Model railroad tools

Today we hear from Old Taz again, who shares his model railroad tools.

But that’s not all he shares – it just goes to show what an amazing lot you all are:

(This entire post is all from Old Taz.)

“Hi Al and all you Model Train enthusiasts. 

This hobby is the greatest and the people that are in it are top notch. don’t have to stay inside the lines. We’ll get to two and more later. 

It’s been a tough year here I lost my son December 7th last year. Al you and all of your subscribers have helped me through this year by having something to get up and look at each morning. 

I’ve got some tips and hints that I’d like to pass on to all of you. Because of my neuropathy in my leg’s hands and arms. It takes me a little longer and I’ve had to adapt some tools to make it easier.

I’ve got a list here someplace if I can find it again. 

I make sanding boards by gluing sandpaper to different size pieces of Masonite, that way they’re flat and can be used over and over again. 

I found that if I put a couple B-B’s In my paint bottles when you shake it up it seems to help mix the paint. I usually thin the paint just a little bit my own preferences. 

I made-up a tray that hooks to the side of my track in several places. The Tray was made out of an old broiler pan. I used some old shelf hooks fastened to the pan and they hook on my table in certain places to go along with that I made-up a light stand to work on the table in the same manner. 

I use tweezers and forceps a lot more now. because of the loss of nerves in my fingers. If you cut the lock out, they make good plyers. I’ve ground down some of the forceps to make different tools.

One tool is to hold a screw when you try to get them started. A lot of screws are not magnetic and don’t stick to the screwdriver. You can buy these cheap forceps online, watch to see that the finger holes are large enough I’ve had to split them to make them larger.

In the picture left to right tweezers were bent to hold some couplers, the next item are stitch removers and if you get the right ones like this pair, they cut fine wire paper skin anything else that gets in its way.

The next one is a small forcep with holes to fit screws so that you can hold them and still turn them notice it’s shaved down so that it was thinner. The last one is the exacto blade and that was made to pull track connectors into place. 

I’ve made-up light checkers so that you can check the light before you install it and know which side to put the Resistor on, I also have made-up a continuity checker with the light instead of a meter so I don’t have to take my eyes off of what I’m checking to see if the meters jumping or not.

I’ve made-up small 12 Volt Transformers that I can hook into my layout without turning on the main Transformers, to check out lighting separately. I have 110 outlets around my layout so that you do not have to have extension cords stretched across the floor.

I’ve made-up 12 Volt speed control to be used on the bench when I take like the racetrack off to be worked on the bench. And there will be more to be worked on the bench. she    

I, like some of you, take a lot of medicines so I have bottles coming out of my ears. In some of the pictures you’ll see how I use them to hold tools so they’re not laying on the bench. For me it’s hard to pick a tool up that’s laying down on the bench. Sometimes I need a tool to pick a tool up. 

I found a three-wheeler Walker online which makes it easier for me to get around my layout. It turns on a shorter circumference and is a little narrower than most 4 Wheelers. 

I’ve turned my automobile creeper into a train creeper that keeps part of my body elevated when I work under the table. Easier on the neck and arms. 

When I’m building something that has to be held in place while the glue dries, I use modeling clay in little piles on my workbench to hold the work while the glue dries. 

I know there’s a lot of you out there that started with DC and I’ve switched over to DCC. So now what are we going to do with all these engines that are DC. We’re going to want to change them over to DCC. well just as a warning not all of these engines can be switched over to DCC.

Some of them do not have room for the decoder Which means you’re going to have to take some of the weight out of the engine to get the decoder in. This can be a chore on some engines. The motor needs to be insulated from any metal parts on the frame work of the motor. I have used Scotch tape or that clear wrapping tape to insulate the motors.

If you’re going to take some of the weight out to make room for the decoder, make sure you take the engine completely apart so that none of the grindings get in motor. Speaking from experience. 

Now I’m trying my hand with DCC and sound, wish me luck I think I’m going to need it. 

I hope that some of these tips will help. 

Thanks again for being there in the morning gives me something to look forward to. 

model railroad tools for N scale

tools for model railroad

model railroad tools

tools for model train layout

tools for model railroad

model railroad tools

I have done something this year – I tore up and replaced all my main line track.

Robert my son had been collecting Bachmann track for quite a while, to set up his layout. he lived in an apartment so it was hard for him to set up anything permanent.

He had been after me for a long time to replace my track, that I had laid 10 years ago when I had no idea what I was doing, (still don’t) And I’ve have had trouble with it ever since.

I took what he had gathered and bought some more to replace all my main line track. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again! all my switches were junk that I had picked up and rebuilt (cheapy cheapy).

I’m still working out little problems here and there.

Do I want to power the frogs or do I not want to power the frogs. I also built a little piece to go on my mantle, which so far is staying there.

This was made out of a shield that goes over fluorescent lights so if they shatter.

At one time I was going to use these display purposes on the wall. But after building this little display that’s went out the window. Too much work and You have to glue them down to make them stay on the track. that one went down the drain! 

In some of the pictures you will see that I do not like empty flat cars. 


flat bed n scale

model train N scale

n scale flatbed freight

N scale model train layouy

n scale model train

n scale model train

flat bed model train

n scale freight

n scale freight

8x8 model railroad coalmine

That’s all for today folks – a huge big thank you to Old Taz, for sharing his model railroad tools and what this hobby means to him.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

Brian’s rail shed build

“Hi Al,

I am back at the hobby after a 3 month medical issue. (I won’t go into it as it will be a very long explanation)

Hope you can use the following.

I purchased an HOn3 Fine Scale Miniatures Rail Car shed from a model railroad club member only to find out that all the card stock templates were missing.

Only the instruction sheet and a photo of it was in the kit. Without these it was not possible to assemble the kit board by board as I would have had to draw templates and guess all the sizes.

So, a search on the internet for said kit came up with two photos of a built up kit them being an HO standard gauge one which did give me an idea of the size and shape for my HOn3 one.

For it to fit on the location on my layout, I had to make a mirror image of it.

I decided to use vertical scribed siding for the outside walls and horizontal scribed siding on the inside walls.

After cutting all the above out in scribed siding and temporary assembled it with my corner magnetic clamps, I was not happy with it.

So back to my scribed siding pile and decided to re build it with interior frame work.

Success and I was happy with the result. I think that I got all the dimensions right using the photos as a reference.

The kit (scratch build) at this stage is only about 60% complete.

Below is a card stock mock-up of the kit guessing the size from photos.

rail shed card build

This is the first assembly of the scratch build of which I was not happy with. The height of the walls was incorrect – too low even adding one scale foot (3mm) at the bottom did not help.

rail shed mock up

Below, using the magnetic corner clamps to keep it together is where I realised the incorrect height at the front entrance doorway.

rail shed magnetic clamps

Static models used as a guide.

rail shed engines

An HOn3 railcar (converted galloping goose) that the shed will house for repairs.

rail shed engines

Here is the second scratch built one with the vertical siding on the exterior and at the right height. The floor was marked out for the building.

rail shed scratch build

Cutting out the walls. The hardest and time consuming job is cutting out the window openings and making sure that the windows fit the openings.

rail shed kit build

Bracing the interior walls as per a real building.

rail shed

This one is a mirror image of the original as it was needed for the correct position on the layout.

balsa wood build

The walls glued in place. Doors still need to be glued.

scratch build rail shed

Final assembly of the building. Now to start filling up the interior with all the detail.

model railroad shed

Roofs temporary in place to get the feel of the building. They will have shingles on them.

model railway shed

As said above, this is as far as I have gone with the assembly of this mostly scratch built kit.

Till next time – keep modelling.

Brian – the HOn3 guy in Knysna RSA”

Now on to Mark:

“The first 2 shots prior to the installation foam, shot 3,4 prior to painting 5 6,7, adding scenery.

I first opened up the area, cut my wood front support to bring in more light then added the foam used hot glue to join together, used old blades to scratch the foam to look like rock formations.

Used satin house paint along with flat testors gray and rust paints, I did a small creek area for the sheep to drink, used white glue for a base, dried then added light brown paint then while wet added sand and dirt, dried then added scenery water.

Added my sheep and still have other brush and anything you can find outside to add to the area.

Thank You Al for adding this many great looking layouts you display

I run Lionel PW and other brands hope you enjoy God Speed to all!


model train trestle bridge

model train brake car

O scale rock face

O scale station

O scale track

O scale scenery

O scale platform

Now on to Dave:

“Hi Al… I have uploaded my Christmas video, I know its early but wanted to get it all done and ready for the festive season, as the saying goes ..better early than Late !!

..enjoyed doing it, have managed to get a little bit of Diddy Dave and Deb in on it, so should make a few smile as well ..all part of the hobby ..having fun and enjoying it all.

All The best to you and Members 


A big thanks to Mark, Brian and Dave.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

Small N scale layouts

“Al, greetings from Dean in New Mexico,

A couple of weeks ago I sent in a blurb on the planning process for my next small N scale railroad.

After I saw it published, I realized I had only done half of the planning process.

Things I didn’t include: the towns and industries the railroad served, where it was located, and even its name.

So here are those details I have decided on.

My railroad is placed on a real river valley in southern Colorado, the Conejos (rabbit) River.

It connects with a still-active spur line of the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad that runs between Alamosa and Antonito.

Note that the very popular narrow gauge tourist railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, also starts at Antonito.

My fictional Conejos Valley Railroad runs from Conejos, through Fox Creek, to Platoro and serves the town of Romeo.

All these towns exist and (except for Romeo) are situated on the Conejos River.

My video includes more information on the history of the D&RG RR, its relationship to the Conejos River RR, and the influence of the Spanish migration from Mexico to the Southwest of the US.

Here’s what’s real: Platoro once had several thriving mines, but they shut down before 1900, and Platoro is now mostly a ghost town with no mining. Conejos, Colorado is only a few houses, and Fox Creek is a small tourist town serving campers who visit this area.

Here’s a map of the real towns along the D&RG RR between Alamosa and Antonito.

On my imaginary railroad, Platoro is still a very active mining town and the towns of Conejos and Fox Creek are enlarged. I moved Romeo and turned it into a lumber center. Below is my track plan, reproduced from my earlier article. The siding at the lower right is the interchange to the D&RGW which can be used as a fiddle track to add and remove cars.

atlas track plan

Below is a 3D view of the plan which shows the elevation changes of the outer loop. (Rendered with the Atlas Track Planning software.)

atlas traqck plannign software

Here is my new plan for the Conejos Valley Railroad (In green) which shows the actual D&RG RR (large red line), and Cumbres and Toltec (small red line).
model train concept plan

It’s important to include realistic buildings and industries in your mythical railroad, so here are photos of existing buildings that I will add to my railroad (taken with Google Earth).

buildings model train

That’s it for now. Cheers!


A big thanks to Dean.

When it comes to your layout, a little planning can go a long way.

But in the same light, I know some of you wing it all the way, and still end up with a fabulous layout.

Just me, but I think as long as you have a theme, your layout will turn out well.

Now on to Tom, who has made that all important start:

“I just started this layout in January this year. It’s on two 4×8 sheets off plywood and foam.


I always get mails asking why I post ‘half built’ layout. It’s because I like seeing them come to life, and also, making a start is the most important part…

A big thanks to Tom and Dean.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.