More modelling tips

Got this in from Ron, which I quite liked:

“1. When laying ballast between ties. It helps if you lightly pre-dampen the area between the ties with a spray mist of water One squirt ought to do it – enough to keep the dry ballast from blowing a way.

Then apply a 50/50 of Elmers glue – usually a single drop in the center of the ties. the water will eventually dry leaving enough stickiness for the ballast to set.

2. Through the years… block, sheet or scrap foam is the material of choice for creating mountains and terrain. Its much easier to handle. I also use Plaster gauze for wrapping broken arms to cover the foam. Cut into strips and they lay and conform to all sorts of shapes and crevices. I later will “paint” on a water plaster solution to add other layers to strengthen and contour the surface.

3. If a difficult access (say in a tunnel or hidden passage) is needed, then just “saw” through the hardened area to create a cap or cover that will retain the original look. Some detailing will have to be done to conceal the cut. Almost mistake free because any error or mistake can be made into something else.

4. There is rarely a “new shiny look” with trains especially a full load. Dust and dirt is all over the place. Engines and rolling stock need to have a dull dirty look, especially along the trucks and wheel areas of the cars, etc. There are many ways to accomplish this.


And this in from Dennis:

“I get branches from an artificial christmas tree to make trees for my layout. I cut them to length and mount them tip down so the branches droop downward.

I take some of my Plasticville buildings for the back wall of my layout and cut them in half. I mount the two halfs with the cut end facing toward the back to double my buildings. You can cut out cardboard and install it behind them or mount them against a bluff.


That’s all for today, folks.

Please keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s guide

12 Responses to More modelling tips

  1. todd says:

    I like all the tips you have sent. They have given me a great insight. I am in the process. of building my own layout. It is a 4×9. I plan on having industry on one side and a town on the other. It is a freelance type. Deisel is what I mainly run though i have a couple of steam engines. I found using foam glue is better to work with on making hills with foam board than liquid nails for projects,but that’s my own opinion.

  2. Don says:

    Your hints has help me with my layout . I doing ho trains with ho slot cars . It’s a l shape 11′ x 9″ Thank You Don ,[ ps I would send pictures , don’t know how]

  3. Paul Preston says:

    I always ‘weather’ my locos and freight cars. Since I lived near the Canadian Natl’l tracks in Wisconsin, I take pictures of well worn cars and use these for my stuff.

    I have an airbrush that is attached to a can of compressed air plus several fine artist’s brushed and a variety of paints. One trick is to let the paint run down a freight car like over the rivets. I also get “N” gauge decals for grafitti. Have fun.

  4. Don says:

    I noticed on tips for cleaning locomotive wheels no one mentioned using automotive automatic transmission fluid. I have just recently tried it and it seems to works perfectly. I found it on you tube. Dab a 1inch space on each rail a foot apart or so and run your train(s). After 2-3 laps mine was running perfectly. The loco wheels were nice and shiney.

  5. David Murray says:

    Thank you so much for the tip of using automatic transmission fluid to clean loco wheels and track. My layout is 25 x 15′ using three-rail Wrenn track and Hornby Dublo tank engines in the attic bedroom of my cottage in England. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning to get decent and even running.
    I will approach a small garage with a marmalade pot!

  6. Glen Christoffersen says:

    If you are going to use brake fluid to clean wheels and rails, be very careful! Brake fluid is a very powerful solvent that will ruin most any paint job it comes in contact with. It will also soften some plastics.

  7. Glen Christoffersen says:

    Oops! I mentioned brake fluid in my last post. But Automotive transmission fluid is a similar solvent. Be careful!

  8. Craig Burton says:

    More new things to try, Thanks for the input,will give them a shot, Craig

  9. Stan Zoller says:

    Great ideas!

    One note, on Ron’s suggestion: “Then apply a 50/50 of Elmer’s glue – usually a single drop in the center of the ties. the water will eventually dry leaving enough stickiness for the ballast to set.”

    Use Elmer’s regular white glue, not school glue. The school glue is more water soluble and will not hold as well and be more difficult to use.

  10. Michael S says:

    Been here many visits, thoroughly enjoy the many talents of all in the hobby, no matter what scale is involved.
    My small offering is very simple, and removes the subject of drudgery while doing large, and small areas of ground cover, lake beds, coal deposits, weathering, and also what use to be my least liked job…BALLASTING. It’s the one, two, three, punch for an adhesive, that once you use it, you’ll never want to be without it. It’s as simple as 1-2-3 to make, and store for future use. 1part elmers white glue, 2 parts water, 3 drops of ordinary liquid dishwashing soap. Mix for your appropriate sized spay bottle. Shake well to fully incorporate all ingredients. Be sure you have an adjustable spray head to either squirt, or fine spray, for your particular needs. Be sure to keep it well shaken for best results. The main reason for the soap, is to make the water “wetter”, allowing it to penetrate deeper to your various substrates. Lay your track, thoroughly wet your intended roadbed…lay ballast while the primary (primer) coat is wet. (Note): you may do up to six foot sections of track at a single pass. After ballast is laid, and properly dressed, do a wet coat of your adhesive to lock all you have done in a section. Wet is okay, no need to really soak heavily. Practice a bit to get the feel right. Let your sections dry for 24 hrs. and return to do a dry brushing of your work to double check that all you glued got sprayed well. Do not do this in your turnouts, as they will be glued fast, and not operate. When done using your “special sauce” glue, remove spray head and cap keep airtight….more to come. Al, I hope all your followers enjoy this recipe. I’ve used this formula for over 50 years, and won’t detail without it.

  11. Kelvin Bland says:

    Beware the Automatic transmission fluid as it stops adhesion of rubber tired wheels which are common on tender drive steam loco models today. I use the old RELCO units wired into the track and these have worked well for years although you cannot use these on DCC layouts as they burn out the chips I am told. Thanks for everything Al.

  12. John Sage says:

    How much is a “part” in your 123 recipe to the three drops of dish soap? An ounce? A cup? A pint?

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