Model train in briefcase – Ken’s

Ken’s been in touch with his model train in briefcase.

Ken’s idea of patience, compared to mine, are wildly different.

The pics of the matchstick really does show how small this layout is. He must have the patience of a saint.

(His first post, by the way, is here.)

“G’day Al. Some time ago I sent in a few photos and a bit of a story on my T Gauge layout called “Briefleigh”, so called because it’s a model train in briefcase.

I built it purely as a novelty display item for model railway shows.

After several shows where it has run basically all day for two or three days straight, one of the HST locos developed a fault which required replacing the driven bogie with a new one.

I’ve previously replaced wheel-sets, but not the whole bogie.

The bogie is attached to the power chassis by two small (very small) springs which also act as the power conduit from the wheel pick-ups to the motor.

The springs have a loop at each end and these attach to hooks, one on each side of the bogie and then another on the top of the chassis.

You can just see one of the hooks at the top of the groove near the main gear.

I ruined one of the springs by stretching it slightly when I took it off, then it went “pinnggg”, never to be seen again.

I have the new bogies and spare springs, now all I have to do is reassemble my loco.

If you’re are short on patience I would not recommend getting involved in T Gauge. (“T” stands for “three” because the track is 3mm wide. The scale is 1:450)

Sorry if bits of the photos are a bit blurred. It was hard to get a complete focus so close, but you can see the size of the bits by comparison with a standard match.

That tiny chassis contains the motor and the gearbox.


Ken G.”

model train in briefcase

model train in briefcase

model train in briefcase

And now on to Carl. I love it when tips like this come in:

“I read about ‘paints to use on bare Styrofoam packing materials’. Apple Barrel, or other acrylic craft paint, works fine.

To airbrush them can be a challenge – I have airbrushed them, but thinning with 90+% alcohol is a process that took a lot of trial and error.

To get to the consistency of milk it takes a multi-day procedure.

I finally have my routine worked out, first I mix the color I want in a jar that can be tightly sealed, I use baby food jars mostly.

I then add about double the amount of alcohol as paint to the jar and stir for a few minutes, the paint is not going to thin readily.

I add a half dozen or so BBs, tightly screw on the lid and shake vigorously for a few minutes, then I sit it on a shelf that I know I will pass several times daily, every time I pass the jar I agitate it for a minute or so.

In 2-3 days it is thoroughly mixd and smooth enough to spray.

Here is a ’53 chevy I sprayed with paint not thoroughly mixed (the blue pic).


The keys are time and agitation. This rambler wagon is done in craft paint.


Laslty, some people have been asking how to leave comments.

It’s really easy, just fill in the form below.

You only need to leave your email address – which is not published – and a comment.

Then it’s held until the spam police approve it, then it’s published.

So go on, tell us what you think.

That’s all this time folks.

You can grab the Beginners Guide here, or bag a great deal with the latest ebay cheat sheet here.

Please do keep ’em coming. Thanks to Kend for sharing his model train in briefcase.



PS If you are new to the print out scenery – the video below pretty much shows what you can do with it.

27 Responses to Model train in briefcase – Ken’s

  1. Steve Roberts says:

    Ken, absolutely amazing. As a retiree who has started the dream again, but this time in ‘N’, I sometimes struggle at this size, so what you have done is brilliant.
    Well done Steve R UK

  2. Chuck Bartunek says:

    Nice,does he take it to work?

  3. Roy Bastiman says:

    Lovely model Ken – I wish my eyes were as good
    The tips from Carl on the paint mixing were very enlightening – What spray kit do you use?

  4. Patrick says:

    Please share with Carl that he can mix his Apple Barrel paint with windshield washer fluid and paint right away. There are several great YouTube video trainings on the subject…

  5. wowee
    thanx Alistair for bringing this entire site to us….we SALUTE YOU !!!!
    T scale is so small I can barely see it at my age LOL !!!
    dayumm the cars and locos are matchstick size….wotta patient guy to work with that stuff….I could never do it….
    and the painting of things is soo complicated these days…when I was young we hadda make our own paint outta dirt and leaves…..!! jus kidding….!!

  6. Roy says:

    Z gauge is too small as for my eye sight, that’s why I enjoy working with n gauge. Find the video great but could had slow down videoing a bit, details are very important to see as for your work done on it. But very good work done here. Roy

  7. Roy says:

    Hi did say a comment earlier thought they put it up but can’t see it now. I just looked up as for size T gauge to Z gauge, well you must have very good eye sight to work on those loco’s because I couldn’t do what you do. I have N gauge and that’s small enough for me. Well you enjoy what you doing we all need some kind o hobby these days. Ie to relax. Roy

  8. Barry Pearlman says:

    Love the tiny “T” gage in a briefcase. I can just see him trying to get it through at the airport. TSA would have a kitten!


  9. Ron Schultz says:

    I have a “spring ” trick. several years ago I has helping a friend install springs in a set of trucks for 7 1/2 in Gauge train cars. as he compressed the spring and went to install it went boing and was gone . after searching for some time for it and before retrying it I tied a string on it so as to be able to get it quickly if it took off again . with small HO springs a piece of thread wrapped around it does wonders once installed its easy to remove the thread . thanks for the tips and glad to share this one . if used edit to fit the space / Ron

  10. paul Otway says:

    Nice layout ken,

    You could even take it on holidays , if you wanted to, or take it to work, and operate it sitting on the bus or train to work.

  11. Anthony says:

    Ah Yes.
    This i have seen at the Brisbane Train Expo in 2014 . TTS (To Tiny to See). Impressive.

  12. Chris says:

    Wow. I have enough trouble with shaky hands & dodgy eyes running HO scale. This T scale is way out of my league.

  13. Michael Heffernan says:


    amazing, what you have done is brilliant. Well done

  14. Ollie says:

    Thanks Alistair for bringing such art like this T scale layout to us. Artist’s getting paid lots of money for art which has taken far less time and effort to complete.
    The respons on the windshield washer fluid to thin this paint works well

  15. ian impett says:

    TINY OR WHAT!!!!!

  16. Dr Bob says:

    Ken, those are some tiny pieces and I can relate somewhat because I used to repair watches as a hobby. Now that I’m a proud member of the tri-focal community, I have turned this fine hobby over to one of my sons. What is the difference between ‘t’ and ‘z’ guage?

    Carl, wouldn’t xylol or lacquer thinner or even acetone do a better job at speeding up the thinning process? Seems these products work much better with paints and perfect for washing/weathering. Love the Rambler, brought back a few childhood memories!

  17. David Hedlund says:

    “Z” gauge is the best when you don’t have alot of room. Not set up, but I have Amtrak passenger and Burlington Northern freight. Working on ideas on paper for a layout. I am thinking of getting 2 4 X 8 pieces of balsam wood X 1″ think and in the middle on 4 X 4 piece. Making it lighter than regular plywood.

  18. It is inspirational to see great work in 20`6 especially after that nfl football commercial just past January with the player in the attic with a beautiful O Guage
    “your train will be leaving Mrs Nesbitt” Dont be like the old me. It was depressing but I was Happy at La Jolla High School NFL Prep hopeful in 1979-1980 defensive tackle right. My family enjoyed my HO 8×4 with Mt Soledad to the corner made out of chicken wire newspaper and some modeling mixture
    later started N scale and got over my fear of working with smaller objects I am short on understanding and making electric jobs work. I miss it and all of you. Thanks for keeping the faith. Love Jesus james doljanin drjamie+wife

  19. Brian Rockey says:

    Great stuff Ken – extreme patience!
    And Carl, I wish I had your patience too with getting paint ready for airbrushing! I do struggle with getting the mix just right – I usually slag up the airbrush because my paint mix is too thick, then I spend ages cleaning the airbrush – agh!!!!! Maybe I need to move away from mixing in the airbrush cup and mix in a jar instead??? Any advice would be appreciated.
    Best to all.
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

  20. I look at my “sausage fingers” — About the size and dexterity of the average breakfast sausage link.. Then I look at the matchstick… And then the T scale train!
    When I was young, N scale was the smallest.
    Then came Z scale.
    Now T scale.
    I am impressed!
    I struggle with anything smaller than HO.
    I am considering taking up blacksmithing to join the O scale modelers!
    Agreed on the problem of shaky hands and dodgy eyes!

  21. Hugo Budzien says:

    I love that layout in a briefcase…………for someone else. Me, I’ll stick to 7-1/2″ gauge

  22. Will in NM says:

    Ken, Brilliant layout in the briefcase. T scale sure fits a lot into very little space. Which electron microscope did you have to buy to see what you’re working on? 🙂
    Carl, Great suggestions of how to mix acrylic paints for the air brush. Also, thanks to whoever suggested using WS washer fluid for a quicker result.

    The printed scenery video was good but I got a little dizzy towards the end when we were flying every which way over the diorama.

  23. Erick says:

    Pretty Kool. !!!!!!

  24. Brian Olson says:

    Love the name. As creative, if not more, as the layout itself!

  25. Dave Karper says:

    Be aware that lacquer thinner will melt plastic. I have used lacquer thinner in a pinch as a liquid plastic cement. It works as well as any liquid type plastic cement.

  26. robert dale tiemann says:

    i have several n scales and love the fact that i dont have to have a lot of room. i just got a z scale from a friend in germany, man talk about smell. going to be hard to see the people in this one.

  27. WES PINCHOT says:

    amazing ‘t’ gauge! smaller layout then a monopoly game board!
    and i thought ‘n’ gauge was small!
    never heard of ‘n’ gauge.
    thanks for sharing.

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