More modelling tips and tricks

“Here’s a trick I use if I need a gap for electrical purposes. I use Super Glue to put a small piece of .020 plastic between the rails where the join.

Then I use modeler’s files to conform the plastic to the rail profile. Once I scenic the rails the joint becomes almost invisible.

On His Ride,


“Alastair, I like to use uncooked pasta for drain spouts. This is especially useful when building from scratch. I’m thinking mainly spaghetti here, but pasta does come in a variety of shapes.

Artists chalk and makeup brushes are great for certain aging/weather operations. The user must be absolutely certain to use a fine mist of fixative spray – light coat, please.

Kansas City, Missouri”

“Hi, if you are a tea drinker then save and slowly dry your teabags to make realistick earth.

When dry, you have to rub the contents of the teabags between your fingers to crush the lumpy bits.

If you have a model of a plough man with horses, then lay the rippled sheet from yourwifes box of chocolates, glue it ripple side up to your field and when dry spray with dilute PVA and sprickle you ‘earth on it and there you have a lovely ploughed field ready for planting the potatoes.


“1.) My best innovation was drilling small holes then using a string of Christmas lights under a 4×8 sheet to light all of my son’s N-scale structures without a million tiny wire connections.

2.) Another thing I have done was to drill a larger hole, and use a fan from an old computer and I placed it under the board. I cut some red and yellow plastic in V-shapes and had the fan blowing it upward to make a pretty cool little building on fire.

3.) if you take metal screen mesh (looks like: ############) and cut it, you can use it as fence for long runs. It’s very flexible. Fine screen–window screen–can make chain link fence when cut into diagonals and put between pins or small nails as posts.


“I discovered this by carelessness. I was using crazy glue to build a coaling tower kit and when I applied to much glue to the plastic along with gluing my fingers to the tower I discovered this.

When the liquid crazy glue ran along the grooves on the “siding” it turned the plastic an off white giving it the appearance of faded paint and or a weathered siding look.

You might want to practice this on some scrap plastic before attempting on something good. There is no going back..but it really looks great..I lucked out I think…


“Tip 1. When ballasting track-beds, lay the track and pin down in its final position. That gives it a solid base.

If you need/want to use sound proofing, just cut a strip of polystyrene wall liner, about 5mm wider than the sleeper base and fasten down with double sided tape before laying the track.

When you are happy with the track layout, dry lay the ballast and brush into place to achieve the desired effect. Remember that not all track ballast was laid in neat straight lines and an even depth, it always got shifted around a bit!

Mist-spray the ballasted track with water to which a few drops of washing up liquid has been added. Damp but not running is the rule!. Then add diluted PVA wood-working adhesive, diluted 50/50 with water with a syringe, just at the edge of the ballast layer.

The wet ballast will draw the glue into the ballast, the detergent having reduced the surface tension, and leave to dry overnight. When dry the glue will dry clear and the track will look the biz. Do make sure that you clear any ballast from point slides and frog rails before you add the glue.

Tip 2. You can easily make your own plaster bandage, or Mod-Roc, by using old triangular bandages and soaking them in very dilute Polyfilla or quick drying plaster from the DIY store. Many First Aid centres have old bandages that they have to throw away because the packaging is compromised or they are out of date.

The gauze pads from old shell dressings are just as good and you might get a load from a local military surplus store. When opened out they are about 4ft across!

Lay the soaked fabric over crushed paper or polystyrene pieces, smooth down and leave to set. Paint as required.

Hope you can use these.


That’s it for another day.

Please do keep ’em coming.

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



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

32 Responses to More modelling tips and tricks

  1. graeme says:

    Thanks to all, great tips and ideas that work
    money saving as well, Thanks again folk’s and for AL
    posting out–cheers AL

  2. Mike H says:

    Really useful tips for novices like me. I have taken great encouragement from the advice given on this site. Thanks to all contributors and to Al for publishing and keeping this site going.

  3. MIKE,Seattle WA says:

    Picked up a couple more tips I can use that I haven’t heard of before.THANKS TO ALL WHO have given some real good tips.

  4. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    When it comes to modl rr “tips”, everyone’s 2 cents combined,
    is worth a million bucks. Thanks to all.

  5. John says:

    Those are all great tips! I like the plowed field chocolate box idea! Another reason to buy chocolate! And the Christmas light string! Brilliant! No pun intended!


  6. Bruce B says:

    These tips are just awesome! The one about the Christmas lights in lieu of a gazillion expensive, tiny modelers’ lights is absolutely incredible — Talk about thinking “outside the box”! I just love these tips, and haven’t gotten as much help by reading YEARS of commercial modeling magazines. Hats-off to amateur modelers everywhere for such GREAT IDEAS!

  7. Bullfrog in Ontario says:

    Hey Al !!
    Thanks for the summary of ‘tips’. I got a few new ones this time – especially the tea ploughed field, and the soaked triangular bandage materials. Luv it !
    – dave

  8. anto says:

    great tips thanks keep them coming please

  9. anto says:

    a question boys can say bachman locos be fitted with decoders other than bachman eg hornby or others looking forward to replys thanks

  10. ivang says:

    Great tips, many thanks given me some new economical ideas, keep them coming, off to raid the spaghetti.

  11. Ian Mc Donald says:

    the tips are very useful would like more thanks.

  12. Tom says:

    Always looking forward to tips they do come in handy
    thanks again

    best regards,


  13. Tom says:

    To Anto,

    Bachmann engines can be fitted with decoders … on the internet search in Google for Bachmann Trains and DCC or decoders much info available check it out hope you find what you are looking for. I use Bachmann EZ Command it works for me.

    Happy hunting!

    best regards.


  14. I use what you tell but I’m o gauge but all tips help Me

  15. anto says:

    thanks tom

  16. chris says:

    Thanks for the tips everyone

  17. Randolph scott says:

    Hi David
    awesome tips mate, the Plaster strips using Bandages was a new one to me, and the Christmas Tree Lights, awesome time saver


  18. Stuart says:

    Some great rips there, Thanks very much, always good to know these things



  19. Tom says:


    You are very welcome! Hope you find what you need.

    Happy New Year!

    best regards.


  20. Bud Holzman says:

    I need a tip on how to make an HO gravel road. Anyone out there who can help me?
    Bud in NJUSA

  21. Bud:
    Cover the road surface which you’ve painted an appropriate color with diluted white glue. Sift on colored acquarium sand and pat down. Add tire ruts if you wish.

  22. GEorge Ketner says:

    I purchased a USED blender for 5.00 USD. Collect fall leaves let them try good, pup them in the blender and …Great ground cover. Sift for texture.


  23. Dave Ober says:

    These are great tips as I want to get back into model railroading HO for my grandchildren and son.

  24. John Reynolds says:

    For sound mitigation and/or CHEAP roadbed, Foam Core Board (also known as foam board) works well… Especially on top of plywood, Homosote, or Celotex.

  25. Jez says:

    Great tip about the use of teabags for a ploughed field and what to use when making a lake side. Jez , sherwood community centre model railway club

  26. Jimmy STORRIE says:

    A1 tips

  27. Tony says:

    Please do not use food stuff of any kind on your layout as it attracts vermin.

  28. Geoff S says:

    I am so grateful for all the tips i find here. Some of the videos just blow me away

  29. Peter morra says:

    All great tips for kitbashing I just have an idea for ballast you can use cat litter it comes also fine and course

  30. Stephen Gispanski says:

    Thanks everyone for your time and help on little things a molder can do to save time and money, I am on a very tight budget. Here is a little thing to help save, in your yard you have weeds growing, right. Well when those weed just start out as ankle bitters and you can see a bunch of them. Pull them with tweezers, lay them out on a board and spray them with hairspray, you can make them thick or thin and many different types of weeds but make sure that you lightly spray both sides.
    SDG St.Petersburg Fl

  31. Ian McDonald says:

    Thankyou for the tips .They do help especially when you are new to modelling. thanks for sharing.

  32. A caution about using tea leaves or coffee grounds on a model rr. If they are damp, they will have mold growing. Doubt me? Then put some damp grounds in a sealed container and watch the stuff grow. Instead, dry the grounds in the oven until they are completely dry (any lumps should fall apart. If they don’t, the stuff is still wet.). Then apply the grounds to a test piece of plywood to make sure they’re OK. When gluing, dilute a mix of glue and alcohol (not water) and a teaspoon of Lysole or other mold killer. If some mold still grows, spray with Lysole straight from the bottle

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