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Heritage Model Trains Article

Cheap Trick to Improve Model Train Layouts


I found these great “cheap tricks” by John Winter, so I’m going to pass them on to you because I think you will be as impressed as I was. The first one is about “weathering” your model train locomotives, rolling stock and buildings. It was so simple – as they all are – and they work like a charm.


Weathering: John discovered this one while changing the toner in his office copier. The old copies always used a powdered toner which came packaged in a plastic bottle. After you pour new toner into the holding bin, a very messy job, then you had to empty the container which held the “spent” or used toner.


Weathered Structure


Not a nice job really, it usually got all over everything including John’s hands. As he attempted to clean up this stuff, he noticed it stuck to everything, that’s when the light bulb went off. How about using this spent toner for weathering parts of his railroad? Well, he tried it on everything including the backdrop to represent smoke from chimneys, smoke stacks, locomotives, and buildings.


Paper Signs: If you are attempting ‘realism’, where do some of the model train layouts get their paper signs? They look so real and authentic. Well John’s friend is always on the lookout for old magazines at flea markets or tag sales. He cuts out the classic advertising and holds them in a box for future use. First: he cuts out the sign from say a catalog -- oversize leaving extra material around the edges. Then trim the excess with a new No. 11 blade, flip it over and carefully sand the edges.


 After sanding, dilute some white glue 50/50 with water. Apply a thin layer of glue to the back of the sign and place it on the building. Let the sign dry overnight. After it’s dry, weather the sign with white chalk dust to make it look like it is faded. Optionally you can sand the face of the sign with very fine sandpaper so it looks like it is old and tattered.


Hiding Your Corners: Doesn’t matter how carefully you construct structures, plastic or wood, sometimes you just don’t get the corners right. The seam will show because the plastic or wood is warped and you can’t hide the crack that appears in the corner.


Seems that a time-honored cure to this problem is a cover-up!  Just add ground foam vines held in place with full strength white glue. Apply the glue along the corner seam starting at the top. Visualizing how the vine would grow along the ground and up the corner of the house, follow this with glue and attach the vines.


Now that’s a great idea even if your corners are straight and no crack is seen. Something about the vines just look so real.


All Aboard…..


Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains