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Model Railway Express

Hints and Tips - Layout Operating

Updated December 16th 2008

The following Hints and Tips were contributed to Model Railway Express Magazine as a service where readers have been invited to submit "things they do" to keeps costs down, techniques they use to build their items and manage their railways in general.

These pages show the Hints and Tips categorised in the order they have been received by MRE mag. I am not promising "perfection" but as of the creation of these pages, these Hints and Tips page are also shown in order on Page 1... please click on this to access the hints in order that they have appeared in MRE Mag!

Click on the Menu to the area of interest to you.




Hints & Tips No.1 - Conflats                               Brian Macdermott
I like to have variety with my OO Conflats. Sometimes I run them as 'empties'; sometimes I run them as loaded with a 'full size' container; and sometimes I run them with the 'half size' AF insulated ones. The first two are no problem, but the small ones get thrown around and even fall off.
I solved the problem by using 'tacky wax'. This enables them to stay in position, but be easily removed with hardly any trace. I realise that real containers were held on by chains, so if anyone can tell me a method of modelling that convincingly (yet still enabling easy removal) I'd be glad to hear.

Hints & Tips No.10 – Train protection         Brian Macdermott

When I isolate a loco/train on my DC layout, I always turn the controller on a fraction in reverse. I occasionally find that I have accidentally isolated the wrong section. Turning the controller on for a spilt second will show up the errant train and being in reverse prevents it from running into anything ahead of it in my linear hidden sidings.

Hints & Tips No.14 – Panic Button                              Martin Walls Australia

I run my power controllers through a power board that plugs into a power point fitted with an RCD safety switch (Residual Current Device).

The test button for the RCD makes a very handy ‘panic button’ for cutting track power quickly. This is useful when trains are on an intercept course at one of my many Tri-ang diamond crossings.

Hints & Tips No.15 - Wagon loads                        David Middleditch

Line the interior of a wagon with three layers of clingfilm. Build the load inside this.

Pit props: Short thin buddleia twigs glued together with PVA.

Coal:  Plaster base painted black with coal on top.

Timber: Matchsticks at an angle glued with PVA.

 When set and painted, the load can be removed and the clingfilm peeled off. It should then fit back into the wagon with a working tolerance. With coal and similar loads, I also set in a small wire loop. This can be used to hook it out. Painted black it is quite unobtrusive.

Hints & Tips No.17 – Ready to go    Martin Walls, Australia

 At the end of a running session, I try to remember to stable my trains within arm's reach of the controllers and return the points to their normal settings.

This is done to make sure I can fire-up the trains without too many problems when visitors wish to see an impromptu demonstration. This includes having my more reliable locos available for use.

Hints & Tips No.19 – Good use for an old aerial   Martin Walls, Australia

 I have salvaged a telescopic aerial from an old radio. This is extended when required to nudge stalled locomotives.

Hints & Tips No.23 - Train control panel              Trevor Gibbs

Even though my layout looks like it is a chase your tail round a short circuit affair, it is genuinely run as a point-to-point. However I needed a prod to remind me which engines were at which end of the line.

My schematic is on my website www.xdford.digitalzones.com. Follow it through to ‘Operating the layout’. 

I am making a board with my imagined schematic for each of the imagined stations on it drawn laterally with a piece of galvanised metal, but tinplate will do. I paint the schematic on, mask off the track schematic and overspray with black. My engines have a fridge magnet which I cut up and paste their numbers on. If I have a short session, I simply move the magnet to the ‘next station’ if the loco is in transit with a train or around the turntable for the appropriate end of the line when it is stabled. This could add a bit more to your realism even if you seem to be a tailchaser!


submit hints   Trevor   Brian