Maintenance

OIL IN MODERATION

Too much oil is pretty well as bad as too little. Felt pads should be oiled until they a uniform ‘wet’ colour — NOT dripping. Other bearings should be oiled by picking up a drop of oil on the end of a blunt needle and applying it to the bearing — even if you have a hypodermic type oiler. Remember, ONE drop is sufficient in most cases.

MAKESHIFT COUPLINGS

The plastic ink tube from a ball point pen can sometimes be used to replace a defective coupling between motor and gearbox in some locomotives but get the ink out first. Undiluted Dettol is good for removing ball point ink. (It works on clothes too.) If ball point pen tube does not work, some heavy walled neoprene fuel line used for model aircraft will.

CAR WEIGHTS

To add weight to rolling stock to maximise stability, reclaim expended shotgun or other shell cases. Use only the metal cuplike parts and fill them with lead. After they are cool, weigh them and mark the weight on them for future reference. These lead weights are very easy to glue onto the inside of wagons, passenger cars or whatever you want to make heavier. Lead can come from car tyre balancing weights and can be picked up in car parking lots or on the side of the road. Another source is from lead headed nails on demolition or building sites. Always wear goggles and strong gloves when melting lead and make sure to work in a well-ventilated area.

WHEEL CLEANING

To clean the wheels on your locomotives, take a paper towel and lay it on the track. Now turn on the controller and, with the back wheels of the locomotive on the rails to pick up the power, gently lower the front wheels onto the paper towel and rails underneath and hold while the wheels spin on the towel. Turn the engine around and repeat with the other wheels. You will be surprised how dirty the towel becomes and how clean the wheels will be. Don’t forget to clean the rails in the usual manner with the track cleaning rubber as well.

TIDY ELECTRICAL FEEDS

To avoid those unsightly soldered wire feeds on the side of rails, obtain some ordinary nickel silver pins. Insert a pin through the baseboard making sure that the head of the pin is touching the side of the bottom of the rail as shown in the diagram. Now solder the pin head onto the rail and solder the necessary wires to the part of the pin protruding underneath the baseboard.

STEEL V NICKEL SILVER RAIL

An indoor room for your layout which is subject to excessive temperature change or dampness will determine the type of rail to be used — in this case, certainly not steel. Steel rail should not be used outdoors either where it can rust very quickly and steel oxide, or rust, does not conduct electricity. In time, the rust will also eat away the rail. On the other hand, nickel oxide, which forms on nickel silver rail, will still conduct electricity and does not corrode the rail. Nickel silver rail does have one disadvantage in that magnade-hesion will not operate on it. In this case, steel rail must be used. Most modellers these days prefer nickel silver rail for its all round benefits. Either way, all rail should be kept clean.

KEEPING LOCOMOTIVE WHEELS CLEAN

It is very easy to clean locomotive wheels when they are driven but more difficult on trailing or non-motorised ones. Rummage around in your spares box and find a traction tyred wheel on a single axle. Now mount this in a mini-drill and run it quite fast, touching it against the wheel you want to clean. This will cause the wheel to spin and loosen the grime. Make sure that you buff the wheels with a dry tissue before putting the locomotive back on the track otherwise any residue of loosened grime will burn itself back onto the wheels.

TRACK CLEANING

A track cleaning rubber is usually sufficient for most touch-ups but sometimes there may be some stubborn dirt that needs a little extra effort to clean you track. Try white petrol. Soak a corner of a piece of cotton rag and use your finger to run it over the offending rails. You will be surprised how much gunk comes off.

AVOID CONDENSATION

If your layout is in the roofspace of your house, a shed or garage, make sure to avoid condensation on any unlined ceiling by having adequate ventilation under the roofing iron before putting in any insulation or ceiling.

TIDY THAT WIRING - 1

Take a look under some model railway layouts and you will see a mass of untidy wiring. One way to tidy up this tangle is to lay it all neatly in a length of plastic rainwater guttering fixed to the underside of the baseboard.

TIDY THAT WIRING - 2

If you have a few wires under your layout that you wish to fix in place, use a heat glue gun. Squirt a drop of glue on the spot where you want to fix the wire or wires, press the wires into the glue before it hardens and they will stay in placer until you heat the glue again to remove them.

HOT GLUE FIXING

Hot glue is useful for a number of applications on the layout. In addition to fixing wiring under the layout baseboard, terminal blocks can also be fixed in place, especially in difficult places where you can’t use a screwdriver.

CLEANING TRACK

When using a track cleaning rubber, it is sometimes difficult to avoid damaging lineside structures or scenery with your hand or fingers. Try this trick. Fix your track cleaning rubber to the head of an old disposable plastic safety razor head, grasp the handle and proceed to rub the track in the usual way except now your hand and fingers are well out of the danger zone at the end of the handle.

CLEANING MODELS

Dust will always collect on models and it should be cleaned off frequently. If left for any length of time, it is harder to remove and may need to be washed off with warm soapy water. One of the best tools for this job is an old soft toothbrush. Dip it in the soapy water and gently scrub your model. Then dry it off with a soft cloth.

COSMETIC CLEANING OR WEATHERING

Quite often, the best products for model railroading come from other areas of endeavour. Makeup brushes, for example, as well as being useful for eyeshadow weathering, are also perfect as dusting equipment. The blusher is fairly large, but amazingly soft, and is ideal for general dusting of roofs, boilers and tenders. It removes the dust with no damage to the finish or detail. The lip brush is fine and stiff, just the thing to reach into restricted places such as pilots, caboose platforms and other small or tight spots. It is also good for applying dry colour or shadow weathering. Other sizes are also available so shop around yourself as there is a big variety to be had at varying prices.

MAINTAINING ACCESS

When planning a layout that will fill a room, try to ensure that an allowance is made, where applicable, for cleaning windows, changing light bulbs, cupboard access and so on. In case of derailment and for track cleaning, you also need to be able to access the inside of tunnels. It is therefore important to not only build in a hatch or door to the centre of the tunnel, but to make sure you also have access to it in the room.

TRACK CLEANING ALTERNATIVE

Now here is one you may not believe and it is not even April the first. Track cleaning is a real thorn in the side of the model railway hobby. It is a chore that must be undertaken before running sessions, but it need not be. An unusual solution is to use hair clipper oil on the track and while this seems contrary to the conventional idea of cleaning oil and dirt off the track with cloths, cleaning blocks or track cleaning cars, nevertheless it is claimed that it works. Apparently the hair clipper oil helps overcome some of the contact problems caused by dirt and does not build up any residue. Modellers who use this method of cleaning say it helps keep the wheels clean and improves traction with the oil seemingly having a slightly gritty nature. Operating results over a two year period have made track-cleaning sessions a thing of the past with no drawbacks apparent. So talk to your hairdresser and give it a try.

DUST FREE LAYOUTS

Vacuuming the layout can be a dangerous chore with the unwieldy household vacuum cleaner’s large hose. Take a decent length of ordinary garden hose and duct-tape it to the nozzle of the household cleaner’s hose, then stretch and tape a piece of old pantyhose over the opening to stop small parts from the layout going up the spout and being lost forever. Now, with the hose in one hand and a soft brush in the other, as you brush, direct the nozzle of the hose to the dislodged dust and a clean layout will result.

STUBBORN DUST REMOVED

When a soft brush won’t do the trick, use a 50/50 mixture of windscreen washing fluid and water to clean models that have gathered dust over the years. Dip a soft cloth in the mixture and wipe the affected area very gently.

ELECTRICAL PROTECTION

Insulate all joints with heat-shrink sleeving which is available from electrical suppliers. Put it over one end of the wire before you solder . Once the joint is complete, slide the tubing over the joint and gently rub the soldering iron along and around the tubing until it is a snug fit.

ELECTRICAL CONTINUITY

Fishplates or rail joiners on their own will not give good electrical continuity for long. Their main purpose is to join and align the rails in order to prevent derailments. It is best to wire around these joins in the rails with a short length of copper wire as shown in the diagram.

DESIGN LAYOUTS FOR PEOPLE

Not just those miniature people on the layout, but for the people who will have to work the layout. Their movement and access to the layout is important so they don’t get in one another’s way during building, maintenance or operating sessions. And make sure everyone can reach all parts of the layout.

BEARING LUBRICATION

If you are running your railroad outdoors, take a tip from the garden railway people and use graphite to lubricate bearings on wheel axles and other moving parts instead of oil. Oil can pick up dirt, sand and other undesirables while running.