar. To do this the wall must be laid horizontal. I then take a mixture of stone and white enamel paints to obtain the correct mortar colour, and thin them with roughly 3 parts thinner to one part paint. Using a fine brush I apply a drop of this into a corner of the mortar line, as accurately as possible into the recess. The paint is so thin that capillary action carries it along the recess to follow and fill the mortar lines.

It almost always happens that some of the mortar paint sits on the brick faces. This can be wiped off with a tissue before it dries, but not too soon or you will draw it out of the lines. It sometimes helps to very lightly moisten the tissue with thinners or white spirit. Now the wall must be weathered according to its age and location. For this I use the Carrs weathering powders, applied with a brush then dusted off by blowing on the model. Finally I fix the weathering with an airbrushed coat of matt varnish. The end result can look quite impressive.

Hints & Tips No.392

Preserving Your Foliage and Lichen for Tree Construction

From the Victorian Model Railway Society

One useful treatment for plants to be used on layouts when preserving them for use is this pickling solution. Take your ingredients as a pickling solution in the form of 1 part glycerine, 1 part acetone, 1 part denatured alcohol(methylated spirits). Immerse your lichen in warm water, soak for several minutes, remove and gently knead. After water is removed soak in pickling solution for 24 hours. Remove, Dry and colour.

Note that you will need to add more Glycerine to the solution as more plants are processed.

Hints & Tips No.393

Bending Sheet Metal

From the Victorian Model Railway Society

When folding sheet metal such as 0.010" (0.25mm) brass you should scribe a line on the outside of the fold if you want the outside to be a 'square' corner. If you want the inside to be square and the outside slightly rounded (because of the stretched metal on the outside following the bend), you should scribe on the inside.

Hints & Tips No.394

Fencing 1

By Several Modellers

If you use a bought fence like Ratio's flexible fencing consider painting it whilst still in the plastic 'frame.' When you cut it from the frame, cut some 'planks' off, and some off on one side and half through on the other or have signs of rotting at the base so that it looks a little dilapidated.

Hints & Tips No.395

Soldering Rails

By Rob Pearce

To ensure a sound electrical contact the feeder wires should be soldered to the rail. However, nickel silver is not an ideal metal for soldering. The slightest bit of muck will prevent it from tinning, and with this in mind I do not trust the solder joint as a mechanical joint. The solution I have adopted to these problems is to drill a hole in the rail. This serves two purposes :
* The hole is clean, fresh and therefore "tinnable"
* The wire is held mechanically in place
I drill a hole with a 0.8mm PCB drill starting from the outside of the rail and at an angle of roughly 45 degrees down. This should be done between sleepers, and on flexible track try to pick the gap where adjacent sleepers are not linked. The hole then emerges from the bottom of the rail into open space.
This allows a feeder wire to be inserted from below. Allow the tip of the copper core to come flush with the outer edge of the rail (or just proud by a hair's breadth) and solder it in place. Use a hot iron with a fine tip, applied to the rail and wire end together, and fine flux cored solder directly into the hole. Gravity and capillary action will take the solder down and the whole operation is over in a couple of seconds. This means the heat does not have a chance to spread enough to damage the plastic sleepers.
If this is done properly the only visible sign will be a very small trace of solder on the outer edge of the rail. Once the rail has been painted rust colour (for weathering) this becomes practically invisible unless you know where to look.

Hints & Tips No.396

Making a Footplate

By Iain Lamb

I made a footplate specifically for a 4F but the technique will apply to other engines. Modelling one is quite straightforward. Firstly – as per the Hornby Instructions sheet – “From underneath, remove screw which attaches the drawbar to the tender chassis.

IMPORTANT – In this case and many others the locomotive and tender are permanently wired together. Do not try to pull them apart and take care not to strain the wires.

Turn the locomotive and tender onto their wheels and carefully lift off the tender body, from the front, to release the rear body clip. Using scrap paper make a template of the surface area of the cab floor and add 1cm to cover the eventual link to the tender.

Accurately cut the paper to give a snug fit inside the cab including the contours beneath the fire-box. When satisfied that a good fit has been created, cut back the extension to about 8mm from the end of the cab floor. Re-move the template and draw a curve at the tender end to avoid the eventual footplate catching the edge of the tender when on curves. On my model I came in by 3mm at the outer edges.

When you are satisfied that your template is correct use it to create from thin card or plastic an actual footplate. Try it for size and if happy glue to the cab floor. When dry, paint the footplate Matt Black. At this stage I also took the opportunity to paint the hand-rails (not forgetting the tender ones) using Precision paints tinlet No M 411 “Steel”.

Hints & Tips No.397


By James Fenton

Yes, cats love to enjoy your railway. The problem is that they can break telephone poles, trees and bushes and leave cat hair. Most cats hate flea spray yet in small doses it is imperceptible to us. I found by spraying the layout weekly, the cat stays away.

Hints & Tips No.398

Fencing 2

By Several Modellers

This is not unique, but we think it is effective.
1. Make a 1mm square stick from some .040" Styrene Sheet for N scale or 2mm square stick for 00 by laminating the sheet..
2. Scratch it with a razor saw and paint it a mix of wood brown and olive green.
3. While that dries, get some strands of wire, preferably left over from wiring your layout. Attach it to a long piece of 2x1 left over from baseboard building (we all use it!) with 2 nails/screws whatever. Carefully, very carefully, run a scalpel blade down the length of wire slicing into the rubber coating. Peel 7 strands of wire from the rubber tubing.
4. Drill 1.5/2.5mm holes (depending on scale) into the layout where you need the fence to run.
5. With a blob of PVA on the end, stick the whole "stick" length into the hole and cut off at an appropriate height (guess!) with an appropriate tool such as flat sided sidecutters
6. Next, the wire. Loop a single strand of the wire around the starting fence pole at the base. Then carry the 'looping' on from post to post trying to keep it tight. If you take time and are careful with this then you will need no glue, not even of the wood type!
7. At the last post cut the wire off with aforementioned sidecutters, now permanently acquired) and aim towards ground level/ hedge.
8. Repeat process for higher up the fence posts.
9. Tweezers help - as always!

Hints & Tips No.399

Telephone Pole Wires using Invisible thread

By John Schaefer, (VA, USA)

Buy the smoke colour of Invisible Thread. I use it for telephone wires (it will realistically droop without a problem), rigging wires on WWI aircraft, and it is also great for sewing on patches to my motorcycle vest.

It has a number of other uses as well such as detail wires for engine compartments, hydraulic hoses etc or sewing up the tear in your favourite couch.

Hints & Tips No.400

Making India Ink Washes

By Bruce Leslie, (MA, USA)

There have been many references to India Ink as a weathering medium. For washing for mortar, Put about a half-inch of water in a yogurt cup, and add a couple of drops of India Ink. The Ink is very concentrated. You will get a greyish look from the mortar. If it is not dark enough, give it another application.

The whole idea of washes is to add only a little bit at a time. Do not try to nail it on one pass. Remember, you can always add more, but you cannot take any away if you get it too dark.

Hints & Tips No.401

Modelling Rust

By James Fenton

I have read and heard of using a lot of substances to emulate RUST on models. Here is a trick that works fine for me... REAL RUST ! Yes, I just take a scrap of rusty iron, wet my brush, rub it on the rusty iron, instant rust paint. Seal with dullcoat. It is too easy!

Hints & Tips No.402

Modelling Barbed wire fence using Invisible thread

By John Schaefer, (VA, USA)

As with Tip No 400, buy the smoke coloured Invisible Thread. Tie a knot at regular intervals to simulate the barbs and use whatever you will for the posts - toothpicks, plastic or whatnot. It looks like wire and needs no painting and adheres well with
CA glue.

As we noted before there are many uses for this stuff and the 440 yards on a reel lasts a lifetime. There are brands of barbed wire fencing which is very scale looking but it is about 1/48 scale so those products are better for O and larger. Use the invisible thread stuff.

Hints & Tips No.403

Using Ice Cream Boxes and Containers

By Steve Searson

Another useful storage container for larger bits and pieces and "N" gauge stock. It will take coaches if card
shelves and partitions are installed or depending on the type of plastic used, your container can be used as a cheep source of sheet plastic.

Hints & Tips No.404

Mounting a Hand Held Throttle Pt 1

By Nick Brodar, (MA, USA)

I was looking for an inexpensive and low profile hanger for my handheld throttle and uncoupling tools, I came up with this:

I picked up a steel electric box cover plate, and painted it a close match to my fascia. I stuck a magnet to the back of the throttle. Now I can rest the throttle wherever there is a magnetic plate

Hints & Tips No.405

Banishing Derailments Pt 1

By Several Modellers

A common problem for model train derailments is incorrect track gauge. A tight track gauge will cause the wheels to climb up and derail off the track. A wide track gauge will also derail your model train as the wheel flanges can not span the track properly.

Gauge can be adjusted by using spikes to hold the track down in gauge or by using a soldering iron to gently heat the rail, moving the rail to the correct position and allowing it to cool.

Check your points for sharpness when they switch. Some new switch points can be fairly blunt on the movable section
where it strikes up against the stock rails. This can lift or jolt the wheels and cause a derailment. A small file can be used to gently smooth the moveable part of the points to allow a nice smooth transition. Remember to check the gauge in both positions.

Hints & Tips No.406

Making a Backdrop 3D

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

For wooded areas near the backdrop, cut out the rough silhouette from 1/8" hardboard (masonite). Paint the rough side with a dark green foliage colour. Use ground foam to add some detail and dimension. Mount the completed forest about 1/8 - 1/4" from the wall: that way as you move around the location of the edge of the distant forest will appear to move, just like the real thing.

With thanks to the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society, home of the New England Berkshire and Western

Hints & Tips No.407

Mounting a Hand Held Throttle Pt 2

By Bruce Leslie, (MA, USA)

I use Velcro strips to hold my throttles on the sides on the side of the layout. this gives me a hanger which will not snag any users but can also be unobtrusive.

Hints & Tips No.408

Banishing Derailments Pt 2

By Several Modellers

Check your model train couplers. A snagging coupler will cause model train derailments. Some new carriages can come with unpolished couplers which can catch and force derailments. Even cast Acetal Hornby type couplers can have small rough edges on the coupler top.

Clean off any rough edges and in the case of Kadees or similar, adjust the couplers for proper centering. Also Hornby and other couplers are notoriously uneven in heights particularly with older stock. If necessary, settle on your own standard and ensure your couplers are of a universal height. Sometimes the mix of Bachmann and Hornby couplers can also be an issue... again try to standardise!

Hints & Tips No.409

Making an Urban Backdrop,.. easily!

By John Schaeffer (VA,USA)

You can easily make your own backdrop. Order some tourist information about the cities you are modelling, enlarge the photos in the literature either at your local photo shop or scan and make a collage yourself. This way, you can get exactly what you want.

However as an observation, if you look at a big city you cannot see past one or two buildings anyway. I would make my foreground city flats high enough to serve as a backdrop and just use a monochromatic haze blue masonite or blue foam backdrop and leave it at that. Less is more when it comes to a backdrop

Hints & Tips No.410

Laying an S Curve

By Galveston Model Railroad Society

If you are making an S-type turn using Flexible Track, be sure to try to leave at least a passenger carriage length of straight track between the ending of the first curve and the beginning of the second. This will reduce the lateral forces on the vehicle and improve reliability.

Hints & Tips No.411

Film Canisters

By George Hims

An old Film canister can also be used for scatter. Just puncture the bottom, fill with scatter and then sprinkle over glue.

Hints & Tips No.412

Banishing Derailments Pt 3

By Several Modellers

Add extra weight to your vehicles. Many wagons ad coaches are too light and sometimes all the wheels do not contact the rails equally. By adding a small amount of weight to the cars your model train should run smoother and you will reduce if not eliminate derailments, especially on the tight radius curves.

Make sure you add the weight as low as possible to the car and in the centre, keeping a low centre of gravity.

Also check all your wheel sets for proper operation. Wheel sets that are out of gauge, not aligned or moving freely will
cause your model train to derail. Check your wheel sets and make sure that your carriages are not crabbing and forcing the wheel flanges into the rail, making it prone to derail. Carriages and Wagons should rock freely to take up any small imperfections in your track.

Hints & Tips No.413

Evening out your gradients

By Trevor Gibbs

Many of us start gradients from a flat base board and head upwards. This usually means that the grade is fairly steep. The earth itself it strangely enough not flat so consider this. If your starting point, say a station, for the gradient is slightly elevated by using sheet foam from your base board. Your gradient can start going upwards but the track it is crossing can go slightly downwards to achieve the separation. Using cut foam strip should also make the task a lot easier. I have use of a hot wire foam cutter so it is fairly easy if I need to cut gradients and angles.

So instead of having one steep load limiting gradient, you can have two relatively minor ones with more realistic length trains and a more realistic topography once you have scenicked your layout!

Hints & Tips No.414

Modelling Snow

By John Schaeffer (VA, USA)

On a prior layout I used balsa filler. It is white, super easy to work with, and will not shrink, dries quickly, cleans up with water. I mixed in a little bit of fine silver "sparkles" from the craft store to give it the snowy shine look. It looked great! If I ever do another winter scene I would not hesitate to use the same method again.

Hints & Tips No.415

Making Cliffs using Tiles

By Bill Hambly

An alternative method of making cliffs is to use pieces cut from ceiling tiles. These are stacked and hot-glued together. The edges are roughened with a rasp and back edge of an X-Acto knife.

The tiles are then stacked at a slight angle as is often seen in nature beside a highway that has been cut through rock.

Hints & Tips No.416

Banishing Derailments Pt 4

By Several Modellers

The smallest drop of light oil may cure a problem with your model train derailments. An unlubricated or snagging wheel, or coupler, can cause a slight tip over, or jarring, which can force a wheel flange to snag on the rail. Be aware that oil attracts dust and can damage paintwork, so make sure you use only the smallest amount required. Now you have no reason to put up with your model train derailing.

The process of banishing derailments usually comes down to a small bits of maintenance from time to time. With the quality most manufacturers are producing today, and some ongoing maintenance, you can make minimise model train derailments to make them almost seem a thing of the past.

Hints & Tips No.418

Painting Clouds

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

Use a sponge stapled to a stick for painting clouds. Paint by daubing , not brushing. Start with white latex with a tiny bit of the
blue used for the sky mixed in for the highest clouds. Add more blue for the bottoms of the clouds and clouds further down the backdrop.

Repeat with more blue until the clouds near the horizon are mostly blue. Add a touch of burnt umber to the blue mixture to add shadows to the bottoms of the highest clouds. This makes clouds that look more plausible than some pictures of real ones I have seen, without a whole lot of effort or artistic talent required.

With thanks to the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society, home of the New England Berkshire and Western

Hints & Tips No.418

Making Grass

By James Skinner

Faux fur can be made into a field of grass. The fake fur is teased with a comb and shaped with a razor and scissors. It can then be spray painted in browns and greens. Apply Ground foam or a static grass can to the terrain along with a few small rocks and stones .

Hints & Tips No.419

Banishing Derailments Pt 5

By Several Modellers

Ensure every joint on your track is level, aligned and properly fitted. This may sound like it is common sense but poorly assembled track joints are responsible for many derailments. Run your finger across the joint. It should feel level with the
gap between the tracks kept to the absolute minimum.

Some modellers solder their track joints because this stops problems with expansion and contraction opening and closing of the joints. With a small file, create a continuously level track and have a beautifully smooth running model train by removing the burrs that result from drawing the rail near the joins.

Hints & Tips No.420

Lighting Your Layout

By John Schaeffer

I went searching on the Internet for information on model railroad/railway lighting and came up pretty empty. I eventually found useful information from doll house dioramas and theatre arts. Check those sources from the public library for more ideas.

I ended up with standard fluorescent fixtures hidden behind valances, with mini spot lamps to highlight selected scenes. Use the "natural daylight" type of fluorescent tubes as they are blue tinted and make all the difference in the world. Halogens are great, but be wary of the heat... these globes make a lot of it, so ensure you have adequate airflow around the buckets and an Air conditioning unit in the room that will handle it.

Hints & Tips No.421

A Lift Bridge for "Duck Under" Layouts

By Trevor Gibbs

If you are making a lift bridge or a drop leaf for a centrally operated layout, the most accurate hinge to use will be a piano hinge rather than door hinges. Piano Hinge will also be much stronger over the life of your bridge.

Hints & Tips No.422

Another use for 35mm Film Containers

By Steve Searson

Usually thrown away or discarded, these little containers are very useful for storing small parts, Locomotive spares, nails and what ever else have you. A label describing the contents of the container produced from nothing more than a piece of masking tape, with a relevant description on the front will help

Hints & Tips No.423

Weathering freight cars, powders, chalks or washes?

By David Husman (NE, USA)

Any and all, separately or in combination, can be successfully used to weather freight cars and wagons. Washes are particularly good at modeling water borne weathering and powders are good at air borne/dust/rust effects.

Practice on some less valuable cars or old junkers to test the different effects that you can get with each weathering technique and media.

Hints & Tips No.424

Creating A Natural, Variegated Look - Pt 1

By Elmer McKay, (VA, USA)

There have been many articles that cover scenery methods great and small. You could read them all, memorize them ad nauseum, and still never get the "ultimate" scenery look. That can only come by practice, practice and lots of mistakes.

Think in terms of "less is more". Do not work trying to achieve an exact look but rather let the materials you are working with decide that for you. Do a little sprinkle of summer grass, then a dash of coarse autumnal color here and there. Now take a break for a day or two and then see how it looks. Add a bit of vertical - weed or bush- then take another break.

I do not know how anybody can scenic a layout effectively in one evening, I never could- it takes me many months of small additions to get it "just right". Remember it is easier by far to ADD than to TAKE AWAY and time is your friend in this case, not your enemy.

Hints & Tips No.425

Polyester Fibre Fill

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

Everyone knows about the polyester fibre material that you can buy at the hobby shop for making trees & bushes. Just take a small clump of it and tease it out, then stretch it over the branches of your tree, spray it with cheap green paint, dip it into the ground foam and voila: a tree with that "leaves are mostly on the outer branches" look.

But did you know that the same material is available in big bags for only a couple of $ in the sewing dept of your local department store? It is sold for stuffing small items and for putting between the layers of a quilt. The only difference is that the stuff in the hobby shop is dyed grey and it is MUCH more expensive, and the stuff at the department store is white.

A quick dip in some fabric dye (let it dry before using it), or a spray with cheap black or grey paint after it has been stretched over the branches will remedy the whiteness.

Hints & Tips No.426

Matching Locomotive Speeds for Double Heading

By James Fenton

When you wish to run a couple engines together using straight DC in particular, most times two engines will be close , one will be slightly faster, not a perfect match. On the faster engine, add a pair of diodes reversed to each other in line with the motor.

This will drop .6 volt to the faster engine and also then slow it down accordingly. This will then cause the locos to be closely matched in speed.

Hints & Tips No.3427Correction Fluid (Tippex, Liquid Paper etc)... as a filler?

By Steve Searson

Believe this or not but these products can be used as a light filler particular for timber models for light scratches and small dents when they are going to be painted.

Hints & Tips No.428

Creating A Natural, Variegated Look - Pt 2

By Elmer McKay, (VA, USA)

Try to simulate nature if you can, and think about water and how it keeps things green, or the lack of it not as green. There are some ways that work for me. Ground foam is "stuff".

Dirt first. Very fine stuff and if necessary sift it. Next is ballast for track, because you rarely see dirt on top of ballast. Next comes the stuff that grows. Things grow from small to large, just like people. So the small stuff should be applied first, then work up to coarse stuff, and trees come last.

Do not try to get a full covering except for the dirt. You can also vary the colour of the dirt. As for foliage colours, the new stuff is generally greener that the older stuff, so that means fine darker green first, but also add some lighter green too. Do not use all the same colour for big stuff either. Some big stuff is really green, but do not over do it unless it just rained. If you are not planting a lawn, there are wild flowers around too, and ground foam that will simulate them. Use sparingly.

It is best to apply a lot of small coats of different types, colours, and sizes of stuff rather that one large one of the same stuff. As long as you have all the materials on hand, they can be applied and glued down at the same time. If you have a gully or depression, they are usually greener than other areas because they usually hold rain water longer.

The ground cover of a model railway is a model too, so proceed slowly, just like you would when assembling and painting a building.

Hints & Tips No.429

Track Cleaning

By John Schaefer (VA, USA)

I started using TV tuner cleaner (available in aerosol from any electronic supplier) in 1983 and never looked back. Spray some on a small block of wood and wipe on the track, presto, clean, protected, and conductive rails.

Spray on a paper towel and run the loco over it to clean wheels.

Hints & Tips No.430

Factory Details

By Trevor Gibbs

I recently visited a thread on a forum which showed a card factory building with details that are not often included on out models including open windows at a pair of different angles and representation of a typical crack in the window and different levels of sheen on the windows. No, there was not an open standard door but the roller doors that were facing the track loading bays could have been half open with details behind or a small work scene involving people or a leaky barrel or boxes being stacked and sorted.

Such details make our mini scenes which make our layouts into a representation of aspects of the real world and where are factories and warehouses pristine? Having said that as long term readers may remember, I do not feel very inclined to add graffiti to my own buildings.

Hints & Tips No.431

Soldering Advice Part 1

By Sean Cashin

If for any reason I was limited to 1 soldering iron in the hobby, I would get a 25 Watt soldering iron. It can do most of the work that any of the other irons can do, it will just take a little bit longer.

Because it will take longer you will have more time to think about what you are doing as you solder anything. I use my 25W for building signals and for wiring to track. For wiring under the table, I would get a soldering gun with an on off switch or trigger. These get much hotter but are much safer because they are not constantly on (which means it is hot!) and are the most efficient for wiring purposes.

Hints & Tips No.432

Using Polyfibre for Trees

By Tony Segro

Last year an acquaintance made a tree covered hillside using poly fibre trees and he was pleased with the overall look. He painted the poly fibre balls with a dark green paint so no white would show through. He found this to be somewhat tedious and wondered if anyone had a technique for quickly colouring large quantities of these.

As a group we suggested fabric dye, which is available in black, browns and greens and should be available at your grocery store. Acrylic spray paint and thinned down craft paint work too. Or if you can find Black Poly Fibre, you need only coat it in Ground foam and glue as the black will hide the absence of colour in areas.

Hints & Tips No.433

Making Windows - Using Excel???

By Geoff Cattlin

As I move forward with my scratchbuilding of an engine house, I realized I had never made windows - and the engine shed has a bunch of them ! Some manufacturers supply a piece of acetate with the windows copied onto the acetate - neat !!!

The problem is that often the windows are neither the size nor the shape of the windows we require. Question was ... how to replicate the technique ???

I decided to try Microsoft's Excel program to create the windows ... had to size and resize the cells to make panes and using different thickness for the line borders and types. a few times but it worked well. Then all I had to do was to print them onto overhead type view foils. Done.

Print onto Acetate or overhead projection sheet, cut and use !!!

Hints & Tips No.434

Soldering Iron Advice Part 2

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

When I was in school (electronics & acoustics) we were told that you are more likely to do damage with too small a soldering iron than too large. My previous experience with 25W irons had already taught me the same thing.

It works like this (both for soldering to printed circuits and to track): If the iron is hot enough, it will heat up the area you wish to solder to quickly and you can apply the solder & take away the heat in a short time. If the iron is not hot enough you will have to keep it there longer and the heat will have time to melt the glue that holds the copper to the board or melt the plastic ties before what you want to solder gets hot enough.

In other words, more heat applied for a shorter time works better. You will also get a better solder joint. If you can find a temperature controlled soldering iron that is even better. I have had my station for over 30 years and have only replaced the tip a few times.

Hints & Tips No.435

Making Stained Glass Windows

By Paul Hamilton (Perth WA)

I remember from my Warhammer days that printing out a stained glass window onto film and then lighting it from inside a church looked effective too, I got some really nice ones from Google image search at the time and printed them out on the transparency.

Hints & Tips No.436

Using a White Pencil... for weathering!

By Steve Searson

Wagon lettering and chalk marks are covered as detail items as long as the pencil is sharp, but what about Lime stains on loco boilers and tenders. With a little practice all manner of stains can be reproduced. Don't forget you can smudge the weathering effect if required with your finger or a tissue etc then seal with a coat of varnish.

Hints & Tips No.437

Preparing a Soldering Iron for use

By Trevor Gibbs

When you first buy a soldering iron, have a small piece of wet sponge nearby as well as a file and some resin cored solder or solder paint. Heat the iron up and watch its heat by applying the solder to it. If the solder starts melting but does not take to the iron you have a little cleaning up to do.

Try wiping the soldering iron on the wet sponge first, then apply the solder to the iron. If the solder "tins" the iron then no problem. If however your iron turns black, lightly wipe the file over the tip to get rid of oxides and quickly wipe with the sponge and try re-tinning the iron. You must have at least one good face on your soldering iron before it will successfully solder other materials, e.g. wire and contacts, together.

Hints & Tips No.438

Making Handrails... from Guitar Strings

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

Just because they have gone dead and do not sound right does not mean that they should be thrown out. They are the same as the music wire (piano wire) that some people use - a bit harder to bend than brass wire, but they are also harder to accidentally bend if the loco or car they are mounted on falls over. As a bonus, they come in a number of sizes (most sets of strings have 3 or 4 plain strings and the rest are "wound", and the diameter is usually specified).

If you do not play guitar yourself, you probably know someone who does. Failing that, I am sure that any music shop that sells guitars would give you some old ones they have replaced.

Hints & Tips No.439

A source of Free Styrene

By Werner Utri (Germany)

Your local bank, Post Office or Video Stores have displays at times, printed on 0.02 sheet styrene. After some time they will throw them out.

Just ask. I have a nice stack of approximately 2'x3' sheets for all kinds of purposes. You will need to sand off any print as styrene glue does not dissolve with the labelling/lettering in place and the joint will be weaker but the price is right.

Hints & Tips No.440

Embankment Grass

By John Smithers and Graeme Fletcher

To produce is the rough grass that is at the side of all steam age railway embankments and cuttings, I suggest Hanging Basket Liner. It can be laid down hairy side down and ripped off or stuck down hairy side up.

Another material to use is fake fur, you can get it in various length pile from hobbycraft stores. It can be obtained in 250mm wide min off the roll so only which would do about a 6 metre run of a small embankment. This material can also be used for thatch roofs.

Hints & Tips No.441

Protecting Stock Pt 1

By Richard Billinge

I, and several friends at the local club, use box files. There are various sizes available. If you can find them wide enough (try Sainsbury’s for one option) they will take a 4mm 57ft coach across the width and you can get eight of them in.

Longer coaches have to go lengthways and you can get six in the box. Wagons can be fitted in whatever permutation you can fit in. For packing I use bubble wrap (Readers - Please note the follow through) which is available in wide rolls from most garden centres and can be made into a concertina to form the dividers. Alternative materials for dividers could be card or folded newspaper or whatever takes your fancy.

Take out the sprung paper holder by the way. Saw it off if is made of plastic, wheedle out the metal ones and fold the hinge pieces flat.

Note to readers, as a Follow through - Peter MacKenzie

Regarding the 'Protecting Stock' item by Richard Billinge, please advise your readers that some bubble wrap plastics can do damage to models and should not be used. I have had paint damaged by bubble wrap attacking it. I believe that this may be due to the PVC leeching.

Hints & Tips No.442

Weathered ballast

By Drew Napier

On my railway, I use Woodland Scenics Mixed Gray (fine) ballast on the on the mainline. The ground is scenicked around the track before ballasting. I use a small paper cup as a ballast spreader and squeeze the top to form a pouring spout to ballast about 8-12in of track at a time.

Using a soft brush, I spread the ballast up and down the track, brushing it off the tie tops, and spreading it along the outside of the rails also. Not so many years ago, I would have bonded my ballast at this point, using the traditional water & glue method. The problem was that the ballast was much too light in its colouring for my liking. The next step will solve that problem.

Instead of using water as a wetting agent, I use rubbing alcohol, with a few drops of India Ink in it, using a small bottle to flow it onto the ballast. This weathers the ballast to a nice grimy grey colour, & serves as a wetting agent for the glue. I then use an old glue bottle to flow a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water onto the wet ballast.

The final result (hopefully) looks like limestone ballast, that has been exposed to the elements, to a lot of rail traffic

A Note from Trevor - The appearance of Ballast and many other items will largely depend on the lighting in your room to give the same appearance as you would expect. Unfortunately we do not have 1:76 scale sunlight gracing our layout rooms or sheds so be prepared to use lighter or darker tones as your light source suggests.

Hints & Tips No.443

Preparing a Layout Room

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

Regardless of where your layout is located outside of your main house rooms, the best way to reduce the frequency of cleaning is to prepare the space before you build the layout - Painted and/or lined walls, a finished ceiling and floor go a long
way towards controlling how much dirt can land on the tracks.

Hints & Tips No.444

Protecting Stock Pt 2

By Pat Hammond

Bachmann have produced a stock storage box and have sent me a sample. It is a double layer cardboard box with card dividers which allow for the storage of 15 short wagons (out of their boxes) in each layer. partitions may be removed to accommodate larger models. They are sold in packs of 5 for £24.73 (£4.95 per box). They would be useful for carrying stock to club evenings or shows to avoid having to un-box everything when you arrive

Hints & Tips No.445

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 1 - Coffee Table Layouts

By Several Modellers

Given the standards of the smaller scales, it becomes possible to build a coffee table complete with a model railway built in. Build the coffee table so that you have a baseboard inset 150-200mm (6-8 inches) below the top of the table.This could be very useful if you live in a smaller house or unit.

You can build your layout at this height and have supports in the corners for the top of the coffee table . You remove the top and fold down the sides of the table when you want to operate the layout or alternatively make the top and sides from glass with a slide out drawer for the power supply/controller and the layout will be able to be operated at any time.

Just remember to make the glass top detachable so that you can get to the layout for maintenance and re-railing of trains. A coffee table provides a useful piece of furniture and gives you a talking point when friends come to visit.

Hints & Tips No.446

Sand Blasting Sand as Ballast

By Bob Kingswell (Ontario)

One of the fellows in my model railroad club brought in a bag of dark coloured, coarse sand sold for sandblasting to be used as ballast in some areas of the club layout.

It looks just like the crushed slag that CN used on the main line up the east side of Lake Simcoe (& probably in lots of other areas too).

Apparently it cost about the same as 2 or 3 bags of commercial ballast. A bag of it will probably do for my whole layout.

Hints & Tips No.447

Masking Tape as a Tarpaulin

By Steve Searson

I saw an article in M.R.J. No.65, "Wagon loads No1" Sheeted vehicles, by Martin Welch who works in 7mm scale, (The creator of Hursley). Although this article dealt with 7mm, I have used 2" wide masking tape in "N" and 4 mm scale to make Tarpaulins and Hoods for "China Clay" wagons. Used as a single strip, not built up from strips as Martin did, cut to size and draped over the wagon, or whatever else you wish to cover. There is no need for the material to be completely square, and simply press the adhesive on the sides.

The tape is thin enough for some detail to show through as on the real thing. The ends then require to be folded in. Imagine that you are doing this for the umpteenth time and just want to get it done. The tape is textured and of course sticks to the article to be covered. Super Glue will help it if required, then paint light green / blue, grey or black. Some had lettering and numbers on them. Use a white pencil and weathering will hide any mistakes.

Hints & Tips No.448

LaBelle Gear Grease

By Tom White (USA)

I recommend the LaBelle gear grease for a number of gearboxes and drive applications . It lubricates metal to metal, metal to plastic or plastic to plastic really well. And you don't need very much at all, maybe a drop or two. Works like a charm for me.

Hints & Tips No.449

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 2 - Modular Layouts

By Several Modellers

If you have even a small number of model railway friends, and none of you have enough space for a complete layout then consider building a modular layout between you.

Each person builds one or more modules in accordance to the same set of modular standards of which there are plenty on the web including Free-mo or N Trak. Each person then stores their own modules or uses the module as or with their home layout.

When you want to have an operating session then your group can get together and assemble a layout out of your modules. This arrangement minimizes the amount of storage space that is required and permits a variety of different layouts to be assembled simply by placing the available modules in a different order.

Hints & Tips No.450

Easy to Make Cheap Ground Cover

By Levi Durston (Ontario)

I came up with this new, easy to make and cheap ground cover. Here's the tutorial on how to make the ground cover.

1. First of all you need to buy florists foam (not exactly sure what they call it). I had bought a block for $1.40 Can. (the blocks are about 3 in.x4 in.x 8 in.)

2. Once you have bought the foam you can begin crushing it in a bucket or box.

3. You can then go on crushing it with your hands until there are no chunks.

4. And there you have it! Ground cover! (3 blocks equal 16 cups of ground cover after crushing)

Hints & Tips No.451

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 3 - Fully Portable Layouts

By Several Modellers

If room to have a permanent layout is an issue for you, then you could consider building a portable one.

By building the layout with a number of manageable sections, a fairly large layout could be built which can be fitted into a fairly small space when packed away. 4' x 2' is considered a reasonable maximum for sections of a portable layout to fit into a vehicle.

Such a layout can be stored in whatever space that you do have possible in some sort of purpose built frame which permits a number of modules to be stacked on each other. When you want to operate, simply pull out all of your modules and assemble the layout in the available space.

If you do not have anywhere at all where you can put up the whole layout for operating then you can still build a layout like this and run it at exhibitions. It would be a good idea to temporarily set it up to properly test run it in the first place.

Hints & Tips No.452

Slider Tool for any Scale

By Several Modellers

All your track is laid, and a problem!!! you have to replace a switch, or a bad 6" section of track, or you are connecting your modules for a show. I think we all have at one time cut out a section of track and cut out the chairs in row of ties and have pushed our new rail connectors all the way back so we can drop in that new section of track in place.

You could do it by using a small screwdriver to slide your rail connector across to the other rail but why not make a slider tool?Take a piece of brass flat stock cut to a convenient length and at one end cut a slot that will accommodate and sit over the rail but be at close tolerances for the fishplates to be moved.

Drop in your new track section and slide the connecting fish plate or rail joiner home. No more slipping with the screw driver.

Hints & Tips No.453

Using Digital Photographic Equipment on models Pt 1

By Rene Vink (Netherlands)

I am certainly not a top class photographer but I do manage a good shot every now and then. This is a brief introduction to model railroad photography as I do it.

You do not need spectacular equipment to make acceptable photos. I used a Pentax Optio S50 for many of the photos on my site, a relatively simple 5 megapixel, threefold zoom digital pocket camera. One of the blessings of digital photography is that you can check the result almost instantly and you can make numerous photos without ever increasing costs. So if you are not sure a certain situation will turn out right, keep changing circumstances and make shots from various angles and different lightings.

Lighting is the all important job of photography. If you have the lighting wrong you'll have a hard time creating a good picture. Good lighting is more than just engulf the scene in light. It needs some subtlety. But if you get it right, you've laid a firm foundation for a beautiful impression.

No flash!! I rarely flash my photos. Turn it off!! Flash usually kills the atmosphere. It is also very unpredictable. You can only see the result after the photo has been taken. Use the ambient lighting as much as possible. You do not need expensive equipment however to create your own lighting. I bought three halogen desk lamps at 5 euros each. You will need two anyway to light your model when you are working on it. So for the photo's you only need to buy one extra. Simple and cheap. When you buy them make sure that the arm of the lamp can swing all the way to the desktop. Some lamps do not and you definitely need this freedom of movement. The lamp itself should be able to move in great angles. An extendible arm is nice but not really necessary

A Note from Trevor - please note that this series would have been collated about 2 years ago as you read this by myself and probably written a few years before that from Rene's web page - Would a 30 - 40 Mega pixel pocket camera be out of the range of possibilities in 2010 from writing it in late 2008? However the principles that Rene has expounded here are almost timeless... I remember reading articles from 1950's magazines that spelt out very much what Rene would have been doing... and you will be doing the same further down the track... thanks Rene!

Hints & Tips No.454

Keeping a Roster

By Trevor Gibbs

Unless you have a very small roster of locomotives, it is likely that you will require several of one kind of locomotive to give your railway more of a work-a-day sense than that of a "one-of-everything" model collector. So for example a GWR layout may have 2 or 3 57xx's and two or three Castles or Halls to keep the sense of locality. So I suggest aiming your collection towards at least one or two class mates of the locos you intend to run.

Then watch the historians among you saying (in my case anyway) "Engine 8402 never worked west of Montreal and here you have it on the prairies..." ...don't you just loathe that?

Hints & Tips No.455

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 4 - Fold Down or Drop Down Layouts

By Several Modellers

You could build a fold down type layout over a bed or table. Here we are perhaps looking at a 6' x 4' or 8' x 4' layout similar to the type of thing that a lot of people have for their first layout. By carefully considering the type of operation required, some quite different types of layouts can be fitted into this sort of area.

The layout could be hinged to a wall over a bed or table with folding legs attached, so that it can be folded up out of the way very quickly once the rolling stock has been removed. You could design your flat fold out so that the back of the layout is a flat board that you can store your stock on before folding.

A layout could be attached to the ceiling by ropes and pulleys and raised out of the way when not in use. There have been many layouts of various sizes done this way from smal layouts through to Garage sized empires. Make sure that a proper method of securing the layout in its stored position is used to stop the layout from falling if it is bumped.

Hints & Tips No.456

Using Digital Photographic Equipment on models - Lighting Pt 2

By Rene Vink (Netherlands)

Positioning the lighting you will use is a matter of common sense.

Two lights are used to give direct light on the model from two different angles at the front of the model. Using two lamp reduces hard shadows a great deal. The two are usually placed somewhere between the camera and the model. The actual angle depends on your own lighting. In general position the lights so that one will give the main light and the other so that it will soften the shadows if of the first one say 45 degrees either side of the camera. The closer you you position a lamp the harder and the stronger the light will be. .

I use the third lamp to give general lighting to light up the surrounding area. This lamp is not necessarily placed between the camera and the model but rather behind the model to provide background lighting. It also illuminates the shadows cast by the two main lights. Keep the light high in order to spread the light evenly.

Because you are dealing with digital photos, you can check the effect straight away.

No photo is completely right or wrong. For the photographer, it is always a trade off between possibilities and second it is also a matter of taste.

Hints & Tips No.457

Making a Tank

By Larry Spry

Take a spray paint lid or a small tin can - like the ones that mushrooms come in and paint it green. Add pipes and perhaps representations of gauges and you have an instant vat for inside or outside of a factory.

Hints & Tips No.458

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 5 - Under the house (basement)

By Several Modellers

Some houses have quite a bit of space underneath where a model railway could be built. If you have enough headroom under there where the operating area will be then you can still fill some of the rest of the area the same as can be done in the ceiling.

If you do not have sufficient headroom for your operating area then consult a qualified builder before deciding to dig the area a bit deeper. You do not want the house collapsing because you have undermined the foundations.

Hints & Tips No.459

Using Digital Photographic Equipment on models Pt 3 - Depth of Field

By Rene Vink (Netherlands)

Most digital cameras have a close up setting; it is often shown as a flower icon on the camera screen. You should know what the distance range is in this mode; check the manual. My Pentax has two close up modes, one which still relatively far away from the object. I can still use my optical zoom to get closer. The second close up mode allows you to get closer to the object but the optical zoom is disabled. Every mode has its own advantages.

Generally there is one law you will soon encounter: the more you close in on your subject, the harder it will be to get a sharp picture. Every camera lens produces an area where you subject will be sharp. This area of sharpness is called depth of field. I will save you the theoretical backgrounds except that it is a range in which your subject will be sharp and that range gets smaller when you are closer to your subject.

One final tip: always use the highest quality image setting on your camera, for the largest file size. You can always make a larger file smaller, but you cannot make a smaller one larger.

Hints & Tips No.460

Renumbering Rolling Stock

By Trevor Gibbs

I believe the best way of removing most factory painted on numbers on US produced stock in particular is painting on Walthers "Decal Solve" sparingly and wiping the numbers lightly off with a tissue. I have not done this for quite a few years so hopefully the formula has not changed.

Hints & Tips No.461

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 6 - In the garden.

By Several Modellers

There have been many successfully built model railways either entirely or partly outdoors. With the materials that go into many of the model railway components, an outdoor layout which can survive most weather conditions can be built. Only materials which are easily damaged when wet such as paper and card need to be avoided.

Marine ply or building concrete casting plywoods can be used to build "conventional" type baseboards in a garden. Alternatively tracks can be laid on concrete, brick, or various other surfaces or in larger scales anyway, built at ground level and blended into the garden (figure three).

Your Garden area can also be used to extend a layout built partly in a purpose-built room, a spare room, shed, or garage with the central station and/or fiddle yard inside and the main line run lines extending into the garden. Your hobby need not take a hiatus in the extremes of weather

Having a "Dual Layout" like this would let you have much longer runs than you could have indoors only without needing to remove and store the stock off of the layout at the end of your session as is necessary with an entirely outdoor layout.

Hints & Tips No.462

Using Digital Photographic Equipment on models Pt 4 - White Balance

By Rene Vink (Netherlands)

Lamps have a different color than sunlight. It is more yellow rather than white. You will need to correct that if you want realistic photos. Most digital cameras have options to change the so called white balance. My Pentax has menu options for daylight, shades (which are usually too blue), bulb or halogen light (too yellow) or fluorescent light (too green). Setting the camera white balance will work better then correction with Photo Shop or Paint Shop.

Hints & Tips No.463

Making Signal Wire Conduit

By Michael Appleton (Kent)

I made Conduit by cutting 1mm Plasticard into 4mm strips then cutting into 8mm lengths. you could just as well just score it every 8mm for very straight conduit. The advantage of cutting individual pieces was that when sticking it down you can get the realistic irregular line of them as per the real thing.

Once they are ballasted, they look like they are buried by the ballast. I used Humbrol light stone to paint it.

Hints & Tips No.464

Using Tea Leaves as Scenery Pt 1 - Gravel

By Peter Holstenburg

Tea leaves make good compacted gravel too for car parks etc, especially if you sand them down a bit after they have gone off hard to take the raised bits down.

Hints & Tips No.465

LEDs as Headlights

By Trevor Gibbs

I have been doing as many others have in replacing or installing headlights using LEDs rather than Globes. Using LEDs with Golden White or Warm White outputs, I have been fairly pleased with the results.

However, the construction of LEDs is such that you must point them with the rounded end lens in the direction you want the light to be or you will not see the headlight as you should - LED light sources are not as forgiving of misalignment as regular light globes when you are aiming to have a particular area illuminated. Also protect them with a regular Diode in series as they do not take reverse voltages very well!

Hints & Tips No.466

6aving Scatter and Ground Foam

By Several Modellers

Put either a sock or a stocking (probably better) over the end of a vacuum cleaner so the scatter is collected and reused. Then it can be put in a "mixed scatter" jar as it will probably have been mixed with other colours.

The "Filter" can be old stockings and the Vacuum can be anything from a portable "Dustbuster" type unit to a Full power Hoover type unit! Any detail which may get picked up in this way can be easily retrieved and replaced on your layout.

Hints & Tips No.467

Using Tea Leaves as Scenery Pt 2 - Ivy

By Tony Stobart (Darlington)

I use `Tea leaves` for trees and shrubs growing up against the sides of buildings. I have found that you can paint on some PVA roughly way you want the tree/ivy/plant to grow, sprinkle with tea leaves and let it dry, then seal it with watered down PVA. Then you can paint it fairly easily.

I find dry brushing in various shades of green works best, gradually getting lighter until you are happy with the results.

Hints & Tips No.468

A Hand Uncoupling Tool

by David Chappell

A useful little tool can be easily made for hand uncoupling the small Bachmann type couplings. Save the body of one of your old artists paint brushes and pull out any remaining hairs!

Open out the metal crimping, insert a piece of wire ( florists or straightened paper clip and recrimp the ferrule. Bend the wire in to an approx 90 degree bend. There you have it, a handy uncoupler! Why not make a pair while you are at it? After all, the real trains are uncoupled by hand!!

A Note from Trevor - David's point about making two (or more) is a valid one. On an economy of scale, it will probably not take twice as long to make 5 or so as it does one... which applies to a number of projects you can do while you are geared up to do them!

Hints & Tips No.469

Use of Fouling Pegs and other markers

By Trevor Gibbs

Use a small dog spike, ground signal, offcut of rail or similar marker as a fouling peg in between your sidings so that when your parked item of rolling stock is being crossed by another train or set of wagons or carriages, there is sufficient clearance to avoid scraping your stock.

Such markers are prototypical and have been put into the ground to allow sufficient clearance plus a margin to ensure safety. While you may not have the luxury of having the space to make a "margin", you should base the marker at a point where your two longest carriages can cross each other safely.

Hints & Tips No.470

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 7 - Portable Layouts Pt 7

By Various Modellers

A number of clubs and people have made small layouts that have been stored against walls. the problem is that such layouts become unwieldy and it becomes too much bother to set it up, particularly if it is a larger board, and the interest in the hobby folds.

Consider a small scale layout such as N scale and a piece of extruded foam as the base and you have reduced your weight considerably. Using say a 5 or 6 x 2 or 3 foot piece of foam, use Plywood strips to guard the outside and use bored holes (see H&T no 333Underground "Utilities") to deliver the power to the track and lighting, remembering to keep it simple and the setup process will enable you to quickly put it up, in or outdoors, weather permitting!

Hints & Tips No.471

Keeping Track of Your Magazine Articles Pt 1

By John Cherry (Kent UK)

With so many Model Railway magazines now available, if you buy quite a few as I do, then it does became difficult to find adequate storage and I do not always want to keep the whole issue. However, often there is a particular layout feature or one of article that I wish to keep.

As most magazine pages are of the A4 size I have found that by carefully extracting the relevant pages and trim, if necessary, that these fit nicely in A4 size display pockets and can be kept in A4 binders. This way I have built up a good collection of layouts for reference and significantly reduced the space taken up by piles of magazines. this may not suit everyone but if you want to downsize that paper pile, consider the value of making such a collage.

Hints & Tips No.472

Special Pliers for Track Nails and Spikes

By Crandell Overton, (Vancouver Island)

This is a modification to a set of small needle-nosed pliers. I created a rather poor, but more effective, grooved set of tines in one so that it would grip track nails better. It involves a Dremel tool-like instrument and thin diamond cut-off disks.

Essentially, you make one 7mm shallow groove midway along the jaws so that the grooves overlap when the jaws are closed. These grooves parallel the jaw's long axis. Across the top of each groove you grind out another short one at right angles...for the head of the nail.

Hints & Tips No.473

Vertical Clearances

By Trevor Gibbs

Add the height of any of your locomotives (obviously the tallest ones) on to the height of your track and then you have your minimum clearance. I forgot to do this for a loco shed which I experimented with in N scale (See H&T No 46) and it was only just high enough for the locos which ran into it.

If you are using cork or foam underlay this will greatly increase the height of the track and thus your clearance needs.

Hints & Tips No.474

Types of Layouts you could build Pt 8 - Shelving in the Shed

By Various Modellers

If Space is really cramped between stuff you need to store in your shed and having a railway, why not make the shelving itself part of the railway. If you use the preset shelving available in most hardware shops around the world, you can put several units alongside each other, adjusted for height and build you layout on the shelving itself by inserting a plywood or foam base for a straight to an El shape or even most of the way around your shed.

The advantage to you is that your storage space is barely compromised, you could hide your other stuff with a curtain to make the surrounds a fair bit more pleasant and have a solid base to work with.

Hints & Tips No.475

Giving your layout a bit of texture

By Bruce Leslie (MA USA)

The trouble with painting over foam is that foam is too flat. Now, if all you want to do is paint over it so it is not blue, with a plan to come back and scenery later, that is fine. After all, mine is pink.

But, after a while you will be less than satisfied with the flat, monochromatic tan color, too. One reason I did not paint my ghastly pink foam "just so it would not be pink" was to provide a continuing incentive to complete the scenery. Once you have got your track down, use something like Gypsolite or "ground goop" to cover the surface with a rough texture.

While you are at it, you will find that some scrap foam and plaster cloth can give you small hills, and a knife will cut into the foam to give you gullies and ditches. Do not be satisfied with "flat." It is really easy to make it so much better.

Hints & Tips No.476

Two for the price of one

By Brian Macdermott

I was having some trouble with the running quality of my Hornby 14xx 0-4-2T. I had recently changed the traction tyres,
and they were definitely the correct size. However, I found that they were not 'sitting' in the groove properly causing the loco to bounce and lose electrical connection momentarily on each revolution.

I took the the tyres off and cut one in half along the circumference with a sharp scalpel - giving me two tyres for the price of one. This Engine is now a good runner!

Hints & Tips No.477

Keeping Track of Your Magazine Articles Pt 2

By Several Modellers

To follow on from John Cherry's excellent hint in H&T No. 471, and save your magazines content, you could use your scanner. You could then cut down even more space by saving your files in Graphical Formats and Saving to DVD or CD Rom depending on your quantity! Magazines do get dog eared and torn fairly quickly and you do not always want the old ads so when your collage wears thin, at least the articles you want are backed up and reprintable!

Hints & Tips No.478

Fixing track Problems vs Weighting of Wagons

By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)

While adding weight to any rail vehicle may hide a problem, finding and fixing the track problems will solve the problem. There is a correct weight for vehicles, but there is also an appropriate radius for the track, and a correct flatness of the railheads, etc. In the long run, use "troublesome wagons" and carriages to locate the real villains, your troublesome track spots.

Hints & Tips No.479

Removing Cabside Numbers

By Stuart Reid (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

Cotton buds dipped in T-Cut are usually recommended for removing cabside numbers before applying a new identity courtesy of Modelmaster of some other transfer maker of your choice. I have found however that a small amount of Brasso works even better with the advantage that being slightly abrasive it also polishes the surface sufficiently to provide a good base for the transfer without resorting to first applying a coat of gloss varnish.

It can also be used with care to polish other parts of the bodywork on both locomotives and coaching stock when weathering, to help create the impression of dirt lying on a shiny surface, as seen for example when the lower part of a boiler is still shiny while the upper works are crusted with dull soot and other muck.

Hints & Tips No.480

Calculating LED Resistances

By Trevor Gibbs

For ordinary low voltage LEDs for Headlights or general lighting, you need a resistor to reduce the current flow and protect the LED from premature burnout. To work out what resistor to use, it is a matter of subtracting the normal working voltage of the LED from the supply voltage and then dividing the result by the LEDs operating current

So for an LED with a working voltage of 2.4 Volts and operating current of 20ma, if your supply is 18volts - 2.4 volts = 15.6, 15.6/0.020 = 780ohms. It is usual in situations such as these to use the next highest value standard resistor, which in this case would be 820 ohms.

For a 12 volt supply, 12volts - 2.4 volts = 9.6, 9.6/0.020 = 480ohms. The added protection would make a 560 ohm resistor. If you opt to use an old phone charger then read its voltage, take off the 2.4 volts then divide by .02 and pick the value of the resistor HIGHER than what you have calculated that you need.

There are quite a few online LED calculators that will do the maths for you and even some will even draw a circuit diagram showing how to wire them up but you do not always have access to them.

Hints & Tips No.481

View Blocks on Layouts

By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)

A view block does not have to be a thin vertical divider. That is one method, and it is appropriate on shelf layouts which tend to be narrow themselves. A mountain or hillock also is a view block, although a much thicker one. Another possibility is using urban structures, which can be relatively tall and thin without sacrificing "believeability".

Depending on the height of your layout, a three storey warehouse can really hide whatever is going on behind it, and can be used to block the view of a staging yard, or to give the illusion of a different geographical area entirely on the far side of your layout and increase its apparent space.

Hints & Tips No.482

Rock Moulds

By Several Modellers

Many modellers use Rock mould to place a shaped lump of plaster for their rock faces with their scenery. A Rock mould is simply a piece of latex which has been moulded around a rock to give a stone texture.

You only need a couple of these because as you mix the plaster, you can put in varying amounts and hold the mould at different angles and overlap them and so forth to give you different shapes on your cliff faces and rock outcrops. And using liquid latex, they are fairly easy to make.

By using washes of different Umbers and Ochres, you can gradually convert it to the stone colour appropriate for your layout.

Hints & Tips No.483

Simple Culverts

By Graham Ross

You can make simple culverts by either using old film canisters facing outwards, paper roll holders or small tubes such as straws depending on your scale, coloured appropriately. Film canisters are mostly black so they are the right colour for a large N scale culvert, a Medium OO/HO one or a small O scale one but there is nothing stopping you to colouring any tube you have!

Hints & Tips No.484

Soldering Hints

By Trevor Gibbs

You should be aware that the strength of Solder Joints tends to deteriorate very markedly over the first twelve months in particular in terms of strength and it is likely to be about 20% of the original tensile strength. So it is in your best interests to make sure that your solder joints are the best they can be for reliability especially where you have soldered joints in your motorised areas and the joints are subject to elements of shock.

If you are unsure about soldering, there are a number of tutorials on the Internet of good basic soldering techniques but otherwise make a point of getting someone to show you how to solder. Remember to make sure your joint is clean before you solder, that your soldering iron is tinned properly and you get your solder to flow with sufficiently well directed heat.

Hints & Tips No.485

Relaying Troublesome Track

By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)

If your track is less than perfect, then you are absolutely doing the right thing by ripping it up and re-doing it. Do not be afraid to go a bit further down the line if you have to. A template is a good idea. Steam locomotives, particularly big US style steam locomotives are as fussy as they are beautiful, and when you are laying track for them, you need all the help you can get.

Hints & Tips No.486

Nails as Drills

By Trevor Gibbs

A Bullet Head Nail with the head cut off make a fairly plausible (and a whole lot cheaper) drill for drilling into wood with the advantage that if you are in fact using a drill hole to start nailing, it will be exactly the right size! If you were making your own track for an outdoor layout and drilling four holes per sleeper, you can soon wear out a drill... no problem for a nail as a drill!

Hints & Tips No.487

Opportunities in Scenery

By Bruce Leslie (MA, USA)

In nature, grass and soil do not adhere well to vertical, or near-vertical, surfaces. So, this presents additional opportunities for interesting modelling. You can either assume that your railroad "followed the geology," and the tracks were cut from sheer rock walls, or that they had to fill and support the ground under the tracks with retaining walls of concrete, stone or wood cribbing.

Each of these gives you a chance to learn a new technique and present an interesting scenic element

Hints & Tips No.488

Simple and Cheap Tools

By Graham Ross

With cheap consumer goods filling our "Reject Shop" type shops, there are quite a few bonuses for modellers.

I now have a Digital Vernier Caliper which I bought at a fraction of the original item cost from Aldi but for a long time, I used a simple plastic one that I bought for $1 which gave a fair indication of the size I was dealing with. As I am not involved with Engineering to .001mm on the home front anyway, it was adequate for the task.

If it does get lost, you have not lost a great deal in replacing it. A number of other tools are available at such shops, that I have used for a long time including hobby knives, small and medium clamps and needle files and the ubiquitous cheaper drill sets.

Hints & Tips No.489

Scaling Photos to Models

By Trevor Gibbs

With Computers and Digital cameras, you do not need to be brilliant to get good pictures for your models. However it is another thing to scale them accurately. I have quite often had second photos of myself taken at great risk to the lens of the camera knowing my height of 6'5" (195cm) for such scaling purposes.

If you are one to go out photographing prototype buildings to make models yourself, make a piece of timber either 4 or 5 feet long and paint it alternatively Black/White/Black/White/Black for a distance of 12 inches each colour. When you want to photograph a building with a view to modelling it, place your stick alongside the face of the building you are taking the picture of as vertically as possible. Any slight parallax problems with an almost vertical leaning stick should not be too much of an issue for our model being sized down as the whole building will be in proportion and if it is very marginally smaller give a forced perspective.

When you get the picture home and want to print it, say for the front of a card cutout building, simply size your stick against the ruler in your Word Processor or Drawing Package so that in OO, the spaces are 4mm, in N 2mm etc. The rest of the building will be very much the right size and there will be an otherwise insignificant detail in your picture that anyone is likely to notice.

Hints & Tips No.490

Sand Loads... from Foam Blocks

By Thomas Statton (Tennessee)

For mineral sand and rock loads, the green florist foam blocks used to keep flowers moisr work well. You can easily cut and sand them to shape to represent sand They are porous so all you would have to do is paint it a sand color and you are done.

Hints & Tips No.491

Control Panels

By Bruce Leslie MA USA

I used a piece of white plastic-coated masonite, the stuff that's sold for bath and shower enclosures. Yes, I had to buy a 4x8 foot sheet, but it was cheap. For the track lines, I use automotive pin striping tape. This may not come out as professional-looking as the spray painting process, but it is more flexible if your track plan changes.

I can easily add and remove "tracks" from my panel by removing and replacing the tape lines.

Hints & Tips No.492

Using Toothpicks as Scenery in N Scale

By Dave Roberts, (Quebec)

Round-type toothpicks can be used for lots of stuff. Both ends squared off makes about a 30-foot log with roughly an 16-18" diameter in N scale. Painted a mottled brown makes good loads. One end squared off makes good utility poles, inserting the pointed end in a hole drilled in your scenery.

Shorter squared-off pieces can be mounted horizontally on 2 very short vertical pieces to make park benches and parking lot bumpers like those used for some parks.

Hints & Tips No.493

Making a Diorama Part 1 - Plaster Sheets.

By Will Annand (Ontario)

The base of my dioramas is extruded foam. I use the foam because it is light weight and easy to cut and carve. If the terrain on the diorama is to be uneven, I glue the foam pieces together with ordinary white glue. The foam is covered with used dryer sheets dipped in soupy plaster. I usually add some acrylic craft paint to the plaster Mix so that I avoid the dreaded “white” spots in the finished scene.

Simply dip the sheets into the soupy plaster and spread the sheet across the foam. I usually overlap each sheet by between 2-3cm. Once all the sheets are down, I spread the remaining plaster over the top of the sheets, covering the spots that are thin.

Hints & Tips No.494

Vines and Vegetation

by Nev Meads, courtesy of Will Annand's Web site

Mother nature eventually takes over everything, if you want your structure to look like it has been sitting there for some time, you can try adding vegetation around the base and vines up the walls. The side of the building and foundation can have vines on them. Some buildings have a few vines while others are half covered. Vines help to cover where seams are and also, not that you would make a mistake, but where your weathering of the building didn’t turn out quite the way you wanted it to.

To make the vines, take a round toothpick and with some white glue, full strength, draw some squiggly lines, starting at the base and expanding as you progress up the side of the building. Sprinkle on some fine sawdust or ground foam and gently, with your fingers, pat it down into the glue. Houses could also have climbing rose bushes up the side of them. A climbing rose is trained to climb up the side of a house on a trellis. This is up to you if you want to build a trellis but a well-established rose hides the trellis.

As you did before, take some white glue and draw squiggly lines up the side of the house. Make the lines tighter together than ordinary vines as the vine has been trained up the trellis and does not spread out as much. Let dry.

With a fine brush, dip the tip into one of your Acrylic paints and touch the foam randomly all over. You might have to do this a couple of times. To judge the size of the flower, take a figure and look at the size of the hand. The rose flower will be the same or a bit smaller than the hand. Make sure the colours are bright like reds or yellows as most rose bushes seem to be variations of these colours. You also want a colour that stands out against the green of the vine. Just make sure that whatever colour you start with, you finish the same vine with that colour. Don’t mix colours on the same vine.

Hints & Tips No.495


By John Ogrodowski

I found to simulate wood colors, use "brown shoe polish". I am building a wood trestle bridge and found if you do each piece individually, and rub at different pressures, you get varied colors. After that you can add silver or black paint for weathering.

Hints & Tips No.496

Etching Rocky surfaces into Foam

By Robert Bresaz, (Riddells Creek, Australia)

If you are using extruded foam for scenery, you can create a rocky surface by dry brushing ( and I mean DRY brushing) with turpentine. The Solvent Effect will dissolve the foam a little and get away from the smooth effect when the foam is cut and create a rocky outlook.

Hints & Tips No.497

Making a Diorama Part 2 - Mother Earth

By Will Annand (Ontario)

If you go out and look around at what you are attempting to model, you will see that the ground is NOT all the same colour and it is NOT all the same texture. The key to good ground cover, as modelers like Art Curren and Dave Frary have stated, is to layer the ground with different materials.

To the painted “Plaster Sheet” or “Glue Sheet” base, I will add a layer of either sand or coffee grounds, wet the layer down with our glue Mix. Then add a layer of the opposite material and wet it with the glue Mix. Now we add a layer of coloured sawdust and once again wet it with the glue Mix. Finally I add a layer of ground foam in areas I think clump foliage is needed and again wet it with the glue mix.

If you have little bits of twigs or rock chips, these can be added to the ground cover layers. Just remember the two basic rules of ground cover:
1. Vary the colour and texture.
2. Everything must be glued down.

Hints & Tips No.498

Making a Tank in N Scale

By Bill Stanton (GA, USA)

I like to use the centre reels from sticky tape rolls stacked two or three tall as large oil or chemical storage tanks in N scale or larger water tanks in OO/HO . All you need to do is cut a small piece of sheet styrene to make a top.

Hints & Tips No.499

Making a Door into a Layout

By John Lupe

I have very little space for a layout and I determined that I could not make a permanent one. I decided to buy a hollow core door for the base. I used a router to rout out many holes and shapes from 1 (ONE) side of the door. enough to have good access but not too many to weaken the door.

With these areas routed out I then attached pink foam sheets to the other side. (the top side, where the track, mountains and scenery are going.)

Once I glued the track down (foam roadbed with hot glue, and soldered the rails), I drilled holes through the door near track for the feeder wires. I then soldered the wires and ran the wires into the door. I then stood the door up against the wall and ran all of the wires inside the door using the access panels that I routed out.

The beauty of this method is that my small 60" X 34" layout is portable and can be set on any table or on any floor to do the work WITHOUT it being unbalanced or damaging any of the wires.

The layout is still a work in progress but I have all of the track wired in this fashion with no issues. ...and I plan on running all the other wires inside the door for lighting etc.

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