Things I've learned

kevsmith Aug 21, 2017

  1. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    Thought I'd start a thread that we can all join in to on things that are now obvious to us but not so apparent to new beginners. In my work there is a lot of management gabble and buzz words and I suspect many of you find the same. Two acronyms that crop up are LFE (learning from experience) and OEF (operational experience feedback) same thing just different management consultants making some money.

    Much of my railway modelling is geared around exhibiting to the public on the European show circuit. I've been doing it since 1987 in a variety of different scales from Z to gauge 3 ( 1/2th scale running on 2 1/2" gauge track) and have made many,many mistakes over the years.

    So, for starters, I'll look at some knowledge hard won!

    1. If you are designing a layout to take to shows make sure it will fit in your car!


    Even if you only have your layout at home but have to take it down when not using it build a decent flight case to protect it. That sad crunching sound you hear when you make mistake is probably expensive. Mine are just knocked from 4mm plywood but have paid for themselves over the years

    Feel free to join in, I've got loads more

    sams and Kurt Moose like this.
  2. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    Just because you fall in love with it does not mean it'll go through your curves.
    sams, Kurt Moose and strummer like this.
  3. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Access to track matters. If you hide a section of track under a mountain and it's difficult to access, you can assume the section will sponsor an abnormal number of derailments.
    HemiAdda2d, sams, Yannis and 2 others like this.
  4. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    You'll swear it's an abnormal number of derailments even if it isn't--because they'll be such a nightmare to fix, they'll be the ones you remember.

    Track which isn't level and even doesn't just cause derailments, it also uncouples cars. And if you're laying track to see if your design works, don't join the sections, just lay them end to end. Only virgin track joiners conduct electricity with any reliability, so don't insert rails into them until you're actually tacking track down. When in doubt, learn to solder!
    sams and Hardcoaler like this.
  5. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Use colored wires when wiring. Use a color-coded pair for track power supply, a different color-code for turnout control and perhaps a third and fourth for signaling and lighting. While you're at it, don't attempt to save money on wire by straight-lining wires to the control panel or pulling them taut like guitar strings. Try to group them together neatly and to provide a bit of slack.

    When the need for troubleshooting arises, you'll thank your stars that your color and routing system is in place.
    sams and acptulsa like this.
  6. Greg Elmassian

    Greg Elmassian TrainBoard Member

    When you pull something apart, have a pad of paper (or a laptop with an editor window open), and a digital camera. write notes and take pictures as you take stuff apart. You can then put it back together months later if needed.

    This is actually how I use my web site, I create a new page and type in as I go, laptop right next to where I am working.

  7. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    Fitting decoders to MTL locos in a room with a carpet is really bad news when you drop one of the brush springs! I spent ten minutes recently gently hand brushing the floor to one corner until I eventually found it.

    If I'm assembling MTL couplers (its a bit masochistic I know) or repairing damaged ones I do it in an old white photographic developer tray. This catches the springs if they ping off and they are easily visible

    Hardcoaler, ZFRANK and zdrada69 like this.
  8. shamoo737

    shamoo737 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Stock spare parts when available, and don't need to cry when they aren't.
    Mike VE2TRV, strummer and markm like this.

    ZFRANK TrainBoard Member

    If one starts new in Z scale, start with a small project. Try whether this small scale works eventually for you before buying loads of roling stok. Take you time to get used to small part. And don't be afraid to make mistakes. You'll learn from mistakes.
    acptulsa likes this.
  10. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    Yes, a switching layout can be the middle of a larger layout if you like the scale. Just expand both ends.

    And as an extension of that, so to speak...

    Build any layout so it can be moved. Make it modular, even if you don't adhere to standardized modular construction. Assume you might move someday, even if you have no plans to do it.
    Yannis, Hardcoaler and Kez like this.
  11. strummer

    strummer TrainBoard Member

    Patience, patience, patience... :)

    Having modeled now in every scale except G, I find that in order to "succeed" in Z, you have to accept the fact that:

    You must clean your track...a lot!

    You will probably have to service your locos quite often; thankfully, it appears that the manufacturers took this into account when they designed their products, as these little guys are surprisingly "easy" to work on. As one who likes to tinker, this is a big plus...

    Don't be cheap when it comes to a magnifier: buy the best "Optivisor" you can afford!

    Enjoy the fact that you can run a 20 (or more) car train in a "reasonable" amount of space.

    Mark in Oregon
    sams and Kez like this.
  12. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky November 18, 2022 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter In Memoriam

    This thread has a lot to contribute to all scales -- moving to Inspection Pit
    sams, bremner, Yannis and 2 others like this.
  13. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    If a snowplow drops off a Kato C44-9W, don't, while half asleep, put it in a place where it won't get lost until you have time to reinstall it. Leave it laying on the layout.


  14. GeorgeV

    GeorgeV TrainBoard Member

    And label the wires also. Self-stick paper tags folded around the wire works, or use a small piece of masking tape. Make up a code for the labels based on the location and function of what the wire connects to.
    Jovet and Hardcoaler like this.
  15. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    I use 25 pin D plugs from the Control panel to the baseboards. In the exhibition pack is an excel spreadsheet for each board and plug printed in the same colours as the wires


    If anything goes down it is a lot easier to fault find

    HemiAdda2d, sams and Hardcoaler like this.
  16. Randy Stahl

    Randy Stahl TrainBoard Supporter

    Don't use a dremel cutting tool when you've had a few and your wearing boxer shorts.
  17. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Speaking of power tools, wear safety glasses. The glasses are cheap and your vision is priceless.
    Toholio and HemiAdda2d like this.
  18. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

    Use your good, stable, solder iron stand EVERY time even if it's just for one quick joint. You DO have a stable iron stand, right? :cool:
    sams, Hardcoaler and Mike VE2TRV like this.
  19. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    Better believe it!:D

    That's the stuff I do for a living...

    If I didn't do that at work, this is the face my boss would do -->:eek: ... closely followed by :mad:

    Plus I don't want to think about what a 660 degree iron would smell like on a foam base...:confused: or a plastic building... :eek: or a locomotive...:cry:
  20. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    Or flesh after it fell off the bench onto your bare leg. I was wearing shorts. :cry:
    Mike VE2TRV likes this.

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