New lot of modelling tips

“Hi Al,

I can’t claim this as my original, but it is the most useful thing I’ve run into for cleaning track – a problem I used to have frequently. It is a “greaseless” lubricant called LPS1. Spray a little on a piece of balsa wood or other firm but porous applicator then rub it across the track.





“I enjoy very much the suggestions and tips of the members. I think is very generous to share ideas etc. I use for furniture covers Flannel fabric available at Wal-Mart’s and fabric stores. It’s not expensive. I like the dark green color which in itself can make a great ground cover. But as I wash them and then dry them, in the filter of the dryer remains a great fuss I have collected and applied to a bended an wrinkled light cardboard. I have used colorless spray varnish. While wet, I applied the fuss, seems fairly effective. I guess could be mixed with other filter fuss of rocky or ground color.
Mentioned before, that my layout is a 6 X 7 (model “N”) platform suspended from the ceiling and operated by a winch inside the closet. So eliminating weight is essential.
Thanks to all good people.

Paco. “



“Use a sewing needle and thread. Put the thread through springs so they don’t spring out of sight.



“Hi Al.
For signage on say station buildings,shops,billboards, etc etc. I have some magazine pictures from a old brmodeling mag of old tin/metal posters ( ex:- players cigarettes,palethorp sausages,freeman hardy & willis) etc etc and quite a few more,the largest being approx 50mm x 50mm,smallest about 10mm x 20mm so what I’ve done is Photocopied the pages required, then Laminated them, then cut them out.

This Idea may be of some use to others.




“One way to make water effect is:

Paint the water underground with serveral lays of defferet colors, (remember to paint the shadows darkere ) then ad a liqud of tick epoxy glue as water, just before it dry work on the surface with a stiff bruch and you can paint the the top of the waves with very little white acryl paint. You can get in a shop who deals with artist articles.
Sorry my english writing isent so god.


Keld Andersen, Denmark”



“Hi Al,

Darwi modelling clay.

The advantage of using this clay to make scenery is that if you change your mind about a hill you made you knock it down and reuse the clay by simply putting it in a container of water, just a little bit so it will soft thus it be used again.




“Best tip for scenery would, the use of extruded Styrofoam insulation sheets, 2” thick. Use the “Handle” end of a file to carve out rock formations. Paint with interior latex paint (Tan or light grey for a base) . This will allow you to use Water based artist paints, mixes in a spry bottle, to color to your liking. Also allows you to push tack scenery into the foam, for a sturdy “Tree” and holds lichen. Easy to make tunnels, and cut out for tunnel access, that are easily hidden.




“Chain link fence. thats what i use the fiber glass mesh and for the post i use rabbet screen that you put around your garden plants for the post and you can use larg sections cheaply i am in to o scale now i find that if you find an old wire anamal cage that works good and just gule to the wire. i also use the stick down floor carpet tile for ground cover you can paint it great for farm lands like plowed fields.. hope this can save some money.




“Hi Al,

I have a tip for you. I’m 77 year old gal who just decided to add a circus component to my Christmas Village, so I bought a circus train, big top and sideshow tents and lots of people and animals. I had a hard time getting the people and animals to stay standing up so I am using “Sticky Wax” and it works perfectly. It holds my riders on their horses and elephants; my wire walkers in place; my people in their seats in the bleachers; balls on the dog’s nose; etc. etc. It’s main use is really to hold candles upright in holders if they don’t fit perfectly. Doll makers use them to hold eyes in place in the heads while they pour the plaster over them.

I’m new to model railroading and I hope this tip helps somebody out there. I’m also new to your “club” and am so grateful for all of the tips that everyone sends in. At my age, I have to learn new things really fast – not that much time left to do all that I want to do!!!

Thanks for everything!!

BJ Johnson”



Like ’em? I did.

Some more crackers here.

All the best,


41 Responses to New lot of modelling tips

  1. Some good ones there

  2. Model Railroad and human brain

    My name is Aleksandar and to begin with, sorry about my English.

    I don’t see any of your’s plan [or your idea] but here is my opinion,
    conclusions and “low” (in 14 “amendments”):

    1. There are three building fazes (for thinking about, planing and
    building of the layout):
    A. Building layout, (A1. faze – planning is more important than
    everything, including modelling skill),
    B. Layout esthetic impression when trains do not move (all stop and
    everything switch off) and
    C. When trains start to move, a player (especially the owner) wants to
    continue playing for many years, not only ten! times. The last one is only
    important for the owner, and the previous two maybe more for the others
    and visitors.

    2. Referring to C, there are few important things:
    – Every station on layout must have possibilities (through visible or
    covered track network) for the next situations; when any train starts from
    the station, going to the right, then it should have possibility to
    return from the same side, when it goes to the left it should have
    possibility to return from the left and thirdly, when it goes to the
    right, it should have possibility to return from left and vice versa.
    It is the rule set for every track referring to every station on layout.
    In that case, yes, track network is not simple, but remember C. (not
    remember too late).
    – Every track starting from station (near part) should be
    sectioned,(blocked) in regard of the remaining far part of the track, in
    order to be used for maneuvering between tracks in station.
    – Hidden station is basic issue for C. and the more trains being on layout
    ready for traffic is better than being “hidden” on any shelf behind glass.
    First additional role is to simulate many of far distance stations and
    time to solve distance to and from them. Second additional role, with
    other covered track networks, is to allowed by the wish, outside of eyes,
    train direction change on two way (direction) track. Last one is also in
    simulation function of existing many of far distance stations (like all
    country railway traffic).
    – Between any two station on layout, there should be invisible sections
    (or one for all visible track connections between stations), long enough
    to hide the longest possible train, with pause timer and with
    separate time regulation for each, for imitation or illusion of long
    distance between them.
    -True copy (1:1) of some real world situation or place is less important.
    Regarding C. and having in mind that your layout is the whole universe for
    you. You can only create an imaginary world which can only resemble the
    reality. Think, for example, about one of your (any model train planner)
    scale limitations, regarding scale differences between
    scales on 3 axis (at only one: big tree and small mountain!)

    3. More than one layout track level is important for B. and C. Imagine any
    bridge somewhere between mountains, above head, but it rarely happens in
    model railways world and it is complicated, just have in mind.

    4. They who love mix – normal and narrow track or oficialy dual-gauge
    track consists of three rails is far the best impression of real life.
    Almost dream situation.

    5. DCC is the best solution, but expensive!!!. Without DCC, there is an
    essential thing – scale imitations of inertia of the moving train.

    6. For the ones who like more B. then others, making of locos and cars
    looking like being long period in service is essential. Weathering is
    sometimes more effective than exactly scale and excellently produced

    7. At last, every visible station and hidden station(s) must have minimum
    two tracks in yard, for longest possible train to stop, mean rest for some
    time. Beside hidden station, it is very effective if invisible tracks
    between the visible stations have the possibility for trains to bypass
    each other. This is producing kind of surprise which can bring to
    life the whole layout.

    8. Fast passengers trains must have at least 5 cars. Number is more
    importing, then exact length of cars (illusions). Try !!! Unfortunately,
    similar situation is with combination of i.e. HO+HOm and HO+HOe. In first
    case impression is that there is two scale on one place (two locos on
    those tracks, one beside other).

    9. Implementation of transport time table – [scheduling] is very important
    for C. (without DCC hard to achieve).

    10. Time scale factor, or rapidness of time can synchronized all the
    elements resulting the scale.

    11. Also random lights for each bulb in every building on layout and
    consequently, more than one bulb in each are very good (that include
    inside light stop walls). Different light level for all is also good.
    Flickering light for old lamp is impressive.

    12. Seasons. German and UK model makers (Europeans!) mostly like spring
    and summer, but Americans prefer autumn (brown, yellow, red landscape
    dominant colors), winter time is not to attractive for any group, even for
    Swiss based layouts.

    13. There is also one often significant difference between them: Modeler
    is ‘going around layout (Euro!)’ or layout is ‘going around (USA)’

    14. It is most reasonable that locos and cars on layout should originate
    from the same epoch (and older) and country (with neighbor country).

    Just for your info. Many people do not agree with me, but most of them
    always make new layout shortly after finishing old one, or play ten times
    and do not have interest after that.


  3. I’m always looking for an effective track cleaner. What is “greaseless lubricant called LPS1″ and do you know if it is available in the UK?


  4. I have found that if you take the normal polystyrene foam from builds merchants of from packaging and stick it to your board. wait until dry and fixed, then take a plumbers blow torch and slowly to the foam and the foam then melts as the heat is applied (be careful) when the shape has be acquired, mix grey paint with fine sand and apply to the foam, this will give the a rough texture to the area and will allow you to fill most of the imperfections caused when to much heat is applied to the foam.

  5. As someone who is still trying to find the time to start my model railway career I would like to thank all of you out there who are sending in the tips etc. whick I am storing ready for that day. I woud also like to say to Keld in Denmark, and to all of the other contributors throughout the world, please do not apologise for your english because to my shame it is still much better than my Danish, or any other language for that matter. Please keep your tips coming as it is interesting to see how different problems are sorted out in different countries. Thanks again. Bernie. England

  6. cool tips

  7. I liked the article on the spring and needle, boy should I have used this more often in my train repairs. Hornby-Dublo parts are hard to get these days. Any sources for H-D parts.

  8. Aleksandar and other second Language English speakers, please keep your ideas coming, a lot (or is that many?) of us have been speaking English all of our lives and still don’t get it right (or is that write?) (is get really an English word?) anyway we like to read about your ideas, keep sending them in.

  9. Good to have you back on board Al, great updates, keep them coming

  10. After a tremendous response from all of those lucky enough to receive all these great tips, I have joined a modualr club and am well on my way to getting back in the hobby full speed (steam) ahead.
    Now for my next question. I plan to kitbash to indentical kits together and I wanted an opinion as to which is the perferred way to cut plastic walls as cleanly as possible.

  11. Johnny,
    What a great idea using thread and needle for springs. Used your idea tonight on 10 Kadee couplers and didn’t lose a spring. Thank you.
    Neal from Lansing, Michigan

  12. LPS1 is a contact cleaner used on the long island railroad here in new york. Used for switch machine contacts and the like.Wear gloves

  13. Recently, the traction band on one of my steam engines became worn out and fell off. The engine couldn’t move a single car up any kind of grade at all. I looked into using Bullfrog snot but at $24.00 a bottle I decided to find a cheaper solution. I happened to have purchased a bottle of liquid electric tape for $4.99 and thought, why not try that. So I diluted a small amount with paint thinner then applied as shown on various videos on youtube. I let it cure overnight and now it works great and for a fraction of what Bullfrog snot would have cost me!
    Steve from Elk Grove Village Illinois

  14. has any body has any layout info for a 4’x8′ ho scale that will include two running lines for trains, water and mountain features

  15. If any out there are in Z scale as I am you can use a “popsicle” stick, the wooden ones, to clean off your rails. When it is soiled just cut off the soiled end and start again. No this not my idea but came from the man who built my Z scale layout in July,2010 to Oct.,2010. When I opened the layout up there was a “stick” packed with the layout, it is 37″ x 27″ x 10″. I called the builder and asked him what it was for and he told me to clean the tracks with. Also he sold me on one of Micro Marks “shiny handled” track cleaners. Excellent for use on bridges and in tunnels. No I am not trying to sell anything, just a few track cleaning tricks. My question is does anyone know where I can purchase 90%, not 70%, alcohol gauze strips such as we diabetics use to wipe on a finger prior to pricking it to get a blood sample to check our sugar level. The 70% types have too much water in them.

  16. BJ Johnson: Wow, am I glad to see you here! I am a gal, too, who will be 77 this year, and with my husband, am just beginning to model. I would love being in touch with you as we start this new venture. There aren’t many of us out there, Girlfriend!…Marion

  17. The old standby for track oil has been Wahl Hair Clipper oil. LPS1 can be hard to find but it is an amazing product. My first introduction to it was at a model manufacturing show in Anaheim (California) almost 35 years ago… They had an old Lionel locomotive they had lubricated with LPS oils running on a “Pizza” loop of track in the bottom of a child’s wading pool full of water. That train was running better as a submarine than I have seen many run on dry land…

  18. Good Evening Al
    I really like all the tips that you send out and thanks to all the modelers for sending them in.
    I have a question for you, do you have a copy of the track plan that is pictured on the header of your emails, from what I can see of it I think I would like to build it if I can get a copy of the plan.

    Thanks again for all you do

  19. Aleksandar, I agree with you mate, but just to explain, the reason most of us European modellers have layouts you walk round rather than into is (a) few of us have an enormous basement and (b) we like to take the layout to exhibitions, and once you’ve gone over 15 – 20′ that gets difficult.

  20. Hi, bj johnson, glad to see theres another one of us ‘fairer sex’ that loves model railroading :-)
    Ive started my first N Scale layout at 58 & I just love all these tips to save money.

  21. track cleaning feltex (an old sort of carpet but I would think that any sort of tack board would do) cut to a little wider than the rails and 75mm long douse in mentholated spirits and rub along your tracks wait till it dries about 10 min. for hard to get places I fit a piece of feltex to a block of wood with a headless nail protruding drill a hole in a dowel slip the nail inside the hole dip the feltex in metho and start cleaning john.A

  22. On track cleaning….I tried a few things from mineral spirits to erasers – but my favorite is a little WD-40 sprayed on a rag ( clean old sock) works great….many of us have it on the shelf for other around the house uses…and it takes tar off car finishes too……….thanks for all the wonderful tips

  23. For those of you who are thinking of using foam for ground cover by using a blender,I have found that by cutting the foam into small pieces (25mm sq) placing it in a basin of water and when soaked taking a hand full and putting it into the blender with only that amount of water it is quick and comes out great and be careful not all foam it suitable,I have found that hand sized washing pads are ok as is the more aerated foams.johnA

  24. Hey Al, I really love your with all the very handy, useful tips from around the world. My friend and I are just getting back into model railways again, I am in the process of making the baseboard ( 6ft X 4ft ). We are short of space and if we can’t use the baseboard my friend has said she can get a new bed with the top opening for storage space and we could build the layout in the storage area, we shall see, pity we didn’t live in America where houses are far bigger than in Aberdeen.

    I read about some folks looking for corrugated iron for their layouts and later that day I was washing out 2 tins of Heinz baked bean tins and thought the wavy strengthening area around the tin looked like corrugated iron. I went to the shed and cut the tin along the seam and then cut out the wavy area around the tin and carefully flattened the tin, it can be cut into scale sheets and it can also be rusted by soaking in water. The only thing is I don’t know if it is the right scale, maybe some of your followers can let me and others know. I did check other tins in the cupboard and nearly all of them have these wavy, well corrugated areas on them.

    Love all the tips, had some more but was too late as other modellers had come up with them.

    Keep up the fantastic work Al, really appreciate your site, thanks, Lessel, take care.

  25. For all of you with small basements: If you have a large backyard, why not excavate it and expand your basement out there beyond the perimeter of the house? Instead of building more house on it, cover it with precast concrete planks, add a layer of EPDM roofing rubber, and a layer of dirt to restore the yard and garden. Best thing is it would be out of sight and probably not subject to property tax.
    I didn’t say it would be the cheapest solution.

    Bud Budzien, a full time RVer in the US and without any layout but saving up for an “O” gauge indoors and 7-1/2″ outdoors

  26. I’m also a women age 68 and love my “n” scale train…I do all my own house and building making.

  27. About 8 months ago I was web surfing web sites for model train layouts and dioramas and came across a huge Walt Disney World layout that looked like at least 10 X 20 (in the picture anyways) mostly of Magic Kingdom with every store of main street USA, the princesses castle, the train depot, the train, etc, etc. plus if I remember, Animal Kingdom too. Everything was in exact detail. For the last 7 months, I’ve gone onto every train web sites known to man kind, Retail, wholesale, E-bay, Amazon (including Prime) Walthers, etc. To no avail. Except for the cheap plastic epcot sphere, monorail toy train and a very pricey train station plastic kit. Any body know a known web site for good quality, detailed Disney world N or HO scale buildings and scenery? Thanks Much. Paul

  28. Thank you for taking the time Al to maintain the site and passing along all these great tips.

    Thank you everyone else as I have been reading your tips and suggestions and appreciate you taking the time to share them.

    I am building a layout with O, S, HO and N gauge track on it. I would like to build kind of a stadium effect where the O would be the highest, then S, then HO and finally N. I am trying to create an effect where if they were all the same gauge, they would be getting smaller the lower the track height. Anyone have ideas about the height I should be putting the track at to simulate the effect? In other words, if N is at ground level how much higher should HO, S and the O gauge track be?

    Thank you for your time, Ron.

  29. It is definitely wonderful to see ladies interested in our hobby. It’s not just for men. Have know many women who liked trains and in fact my grandmother worked for the railroad and it stuck with me. Have always loved them.

  30. I have had tremendous success using LPS1 as a track cleaner. It is manufactured by Holts an automotive product manufacturer. There are however some drawbacks to it too. Because it is an oil, it makes tracks slippery and will reduce the number of cars a single loco can pull, specially uphill.
    The reason why LPS 1 works, is that it becomes conductive in the presence of an electrical field.
    Thanks for a great site and service to the modeling community.
    Henry van Wyk, Modeling South African Railways in Sunny South Africa

  31. It’s so refreshing and inspiring to read all the remarkable tips from my fellow model-railroaders from around the world.
    I build 50′ & 53′ dairy and poultry express reefers for my HO layout. Some of the kits come with a substandard air tank. To remedy this situation, I take a 5mm wide drinking straw, cut it to 22mm and super-glue a 18mm piece of salvaged sprue inside the straw. when the glue dries, I heat the excess ends of the straw and fold it in on itself to meet the sprue inside. The result is a 19mm cylinder. Next step, drill 2 1,5mm holes 16mm apart, super-glue 2 1mm pieces of sprue, Add 2 1.5mm pieces of 7mm straw to the tank ends to simulate bands, then paint the piece with Americana “soft black” — it’s finished. Drill 2 corresponding holes in the car’s base and glue the new air tank to the car with Tenex glue.

  32. Al, you are to be commended for your great and valuable posts. It is always a pleasant feeling to open your messages. I was an airline pilot for 36 years and as a result my view of things was in “N” gauge.

    My best to all,

  33. I am new to model railroading. My layout is or will be 10 x 10 when complete and I intend to run three trains. Have O gauge. The fastrack Lionel does not lock together easily. Any solutions? Lin

  34. I’m getting a very late start in moel railroading (I’m 82) even though I had Lionel trains as a kid, I never had the time or money to pursue the hobby. I am starting small (literally) with an “old fimey” N gauge 4-4-9 wood burner & vintage cars, with an early Americn West theme in mind. I have foundthe tips from all over the world fascinating & helpful…..thanks everyone!!

  35. If you have the floor space avoid 4 foot width of the layout board for HO gauge track. It’s the only big mistake I made with mine and I am already investigating enlarging the whole thing. That extra foot makes a big difference with the radius of curves and the running of cars and locomotives and besides it looks better than having the track squeezed in by the 4 foot dimension. The 4 foot width will work fine for N gauge. When I’m finished with the layout in 2016, I hope to show photos of what I did right and what I did wrong. Dana

  36. All tips are great so many ideas that save you money, I run with only dcc and i find it so easy although expensive. I use pc control a lot for station stops etc. Asa

  37. Thanks all for the tips. I was looking for track cleaning tips for G gauge not outside, inside I just can’t run any locomotive that I’ve paid plenty for to run outside in the rain or snow of western Pennsylvania. Still having fun with my large around the wall coal and timber line.


  38. Hi Al just getting started have found you our site very interesting and probably very helpful as I progress. Am still having trouble coming up with a layout for HO on a 4×8 of 2 main lines and a large mountain.Have bought a lot of flex track on sale hopefully that wasn’t a mistake. I want to do New England (USA) layout. any ideas would be appreciated. Great site, Great comments. Dave ct usa

  39. Many years ago, I used old type writer erasers to clean rails. I can’t find them any more.

  40. Lots of great Ideals.If anyone can help me name is Don and I’m 65 yrs old. I built my first 8’x13′ layout but after awhile I saw to many mistakes so I started over. After I took all the HO track off the caulk that I used stuck to the bottom of the track and the gravel. Can’t get it off need help if possible.
    PS: Great site

  41. I make coal using rock salt & black paint. I use Apple Barrel Jet Black found in the craft section at Walmart.
    Put the rock salt in a paper cup, add some paint & rotate the cup until all the salt is covered.
    Warning: Do not dry the “coal” on a paper towel. It will stick to the paper and/or the paper will come off on the “coal” as white marks.

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