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Thread: Things I Have Learned

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    Lightbulb Things I Have Learned

    This is a thread for things that we've all learned from experience, and that you won't find just about anywhere else. So here goes:

    Benchwork

    DO NOT use nails. Just don't. I tried that, and ended up with benchwork that pulled apart.

    Use screws. The best way I have found is to use one drill to pre-drill the hole, then stick another drill with a screwdriver bit into the hole to widen the opening of the hole, then use it to drive the screw in.

    If you don't pre drill a hole, screws are hard to drill in, and you'll probebly split a x2 or 1x3.

    An L-girder with a 1x3 for a flange makes for eaiser screwing.

    3 1x2's should not be used to support a 7-foot span. Can you say sag?

    3/4 inch plywood is HEAVY. For the top of the benchwork, 1/2 inch plywood works just fine.

    Wood selection-My hardware store sells two kinds of 1x2-one with square corners, and one the the edges rounded. DON'T use the second kind!

    Use the straightest lumber you can find. A piece with a 20 degree twist over its length as installed on the layout is NOT accaptable.

    Benchwork designed and built by a 12 year old has the quality of benchwork built by a 12 year old.


    Trackwork:

    Rail nippers are designed to cut oriented only one way. Look cosely at the blades-you want the side that is flat, not the side that is angled, toward the part of the track you want to keep.

    Hobby pliers work well for driving track spikes.

    With flextrack that has been cut by rail nippers, rail joiners are HARD to get on.

    The first loco over a new section of track with end up with about a dozen track spikes that had fallen between the ties magnitacally stuck to the bottom of the moter. I would recomend running a magnet over the track to pick up any loose spikes. (but beware, I haven't tried this yet)

    Atlas code-55 track requires that all rolling stock have low-profile wheels, and that locomotative wheels are correctly in gauge. A surprisingly large number of quality locomotative have out of gauge wheels.

    If you glue cork roadbed to foam with elmer's wood glue, you can pry the cork up with a fngernail a few years later without damaging the foam.

    There is something called a 'door jamb saw' that works well for starting to cut up coek roadbed, after which you can use your fingernail.

    If you can, pin cork roadbed down while the glue dries with pins that have the little round balls on the end. It is MUCH easier on the hands when pulling them up.

    Rolling Stock:

    Bachmann Spectrum locomotative can be best converyed to knuckle couplers on the tenderby using a Micro Trains 1128 coupler with the spring that comes with the locomotative in the existing coupler box.

    The Knuckle couplers on the Bachmann heavy mountain are mounted much too low, covert the one on the tender as above.

    Wireing:

    Use solid wire for you DCC bus. DON'T use stranded wire! it will end up stuck un a bynch of loops.

    Go ahead and submit your helpful lessons you've learned!

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    Welcome to nScale.net BraselC5048!

    I have moved your thread to what I believe is a more appropriate place.

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    Balsa and other woods for scenery:

    Balsa and other woods will soak up water. There is no adequate way to seal it on all sides against water damage. If used as scenic elements such as a level crossing when you put your ground cover down, the wood will suck water out of any ground cover that touches it and will warp beyond repair. USE STYRENE for these pieces.

    Balsa and other woods are great for scratch-building structures but sections being painted must be painted on BOTH sides to minimize warping.

    Painted wood parts can be placed between two pieces of wax paper and under a heavy book overnight to help them dry flat.


    Details:

    220 grit sand paper is the exact equivilent of 3/4" gravel - use for tar and gravel roofing. Aluminum Oxide paper in 220 gives a nice natural grey stone look. Garnet paper will look like sandstone. Emery will look like fresh asphalt.

    Grey art paper (looks like construction paper but better quality) from an arts supply store makes excellent paved roads.

    Picture matte from an arts supply store, cut into strips about 3/16" to whatever fits your need, is the right thickness for sidewalks and lines can easily be ebossed using an embossing tool or engraver (not the powered kind).


    Tools:

    Buy good tools. Pay the extra to get the quality. If you are on a budget, buy a few at a time but don't cheat yoiurself. You are going to use these a lot over time and the comfort and accuracy of good tools will reward you many times over, not only in good results but in comfort and pleasure of use.

    Organize your tools. Keep your most frequently used tools in a rotating tool caddy. You can get a simple, inexpensive one for 10 bucks at a stationery shop.

    Roll up a small piece of corrugated cardboard and fit it into a tube of your organizer to keep small files, screw drivers and paint brushes standing straight and separated for easy access.


    Two RULES of MRR:

    REMEMBER that this is just a hobby and should not be the source of headaches, heart attacks or divorces. Stay cool and have fun!

    REMEMBER it is your railroad! Do what makes YOU happy! Run what makes YOU happy!
    - - There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I like to use that line as a jump rope. ... (unknown)

    Come visit my Layout Build Thread - http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...l-Build-Thread

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    Great thread!

    Let's see.

    Time spent planning is time well spent.

    Don't dismiss DCC on a small layout. It can give easier operations than DC. That said, there's nothing wrong with old school either.

    Don't get fooled by the magazine pictures. Everybody has a first layout and people love to see them!

    My best advice (I need to remind myself this often). DO SOMETHING. don't let analysis paralysis or fear of getting it wrong pin you down. Do something. You can always rip it up and do it differently later. So go ahead and build that hill or try that road technique or put down some grass and trees. Listen to Larry the Cable Guy. The fun is in the doing. Changing your mind or getting a "bad" result just means more doing and therefore more fun!
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

    CH&FR Site and Blog: http://www.chfrrailroad.net and http://blog.chfrrailroad.net
    Appalachian Railroad Technology: http://www.apprailtech.com


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    Do not throw anything away. Keep small parts in an organised bin. You might not use something for several months or years but the minute you throw something out you will find a use for it.

    The proper tools are essential for modeling. We often are very creative using household items for construction but the correct tool for the job makes it so much easier to assemble and enjoyable to create. Spend the extra couple of bucks for the proper tools.

    Track cleaning is essential....if you let it go for awhile it becomes an ever increasing job. The longer you let it go the harder is is to get it back it's proper useful state.
    Eric
    Deer Lodge, MT

    You are what you think.

    www.jamesknightwesternartist.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by aroc View Post
    ... Track cleaning is essential....if you let it go for awhile it becomes an ever increasing job. The longer you let it go the harder is is to get it back it's proper useful state.
    Oh yes, I can vouch to this! In other words don't get so immersed in other aspects of modeling that your track goes all to <you know what>!)

    I have a huge track cleaning job ahead of me for that exact reason!

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    Using screws to assemble your benchwork (including risers) is essential, as stated by BraselC. Use a countersink bit with pilot hole bit to drill the pilot hole so that the screw heads will be recessed. Use the correct one for the screws you are using (i.e. #6 for #6 screws, #8 for #8 screws, etc.). After time the wood will dry out and shrink a bit. this will loosen the joints. To prevent this, glue the joint when screwing it together. Use carpenters glue... the yellow stuff.

    Balsa wood is an excellent modelling material. However it does not normally come in scale dimensions. For the best results in scratch building in wood is to use scale dimensioned bass wood available from model railroading hobby shops or online suppliers.

    Warpage on wood used for models can be controlled. Solvent or oil based paints will cause significantly less warpage than water based paints. Use a 'rattle can' solvent based primer or shellac to seal the wood before painting with water based paints or stains. For stick-by-stick scratch building use 1/32 baltic birch plywood as a base, and glue the sticks to it. If warpage does occur during assembly of a structure, glue cross members to the part on the interior and clamp with a weight on a flat surface until the glue dries.

    Learn how to use macro-photography with your camera. Practice the techniques often enough until you get good results. Then post lots of pictures here.
    (The voices I hear in my head may not be real, but sometimes they come up with a good idea.)

    Have fun.

    Moose

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    Ensure the surface that you are eventually going to lay your roadbed and track down on is absolutely flat and that any joints between surfaces are secured so that they stay aligned. An uneven base for your track will cause headaches and problems with the tiny Code 80 rails (even for Unitrack) much later and you'll regret not putting in the extra effort. There is a reason most experienced modellers use the 'cookie-cutter' roadbed method (with L-Girders/risers)!

    Be careful with track cleaner erasers around switch points - especially Kato Unitrack switches. Those track erasers can easily bend the points and instantly destroy that expensive switch! In fact, don't use track cleaner erasers anywhere near any points!

    Perfect ovals can become tedious...always try to add gradual curves of subtle changes to avoid perfectly symmetrical designs.
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    If you have some track that is giving you trouble, replace it. Fiddling with it will only make it worse and have it fail at the worst possible time.
    Sean McC

    "No man is a failure ...

    who has friends." -- Clarence

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    Obvious:
    Measure twice, cut-NO, DON'T CUT YET, MEASURE IT AGAIN! Then cut it.
    Atlas flextrack and Peco switches don't like each other.
    That is the culmination of my knowledge thus far.
    N scale CPR Kootenay Division, started May 2011!
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    Quote Originally Posted by trainboyh16-44 View Post
    ...Atlas flextrack and Peco switches don't like each other. ...
    I realize it may not be exactly on-topic, but please elaborate. I have always been under the impression that you can mix 'n match code 80 of all manufactures at will! If you would care to start a new thread over in the Trackage forum that would be understandable!

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    Screws - make sure you use the correct screws for bench-work, do not use drywall screws. Personally, I use exterior screws, not expensive and very rust resistant. Drywall screws can and will eventually rust and they are weak when compared to others.

    After reading a lot of people talk about wood warpage due to humidity and temp changes, I primed all my little 2' x 4' bench-work once it was built.

    Michael's is a good place to buy balsa and bass wood, as well as Tacky Glue, and paint brushes. They also have basic modeling paints, glues, and tools. I wish I had known about jewelry tools they have, small and inexpensive, for the most part.

    That's all I know. I leave all the train related stuff to the experts

    Welcome to nscale.net!

    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanC View Post
    I realize it may not be exactly on-topic, but please elaborate. I have always been under the impression that you can mix 'n match code 80 of all manufactures at will! If you would care to start a new thread over in the Trackage forum that would be understandable!
    I guess I did need to elaborate! I'm speaking only of code 55, I don't have any experience with code 80. I laid my coffee table layout with atlas flex and peco switches, but their gauges and rail sizes cause two of my cars to derail every time. Most of the cars are fine, but....they're not perfect.
    N scale CPR Kootenay Division, started May 2011!
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    Thank you trainboy for the elaboration. I think the code 55 differences are pretty well known. Peco code 55 is really code 80 rail more deeply embedded in the ties. Thus it does not connect well with other code 55 rails! But it can be done!

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    Never put a small part on a rolled up piece of tape and stick it to a " SAFE " spot on your workbench you wont find it again for several months even though its right in front of your face

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    BraselC5048, thanks for starting this topic. I have learned all of the stuff that members state in their replies. Most was by lots of reading ahead of time.

    The following I did not pay enough attention to when it was stated by those who had learned it already.


    Don't lay all of your track so it will just work well with the 4 axle diesels and 40' cars you start with for a late 60's early 70's layout.
    Then when you decide to move it to mid 1990's and all 50' plus rolling stock and add large 6 axle engines you will not have to tear out the 9" and 10" curves to replace them with much broader curves.
    Ken Price
    http://s567.photobucket.com/albums/s...ice/?start=all

    It's around 1996-1999. UP, MP, SP. South Valley Railroad. Some where in the west of Texas. Near San Angelo.
    Started in 2007, Super Empire Builder with radio throttles.

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    I'll contribute a few:

    1. Comfortable aisles and layout access are not "wasted space". Plan them in.
    2. Heavier cars track better - get a postage scale or some other method of weighing cars and bring them up to NMRA recommendations.
    3. Track is a model, too - paint it and it will look a lot better! Even plain Atlas code 80 flex can look decent when wearing brown. Users of Kato Unitrack or similar "prefinished" brands actually have a harder time with this, though, and might be stuck with off-the-shelf looks.
    4. Just because N-scale can get away with much tighter radius curves and fit more track into a given space doesn't mean that you should. I believe that a lot of really good N-scale layouts could be built by using HO-scale plans.
    5. In the real world, scenery (topography and vegetation) exists before the trains, but most model railroads exhibit scenery that just looks like it came afterwards, to fill in the spaces between trains. Plan your scenery along with your track plan, to justify tight curves which hug a hillside for instance, or a tunnel portal going into a mountain too big to have been simply cut away.
    6. Rocks are not always a pure gray, in fact they are rarely so. Tree trunks are rarely brown. Creeks are rarely blue. Pay attention to the real world and adjust your scenic preconceptions; it may help to work from photographs.
    7. Vehicular roads don't bend at sharp angles in the real world, think about "minimum radius" for your roads as well.

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    Rule #1 - The track plan is NEVER done!
    Rule #2 - Whan all the track is in place and you see something that would work better; refer to rule #1.


    Seriously though one of the most important things I have learned since coming to this site is patience. Don't rush and good things WILL happen.

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    Make your budget for track etc. Then double it, to account for all the 'extra' stuff you didn't know you needed
    Check out my blog - Hill Valley Lines

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    Solder ALL of your electrical connections and test the circuit as soon as it is installed. I hate trouble shooting things later.
    Take your time with trackwork. Make sure the top of the rail joints are smooth. See that the track flows smoothly through the joints with no kinks. Get your eye down there and don't ever take the attitude of "that's good enough" when you know that you could make it better. You might get away with it on a Lionel layout, but N scale has to be perfect because the cars don't weigh 4 pounds each.

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