The FAQ Files

Chief Imagineer of the VEC
Jeffrey MacHan, Chief Imagineer of the VEC

Welcome to Chief Imagineer's FAQ Files. Please note that the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and that no animals were harmed in the preparation of these entries.

Model Railroading Tricks of the Trade

Ideas both Great and Small compiled by Jeffrey MacHan
Category Title / Subject Submitted by Tip / Trick
#101 When in doubt... MacHan, Jeffrey When in doubt, ask the list! We're all friends here after all. You'll end up with a better and more rewarding layout, module or project.
Animation Use an aquarium air pump for animation / smoke effects Dieter Nolte A small aquarium pump produces enough air flow to move the blades of windmills, helicopters and flags etc. It is good to force smoke up smoke stacks and many other uses.
Catenary Blacken your Märklin metal catenary wires Kluz, Rob Catenary wiring, like track, is quite distracting and unrealistic left in its natural metal state. Blacken the metal using 'Blacken-It' and enjoy a more balanced visual impression.
Catenary Use track rails to run catenary through tunnels Kluz, Rob Solder a length of nickle-silver rail (any size) to the metal catenary wires. The solder joint will ensure electrical conductivity and eliminate gaps and the need for masts.
Catenary Use copper wire to extend catenary through tunnels Gottschalch, Manfred Household electical wire (12-14 gauge) stripped of insulation and straightened or curved to shape. Solder short pieces of wire and suspend from overhead. For more details see message #4388
Catenary - Pantographs Prototype Pantograph Usage Freudenreich, Harald Electric locos run w/one pantograph raised, usually the rear except: 1. if followed by car with flammable load, then front only is raised, 2. 2 locos (lead loco has front panto raised, second loco has rear panto raised), 3. older locos w/single pickup on panto would raise both pantos.
Construction Gluing styrofoam and cork roadbed MacHan, Jeffrey Ordinary rubber cement is ideal for gluing styrofoam and other materials such as cork The cement does not attack styrofoam. (do not confuse rubber cement with contact cement)
Construction - Brick Z scale brick Whitmire, Scott Plastruct brick and block sheets come in 1:100(N) and 1:200(Z) scales. Washed with a 1:32 mixture of white paint they look pretty good.
Construction - Electrical Threading wires more easily MacHan, Jeffrey Use a plastic straw through scenery and baseboard to guide wiring This makes short work of threading wires through a foam scenery base
Construction - Electrical Keep wires under control for better performance and trouble shooting Sutfin, Terry Spaghetti wiring is a headache waiting to happen. Group wires together under the layout. Run wires in parallel and keep a record of connections to help find trouble spots later.
Construction - Electrical Threading wires more easily... Supplement to Jeffrey's tip. miniclub_z (Hakan Carlsson) It could be difficult to try to push a plastic straw through a foam base. Use a knitting needle of suitable size inside the straw to strenghten it during the penetration of the foam. Try making a pilot hole with the knitting needle or a bamboo skewer to avoid breaking the foam base.
Construction - Roadbed Cut cork roadbed from sheets MacHan, Jeffrey Buy cork sheet in rolls from stationary or craft stores. Cut out turnouts, curves and strips for straights. Yards can be cut as a block. Bevel edges using hobby knife or matt cutter. Rubber cement works great with cork and foam.
Construction - Track Laying flex track MacHan, Jeffrey Solder staggered rail joints before laying on curve. Hold joints in place with straight pin to assure even curve, no kinks. Bend track gently into shape, begin and end in straight line. Hold track in place with pins placed between ties not throught them. Spread dry ballast, wet with rubbing alcohol and apply dilute white (acrylic based) glue. Remove pins when glue is dry. Wet ballast with rubbing alcohol to loosen track for removal.
Construction - Track Putting rail joiners on flex track MacHan, Jeffrey Use a jewellers flat bladed screwdriver to slightly widen the joiner. Hold the joiner in the jaws of a pair of wire cutters so that you can slip it easily onto the prepared end of the flex track.
Construction - Track Code 40 guard rails MacHan, Jeffrey Microengineering nickle silver code 40 rail or Plastruc code 40 plastic lengths make excellent guard rails over bridges, viaducts and level crossings.
Construction - Track - Electrical Solder track and track leads to improving electrical performance Allbritton, Robert Track joints are sources of derailments and poor electrical connections. Solder electrical leads to the bottom of rail every 6-8 rail joints and solder joints where feasible.
Constructuon - Structures What is the best glue / cement for styrene or plastic kits? Lajos Thek Use Fallers "Expert" styrene cement. Comes with thin stainless steel tube applicator. Fast, strong, aggressive and can be sealed for long shelf life. See local hobby shop or order on-line.
Electrical Heavy gauge bus wiring MacHan, Jeffrey Use heavy gauge wire as trunk bus wiring under the layout. Run lighter gauge wires to the tracks and blocks from the bus.
Electrical Make trouble shooting easy MacHan, Jeffrey Where feasible, divide your trackwork into blocks to facilitate trouble shooting. If you use common rail return wiring or even DCC, blocks can be useful to isolate trouble spots.
Electrical - Lights Run lights from a cheap wall transformer MacHan, Jeffrey It is better to run accessories such as lights and switch motors from separate sources, not the throttle. A cheap DC wall transfo rated at 6 volts can power several 12v lamps in parallel (up to amp rating).
Electrical - Meters Rewire cheap VU meters for greater range in Z scale Stiska, Glenn & Sandy 15 volt Radio Shack voltmeters are not sensitive enough to give a reasonable readout range in Z. Rewire them to read a 7-10 volt maximum and the range will be much more in keeping with Z.
Electrical - Switchmachines Use a Capacitor Discharge Unit (CDU) to power switch motors MacHan, Jeffrey A CDU will power up to 5 switch motors simultaneously. A commercial transistorized model will recycle quickly. CDUs will not burn out motors but give a large pulse to move balky mechanisms.
Electrical - Track Heat sinks to the rescue MacHan, Jeffrey Don't risk melting plastic ties when soldering leads to track. Use heat sinks. Clip a pair of small metal document clips (ones with the wire handles on a metal clip) on each side of the solder joint.
Electricity - Lighting of cars Use conductive paint for track pickup Vellore, Kim Automotive defogger conductive paint can be painted onto wheel axle wells and clips. It can also be used to paint connections to lights on figurines and anywhere else wires are cumbersome.
Locomotives - Detailing Small details make a difference MacHan, Jeffrey US style steamers lack the detail found in the European models. Add rerailers to tenders. A simple hand rail along the front of a loco pilot makes an uncoupling lever.
Locomotives - Details Fibre optic headlight lens for MTL F7s Michael Hilliard I just took a .8mm fiber optic cable and melted the end with a cig. lighter till it formed the right size bead, some practice and trial and error needed but easy otherwise to form 2 beads the same size, let cool for a few seconds, cut the bead off the cable with about a 1-2mm length of extra cable and simple glued the fiber optic lenses in place.
Locomotives - Details Use Microscale Krystal Clear window film to add windows to locos and cars MacHan, Jeffrey Apply the liquid along the edge of the windows of locos and passenger cars and other vehicles from the INSIDE of the shell to get an even edge around the windows.
Locomotives - Maintenance How to tell if your loco has a 3 or 5 pole motor. Gottschalch, Manfred Märklin has introduced an excellent 5 pole DC motor for use in its Z locos. How does one know if there is a 3 or 5 pole motor. Look at the motor from the end and count the number of sections of metal windings on the armature. See
Locomotives - Motor Performance Lessen brush pressure to improve motor slow speed performance Chenoweth, Michael I have found that by reducing the motor brush pressure it is possible to improve slow speed performance of most if not all Märklin motors. Care must be taken not to damage the brushes or to excessively reduce the tension.
Maintenance - Electrical Power wheel cleaning brushes with a variable wall transfo MacHan, Jeffrey Attach a multivoltage DC wall transfo to increase or decrease the voltage needed for your Speedi-driver. 5 pole motors need less voltage, 3 pole a little more. Leads can be soldered permanently.
Maintenance - Locomotives Clean loco drivers with MTL speedi-driver MacHan, Jeffrey Z loco drivers need frequent cleaning. The MTL brass brush speedi-driver does a great job. Use the N scale version and cut down the plastic divider so that brushes engage the wheels.
Maintenance - Motors - Oiling Less is more in Z, even when oiling MacHan, Jeffrey Over oiling can cans many problems...apply oil to bearings sparingly. Dip a straight pin into the lightweight oil recommended by the manufacturer and touch the tip of the pin to the bearing to transfer a tiny drop.
Maintenance - Roundhouse Use screws instead of glue for RH roof MacHan, Jeffrey If you have built the Märklin RH w/solenoid operated doors, don't glue the roof panels in place. You will most likely have to have access to the mechanisms some day, use small screws painted black instead.
Maintenance - Wheels - Cleaning Clean crud from metal wheel treads MacHan, Jeffrey Place a piece of paper towel over a section of track. Wet the towel with rubbing alcohol along the track. Run your rolling stock over the wet paper towel applying pressure to the sides of the track. Move the paper as needed.
Maintenance - part numbers Looking for part numbers Bob Byrne If I'm ever looking for an item to confirm its part number, I use the Walthers web site advanced search engine to find it. Good for many Z manufacturers.
Miscellaneous - Inventory Management Use a cheap organizer to keep an inventory MacHan, Jeffrey Avoid duplicates when shopping. Keep your inventory on an inexpensive pocket organizer. Consult your inventory list before making that impulse purchase.
Miscellaneous - Paint Storage Store paint for long periods without drying MacHan, Jeffrey Tired of your expensive paints drying out? Clean cap and bottle well. Screw on cap and store the bottle upside down. The paint will block air from entering and drying the paint.
Miscellaneous - Recording Document your progress MacHan, Jeffrey Take pictures of your progress (digital or photo). You'll enjoy having the record. You can share your pictures and collected wisdom with the world on the list.
Operations Casey Jones cornering problems on tight curves MacHan, Jeffrey The tender is hitting the loco handrails on tight curves causing stalling. Gently bend the handrails forward to allow tighter turning radius.
Operations Easy tender pick-up using the old 'bent spring' method Kronenberger, Bill Solder a wire to the middle of an N coupler spring. Deform slightly into a V shape at rest. Wind the spring around a metal axle and run the wire to motor. Little friction, good solution.
Operations MTL F7 tracking problems MacHan, Jeffrey Some MTL F7s have a tendancy to derail through crossings and double slip switches. Check the gauge of the wheels. They may be too wide. Remove and squeeze tightly to the centre of the axle.
Operations - Couplers Convert Marklin couplers to MTL 902 short or 904 medium shank MacHan, Jeffrey Use a sharp hobby knife to 'peel up' the front plastic tab holding the metal plate. Bend open plate. Install the coupler. Reposition the plate over the front tab. Flatten the tab and seal with ACC or heat.
Operations - Couplers Keep your trains running reliably - check coupler pins and wheel gauge MacHan, Jeffrey Don't expect factory delivered Micro-Trains cars to be perfectly aligned and have coupler pins at the correct height. Low pins can catch switch frogs and gaurd rails. Out of gauge wheels can derail on track imperfections.
Operations - Locomotives Tungsten powder to add weight to locos Kronenberger, Bill Tungsten powder is heavier than lead and can be used to add weight to locos. It is available from Golfsmith
Operations - Locomotives Adding weight to locos for better performance MacHan, Jeffrey Use lead putty to add weight to Z locos. Available in hobby shops, the putty can be pushed into nooks and crannies of loco shells.
Operations - Maintenance Using track cleaning cars MacHan, Jeffrey Run a track cleaning car in your consist just behind the locos to keep track clean and to reduce the accumulation of oil and dirt.
Operations - Maintenance Keep Märklin wheels free rolling MacHan, Jeffrey Märklin wheelsets are held in place by plastic tongs in the centre of the axle. Fibres may collect on the axle. If your cars are not free running on level track, remove the wheels and check for fibres wound around the axles.
Operations - Modules - Running Identify cars and locos during group operating sessions Kronenberger, Bill Easily keep your cars and locos from being mixed with others by putting colored dots on the bolster pins. Use paint markers (permanent) or colored sticker dots w/ initials (temporary) on bolster pins or under locos.
Operations - Rerailing Use level crossings as rerailers MacHan, Jeffrey Impress your friends with how easily you rerail your Z trains. Use a bevelled piece of styrene or wood glued permanently at each logical level crossing on your layout and make rerailing a breeze.
Operations - Scale Speed Scale Speed and Running Distances Hamilton, Garth A. 1 foot traveled in 1sec = 150mph, 1 foot traveled in 2 sec = 75mph, 1 foot traveled in 3 sec = 50mph, 1 foot traveled in 4 sec = 37.5mph
Planning Redimensioning drawings and plans to Z scale Karp, David HO to Z: 87/220 or 40% of original size on photocopier N to Z: 160/220 or 73% of original size on photocopier
Planning - Track Avoid some frequent errors in layout design MacHan, Jeffrey Leave space in foreground for detailing, keep track accessible, leave space between track and backdrop. Test all locos and rolling stock, especially longest car, ex. passenger coach, over trackage. Correct clearance problems before gluing.
Rolling stock: Uncoupling Uncoupling MTL rolling stock made easy Chenier, Glen Glue a 1" round ceramic magnet to the end of a popsicle stick. Hold 1/4" to the side of MTL coupler, slightly off centre. Cars uncouple easily. Can also be used to aid coupling on curves.
Safety Eye protection is a MUST MacHan, Jeffrey Always use safety goggles or glasses whenever using a Dremel tool or cutting rail with nippers to protect eyes from flying particles.
Safety Use sharp blade & cutting board or mat when cutting MacHan, Jeffrey Always use a sharp hobby knife blade, dull blades slip and cause accidents. Cut away from yourself and use a cutting board on flat surface if possible to avoid injury.
Safety Paint safety reminders MacHan, Jeffrey Breathing paint vapours and particles (even acrylic) is harmful, . Wear a painting mask to filter out dust particles and ALWAYS paint or spray in a well ventilated area or outdoors.
Scenery Removeable street lights MacHan, Jeffrey Use a narrow plastic tube through foam scenery to insert and hold Märklin light posts. The tube will hold the lamp tightly and protect the fragile metal contact from breakage.
Scenery N scale signal boxes become Z speeder sheds MacHan, Jeffrey Use N scale detail parts for Z structures. Signal boxes become speeder sheds. Small N structures become Z signal boxes and various out buildings.
Scenery Low fencing and railing suggestions Kronenberger, Bill Visit the N scale section of your model shop. Look for N roofwalks. Install sideways with edge buried. Look for railings in the brass parts section of model ship shops.
Scenery Culverts from tiny swizzle sticks (drink mixing straws) Kronenberger, Bill Paint concrete. Perfect for those big drainage problems in that big open field that floods next to your mainline. Cut a slot into your cork roadbed for them to fit into.
Scenery Tunnel portals from HO culverts Kronenberger, Bill HO scale drainage culverts are exactly the perfect size for Z tunnel portals. And significantly cheaper to buy than Z portals.
Scenery Z statues from N scale figures Kronenberger, Bill N people, animals, horses - put them on a small 'concrete' base and they become Z statues. Great for a park or in front of City Hall. Paint them bronze then dry brush with 'ugly' green paint!
Scenery Cigar tube storage and chemical silos Kronenberger, Bill Cut the tube to length, paint silver and install next to factory or farm as storage silo. Add metal wires for piping and it becomes a chemical storage tank.
Scenery Forced perspective MacHan, Jeffrey Use smaller scale structures in background such as 1/260 resin buildings from Microfigs to give a sense of depth to your scenes even though the distance is shallow.
Scenery Use natural cones as Z shrubbery MacHan, Jeffrey Collect small shrub cones in the Fall or early Spring. Paint them green using a spray paint can or airbrush. While still wet you can drizzle on grass materials.
Scenery Bull rushes from bull rushes MacHan, Jeffrey Collect a mature bull rush (one's enough!) and tease out some seeds and fluff. Cut a groove in your scenery base and apply a bead of glue then force fluff into the groove with the back of a hobby knife blade.
Scenery Z chain link fences MacHan, Jeffrey N scale chain link fences can be cut lengthwise to make great Z scale fences. Attach the fences to posts made from cut off straight pins using ACC
Scenery Vertical storage tanks MacHan, Jeffrey Small N scale tanks can be used vertically for Z fuel storage tanks. Add a brass ladder along the side of the tank and use brass wire for piping.
Scenery Reflective mylar film instead of mirrors MacHan, Jeffrey Silver mylar film can be used instead of mirrors as view blocks. Mylar is easy to cut and fold as needed. A cheap source is printed calendars.
Scenery Toothpick Tree stumps in woodlots MacHan, Jeffrey After coloring a pointed round toothpick using a brown felt pen, cut off the end using a rolling motion under a hobby knife. The stump can be "planted" into foam scenery leaving a short stump.
Scenery - Signs Make your own signs with your computer printer MacHan, Jeffrey Modern ink jet printers offer high enough resolution for good signage in Z scale. Use a basic font (Arial) and print in various sizes for station signs, billboards etc.
Scenery - Ballast - Landscaping Rubbing alcohol to the rescue for easy gluing MacHan, Jeffrey Rubbing alcohol applied in small drops from a needle point container makes quick work of gluing ballast and landscape materials. Wet ballast or landscape materials with alcohol then apply dilute white glue.
Scenery - Bridges Scrap flat car = backroad bridge MacHan, Jeffrey Need a bridge for that gravel road over a ditch or creek? Many RRs used derelict flat cars. You can too! Just remove the trucks and place into your scenery.
Scenery - Bridges Use N scale flat cars for Z bridges Kronenberger, Bill Short wood deck flats, take off the trucks, paint rust color to make Z steel truss bridges. Add N etched metal roof walks as safety rails on the sides w/rails stuck in stake brackets.
Scenery - Bridges HO bridges make double track bridges in Z Lattermann, Anders HO bridges can be modified for Z as double track structures. Replace handrails if needed. Also can be used as railroad and vehicle bridge for single track.
Scenery - Details Seriously frivolous MacHan, Jeffrey It's your layout and you can be as serious or frivolous as you want. Adding whimsy to a layout can add many hours of enjoyment. Try reproducing personal 'misadventures'.
Scenery - Details Blacken metal wheels MacHan, Jeffrey Paint or use Blacken-it on shiny metal wheelsets to eliminate the toy look of loco and rolling stock wheels. A dark rust color would be appropriate on rolling stock.
Scenery - Details Hide copper contacts on steamers MacHan, Jeffrey Paint visible wheel contacts black on locos to hide the obvious copper wipers Be careful not to get paint onto the tread of the drivers.
Scenery - Details Add window blinds to passenger cars MacHan, Jeffrey It's easy to add blinds to passenger car windows using white cassette repair tape. Place some blinds closed, some wide open and some half way down.
Scenery - Details N scale billboards in Z MacHan, Jeffrey Life-Like N scale billboards can be cut down to Z scale with a razor saw. Narrow the base then add your favorite billboard for the era you are modeling.
Scenery - Details Add life to your locos MacHan, Jeffrey Place an engineer in your steamer windows. With a little cutting on an angle, glue the engineer figurine in the right hand window (US steamers) leaning towards the front. Looks great!
Scenery - Details Rubbish, rubbish everywhere! MacHan, Jeffrey Have you noticed how clean our layouts tend to be? Start piling rubbish and trash along buildings etc. Make piles with scraps (wheels, bits and pieces, gears, etc.) drizzle on dilute white glue. When dry, apply rust washes.
Scenery - Details Make drill holes in cut styrofoam faces MacHan, Jeffrey Drilling and blasting rock faces leaves verticle drill traces. Do the same on your foam cliff faces. When cutting along right of way, use back of knife blade to indent foam in parallel lines to leave drill traces.
Scenery - Details - Watercraft Ertl cabin cruiser is just the ticket for a Z marina MacHan, Jeffrey Next time you stop by ToysRus, pick up a 'Carla' cabin cruiser in the Thomas the Tank Engine section. Carla is a metal miniature cabin cruiser that will feel right at home in a Z marina or water scene.
Scenery - Loads Small soda straws become iron pipe loads Kronenberger, Bill Cut to length, paint rust color and stack in gondolas or on flatcars. Attach with sewing thread of appropriate color and texture as a steel band or chain.
Scenery - Loads N scale sugar beet loads become Z scrap metal Kronenberger, Bill Paint N scale 'sugar beet loads' rust color. Cut to fit gondola. Instant ground scrap metal loads on their way to distant steel mills.
Scenery - Planning - Design Finding ideas for finishing touches MacHan, Jeffrey Go to train shows, take pictures of scenes you like. Ask yourself why you like a scene, take notes. Look closely at real railways and trackage. Note the colors and textures. Soon you'll be seeing with RR eyes.
Scenery - Roads Turn sandpaper into asphalt roads MacHan, Jeffrey 400 or finer grit light grey sandpaper makes good ashpalt roads. Cut to shape and glue to base with rubber cement. Add streaks with weathering chalks and stiff brush.
Scenery - Roads Adding stripes to roads MacHan, Jeffrey Use a white or yellow gel pen to add divider lines to roadways. The pens are easy to use w/ruler and provide a narrow scale line.
Scenery - Structures Corrugated aluminum for roofing material MacHan, Jeffrey N scale corrugated aluminum makes great siding and roof material in Z. Cut and glue with rubber cement to styrene model kits. Finish with favorite paints and apply rust coloring.
Scenery - Structures - Details Add roof details to structures MacHan, Jeffrey Add interest to roofs of your industrial buildings by adding simple styrene details. Small blocks of styrene become airconditioners, add tubing and piping then rust and grime.
Scenery - Structures - Details Simulate peeling tar paper MacHan, Jeffrey Peeling tarpaper can be modeled easily. Paint the plastic surface with the base color, coat it with rubber cement. Let the cement dry completely. Apply the tar paper color (black or grimy black), let dry. Peel up the paint and rubber cement to create patches.
Scenery - Structures - Details Z scale shingles from photocopies MacHan, Jeffrey Scale shingle sheets are available commercially and on the web. Use a photocopier to reduce the original to Z scale and go into the roofing business!
Scenery - Structures - Kitbashing Save bits and pieces of kits for junk and other projects MacHan, Jeffrey Don't throw away those leftover N and Z kit parts. Windows, doors, odds and ends are always useful. Use for structural details on scratch built or super detailing projects or piles of junk.
Scenery - Structures - Kitbashing Stretch your kit investment and enjoyment with kitbashing MacHan, Jeffrey Z scale encourages modifying plastic kits. Many kits can be rearranged, reduced, added on to, doubled or tripled up etc. Some N scale kits can be reduced to Z proportions. Industrial kits are good candidates. Keep on the lookout for possibilities.
Scenery - Track Permanent Ink Felt Pen to Paint Rails Kronenberger, Bill Use a DecoColor marker from Michael's Craft store to paint up to 400' of rail. Cut tip to screwdriver shape to avoid a mess. Clean up ink before it dries!
Scenery - Track Don't forget to add 'life' to your track MacHan, Jeffrey Track should also show spills, discarded junk and weed growth along the right of way. Brush on some dilute india ink down the middle of the track to show oil spills, add weeds and grain spills too.
Scenery - Trees Trees using the wire method Gottschalch, Manfred I remember hearing about the use of multi-strand electrical wire. Leave the insulation on the trunk below where the branches start, and strip from there up. Then bend out and twist together several strands, depending on the branch size. As you go out the branch stop twisting and bend smaller pieces out to make sub branches. Continue in the same method all the way up the tree. Paint the trunk and branches to hide the twisting wires and then add the clump foliage to the little wires as necessary.
Scenery - Trees Wire trees Rosted, Ole Loop several turns of thin wire over 2 fingers. Twist the loop so "stem" is formed between the ends, cut the ends and bend the strands to form tree-crown and roots respectively. Soak the tree in white glue, set in upright position on piece of paper, sprinkle foliage material over the top.
Scenery - Vehicles Micro-Machine construction equipment in Z MacHan, Jeffrey Micro-Machine excavators are very close to Z scale although they would be big machines. I have 2, one which I narrowed and converted to a log loader, the other is a Caterpillar.
Scenery - Vehicles Z vehicles found in doll house miniatures MacHan, Jeffrey White metal vehicles can be found in some doll house miniature stores. Some I have collected are: speed boat, farm tractor, caterpillar tractor (2 types), firetrucks.
Scenery - Weathering India Ink and rubbing alcohol weathering wash MacHan, Jeffrey A few drops of india ink in a vial of rubbing alcohol makes a quick drying sooty weathering wash. Use on rooftops, buildings, chimneys, roadways - anything and anywhere grime will collect.
Scenery - Weathering Use metal colored antiquing waxes to age plastic MacHan, Jeffrey Craft stores offer antiquing waxes in tubes and small containers. The copper (green) and brass wax colors are especially useful to simulate copper sheathing on roofs. Rub on with finger or stiff brush.
Scenery - Weathering - Details Weather & detail telegraph poles MacHan, Jeffrey Cut off arms of telegraph poles for single or double arm style. Apply gimey black or grey paint to weather the pole. Use black for new creosote poles and crossarms.
Scenery: Water effects Water Allbritton, Rob Paint the colors that look like a lake bottom or river bottom using acrylic paints, then cover with acrylic gloss medium. You can "whip up" the Gloss Medium to form ripples, bubbles, and small waves. Unsuitable for large smooth areas.
Structures - Painting Painting epoxy & resin kits MacHan, Jeffrey Wash with soapy water, dry completely. Polyscale (water base) and Floquil (solvent base) adhere well. Remove flash, fill holes with putty. Apply primer. Brush paint in hard to reach areas. Finish with air brush for uniform coat.
Track MTL retaining springs to improve turnout contacts MacHan, Jeffrey    
Track Removing ballasted track with rubbing alcohol MacHan, Jeffrey Need to reposition or remove ballasted track? Wet the ballast with rubbing alcohol. After a minute or so the ballast glue will soften enough to move the track.
Track Improve curved turnout operation MacHan, Jeffrey The converging end of Märklin curved switched is often too narrow. Widen the gauge of the outside curved rail using careful pressure with pliers.
Track - Cleaning Clean hard to reach track with chamois, rubbing alcohol and ruler MacHan, Jeffrey Need to clean track in a short tunnel or in a hard to reach spot. Wrap a chamois over the end of a wooden ruler. Hold it in place with a rubber band. Wet the chamois lightly with rubbing alcohol and run the cleaner over both rails. See the dirt disappear!
Track - Cleaning Use finger in old sock and 91% rubbing alcohol to clean rails Chenier, Glen Easy method to clean rails: use finger in old sock and 91% rubbing alcohol  
Track - Cleaning Cleaning switch flange contact strips on Märklin switches MacHan, Jeffrey A narrow wood coffee stir stick is just the right width to glide along the spring metal flange contact next to the frogs of M switches. The wood picks up oil and grime.
Track - Cleaning Toothpicks keep Crossings and Slip Switches clean MacHan, Jeffrey Use the point of a round toothpick to clean crud buildup out of flangeways of Märklin crossings and double slip switches. The wood will not damage the metal flangeways.
Track - Maintenance Vacuum up your troubles MacHan, Jeffrey A small battery powered computer or travel vacuum does a good job keeping ballast and loose particles from fouling locomotive mechanisms. Use before running trains.
Track - Maintenance Relco HF units MacHan, Jeffrey A Relco HF unit will prolong periods between track cleaning and help rigid frame locos over poor track. Combine with track cleaning cars for clean track.
Track - Maintenance Removing solder from rails Byrne, Bob Strip some spare electrical wire of its' insulation and dip it in flux. Heat the solder with an iron. Touch it with the wire. The solder will jump to the fluxed wire. Cut off that used piece and repeat.
Track - Maintenance - Cleaning A drop of Wahl Oil goeZ a long way! Jeffrey MacHan A drop of Wahl Oil (scissors and clipper cleaner, lubricant) placed on a fingertip then transfered to each rail will provide excellent loco operation by removing oxidation and breaking up collected grime.
Weathering Use chalks for temporary or light weathering MacHan, Jeffrey Weathering chalks, available from hobby shops, allow light weather effects on rolling stock and locos. White for caustic spills and mineral deposits, rust for everything and gray to produce highlights.
Weathering - Dullcoat Use Testors Dullcoat to protect your weathered structures, rolling stock Ted Lamar Seal the finished surface of your weathered masterpieces. A fine coat of Dullcoat will not destroy chalk or painted weathering. The surface can be handled when dry and the weathering will stay on. If the chalk effect is diminished, reapply the chalks and cover again with a light spray of Dullcoat.
Weathering - Cars Weather side trucks and coupler knuckles for a more realistic look MacHan, Jeffrey OK, you've blackened the wheels now its time to weather the shiny black plastic side trucks and coupler knuckles.. A mix of grimy black and a dash of brown paint will take away the shine and give realistic weathering.

Fine print: unless otherwise noted all content is copyright Jeffrey MacHan and may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form without the express written permission of the author.