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Engineer in Training
A far better use for small ash trays is they make great mixing cups for acrylic paints. They also give you a place to lay your brush in between painting.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Using real rust on tracks looks good but some of it is still magnetic and will likely get picked up by the magnets in loco motors and do bad things.
Not sure about others, but the rusted track I will use on my layout will be for show only, a disused section that will never see a loco on it.

That being said, you raise a very good point for those who may be inclined to run trains over "real" rusted track sections.
For prototyping a specific railroad, I would recommend going to the US Geological Survey web page and get the historical surveys of the areas you want to model. These maps are rather large and include everything from layout of the towns to the route of the railroad.

For modeling 1870s-early 1900s there are a series of publications that will be helpful for someone prototyping a specific railroad. The first is Travelers' Guide of the Railroad and Steamship Navigation Lines of the United States and Canada. This publication kept updated schedules for passenger service on every single railway and steamship lines in the United States and Canada. By 1900, they had included Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico to the schedules. Here's a link to the October 1881 issue .

The second publication is The Official Railroad Equipment Register that was also monthly. It kept tracked of all the types of rolling stock, car numbers, dimensions of the rolling stock, locomotives, and passenger cars for every single railroad in the United States. Here is a link to the June 1903 issue .
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New Member

The March, 2014 issue of Model Railroader has a brief article on installing wiring on the front edge of the benchwork, rather than underneath. The gentleman who came up with it installed his main wiring on the front edge of his benchwork; he used 1x2"s (?) at the top and bottom of the front edge, forming a "channel" for the wiring to run through. He then attached his fascia boards to the 1x2's using screws; this way, the wiring was hidden, but he could remove the fascia boards to add to / troubleshoot his wiring. IIRC, his main reasoning was to eliminate under-the-layout wiring as much as possible.

To me, this sounds like an incredible idea -- and in a way, I'm surprised that this is the first time I've heard of such a thing. And the only possible "con" I can come up with is that it would narrow the "walkways" for the guy(s) running the trains by an inch or two.

I do believe that when I finally get around to building my next layout (currently, I don't have one), I will give this a try. It sounds like -- GENIUS! -- or "Why didn't I think of that?"

I read the same article and as I had just started a rebuild I thought I would try it. It is far easier to make joins etc, identify dufferent bus wires and mark relevent droppers etc. No more having to scramble under a layout to join up wires anymore.
G'day..Great topic.....Here's my first two, 2cents worth tips...1...Soldering irons....Spend the few extra dollars and buy the temperature control ones...not the cheap and nasty getting hotter and hotter ones...saves a lot of frustration and is value for money for sure and 2. If you're doing a lengthy job ie building a biggish structure , bridge , scenery , especially ballasting or anything taking decent time really...LESS IS MORE...Don't drive yourself crazy by trying to do too much in one go...better off doing a small section really well...and enjoying it thoroughly when you put your tools down for the session than it feeling like a tedious chore...and the quality suffering because of it..This tip came from a master model maker friend who has built over a thousand aircraft , ships , cars and even a few locomotives...His work and this ethic on finishing a shorter session on a high truly shows and I'm blown away every time I look at one of his masterpieces..dare I say many are museum quality...Cheers Rod
This is my tip for keeping track of small parts while working on an engine/rolling stock. I keep all the empty "Laughing Cow" cream cheese containers after we are done with the cheese. Each container is round, approx. 1/2 inch deep and has its own top. Being made of cardboard you can write on them or easily apply labels. I also use these for storing my Kadee Couplers.


Tackle boxes (for fishing) and toolboxes with compartments for drill bits, screws, and nails make great boxes for small parts. I have a bunch of tackle boxes that I use to keep kadee couplers and metal wheels in.


Gomez Addams
Staff member
If you have a Broadway Limited steam engine in which the chuff sensor has failed, the manual reset switch in a QSI sound decoder is a direct replacement. Simply unsolder the reset switch and solder it in place of the bad chuff sensor.
Use a multimeter and check your track and switches often as you lay them to ensure the resistance is good through them. Especially between rail joiners and switches/crossings etc.

Had a brand new switch today that had an "open" between both ends of the entire rail. Turns out it wasn't making good contact inside the plastic tie covering the contact area.

Cut back the plastic tie covering the contact area and soldered a good connection. Works like a charm now.

Also great for checking to ensure blocks are working as they should too and not allowing voltage through insulated joiners.


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BN Modeller
If your significant other ever comments that you're the only one in the house with their own personal room never tell her that she has one too then point towards the laundry, you'll need that finger for assembling couplers.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
If your significant other ever comments that you're the only one in the house with their own personal room never tell her that she has one too then point towards the laundry, you'll need that finger for assembling couplers.
Grief, my OWN ROOM - that is something dreams are made of! I share my train room with two computers, my wife and a mouthy parrot. Actually my wife and I share the room with the parrot, when he lets us :) And believe me, if I were to point my finger and tell the parrot to leave, he'd probably leave WITH my finger - but that was your point right :)


Well-Known Member
Staff member
...Use a multimeter and check your track and switches often as you lay them to ensure the resistance is good through them. Especially between rail joiners and switches/crossings etc...
Okay another dumb question - how do you check that and what do you look for when checking?

Okay another dumb question - how do you check that and what do you look for when checking?
With power off I use the multimeter leads to check for good continuity passing throughout the rails. As I put down new track I put the leads on the same side rail with one lead on either side of the rail joiner. If the connection is good through the rail joiner I should read almost 0 ohms, if I have an open I would read OL on the multimeter. Can do the same through switches.

It helps you find loose rail joiners/connections or maybe a bad switch before getting to much laid down and having to possibly pull back up. It's saved me time since I started doing this, I had some bad joiners and bad switches in the past and had to pull up track back up because I found out when hooking up power to the track and the locos stalled at certain areas.


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Well-Known Member
Staff member
Thanks Steve, I'll have to get me a multi meter me thinks, even though I have all my track down, it would be nice to know how many of the joins I may have messed up before I start connecting feeders to where ever they need to go.
It's really simple and a great tool to have in the tool bag.

I've used it to find bad joiners on track already down and ballasted in the past. Rather than pull up that track I just soldered in another set of feeders on the other side of that bad joiner. Helps pinpoint the bad joints.

I also use it to check my wires when running them under the layout too. I make sure I've got them wired correct through terminal boards and toggle switches.


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When laying track on foam, I like to mark the centerlines with the large-size, pointed-tip sharpie markers. Since they're not-so-foam-friendly, they etch a nice little divot. When I come back and spread caulk to lay my roadbed, that centerline divot shows up clear as day. Better than trying to make out a black line through a film of caulk...



Well-Known Member
For installing tortoise switches under bench work use double sided Velcro sticky , course side on one surface and mating Velcro on opposite surrface. Quick and easy.


Master Mechanic
Some of you guys may find these helpful.

When you need bridge ties and rail for a bridge that you've built and it doesn't come with ties molded in place, or doesn't supply the track for it, Micro Engineering makes flex track with bridge ties attached, and guard rails included in the package. You can attach the track in place with a slow curing gel CA.

If you prefer to handlay the track, using real wood ties, obtain some bridge ties from companies like Campbell, Kappler, etc. Stain these an appropriate color and attach these to the bridge, or trestle with a contact cement, white glue if a wood-to-wood attachment, or a slow cure gel CA. After these are in place, take the rail, cut to an appropriate length, and smear Walthers Goo, onto the underside of the rail. Using several 3 point track gauges, place the rails in proper position on the ties, and slightly press the rails against the ties.

Then take a hot 40W soldering iron, and slide the iron across one rail slowly. As the iron heats the rail, it will fast cure the goo, and the rail is held securely in place. Then using the track gauges again, repeat across the other rail keeping the rail in gauge with the other.

After this, using a smaller code rail, do the same thing for your guard rails on the inside of the running rails and make sure that there is enough clearance so the bases of the guard rails don't touch the base of the running rails. For curved bridges, I would increase the distance between the running rail and the guard rails so a long engine truck or a steamers drivers won't touch the guard rails while crossing the bridge. Make sure the guard rails are longer than the bridge, and bend the rail ends to form the "pointed end" of the guard rails. They don't have to touch at the ends, but they do look better if they do.

The Goo will hold the rails in place indefinitely, the joint is very strong, and it will allow for the rails to expand or contract without breaking the attachment to the ties. While this sounds like a lot of work, anyone who prefers handlaid track will find it an excellent way to attach rail to a bridge, without having to spike the rail in place, and risk splitting the ties.
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One track mind
I take used dryer fabric softener sheets dipped in wet plaster to make mountains, hills and any other sub-surface elements. Its cheaper than plaster cloth and because the dryer sheet fabric is non-woven, its easier to cover with less paint and/or ground cover. Two layers of dryer sheets will give a strong scenic base.

To weather rail use gun blue. Its nasty stuff, so use gloves and other PP&E. It will darken nickel silver rail, however it won't a reddish brown abandoned rust color but will be more of a dull gray/black in use and dirty color. The blueing is really resilient as it is a "chemical anodized rust" process. I coat the rail with a small paint brush covering all the surface and let dry over night. Then brush away the reside with an old tooth brush. Do this before blasting so not to soak the ballast. Blueing is acidic and will dissolve glue and some other materials, though it does not damage plastic ties. Also, if you are going to solder feeder wires, rail joiners, etc. to the rails do so before applying the blueing. Once blued, you'll have to file, scrape or sand off the blue to make a good electrical connection. To clean the rail tops for electrical pickup I run 1500 grit sand paper over them. I like the results, a dull side rail with a shiny rail head.
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new guy

Active Member
Hedges and TOPIARY

How about everyone posting some free or low price things you use on your RR.
I'll start with a few of mine:
Take tin foil and cut into about 4"x4" and roll it into a ball then use pliers and keep pinching until its a square. you can paint with rust color paint and fill a gondola car. Looks just like recycled cars smashed into squares.
Another tip I use is PVC caps from home depot. use different sizes for tanks at a chemical plant. Put decals and even use leftover spruces from old models as pipes.
Your turn. come on post some tips everyone
Old or new green buffer pads for floors from H.D. or wherever. Cut to shape, spray with glue, dip in grass (or sprinkle) "WALLA"! Great for hedge maze on unused space, borders etc.
Lace ribbon makes passable chain-link look fence when you add posts.
Emery cloth cut to just over size and bowed up in a coal car looks "proto".
Sticks from the yard cut to length look like logs on a flatcar.

I got all this from you tube in about an hour of wading through "uh" "hi guys" "er" "uh" "hi guys" ...LOL
Does anyone rehearse those vids?

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