If you have six-wheelers which bind on your tight radius curves, try removing the flanges on the middle wheels. The wheels should be filed so that they just touch the rail but can slide all the way off it with no resistance.


To determine the clearance needed for double track, curved station platforms, cuttings, tunnel entrances and similar trackside obstacles, simply tape a pencil to the front of your widest locomotive and the centre of your longest carriage or wagon and draw lines on the baseboard as shown in the diagram. This will give you the outside and inside clearances required. Use masking tape to fix the pencil so as not to damage any paintwork, but don’t leave masking tape on too long as it tends to set on and pull paint off when removed.


This chart may be of use for HO scale modellers interested in running their trains at scale speeds. It is set up for actual feet and seconds based upon 60 feet to the HO mile. There is about a 1% error in it but this should be close enough for most modellers.


How do you disguise the fact that a track goes on into the backscene on a wall without actually cutting a hole in the wall? Use a mirror of course. Place the mirror vertically on the wall at the end of the track and at 90o to the rails. This will give the impression that the track continues into the wall. You can hide the mirror easily by placing a bridge in front of it, or surrounding it with trees, thus showing only the part of the mirror required. Do not forget that the mirror is there when operating your trains though, or you will have a cracked mirror and a few bent couplings.


When joining rail from different manufacturers or of different codes, it is sometimes difficult to insert the fishplates or avoid the bump on the top of the rail where the wheels pass over. It is not recommended that you file down the rail as this can cause rust, dirt and consequently, electrical problems later. Make sure that the wheels have a smooth passage over the join by packing the sleepers with strips of plastic to get the correct height between rails. If the fishplates can not be inserted because of the uneven sizes of the rail, solder a short piece of copper wire between the two rails to hold them together and give electrical continuity.


The tighter the curve, the more drag there is when locomotives attempt to pull long trains around these bends in the track. In your planning, try and avoid minimum radius curves by placing a short length of straight track in between the curved sections. This will make it easier for the engine to pull the train around the curve. Another trick is to put heavier wagons at the front of the train and lighter ones at the rear. This helps to prevent derailments when backing up through a curve.


Cant or super-elevation is the raising of the outer rail on a curve to counteract the effect of centrifugal force. A train moving fast around a curve will tend to be thrown outwards by centrifugal force, causing discomfort to passengers, and, on model railways especially, result in derailment. Raising the outer rail of the curve tilts the train inwards to counteract this effect. Make the rise and fall in the outside rail gradual with packing under the sleeper ends.


When adding the crew to steam locomotives, care should be taken to have the engine driver on the correct side as some are left and others right hand drive engines. A good guide is the position of the reversing lever on the locomotive. This is the driver’s side.


For trains where carriages or wagons don’t need to be uncoupled, it is not necessary to have all of these cars fitted with Kadee couplers. Why not use some of those horn-hook couplers everyone seems to have plenty of. Modify them clipping off the pins will result in fairly realistic looking couplers and all you need is two Kadees, one at each end of the train.


When building lineside scenery on your layout, run your longest and highest rolling stock along the track. If they clear the scenery and tunnel mouth, then all the other locomotives, wagons and carriages you have will also run clear.


Cables for tethered walkaround throttles can get tangled or under your feet when they are in use. One way to avoid this is to get a pair of pulleys. One is attached to the bottom of the benchwork and the other is placed on the cable between this stationary pulley and the plug-in location of the tethered throttle. A weight is put on this second pulley – enough just to reel the cord back in. Although this will work best with flexible cables that are mostly used in one direction from the plug-in point, it will help reduce the tangling of the wires. A pair of fixed and travelling pulleys can be installed to take care of long cords.


Should you decide to include a helix or spiral in your layout, even just a slope for the trains to climb over, there are a few rules you should follow. Gradients are the same whatever the scale so a 1-in-100 gradient is the same in N gauge as it is in O gauge. The final height you want to reach should be accomplished in the longest possible distance you have available to keep the gradient as gentle as possible – the generally accepted practice is that grades should not exceed 3% -- that is a rise of 3mm in 100mm. Below that is even better. The transition from slope to level (or vice versa) is also important otherwise uncoupling problems will be experienced. And should the gradient be on a curve as in a helix, curves and gradients together produce a lot of drag, so the more gentle the gradient the better.


For those modellers who, even today, believe that steam engines are still the most attractive locomotives on a layout, modelling a British water trough is a serious thought. The sign below should appear at the start of the trough and is placed parallel to the rails, not at right angles, and mounted about 6 feet above the ground. The size of the sign is approximately 12 feet by 6 feet and has a large square lamp on the top facing approaching trains.


To ensure a long, smooth-running life, new locomotives should be run in. The idea behind running in any machinery is to allow new components – particularly gears – to ‘bed in’ smoothly before they are subjected to the rigours of full operation. Locos should be run in gently and not thrashed from the word go. There are no hard and fast rules but 45 minutes of continuous running at a moderate speed in each direction is usually sufficient.


One of the problems that can arise and cause derailing is out of gauge wheelsets. Wheel gauge is measured from the backs of the wheels, called back to back spacing. If you measure this back to back spacing on the wheels of your rolling stock there is a very good chance that you will find quite a variance in many of them. Check the correct distance for your particular gauge and make sure all your wheelsets measure up. An inexpensive, easy to use, dial calliper will help you keep both wheelsets and track in correct gauge and will definitely improve the performance of your trains, especially if you have been having derailment problems.


If you find that your trains are uncoupling in the middle while running, irregular coupler height may be the culprit. Check coupler heights on all your rolling stock and adjust them to a standard height. Kadee’s height gauge is good for this purpose or you can pick a favourite locomotive and adjust everything to fit that.