More tips and tricks

“OK Al,

It’s hard to find an inexpensive paint when making models of rolling stock or structures. (I am in Canada.) I have used plastic compatible automotive primer. It comes in two colours, grey Nd brown. The grey has a poured cement, or concrete, appearance. The brown can be used on buildings, bridges, and rolling stock. There’s a black equivalent which is used for people.

Assemble the building, use the aerosol primer paint in a well ventilated area, add the colour highlights, then let the thing dry. The primer goes on looking terrible, it drys quickly and is a thin film.

Using a highly diluted black ink and water wash and weather the model. The weathering will cling to the primer. Leave to dry, this will take a while, go do another modelling project.

The grey for cement can be done the same way. Using the black on people is best done painting a layer, let dry, then highlight the colours on the people, the black is the shadows from light sources.

IN ALL CASES, the priming paint needs to be PLASTIC COMPATIBLE! Not using this type of pain, the model will become a blob of plastic.

Next time, how to paint and ballast track and roadbed.


“Cleaning tracks and wheels – never use an abrasive. It makes tiny scratches which hold impurities.

I use Goo Gone on a clean cloth rag, for both tracks and wheels.

For tracks, stretch the cloth over two extended fingers. Squirt the Goo Gone over the finger tips, and rub the rails. Silver or brass, doesnt matter, the oxide and scenery goop and other dirt come right off.

For wheels I do the same thing. To be thorough, take the trucks apart and clean the wheels and contacts. I have both toys and expensive models. They all disassemble and reassemble easily.

Goo Gone has a pleasant orange smell. Seems safe enough. It’s really great on those damn sticky price labels. Cleans pine sap too.


“Hi Al

I am not very experienced in the more professional skills!! I have just started however there are few tips I have learnt to date.

1) Cheaper items such as the Peco tunnel entrance is very cheap and once surrounded by scenery as per photos I sent earlier looks very realistic this is a few pounds only – see photo

2) Use foam underlay and fill in with ballast and scenery again as photos cheap and easy for the leaner but very realistic once down – see photo

3) Think about how realistic you can be within the confines of the layout i.e. how do passengers and cars etc get to the station forecourt? and how will the staff get to the engine shed?, paths should have purpose to be appreciated

4) Remember virtually nothing is pristine and perfectly clean in the world, think about dirt, weathering, weeds, rust, coal and ash was everywhere on shed, this is cheap and you gain experience quickly – see photo

I am working on a much bigger section now the main through station i will let you know the progress – so far so good and there will be many hours spent in the loft to get this right! again taking it from old Hornby platforms which clip together, which is fine but into a more realistic station.






Some nice tips there – thanks to Steve, Geoff 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.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

17 Responses to More tips and tricks

  1. i like your weathing of D6313 I have not tried weathring as yet

  2. Alan says:

    I totally agree with Steve, the pictures look great incidentally. It’s surprising what a bit of foliage can do.
    On another subject, I am a great believer in using recycled bits & bobs. I took apart an old modem some time ago and found all sorts of electronic bits. Some looked just like oil drums, others could be used in scrap yards or wagon loads.
    My mantra is never throw anything out before checking it over!!

  3. David Hunden says:

    The comment from Dave is absolutely correct…“Cleaning tracks and wheels – never use an abrasive. It makes tiny scratches which hold impurities.
    Goo Gone is quite good; another wiping solution is to use a “lubricant” here in the states called WD-40. It is a mix of light oils and alcohols and cuts track grime, and the minimal film remaining on the track is electrically conductive. If you use this on brass track, the remaining film will keep the top surface from oxidizing for a long time. Another trick to use on brass track to eliminate oxidation and enhance its appearance is to wipe the rails with gun bluing solution. (Gun Bluing solution, although dilute,typically contains some rather toxic materials, so use caution. Do not ingest.) Be sure to wipe the rails down with a damp cloth after the rails have been stained to remove any of the residual acidic solution. The rail tops will have a blue-black color, but that is what protects the contact surface. Further wiping the rails with WD-40 on top of the bluing will greatly extend time between rail cleanings.

    Dave (in Indiana)

  4. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Some very fine tips today . Thanx men !

  5. Michael M says:

    I have with help how acquired a n gauge,American.

    I have been told that that i can purchase a paint to cover the sleepers.
    but no name for the paint was given.

    Is there anyone out there who could let em know what i have to purchase,and do i get this paint from a model shop?.


  6. Hi Al, I’m using Hornby scaledale lighting on my layout, but can’t remember how to wire up from the lighting strip, through an on-off switch, then into my controller, can you or anyone help me with a very simple diagram (I’m not very technically minded)
    Thank you in anticipation, and I appreciate the tips that have already been sent to me.
    All the best,

  7. good tips for all…..
    and the CHEAP peco tunnel portals WORK!!
    KEEP IT RUNNIN’ fellas….

  8. paul Otway says:

    thanks guys for sharing.

    I use 12 volt bulbs from Jaycar, I paint inside the building Black so that the light does not show through the building walss.

  9. Ron says:

    A selection of very good tips there to take on board. They will go in with my other tips collected from this site.
    Keep them coming I’m never too old to learn!


  10. Bill Ennis says:

    I am trying to build an HO slot car AND train layout. I want to elevate the car track so that it runs over top of the train layout. What are some good ways to elevate the track? I’m trying to use the blue foam board that you can buy in hardware stores…seems to be working okay, but the uprights are a little “wobbly”. I’m using 1-inch thick material. Should I go to a thicker (2″) foam board or is there an even better way of doing this? Thanks.


  11. Goo Gone is a fantastic track cleaner. I found out about it from my hobby shop dealer who has been in the business for 30+ years.

  12. Bob From Twoson says:

    Hi Everybody, I second the idea of painting the inside walls of plastic buildings so light doesnt show thru them. You can tape one light down on your work area (attached to a power supply of course) and simply sit tthe building down on it. Now turn off all other lights and you can see instantly where the building need painting. Black is of course great but any dark color will do. You may need a couple of coats of paint but, its easy to tell if its needed. Just put the painted building over the light again and you can see is any areas need another coat of paint….Hope this info helps some…

  13. Bob Amling says:

    I have found that your cheat sheet is quite helpful. Besides finding what I was looking for, I also found some items that I never knew existed.
    I’ve been playing with trains for 70 years; but this old dog is still learning new tricks!
    Bob in Colts Neck Crossing, NJ

  14. Phil says:

    In response to Michael I use a paint called sleeper grim for my track. It’s a spray use before ballast if and clean rails after dry

  15. Pete W. says:

    Ebay cheat sheet – Is it possible to have a verssion for Ebay UK?

  16. Erick says:

    Pretty Neat.!!!

  17. ScenicsRme says:

    It helps a lot if you add where in the world you are located, especially when asking about products, not all are universally available.

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