Category Archives: model railroading

Testors model paint dried out? Here’s what to do.

If your old bottles of Testors model paint dried out, you’ll have trouble getting the jars open and there’s no guarantee what you’ll find inside. But it’s definitely worth a try.

Here’s how to get the lid off, what to do with the separated paint, and what you can do to keep it from happening again.

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True 1:48 O scale autos

Scale-oriented O scale enthusiasts often bemoan the lack of true 1:48 O scale autos to go with their O scale trains. Often they go so far as to call 1:48 automobiles non-existent. That’s not entirely the case. There are 1:48 scale automobiles out there. Finding them just requires some creativity and imagination.

1:48 scale vehicles suitable for O scale train layouts fall into two broad categories: ready made diecast vehicles, and plastic model kits, which require assembly. The model kits tend to be costlier but allow a greater level of detail.

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Fasten Lionel track to foam board

Foam board is nice for building train layouts, since it’s lightweight and versatile. It’s easy to cut and shape into mountains and valleys and rivers. It’s also inexpensive. The problem is that screws won’t stick in it. So it’s tricky to fasten Lionel track to foam board. It’s difficult to fasten any other kind of track too.

Here are two ways to do it.

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Bachmann vs Lionel

Comparing Bachmann vs Lionel is a contrast between two very old, established names in electric trains. Lionel, in one form or another, has been selling trains since 1900. Bachmann, the largest seller of trains in the world, was founded in 1833, though they started selling trains in 1966.

Ironically, it was Lionel that got Bachmann into the train business. In the 1940s and 1950s, when every kid wanted a Lionel or American Flyer train, Bachmann sold buildings under its Plasticville brand so kids and dads could build towns for those trains to run in. As the focus shifted to smaller scales in the 1960s, Bachmann moved with it, with greater success than the companies it once shared a symbiotic relationship with.

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An HO scale Christmas village

Occasionally someone asks me to recommend an HO scale holiday village or HO scale Christmas village. The big-name villages are too big for HO scale trains, generally speaking, so I understand. There’s no big-name HO scale holiday village but there is a very affordable one.

I recommend Cobblestone Corners, available at Dollar Tree. Old stock is easy to find on Ebay as well.

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Selling Tyco trains

I got an inquiry last week about selling Tyco trains. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I certainly remember Tyco, and in recent years Tyco has gained a bit of a following.

If you’re looking to sell some Tyco gear, you certainly can do it, but you have to keep your expectations realistic. You’ll probably be able to sell it, but don’t expect to get rich off it.

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Visit your layout with a cheap camera

I’ve seen a number of videos lately made by people putting dashboard cameras on their trains, which gives a view of a layout that we don’t usually get to see–the view from the trains themselves. I’ve found a cheaper option. Hit up Ebay for an SJ4000 camera, which, if you sort the buy-it-now listings, you should be able to get for less than $20.

If that’s too rich for your blood, look for the Mini DVR 808, which is keychain sized and costs more like $5.

Don’t expect the world for that kind of money, but you can get a surprisingly good view of your layout from a perspective you’ll never see in person with one.

It’s not quite like getting to ride in your trains, but it’s not bad, either.

Repair a Weller soldering gun

I scored a Weller 8200 soldering gun at an estate sale one street over from me for a few dollars. They didn’t know what they had. I got it home and it didn’t work–it wouldn’t heat up–so maybe they knew exactly what they had. Lucky for me, it’s easy to learn how to repair a Weller soldering gun yourself.

It turns out the most common problem with these guns is very easy to fix and doesn’t cost anything. But if you’re like me and got a gun alone, without the case or instructions or the tool they give you, you’d never know.

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Department 56 scale: The definitive guide

The Department 56 product line is rather extensive, but there are items they don’t produce and likely never will. If you want to complete your village with other items, or use Department 56 in other settings, such as a train layout, then scale might matter to you—and “Department 56 scale” is undefined. Here’s how to make sure the things you want to use together will go together, size-wise.

The answer, by Department 56’s own admission, is that it varies. But since I see the question come up again and again, I’m going to tackle it. It varies, but there’s a method to it the madness.

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Fixing HO or N scale electric trains that won’t move and make noise

A common problem with HO, N, and other scales of electric train that run on DC power is that when you put them on the track, they light up but don’t move and instead make a weird noise.

The cure is usually simple, involving switching a couple of wires.

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