Alan’s railroad modelling tips

Alan posted the below on one of the previous pages – but I thought it merited its own page!

Thank you, Alan.



“A few ideas I have used over the years

1. Buy a selection of Permanent Marking pens from the Newsagents. They come in a variety of tips and are ideal for very fine detailing.

2. I make scenery by screwing wood to the baseboard, then covering it with flywire which I staple down. I then mix Cornice Adhesive with cement colouring (if it chips its still brown etc) to a stiff consistency and trowel it on. It has a working life of about 30 mins. It dries overnight into a hard shell and will readily absorb kids poster paints. It is about 3 times dearer than casting plaster which is practically impossible to sculpt as it dries in about 5 mins. and any working of it tears it up into lumps. However it is the best thing going if you have a mould.

3. Most building models come with clear polystrene for window glass. I used to use white poly. to cover lavatory and factory windows as no one seemed to make a frosted glass. However I was going to throw away a mince pie packet and noticed that the base was very well dimpled. I cut it up and used it in windows to get a frosted look. I was so impressed that I placed it behind existing clear windows and it looked even better as it had a reflective quality about it. Another tray had a very well defined small diamond pattern to it, so I cut it up and using a fine permanent marking pen I drew in the lead light and then placed it beind the large windows in the Dapol Inn. It looks like genuine leadlight. Only problem is that this type of plastic will only stick using Super Glue.

4. Never throw anything away. I have shoe box’s full of offcuts and old sprues. They can be used to repair or reinforce corners of existing buildings and make very good loads of scrap iron etc. The shape determines the use.

5. Old locos with burnt out motors, remove the motor and double head. Broken carriages and goods wagons that are damaged, remove the bogies and place upon blocks about the track as storeage units etc.

6. I had an old Airfix house from last century, the roof got lost. How I don’t know so I simply turned it into a building site.

7. I came across an old pill bottle which looked for all the world to be a pottery kiln. Wall papering it was a bit of a problem, but tucked away in a corner it looks OK. My Oil Refinery is made from Storm Water plastic pipe joiners. Simply draw up the steel plates on a piece of paper and glue on. Put the join at the back out of sight.

8. Aluminiun angle is extruded and not drawn so the inside is a perfect 90 degrees. A small length by 1.5″ X 1.5″ is ideal to set up the corner of buildings on the inside or outside of the angle. Simply apply the glue and clamp in place on the inside or outside and allow to set overnight. Cover the corner you are using with some masking tape just in case the glue you are using takes a liking to the aluminium.

9. I found a box with an arched lid at the local junk shop. Stuck some legs on the lid, covered it with black paper, glued some corrugated iron to the sides and made a 3 road engine shed for about A$15.

Happy modelling


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7 Responses to Alan’s railroad modelling tips

  1. I am in process of building a track on a floating shelf surrounding an 18 x 32 room. HO scale and engines run good except in the curves. Have 18′ radius but seems like engines lose contact when going through the curve. Any suggestions to get better contact? Using 1 loco with power through the coal car and it seems to sway when in turn. Shelbes are built wider on corners to allow room for radius.

  2. Can you had extra wire loopes from your transformer to assist with the current?

  3. Why not try refillable paint touch up pens,They work great for painting railway track,quick and easy and doesn’t get too much over sleepers(ties).I own a Paint store and they’re the best because not only do you buy one and reuse it over and over,you can mix colour and clear together,and change products very quickly,cheaply and fuss free.

  4. H … I’d like to use Cornice Adhesive over screen but isn’t available here in the Colonies. Any recommendations for a substitute?
    Thanks, Zene

  5. Like all the tips. very helpful and informative. Never thought. sprews could. be used for modeling,thanx for all the help it is appreciated .

  6. For the modeler who is having engine trouble . try using wire leads every 6th piece. of track and running a car cleaner in your consist. It will help a lot. Also check to see if there are any kinks or loose conections. These will stall an engine for sure.

  7. I am always looking for inexpensive cars and trucks for the HO layout I am building
    and I have discovered that quite a few US MATCHBOX trucks and buses are quite close to HO scale. I have found several that are actually marked with the scale they built. As most of us know MATCHBOX cars and trucks are all the same size, they all come in the same package, so a truck or street sweeper are the same size as a Mustang. It is because of this packaging I found a truck marked I:80 and a school bus marked1:95 and several more that had a scale marked that was close to the 1:87 that is HO. With a little practice and a good eye you can find a lot of items you can add to an HO layout if you are not a purist.Good luck on you hunting and remember the magnifying glass some of the marks are very small.

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