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Friday, 29 July 2016

I've Laid The Benchwork For My Train...... Now What???

Believe it or not many people get stuck on what to do after they've made the benchwork for their train layout.  Some want to just start putting their track right on the wood..... STOP! DON'T DO IT!

First plan out if you have any hard to reach places on your layout. Unless you have a long arms reach, you may want to plan to put mountains, or a town, or something that doesn't require your constant attention. Ask yourself, if I have to clean the track in that area or get my derailed train, how easy will it be?

Next cover all the top surface with a layer of styrofoam. It can be the regular white sheets, but the blue or pink used for insulation is the best and doesn't leave little round bits when you cut it.




You can use the foam to carve rivers and gullies, build up pieces for easy mountains, and as for trees? Just stick them right in the foam! By using the foam you're going to have an easier time with many aspects of the layout.

Now, this is when you plan your track out, don't glue anything down yet though as you need to plan out buildings and scenery too.

For this stage in planning, paper is your best friend! Cut squares out for approximate building base sizes, circles where you may want a forest, strips for roads and rivers, etc.  Yes, this seems like work, just keep in mind that this will help you have a successful and running layout that you will enjoy. How crappy would it be if you were just laying things down and your track dead ended at a building or you have no place for that really neat roundhouse?  Make sure to design your track plan too.

One of our guys, Tyler has a fantastic layout and he did three posts for you to check out and get guidance and ideas from. Check them out:


  1. An HO Layout In Progress
  2. Thompson River Canyon Blog Edition 2
  3. Thompson River Canyon Blog Edition 3
  4. Thompson River Route Blog 4 (this is labeled as 5, but is part 4)


Now it's your turn!  What questions can we help answer?  Do you have photos to share with us? We love to see/share layout photos.  Let us know how we can help you get further in your hobby.

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Thank for reading our blog and Happy Hobbying!



Thursday, 21 July 2016

6 Tips and Ideas to Customize Your Model Kit

So you've built a few model kits and you're ready to up your game and do something unique and different to your piece?

First, go check out your local hobby shop and get some ideas on what you may want to do to upgrade your model. Do you want to custom design and make your own decals? Change the interior? Add something completely different?

Ask yourself if this is for you or to enter in a show and what level you are building at. Be realistic with your skill level and remember with each kit you do, you're going to get better!

Painting is the most common way to make your model stand out. If you're brush painting, make sure to keep your brush strokes going in one direction for a better look.

When customizing your colours be sure to write down how much of each colour you're mixing so you can get an exact match each time. Who knows, someone may want that colour combo and ask you for the mix ratio. Use eyedroppers or pipettes to help with this.





Weathering can really add that "something special" to your custom build. It can make your piece look beat up and rusted or look as if it's just been though the mud. It can be used to create blaster marks on a Sci-fi kit, engine exhaust stains or peeling paint on a car.

It's all in how you use your paint and brush. For example for blaster marks use paint and brush to 'dry brush' the look you want. For a dusty look you can use chalks. Just make sure that after you create the weathered look you desire, seal it with a clear coat of Matte, Semi-Gloss or Gloss. You don't want to ruin that hard work.





Decals are a fun way to customize for beginner to intermediate builders. The majority of kits already have a sheet of decals ideal to your model choice, with sometimes two or three variant choices; But what if you want something unique to your imagination?  Decal sets and paper are just what you're looking for.

Basically decals are layers of paint built up on plastic film with a paper backing.  The glue is usually activated by water.  Your printer may be up to the task of creating your decals.

When using decals make sure to cut as close to the pattern as possible (nail or craft scissors work best for this). Dip your decal in water for the instructions set amount of time and add it to your model. You can use Microset to help the decal settle onto the model more snugly.  There are many articles and YouTube videos on how to use and apply decals. Practice makes perfect in this case.  Even the most expert model builders can have trouble with decals. Just take your time with it.

Finally, consider adding your model onto a Diorama to add dimension and truly get the feeling across to those looking at your creation. They can be as simple or complex as you want them to be. Ask your experienced local hobby shop for tips and ideas.






With the help of your local hobby shop's knowledgeable staff, checking out a few YouTube videos, researching articles like this one and your own imagination, you can create a potential masterpiece from a humble box of plastic and photo-etched parts.

Make sure to read these great blog articles too and share them with a friend:


Please make sure to comment below if you have a tip to share!  Like our blog to get updates on the newest additions. We post every Thursday, alternating Trains and Model/Toys.

Also, make sure to check out our WebsiteFacebook and YouTube Channel for inspiration, learning and fun!

Thanks for reading

Happy Hobbying


Thursday, 14 July 2016

5 Tips for Beginner Locomotive Maintenance

5 Tips for Basic Locomotive Maintenance

First things first: Make sure to have a suitable hobby area to work at. If you're  working on small scales such as N or HO scale you’ll need about 24 in by 24 in space.  If it’s a larger scale such as O or G you’ll need much more space. Oh, and ask permission before using the dining room table…… interrupting mealtime or getting hobby grease on the heirloom table may not go over so well with other members of the household.


(This is Robby's hobby desk space - good light, hard work surface, simple table)

Second: Now that you have a work-space, make sure you have the proper tools. Also check to see if the manufacturer included any information on proper care and maintenance of your piece. 
(Suggested LIST OF TOOLS)-Light oil, paper towel or small weave rag or cotton buds, wheel/track cleaner or wheel cleaning kit.

Third: now you’re ready to start!  Remember that routine maintenance will help your model train to run its best and hopefully prevent any major repairs down the road. On the majority of Locomotives  light oil on the motor & wheel bearings, and a light grease in/on the gears may be needed- make sure that it is plastic compatible (Labelle & Woodland Scenics both have great light oil). Make sure to look at your manufactures instructions / specifications as they may have different requirements and may need something specific.




Take your time with this as a little goes a long way - 1 drop of oil per bearing or crankpin is usually enough (sometimes more than enough...), and a very little bit of grease on the gears.  Don't glob everything on there - you'll just have to clean it off later anyway (or it'll leak onto the track work and make a mess).  Have some paper towel or fine weave rag to help clean up excess and/or spills.

Forth: pay attention to your wheels! Dirt build up on wheels spreads back to the rails and can cause electrical pick-up problems. Excessive dirt on the wheels themselves can even cause a derailment.  There are some great cleaners and ‘helping hands’ when it comes to cleaning the wheels of your model train. We’ve done two previous articles on this and they’ll be listed below for you to check out too. 

If you run your finger along the wheel (where it meets the track) and your finger gets dirty, it’s time to clean the wheels.  Take a cotton bud and dip it in your track cleaner. Run it around the wheel until the bud comes clean. Make sure to remove any cotton left behind so it doesn’t get into your gears later.  You can do this with a fine weave cloth too.





Watch the Video for the Roto Wheel Cleaner CLICK HERE


Some locomotives have Traction Tires, it’s like a tiny elastic band of rubber on the wheels; make sure it’s not stretched, worn or broken. If it is then the tire can’t grip the wheel of the train so it will hesitate or not move. These can be bought/ordered from your local hobby shop. 

DON’T FORCE A LOCOMOTIVES WHEELS TO TURN! You can wreck the trucks, gears or worse! Be patient and if you’re uncertain, bring it to a hobby shop that has trained repair people!

Fifth: make sure your track has been cleaned too. Some people forget that cleaning the track, at least monthly, is important for a smooth running model train!

If you have done all the above and your train is still having issues, it could be the motor. Most common motor failures:
         a) no lubrication to motor bearings/bushings- motor either does not run            or squeaks loudly.
         b) over lubrication - oil/grease is everywhere causing debris to collect on the motor, retaining motor heat and fowling armature-brush contact.
         c) when motor brushes are replaced on the motor make sure it is cleaned & lubed, carbon dust from the old brush set is not cleaned from armature and motor housing.
         d) dirty or pitted motor armature
         e) worn brushes
         f) rust caused by moisture, which deposit on motor armature, armature
         shaft, motor bearings and brush holder


There are many books and articles available with so much information. Take your time when cleaning your locomotive and if you're in doubt, take it to a hobby shop that specializes in train repairs. Most of the time, they will be glad to show you some tips!


If you enjoyed this article and/or if you have a comment or something to share, please leave it below.  Also, make sure to check out our Website, Facebook and YouTube Channel for inspiration, learning and fun!


BONUS: For more info about wheels and wheel cleaning check out these great posts to learn more  “Replacing Model Train Wheels” and “Simple Wheel Cleaners For Model Trains”.


Thanks for reading this blog post. Please subscribe so you don't miss a posting. Train posts are every other week and alternate with our model and toy posts.

Happy Hobbying!




Thursday, 7 July 2016

Creating Display Dioramas & Accessories For Your Action Figures

We regularly ask for tips, article ideas and general info from guys and gals just like you!  Recently, we were send this article. For the full article scroll to the bottom and hit the link.

This is just an opinion post about what you may try to do yourself. We are not responsible for any loss, injury, theft, etc. regarding any of the tips in this post.


Making an Oil Drum


  • Take a 14 ounce can and remove the top and label. 
  • Use one of the new Euro-Openers that cut from the side for best results. Eat contents and clean can. Dry well. Using a hot glue gun, glue the top back on. 
  • Hot glue a 1/4" hex nut to the top near the edge and fill in the hole with glue. 
  • Spray the can one of 3 colors: sage green, battleship gray or mint green. 
  •  Label drums with rub on letters purchased from your local hobby shop.
  • Display!



Making Walls

Here's on way on how to make a stone wall:
  1. Items required: gravel, silicone RTV sealer (or caulking, or something similar), piece of wood as long as, and slightly wider than the section of wall you wish to build.
  2. Glue the pieces of gravel to the wood using the silicone. Mix and match (like a puzzle) the gravel to give straight lines on the sides and eventually the top. The wall will get heavy enough to cause distortions if you try to do it all at once. Do about an inch or two high along the entire length of the wall and then let the silicone cure. Continue to add an inch or two in height every day until the wall is high enough. 
  3. If you need a really thick stone wall, use a piece of Styrofoam and glue the gravel to the sides and top of the Styrofoam. The wall will still get heavy but the Styrofoam will help a bit!
  4. If you fit the gravel together tightly, you can make a replica of a mortar-less stone wall. If you prefer to make a replica of a wall with mortar between the rocks, make the wall as noted above and let the silicone cure. After the silicone cures, run a bead of Elmer's or another hobby glue along the joints between the gravel and then sprinkle fine sand over the glue. After that dries brush off the excess sand. You can get fine sand in different colors from a hobby store that carries supplies for sand art.
  5. Build the wall up to the end edges of the wood. This will allow you to make several sections of wall that will be smaller, easily stored and allow configuration changes for dioramas, etc. If you need to make a 90 degree corner, you can either make the corner as part of one section of wall, or make the wood ends as wide as the wall instead of a bit wider.
  6. To finish off the sections of wall, glue dirt, model railroad ground cover, etc to the wood at the base of the wall. Also glue in a few bits of straw to simulate taller growing grasses, etc. -- Rob S.

Making Barbed Wire

How to Make Barbed Wire: Items needed: 30 gauge wire (found in hobby stores, Wal-Mart, etc - used for flowers & stuff), twigs (about 1/2 inch diameter), piece of wood (about 1/2 inch thick, plywood OK), glue, locking pliers or forceps, wire cutters, drill & bits, saw, rag.

  1. Determine how much distance you want between fence posts. Also determine how high you want the fence to be (about 6 inches for a regular fence, about 16 inches or higher if you want to build a POW stockade).
  2. Cut your wood about 2" - 3" wide and 2" - 3" longer than you want the fence section to be.
  3. Cut the twigs to length, adding about 1/2 inch (or the thickness of your wood).
  4. Drill 1/2 inch holes in the wood where you want the fence posts to be.
  5. Glue fence posts into holes in wood. Set aside to dry thoroughly.
  6. Cut a piece of the wire two times the distance between the fence posts, plus an extra 12 inches. For a 12 inch length of fence the length will be 36 inches (12 inches times two plus 12 more inches). The extra 12 inches of wire will be used to wrap around the fence post and secure the wire to the post.
  7. Place the two ends of the wire together and pull the wire tight to form a doubled piece of wire.
  8. Using the vice grip pliers or forceps, grab each end of the doubled wire and twist the wire. Keep twisting the wire until it has about 1/8 inch or less between the places where the wire crosses over itself.
  9. Place the rag over the doubled & twisted wire and firmly pinch the wire (I fold the rag several times to give me a thicker pad of protection). Starting at one end of the twisted wire, squeeze and pull the rag along the length of the twisted wire (similar to closing a "zip-lock" bag). Do this a couple of times. What we are doing is setting the twist into the wire so when we remove the pliers/forceps the wire won't untwist by itself. You MUST use a rag or something similar because the wire will cut through skin if you try this with unprotected fingers!!! Set the wire aside.
  10. Repeat steps 6 through 9 until you have one strand of wire for every inch to inch-and-a-half of post height.
  11. Cut a bunch of 2" lengths of wire. Keep cutting, you'll need a BUNCH of these!
  12. Take the 2" pieces of wire and wrap them around the twisted wire sections. Start about 3 inches from one end and wrap them every inch. Make sure you wrap them tightly against the twisted wire, and wrap each one about 4 times around the twisted wire. These will be the "barb" part of your barbed wire fence. Don't worry about how long the ends are, just wrap the entire length of twisted wire. Do this for all pieces of twisted wire you made in steps 6 - 9.
  13. Take your wire cutters and snip off the extra length on each end of the barbs. Real barbs are about 1/2 inch long. I make the barbs a bit longer than normal (scale-wise) because they look better (i.e. you can see them!). Play around with the final length of your barbs and make them as long as you think looks good.
  14. Wrap the ends of each section of barbed wire around the fence posts and twist the wire back on itself to hold the wire onto the post. BE CAREFUL - the barbs are REAL! ;-) Snip off the extra wire. Do this on both sides of the fence section, starting about 1 inch from the wood and working up about an inch for every piece of wire.
  15. The fence section is finished. I make mine about 12 inches long so I can move them around easily. You can make them any length and any height. A good way to finish off the wooden bottom is to glue dirt, flocking, etc to the wood to simulate dirt, grass, etc. Need something besides fences? Make the sections of barbed wire and then coil them up to simulate coiled barbed wire. Use small (about 1 inch tall) pieces of smaller twigs glued into a wider section of wood, string the barbed wire between them and create "tanglefoot." Let your imagination roam wild! Good luck & have fun! -- Rob S

To see the complete article CLICK HERE
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Happy Hobbying!!

Valerie