Fight voltage drop with copper anti-seize lubricant

If you have issues with your trains slowing down on the far reaches of your layout–and judging from my website hits, many people do–there are a couple of things to do about it. The first thing is to run additional feeder wires. Going by the book, you should go every third track section. Do I push it a little? Sure. Sometimes I can get away with a little less than that, and sometimes every three sections isn’t quite enough.

But over time, the conductivity between track sections can wane a bit, as moisture and oxidation creep in. Coating track pins with copper anti-seize lubricant keeps the moisture out, which keeps oxidation out, which makes the layout more reliable, especially if the layout is outdoors, in the garage, or in the basement. Read more

How to move a train table on an unfinished, concrete basement floor

I had to move my train table recently. No, I didn’t have the foresight to put wheels on it. So I had to resort to using furniture movers.

After putting the fuzzy protectors on them, they glide fine on the concrete, without fear of damaging the plastic sliding surface. They might slide alone on concrete too, but I don’t want to scratch the movers up, because I intend to use them elsewhere too. Some online reviewers reported that scratched movers scratch wood floors.

I just lifted each leg of the table, kicked a mover under it, then went around to the next leg. A pair of 4×8 tables is still awkward for one person to move, but if you’re not moving too far, you can do it. If you have help, you can get more ambitious.

Model railroading with your Droid: Solving electrical issues

Electrodroid is an Android app designed for electronics hobbyists, but it has uses for model railroaders too. Its LED calculator is invaluable when using LEDs to light buildings, cars, locomotive cabs or headlights, or for other projects. Knowing the input voltage, you can then determine what resistors to use to protect the LED.

The voltage drop calculator is useful too, if less obvious. Read more

Model railroading with your Droid: Color matching

The biggest problem with making custom (or reproduction) decals for use with trains of the miniature variety is getting the colors on the computer-generated decal to match the paint on the model. Eyeballing the color won’t work; you need a computer’s help to do it.

Enter a free Android app called Color Eye. Launch Color Eye, point your phone or tablet’s camera at the paint you need to match, and your phone will give you the closest color matches that it knows about, including a Pantone color and a CYMK value.

Read more

Using a Lionel (or other brand) O or O27 transformer with HO or N scale trains

Here’s a good question: Can you use Lionel O or O27 transformers (or, for that matter, American Flyer S transformers) with HO or N scale trains?

The answer is, not directly. It will make a terrible noise if you hook it up. But you can make it work properly if you add a bridge rectifier. Look for one that’s 10 amps or more; don’t expect to have to pay more than a couple of dollars for one. Read more

Model Railroad Hobbyist

Model Railroad Hobbyist is a monthly online-only magazine about, as the title suggests, model railroading. The quality of the content is very high–I’ll argue the writing, editing and photography give Model Railroader and/or Railroad Model Craftsman a run for the money. I really think which is best in any given month has more to do with the reader’s interests than anything else.

If you’re interested in model railroading or any other hobby that involves trains, dioramas, or both, it’s worth bookmarking and visiting every month. Perhaps more frequently, as you peruse back issues for gems you missed in the past.

The Observation Car

I’ll argue that model railroads and toy trains are separate but related hobbies. That said, I still enjoy good model railroading material. I can still steal ideas from them and adapt their techniques.

Late last year, noted model railroaders Dave Frary, Doug Foscale, and Jimmy Deignan started a podcast called The Observation Car. If listening to three veteran modelers sit around and talk shop once a month for a little over an hour sounds interesting or useful, it’s worth bookmarking. They haven’t done their February podcast yet, but I’ll be watching for it. In the meantime, they have three podcasts up to listen to.

A simple way to make sure a Christmas-gift train works on Christmas morning

A simple way to make sure a Christmas-gift train works on Christmas morning

Last Christmas Eve, I helped one of my Internet pals figure out why a brand-new N scale train he purchased as a gift didn’t work.

He got lucky. He had his old train available, which he was able to steal parts from to get it to work that morning. Not everyone is that lucky. As long as you’re reading this before Christmas, I have some advice for you if there’s an electric train of any sort on someone’s list.

Set it up one night this week and make sure it works.

Read more

A model railroad scale conversion chart

Plans in model railroad books and magazines are often in a different scale from your favorite. Having a model railroad scale conversion chart helps.

I’m into O scale and the rest of the world, it usually seems, is not. Dimensions for published plans are almost always sized to HO scale, or even S scale of all things. Of course, after A. C. Gilbert imploded in 1967 and took American Flyer with it, it seemed like the “S” is S scale stood for “scratchbuild,” because building it yourself was the only way you were going to get anything, so I guess that’s fair.

Here’s a cheatsheet you can use to convert measurements from one scale to another.

Assumptions: O scale is 1:48, G scale is 1:22.5. If you use a different measurement for either scale, I’m sorry. This won’t be much use to you.

G Scale O Scale S Scale OO Scale HO Scale TT Scale N Scale Z Scale
G Scale 213% 284% 339% 386% 533% 711% 977%
O Scale 47% 133% 158% 181% 250% 333% 458%
S Scale 35% 75% 119% 136% 188% 211% 289%
OO Scale 30% 63% 84% 115% 158% 211% 289%
HO Scale 26% 55% 73% 87% 138% 184% 253%
TT Scale 19% 40% 53% 63% 73% 133% 183%
N Scale 14% 30% 40% 48% 54% 75% 138%
Z Scale 10% 22% 29% 35% 40% 55% 73%

Find your scale in the table along the top. Then scroll down to the desired scale and find out the factor you need to enlarge or reduce. So, if, say, I have HO scale plans I want to enlarge to O scale, I run across the top to HO, then down to O scale, and see that I need to enlarge the plans to 181%. If I have O scale plans I want to reduce to S scale, I run across the top to O and down to S, and see I need to reduce the plans to 75%.

You can also do this if a building you want exists in kit form for a different scale. Measure it. Then do the math based on the chart to figure out what size to build everything for your scale of choice.

Further reading

I hope you find this model railroad scale conversion chart useful.

On a somewhat related note, if you’re unsure what scale something is, here’s how to figure that out before you convert it. You might also find my cross-hobby scale conversion helpful.