Modeling Tips

Modeling Tips

From the pages of The Trainwire

Table Of Contents

Painting Small Partsby John Evans
Tacky Glueby Bill Smith
Background Scenery Itemsby Jim Harrison
Painting Small Itemsby Bill Smith
Very Cheap Building Backdropsby Jim Harrison
Building Signsby Jim Harrison
HO McHenry Couplers On IHC
 or Rivarossi Passenger Cars
by Jim Harrison
Inexpensive HO Painted Figuresby Jim Harrison
Turnout Throwby Lawson Stevenson
Dedicated Yard Equipmentby Jim Harrison



Painting Small Parts                            by John Evans


When painting small detail parts or figures, I have a styrofoam (blue) block on which I have laid strips of carpet tape (2-sided tape).  I press the parts I want to paint with a brush onto the side of the tape that is showing and this way eliminate painting my fingers and leaving marks on the detail parts.  Great for doing barrels, oil drums, etc.


Tacky Glue                               by Bill Smith


While building a doll house for my granddaughter, I was having trouble with the siding and shingles moving around before the glue set up (Elmers white glue).  Someone at the craft store said to try Tacky Glue since it sets up faster than Elmers.  So I tried it and liked the results.  It will glue almost anything together.  Iíve used it to glue weights in cars and to attach both paper and metal shingles (Campbell).  It can be used to make window glazing in small window panes, as it dries clear.  It is very thick and sets up fast.  It can be thinned with water.  When I use it, I put a dab on a piece of paper and use a toothpick to apply it.  Donít put too much out on the paper at a time since it sets up fast.  Price-wise, itís about $3.50 for an 8 ounce bottle.  It also comes in a smaller sizes.  I got mine at Pat Catanís Craft Store in Willoughby, Ohio at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Route 91.


Background Scenery Items                  by Jim Harrison


Here are some of the ideas I use for background scenery.  The grape stems make ideal forms for trees after they dry out.


          Grape Stem Trees

          - use as is for a dead tree or add foliage


          Insulation Plug for water and oil tanks

          - fits Handi-Wrap tube- use putty and plastic glue to fill the grooves and make them look like metal


          Small Wooden Matches for cattle pens


          Large Wooden Matches for tower supports


          Cardboard for braces and cattle pen slats


          Aftershave sample bottles for cyclone vents



Painting Small Items       by Bill Smith


I found what I think is an easy way to paint small items such as detail parts for buildings, loading docks, etc.  I put a small loop of masking tape on the top of a paint bottle and stick the part to it.  Then, as you paint the part, you can turn the bottle to paint all the sides.  It also makes the parts easy to find and you donít get paint on your fingers.  It works well for me.  Try it sometime.  It might work for you.



Very Cheap Building Backdrops   by Jim Harrison


Donít throw out those building kit boxes after you have assembled your building.  Cut out the picture of the building on the box cover and glue it to your backdrop for background scenery.  You can create a city or industrial scene.  The pictures on the boxes are usually very good, especially the Walthers Cornerstone series.  Cut a bunch of them out, play with fitting them together, and come up with a unique and effective background.  The price sure beats what you would pay for one of the off-the-shelf backdrop scenes.



Building Signs        by Jim Harrison


Are you looking for signs for your buildings?  I recently tore my basement apart looking for a box containing signs that I had been saving to use on buildings.  Needless to say, I could not find them though the box is probably right in front of me.  What I did find was a box of matchbook covers one of my daughters used to save.  There was a wide variety of covers.  Somer were for products and some were for businesses.  A few, like one advertising King Edward Cigars that came from a tobacco shop, were like the signs seen in the steam era.  It turns out that these matchbook covers make great signs for your model railroad!  They need to be sanded very thin, almost to having holes through them.  They are then applied with thinned-out white glue.  They will settle right into the bricks.



HO McHenry Couplers On IHC or Rivarossi Passenger Cars          by Jim Harrison


After initially installing McHenry couplers on my passenger cars, I found that the couplers were low.  The instructions say to use a couple of layers of tape at the front end of the truck pocket.  I did not like this idea as I thought the tape would fray from wear and would also restrict the swing.  My first attempt at an alternate solution was to make a U-shaped carrier iron out of wire.  I drilled a hole on each side of the floor of the car and inserted the wire.  This worked well except that it took too much time adjusting the wire to get the right height.  I then thought of using a small piece of plastic from a cut-up credit card to put in the coupler pocket.  I secured this with a drop of super glue and it brought the coupler to the right height.


For those of you who are interested in using these couplers on Con Cor cars in  trains that are not going to be broken up, you can alternate using the couplers designed for 6 wheel trucks on one end and one for 4 wheel trucks on the other end.  This couples the cars at a good distance apart.



Inexpensive HO Painted Figures           by Jim Harrison


I am always looking for unusual items I can use on my railroad.  So, a couple of times a year I take a run through craft stores and toy departments at the mall.  Recently, I ran across a new item in Hills Department Store.  It was made by Micro Machines.  Usually their cars and planes are way too small for HO, but hanging there was a card of 12 painted people the same size as Preiser HO scale figures.  The cost was $3.99.  As you know, this is less than a third of what 12 painted people usually costs.  There were: a) two ambulance attendants and a person on a stretcher; b) three firemen, one with a hose from a fire hydrant; c) three highway workers; and d) one unusual group of a convict running away and two policemen, one with a dog and one talking on a radio.  I was able to use all twelve on my layout.



Turnout Throw      by Lawson Stevenson


Here is a way to make a turnout throw using a DPDT (double pole double throw) slide switch.  This is designed for HO but could easily be adapted to other scales.


I started by cutting off the tip of the rounded head of the handle on the slide switch.  I then cut off the head of a Bachmann dummy plastic signal and super glued it to the top of the slide switch.  There is a red and green lens in the signal head and you can use grain of wheat bulbs to illuminate them.  Use one side of the switch contacts to operate the lights and the other side for positive power direction control.  Cut 1/2" x  7/8" hole in your table top to mount the switch.  Add a touch of glue to hold down the switch.




Dedicated Yard Equipment        by Jim Harrison


Since my railroad is mostly finished, I have been getting at some of the projects that I have been putting off for years.  I have saved odds and ends over the years that I have meant to use for scenery.  I have also been putting aside a good number of cars that needed a little repair such as new wheelsets, a brake wheel, paint, decals, etc.


I had several beat-up hoppers and godolas in addition to a steam crane that I had put aside to add a bucket that I had bought years ago.  While trying to decide whether to pitch them out, I remembered the old steam crane the NYC used at the Ashtabula engine house to clean out the ash pit.  They had several old hoppers that they loaded the ashes into.  Since the ash pit was full of water, loading the cars with the ashes really made a mess of these cars.  The top rims were badly beat-up and the cars were rusty and dirty.  So much so, that the numbers and NYC emblem did not show at all.  This did not matter since these cars were never used for anything else.  The ashes were used around the yard to fill in low and muddy areas.  The crane was spotted on one of the outside tracks at the roundhouse.  It was self-powered and did not need an engine. 


This gave me an idea of what to do with some of the old cars I had on hand.  It did not take long to dirty-up the old hopper cars using a little rust, black paint, and water.  I then used these cars and the steam crane  to create my version of the Ashtabula ash handling unit.  I also weathered one of the gondolas in the same way and spotted it on the engine track at one of my branch line terminals that did not have room for a coal dock.  I added a little pile of coal next to the very rusty gondola.


These two small scenes let me use up four old cars and add a little more to my layout that catches the eye.