More model train layout tips

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of your model train layout tips – even after all the years there are still rolling in:

“Dear Al,

I have a 5’x8′ HO layout running 2 trains.

Most of the cars have plastic wheels. I noticed that over time I had to keep increasing the voltage to the engines to keep up speed. Finally, it got ridiculous.

I looked at the track and rubbed it with my finger and it was black from residue from the plastic wheels.

I had purchased some W-D 40 Electrical Contact Cleaner to renew an old motor in an engine. It worked great.

So I took a die-cast flat car and attached a folded piece of paper towel to the bottom with a rubber band and soaked it with the cleaner.

I then attached it to the rear of one of the trains and ran the train.

I noticed that after 3-4 trips around the train was running faster. I stopped the train and turned the towel over and resoaked it. More improvement.

Lastly, I ran a clean dry towel to finish off. I have seen poles with rags attached doing the same thing, but I can’t reach all of my tracks that way.

Besides, I would rather just sit in my chair and watch the train do the work. I hope this helps some of the folks that can’t afford brass wheels.

I look forward to reading your posts every morning while I drink my coffee.

I am 81 years old and a widower and all I have are my trains and my little dog. As you say, “Keep ’em coming”


Santa Fe Bob in Florida, USA”

track cleaner car model train

Now on to Dangerous Dave:

“Hi Al…

I have just loaded a video showing how to improve a space on my layout.

I show in detail how easy it is to do this, also added footage of hauling some freight as requested by some of the members on my last video.

Also a short one of my garden at the end, again requested by members.



model railway end curve

model railway end curve house scenery

And now on to Brian:

“Hi Al,

this is in response to Robs airbrush article.

I have an Aztec airbrush (top of the range) one as seen below.

I have been using it for about 20 years and can do almost everything with it.

Using the fine nozzle, I can write my name in my check book (if I had one). I use it for all my spray work and takes me about 3 minutes to thoroughly clean it between paint colours.

Unfortunately it is no longer manufactured. I do have a spare airbrush body though just in case.



Now on to Jim:


Attached are 6 photos of my layout and the start of my paint job on a N scale GP-35.

My layout is 4feet by 6.6feet with a yard and round house off to one end with a lift gate to a door to the rest of my garage.


model train N scale turntable

N scale figure of 8 model train layout

model train track plan

N scale figure of 8 model train layout

model train layout tips

model train layout tips

model train layout tips

model train layout tips

N scale locomotive

N scale locomotive

model train layout curve

model train layout curve

model train layout locomotive

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.

18 Responses to More model train layout tips

  1. Brian Messenger says:

    Dave, your layout never ceases to amaze me with the great amount of detail that you have put onto it – excellent and well done.
    Brian – the HOn3 guy in Knysna RSA

  2. Robert Brady says:

    Great job with that Canadian pacific GP35

    The Critic

  3. Brian Olson says:

    Good reminder about the wheels on our cars. I’m pretty good at cleaning the engine wheels on a regular basis, but admit to never learning the cars. Again, a good reminder.

  4. Benjamin Wright says:

    Santa Fe Bob, you should replace all those plastic wheels on your cars with metal ones. Then your tracks won’t get as dirty. I thought all N scale rolling stock came with metal wheels. I guess not lol.

  5. Rob McCrain says:

    Repainting a locomotive is something I would like to try. I have painted wagons and coaches but not locomotives. Interesting article about how you did it.
    Dave, your corner does look better.
    The idea of using contact cleaner to clean the track is an interesting one. I normally use alcohol in my CMX car.
    Rob McCrain

  6. george zaky says:

    Santa Fe Bob
    Thanks for the tip. BTW the engine wheels that pick up power from the track impart the black residue, an oxide, and not inert car wheels whether they be plastic or metal. I’ve seen more opinions about cleaning track and IMHO a system that both cleans the track and the engine wheels is the way to go. Yours does both as witnessed by the improvement in performance.
    Dangerous Dave
    Aah a morning with a DD movie and a lesson how to make your layout smashing. A wonderful trip thru Flora and Fauna land that defies your senses. Beyond awesome.
    I wish you & the Mrs well. Thousand thanks.
    Testament to buying quality that translates to longevity. Since Rob’s article I’ve done a lot of research on air brushes and I’ve concluded that a talented artist still can paint with a lousy brush and he got lucky with Chinesium junk- its life span is suspect. Rob’s motive however was impeccable.
    You N guys never cease to amaze.
    Big Al
    You worked hard on this-A lot of stuff. You da man- thanks.

  7. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Santa Fe Bob…….. great tip……..the residue seems to get on the engine wheels more.

    Dave…… always a great video and I am so jealous of your flowers. What is the secret?

    Jim……. N scale….. I could do a lot more with my space with N gauge but I had a rude awakening when I went from O scale to HO. The size scares me.

  8. Ben Zlotnick says:

    Has anyone modeled a handi-cap parking space?

  9. george zaky says:

    I had to laugh. Nobody I know, and I really had to think about this, models in the 90’s or higher. ADA took hold in the late 80’s. OSHA would have closed every steam engine facility and Everything we model, mines, plants, etc.
    So create a modern day layout with Acela & ICE trains, NYC subway trains, modern buildings, cars & handicap ramps & car spaces and show it off here.
    The challenge has been made

  10. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. great detail.

  11. Orvan Gene Hatfield says:

    to Ben on hand-cap parking space. Being hand-caped, short answer is Yes. Hat

  12. James Marek says:

    Very nice. Thank you for taking the time to share your layout with us.

  13. Malcolm says:

    george zaky says that the black residue on the rails comes from the locomotives. I cannot believe that is correct. I’ve read many times modelers saying they replaced plastic rolling stock wheels with metal wheels and found a definite reduction in the need to clean track. It just makes sense because the freight and passenger car wheels greatly outnumber locomotive wheels on every layout that I’ve ever seen.

  14. TJK says:

    Dave, always a pleasure. Your videos are always entertaining ……..
    But ……WOW! …….That garden is insane. Love it.
    Thanks for fulfilling my garden request.

  15. Dave Karper says:

    Dangerous Dave, when are you going to pass on drawings of some of your beautiful structures to Mr. Lee and allow him to add them to his printouts.Apparently the fact that many types and styles of architecture are found all over this country is a well kept secret.

  16. Tom Snyder says:

    Al, great presentation today. Can we get Jim to show a schematic of his track plan? Thank you.

  17. Gary Mitchell says:

    Dave always enjoy your videos they are entertaing and very helpful. Your garden looks great I am starting to plant seeds in trays for our spring garden here in NZ.hope it will look as good as yours.

  18. David Howarth says:

    Thank you for the comments , hope your seeds come through OK Gary , gardening and koi are my other passion after model railways ..

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