Roger’s model train paperclip park

“There’s no denying it, Al. This one is outrageously simple and horrendously frustrating.  But hopefully some may think the results worth the effort. 

It is not for those who have a tendency to beat the cat when things fall apart.  It is for those who like to ‘fiddle’ (I might have phrased that better).  While experimenting, I had a number of disasters but, fortunately, have the patience of the gods.

The photos are self-explanatory but here are some instructions, born out of experience, for those who would like them –

1.  Unbend the paper clips to form triangles – so that the ends meet.  Important that they match perfectly so lay them one on top of the other to make sure (Figs 3 and 4)  Superglue the join.

2.  With wire cutters or pliers, cut your three cross members (from other paper clips) – 2 cm long – match them up too (Fig 5).

3.  Glue two to the base of an upright (Fig 6).  Helps to use tweezers to handle them.  Leave for a good old while.

WARNING – Despite its claims and its addiction to people’s fingers, superglue doesn’t care much for metal – but will do the job in the end.  Before gluing it helps to scratch your proposed joint with a craft knife or similar and make sure you apply tiny drops to both surfaces – hold the joint in place while it settles and LEAVE IT.  I learned this the hard way.  Even after hours, your joint will still be fragile so handle with care during the construction – learned this the hard way too.  I never use the grotty, clogged up applicators supplied with superglue – pour a little into one of those blue plastic milk bottle tops (which I save in their thousands for this and paint jobs) – apply with a matchstick.  And I buy cheap superglue in packs from Pound (99 cent) shops.

4. Glue the cross members to the base of the other upright (Fig 7) – make sure all is straight and vertical – helps to put a matchbox or suchlike next to the upright while it sets – to keep it straight.  LEAVE IT!

5. Turn your structure upside down and carefully glue in the top cross member (Fig 8).  Hold down with a finger and LEAVE IT!  Have a double whisky and leave the whole thing overnight.

6.  When you awake, remember it is still very fragile.  Apply superglue to all the joints, quite generously and … you guessed it … LEAVE IT!.   When all has hardened you can gently scrape off excess with a craft knife – but it paints over okay.  The structure will never be incredibly strong so handle carefully while working on it.

7.  The two suspending chains to the seat of the swing were an unforeseen problem.  Thread just flicked all over the place and wouldn’t hang.  Fuse wire wouldn’t straighten.  The solution was to run a length of thread through a blob of PVA adhesive – then through my fingers to saturate it.  It dried nice and straight and firm.  Cut the lengths of thread.  You need generous lengths – trim off excess when all is done.  Tie a knot at one end of each thread.  The knot will slot in UNDER the seat.

For the single swing mark each length 3 cm from the knot – the length of the drop.
For the multiple swings mark off 2.5 cm  (I’m assuming a standard size paper clip – mine were 3 cm – top to bottom).

8.  I always keep a couple of OO gauge people close by while I’m making stuff – maintains a sense of scale.  Cut out your swing seat from a sheet of that free plastic substance known as chilled food container (pictured).  Should be just wider than an OO gauge bum.  You can use a piece of plastic sheeting as a base too if you wish.  Cut two TINY nicks in the centre of each end of the seat.  You can slot your thread into these – the knot under the seat.  Glue the ends of the thread underneath the seat.

9.  At the top rail, wind your thread round the bar at the mark – suspending the two threads from the upright. Glue parallel to hold them (Fig 9).

–  The Toothbrush Test – Place a toothbrush (or similar) on the swing seat (Fig 10).  You can check how parallel your seat is.  Bit of wiggling at the top rail will sort out small inaccuracies.  Apply a little more PVA to the thread – will help straighten and hold.

–  OO gauge feet should just clear the ground.  You may find that, when you put a person on the seat, he turns upside down with his feet in the air!  Just glue his feet to the base (Fig 11).

–  When you’re happy – cut off the excess.

10. Paint and admire.  Have a double whisky.


The row of swings (Fig 12) was actually easier to make than the single – same process.  A length of plastic sheet (free – see above) joins it at the base – and a length of old Hornby rail at the top (you could use wood – anything).  When you’ve completed it – well worth while mixing up a little two-tube epoxy glue, spread it right across the UNDERSIDE of the base – so that the bottom lengths of the uprights set in it like rock.  Really strong then.

This is the first structure intended for what I’m calling PAPERCLIP PARK.  More to follow if you can bear it.  And yes – I know – the Park Keeper would have kicked those adults off the swings and fined them – but I didn’t have any OO gauge children for the prototype.  Will get some when I make another.

Best wishes to all.




Wow! A big thank you to Roger for sending in this ‘how to’. Impressive stuff!

Latest ‘ebay cheat sheet’ is here. Thank you for all the comments.



16 Responses to Roger’s model train paperclip park

  1. dave says:

    Well done Roger, next time I look at paper clips they will make me consider what can be done with them

  2. Ian says:

    juust outstanding every lay out has a park thanks for the lesson.oh keep them coming.

  3. Dave Taylor says:

    As Roger says sticking metal to metal with “Superglue” is not easy but I have found that “Liquid Weld” is ideal for this.

    Hope this makes life easier.

  4. john says:

    Rodger, you have the patience of the Gods. One thing I learned about superglue (from building a model boat) – there is superglue and there is superglue. Forget the cheep stuff and buy “proper” superglue from the hardware. In Oz we have a brand called Loctite (or is it Locrite??), which works on metal (brass). The difference is incredible. As you said, roughen the surface first.

  5. Rob says:

    Excellent don’t know if the fingers will allow this, but is a definite to try. Maybe try to solder together that glue business just does not grab me.LOL

  6. Paco Gayon says:

    There is a man with great imagination,

  7. AL B. says:

    Me and superglue don’t get along. When working with metal, I like Dave use Liguid Weld or solder to keep the pieces together. With solder you can file the solder to take off the rough edges or smooth out the wider joints.

  8. paul Otway says:

    Amazing what you can do with paper clips and other things that are not normally considered as scenery making materials.

  9. Tom Oliver says:

    I’m going out to buy a bottle of whiskey before I even attempt these models, then I MIGHT have the patience! Great job!

  10. Steve, Downunder. says:

    Well you make it look so easy to make these variouse play units, sepecially when One follows your photo’s. So on behalf of all that use your discription on either their own layout, or a club layout Thank You!

    “Keep your mind working on our behalf.”

  11. Roger says:

    I seem to have started GLUE WARS ! But thank to those who liked the design – will mail instructions for the whole park. I think I overstated the problems with the glue. It all worked fine – just wanted to point out potential problems. Ozzy John – I will buy some Loctite – as long as it doesn’t cost more than £1 ! And I agree. If you’re a useful solderer – probably the best option.

    Best. Roger.

  12. aLex says:

    Super Glue cures with a lack of oxygen. The area of the joint does not have oxygen, so the glue cures.
    The globs added as fullers take forever to cure because of the large surface area in oxygen. A mist of water will cure these globs quickly.

  13. Dillon Debnam says:

    Realy nice idea looks like real life

  14. alan says:

    like your paper clip project but where do you find the figures. have got Noch beach scene but cannot find the figures to go with it as shown on their picture, which is so annoying.

  15. Roger says:

    Hello Alan

    Hope you check back and get to read this. The figures in the Park cost pennies. Not Noch. Not Preiser. After the last Paperclip Park post I’ll be sending Al ideas for populating layouts very cheaply – so do stay tuned. And thanks for your kind comment.

    aLex – really useful info. Had no idea. I guess what you’re suggesting is to spray the model in a water-mist after touching in the joints with superglue to strengthen them. Going to try that.

    Best to all. Roger.

  16. paul starr says:

    one word for it roger great.

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