Tips From Our Readers


To start with model trains as a hobby is usually very expensive. Often space and many other reasons can also prevent you from tackling the model train hobby. The outright cost can also dampen your enthusiasm. If this is the case, don’t drool your life long! start out as a collector.

Watch out for special offerings or sales, and you will find it to be not so expensive at all. In the meantime you can enjoy your collection, till you are ready for landscaping or whatever it is you want to do!

Johan Lourens

In my (humble) experience lighting is very important on a railroad, about as important as it is in photography. I’m not talking about “sunlight” from a canopee, but about “in door” lighting, inside your structures / buildings as well as your streetlights. By adding cleverly placed lights you may get away with very much reduced overall detailing. “Force” the audience to look at the places you want then too look at and let the shadows fill in the “blanks”.

Lucas Zbro

The greatest help I received was when asking for advice on derailments. By using the dearer Peco code55 track you will not have the problems regarding derailments. Other types of track you will come cross derailing mainly in the frogs of points. Because of the fine track of code 55 the loco and everything else will flow freely.

Gone are the days of having to stop a run and find where and why the derailment occurred. Now I only use the Peco code55, as it comes in all sorts of points and flexi track only. There  are no straights just flexi track, a faster way of laying the track as well.

Colin Mansell

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Plaster Tip

18 months ago I started constructing an N gauge model railway it is u shaped ten feet X nine feet X ten feet. I wanted a layout with lots of hills and tunnels. I knew it would be a big project but I became overwhelmed at the amount of plaster casting ( the type used for modelling and to set broken limbs) I would need, it is very expensive and I would need a tone of it for my layout design.

I came up with the Idea of useing some kind of cloth that would absorb water and plaster at the same time. My wife suggested that I use calico ( a type of cotton fabric ) .

We purchased a full roll of this fabric (about 40 meters long and one and a half meters wide) at spotlight for $30 I cut the fabric into 6 inch squares soaked them in water until they were fully wet, then added PLASTER to the mix and then needed it (like with dough) until the fabric was good and wet and saturated with the wet Plaster.

Then I covered my bird wire frame I found that it works as well if not better than casting plaster and MUCH cheaper. Also I must add that I used wall plaster at first, then I found that PLASTER of PARIS, which is a modelling and craft plaster, work much better and is less than half price of the wall plaster.

Hope this is of some help to others.

Tibor Siposs

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Use Copydex instead of PVA

I work in N gauge for ‘Hurst Hill’ so some ideas may not be suitable for larger scales.

I’m still building my layout and learning from many other model makers as I go.

One of the best tips I can offer is, whenever practical, consider using Copydex instead of PVA. It’s more expensive than PVA but the benefits are worth it:

  • Use neat Copydex for the trackbed (if used) and the track – you don’t need a continuous bead, just in key areas and it’s so easy to remove if you need to change a track. Slide a thin blade under the track and gently lift – it simply rubs off leaving the track ready for reuse. Using it for scatter, it can be applied thicker in places to give some gentle contours or shape to, for instance, a field or garden.
  • Diluted with water (about 1:4), it will hold ballast without setting so hard you can’t move it and it also helps keep the noise level down. An extra benefit seems to be that it doesn’t turn ballast green, something that I’ve read happens with some PVA and ballast combos!
  • Watercolour pencils of the right colour, carefully applied and barely moist can help cover the white edges and corners on card kits. Example pic attached Metcalfe small signal box.
  • Cocktail sticks cut down and coloured make first rate chimney pots. Example pic attached.

Hope these are handy for folk.

Dave Gould

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