Even more railroad modelling tips

Another dose of modellings tips for you, starting with a thankful Alan:


many thanks to those who helped out over the Corrugated Iron. I went shopping on Saturday morning and after 2 hrs. and 30 kms. I found the corrugated card in the 5th shop I tried.

A couple of other tips for your younger readers.

1. Some years ago I held a very small round part in a pair of tweezers. I squeezed too hard and the part disappeared across the room never to be seen again. I purchased a pair of stamp tweezers, two broad flat ends, I superglued two pieces of very fine sandpaper to the blades and have never lost a part since.

2. Tea Lights come with a round aluminium base. Take the base and insert a piece of steel tube that will fit snugly into the base. Hammer it flat on all four sides, paint it and fill with anything. Place around the factory yard and it looks for all the world like a well used rubbish bin.

Glue match sticks on the bottom so the fork lift can move it about.

3. Alternatively screw (2mm) an “N” scale bogie to it. Lay a length of “N” scale line from the engine shed to the ash heap.

4. I have a fair selection of rolling stock from the 1950′s. Meccano Hornby Dublo and Lines Triang. In those days the back to back wheel dimensions were fairly elastic, especially with Triang. Hornby always used a code 100 rail on their 2 rail system, but Triang was at least 150 if not more. Consequently the Triang stock derails on Peco 100 points when branching into the tangent track. I use an Automotive Distributor Points file, which fits perfectly between the stock rail and the plastic check rail on Peco 100. File away some of the plastic. Its a bit of a chore but well worth the effort if you want to keep the old rolling stock. Don’t do it in situ, do it on the work bench, believe you me its much easier.

5. As I am an inveterate scavenger I regularly trawl the Disposal, Junk, 2nd. hand shops armed with a scale model ruler. On one occasion I puchased a large bundle of, scale 1 ft square, plastic strips for a song. It cut cleanly and could be bent by a Tea Light and Aluminium Angle to a perfect 90 degrees without tearing the outside corner. It froze in its new shape in about 10 secs. However nothing would glue it. I tried Poly. Cement, Super Glue, K Bond, Araldite and Aquahhere. In the end I tried “Plumb Weld” PVC pipe cement. It stuck. And it will stick other plastics of indeterminent origin. CAUTION it is Highly Flammable, Poison, and a Skin Irritant. Breathing the fumes wont do you much good either.

Apply with a match stick and not the Yard Broom that comes attached inside the lid. A small container is not expensive and will last for years.

5. Never become a rivet counter. It does not have to be right. It only has to look right. If it looks right, it is right. After all we are only creating an illusion.

With Kind Regards

Alan Warner”



“If you gather the winter “sprouts of the Live forever  plants the make authentic American Elm trees and you can vary the scale by the clumps you cut off.”

— Michael


“I like to paint my rails, but I hate those typical rail colours you get. I use my nail airbrush, fill it with water and black paint (acrylics, inks, and enamels work here) and mist on the lowest air compression settings possible for slightly dulled down and bolder railway track. Really simple homemade idea.”

— J


“Rubber cement works well on a flat car to keep loads from sliding off. Brush a little on the car surface.  If the load is wood or plastic, just place it on the rubber cement. If a vehicle is being carried, place a bit of rubber cement where the tires will be (tyres for those of you on the big island.)

The cement can be easily removed by rubbing it with your finger.  It’ll come off in little beads.”

— Ben



“Have a single ended siding?  Need a bumper (buffer) for freight cars?

Perhaps you need a way to load and unload flat cars, (even TOFC cars).

Here is a good idea.  Take one TOFC car, cut it in half; trim all the details off the under side.  Next remove the couplers.  Then take one half of the car, cement the wheel set at one end to the tracks near the end.  Then, using plaster, or any other type of material, build a short ramp up to the end of the car as it lies on the ground.  Let dry, then color to match the surrounding ground.  Presto – You have a loading/unloading ramp.  You can then use the other half of the car in the same manner elsewhere on your layout.  This idea is not unique, as real Class 1 railroads have used this idea in the past; especially when they had need of a quick way to load or unload flat cars; and didn’t wish to spend the time, or money to build a more substantial dock and unloading ramp.

The project will take from 10 to 25 minutes total, start to finish; but when finished, you have a “prototype” loading/unloading ramp.

For those who don’t understand the short hand letters, TOFC and COFC stand for: “Trailer on Flat Car” and “Container on Flat Car”.  I find it easier to refer to such cars by their short hand names, over spelling it all the way out.

BTW – If you or any of your readers have problems understanding prototype practice, shoot me an email, stating the problem, and I will try to answer it.

Thank you”

— Dragon

Like ’em? Lots more, just like them, here.





21 Responses to Even more railroad modelling tips

  1. Wandering around the other day and I came acroos some teaspoons with outhouses/thunderboxes on them and they looked the part, so I got one to try and it fits so nicely with my HO scale outfit, the one I have has the door open and now boasts a figure sitting on the throne. John

  2. Hi all i have a question. Alan Warner refered to Tea lights just what are Tea lights??

  3. tip No2 how do you hammer flat a round tube on 4 sides

  4. Rob.billing asked ‘What are Tea Lights?’ They are candles. They are about 1-1/2″ in Diameter and 5/8″ in length (height). They are essentially an aluminum cup with wax and a wick.
    I have to echo dj harris’ question: How DO you hammer something flat against a round mandrel?

  5. Alastair

    To answer Rob.billing a Tea Light is a small round candle about 5/8″ high by about 1&3/8″ across, and comes in an aluminium cup. It sits under a bowl containg water and oils of essence, that gives off an aromatic smell when heated. A box of 100 costs about $5 in Oz. The local Cheap Shop, always a good resouce for gigantic bags of match sticks, various sized lollipop sticks and bundles of cheap paint brushs etc. usually has them.

    In answer to D J Harris, the Tea Light base is made of wafer thin aluminium. It is a cylinder with a base. I have a piece of steel tube that is about 1&3/8″ corner to corner. Insert the steel tube into the cup and just hammer each side flat. It comes out suitably battered. Just paint it up and it looks like any old scrap/waste bin found in various factories.
    You can leave it in the round and set up a Water Tank manufacturer on the layout. Or you can cut out the bottom and then cut the wall and flatten it out and cut up into sheets to make factory siding or lengths
    of fencing.

    Hope this helps
    Alan Warner

  6. Alastair

    my apologies to D J Harris & Les Stoddard I should have specified SQUARE tube. I use a piece where all 4 corners just touch the inside of the holder.

    Perhaps they can help me. I am currently building a Dapol Country Cottage with the thatched roof. They don’t exist in Oz. Plenty of Corrugated Iron, but no thatch. What is the correct colour of the thatch? Is there a Humbrol Paint number for this? The same questions apply to the stitching or binding that that run across the top and bottom of the roof.

    Alan Warner.

  7. You have a steel box section not a steel tube

  8. Alastair

    Just been watching Dave’s video for the umpteenth time. The buildings are superb. I said previously that I could only identify 2 of them.
    Can you ask Dave to publish a list of the building manufacturers as I can only get Dapol/Airfix in Adelaide. If I know who makes them I can trawl the Interstate hobby shops via the net.

    Alan Warner

  9. Answer to Alan Warner re “Thatch” on “thatched-roof”houses. The thatch is made originally from reeds or straw stalks from harvetsing wheat (“corn-stalks” in England. Fresh reed bundles would be pale geen when frshly cut, fading to pale yellow-gold like wheat straw stalks. Over a period of time they would weather & fade to a grey colour. See attached pictures . Cheers,
    Bernard H

  10. Some really good tips really enjoy them all. I use a metal paint can opener to pop the trucks off of rolling stock it has just the right leverage to pop them off. Rather then pulling them.
    Thanks again.

  11. Because i have my layout on carpet, is that why my nscale car will not stay coupled ?

  12. Never have a layout on a carpet, the locomotive mechanisms will fill up with fluff and grit in no time, get a sheet of board for it, you will find fixing the track down to a solid base saves a lot of wear and damage with the fishplates and allows it to be stowed up on its side somewhere, so it doesn’t get covered in dust.

  13. Al,
    Love all the tips and I’m going to use a bunch of them when I get started actually building my layout. Still in the planning stage at this point.
    I’d really like to see some of the tips that people have posted when and if they post an idea. For example, I just can’t SEE the tip about TOFC so a pic of it would be VERY helpful. Thanks to all for the tips,

  14. I really enjoy all the ideas. Thank you and please keep them coming!

  15. I have started using expanding foam ,it comes in a spray can with a long nozzle I have formed rocks ,hedges,trees of all sizes ,it is easy to use, easy to remove ,is self supporting and adds strength to a layout . The foam changes to a darker brown ,is easy to paint as with hedges and show flowers with other coloured paint the way it is looking I will not bother to use plaster or fibre glass etc , It can also be sprayed with glue to add leaves to trees and bushes try it you will be surprised Best regards John A

  16. Corr. iron Why don’t you buy 1 piece of the core. iron or find the right size in a cardboard box make a two moulds from this with plaster of paris and then choose the thickness you would think necessary for your iron roof place it on the mould put the second mould on top a weight on top and come back later ( two days ) it works for me and I never run out of the right size best regards JohnA

  17. Al–to all those who are wondering what they have got them selves into , 4foot is a good height for a 6’x4′ and a 2′ reach is plenty, 9’x5′ is about the the largest size for a small sized layout you can fit easily three loops a turntable and a couple of yards ,or perhaps twice around and a loop with an exchange to the twice around . if using timber save all the off cut future firewood until you have finished it is surprising how often you will need just this size or that size in scenery construction just keep them in a box. if you put on wheels and make the layout so that it folds over 180º it easy stored,anything bigger modules would be the best way john A

  18. I stay in south africa not many things that you people are talking about is avalable here but we manage Whitewash(long hair) brush cut small for grass. pavingstone colouring powder mix with rinolight(builders use to smooth the walls) any coulor to build mountains.This work better than plaster of paris and join easy with exsisting rino light.Thanks for all the tips. Lollie pops sticks bend on top for poles drill a hole for the wires and bend look like security fence.Wedding cake pillars make good posts for a bridge cut to size.

  19. Hi Al
    I love your postings and all your followers. Keep up the tips, I have used several of them. As far as corrugated tin pieces, I just got a box of light bulbs and the sleeves around the bulbs are perfect for tin sheets. I painted them and put them on real thin styrene for strength and they look great. Very paintable also. I do have a question for your readers, can you use LED Christmas lights for lighting up buildings and can you cut them up and add wire to make them more usable because of distance between buildings. Hopefully someone has an answer for me because I am on a budget for lights and the ones in the hobby shop are way too expensive. Thanks in advance.

  20. As usual there are many tips from Al that are creative, cost effective, and useful. I guess the bottom line is not to throw away packing, odds and ends of “junk” as they may well become useful. Learn to “think outside the box” and the bits of trash become part of bigger items useful as your scene develops. Al, thanks for your many tips as well as other contributors.

  21. On my shelf layout I used 3/4 inch plywood. I use double face tape to hold down the roadbed. This way i can adjust the roadbed if needed before gluing it down. Hope this idea helps someone. Brent

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