If you're considering model railroading or are a seasoned model railroader, having the right tool at your disposal is paramount.
As with any hobby, using high-quality tools can dramatically enhance your experience and the final product — in this case, your model trains.
The model railway tools landscape is extensive, and the wide selection can be overwhelming to model railroaders, whether it's model railroad tools or tools for the more delicate 7mm scale or O Gauge track.
This guide navigates you through the essential tools you would need, providing the starting point for your model railroad hobby.
- Dust Blowers: Keep areas of work clean and free of contaminants.
- Magnifiers: Eye Loupes and Head Band Magnifiers for Magnifying your work.
- Bench Mat: Anti-slip mat for better vision of small parts.
- Cutting Mat: Protect your workbench
Cutting and Shaping Tools
- X-Acto Knife: This flexible cutting tool does precision work on small pieces.
- Miniature Miter Box and Saw: This is pivotal for making exact, minuscule square cuts.
- Tweezers and Pliers: Necessary to handle tiny parts delicately and accurately.
- Files: These come in handy to shave off excess material or smooth out rough edges.
- Vices and Pin Vices: For holding accessories or small parts.
- Drill Bits: Useful for drilling holes.
- Burrs: for detailed removal of snags and edges.
- Mouldline remover: Scraping tool for cleaning and deburring mould lines and unwanted sprue.
To create the nano-sized world of model railroading, you must craft buildings, landscapes, and the all-important rolling stock. A standard tool to start with is a craft knife for cutting small parts and making precision slices.
A pin vice, used with variously sized drill bits, helps to create small holes in different sizes.
Similarly, track pins become an indispensable tool when working on your track. Xuron track cutters or rail nippers are considered the best tools for cutting rails.
But sometimes, the most helpful tool could be a simple straight edge. A clean edge can be obtained by using a Mouldline remover combined with your craft knife, perfect for trimming decals or creating clean lines in your model kits.
- Use Diamond drill bits for stone, glass, hardwood and ceramic.
- Use High speed steel drill bits (HSS) for softer wood and plastics.
- Use Carbide drill bits for hard metal.
For the best results in delicate work, the fine point on a set of quality files, steel or diamond files, or a pair of small screwdrivers, often considered a handy tool, can be invaluable.
Screwdrivers are available in the following designs:
- Flat head blade screwdrivers
- Parallel blade or T-Shape blade screwdrivers
- Phillips or Crosshead screwdrivers
A set of quality files is an imperative addition to any model railway toolkit. With their cutting surface covered in small sharp ridges, files are utilised to grind down and shape materials like plastic, wood, glass, and metal - ideal for reshaping or eliminating excess objects or smoothing out rough edges.
There are several files to consider for diverse applications:
Diamond File - Comprising diamond particles as the abrasive, diamond files are typically used for ultra-precise filing needs due to their extremely hard properties. They can effortlessly shave off even the hardest materials, making them an excellent choice for detailed work, ensuring fine finishes and precision.
Steel File – A steel file, often made of high-grade carbon or alloyed steel, is widely used due to its durability and versatility. This file type is perfect for working on harder materials and comes in various shapes for specific tasks - flat for broad surfaces, round for enlarging round holes, and half-round for flat and curved surfaces.
Vallorbe File – Known for their superior quality and precision, Vallorbe files, named after their region of manufacturing in Switzerland, are revered tools in detailed handiwork. They are acclaimed for their sharpness, precision, and durability, making them a favoured choice among professionals. A Vallorbe file is particularly suitable for fine detail work in model railway designs, providing the precision and finesse that are often required.
Ensure to choose a file that conforms to your comfortability, grasp, and specific task requirements. Remember, a file is more than just a tool; it's an extension of your craft.
Model trains thrive on their electrical connections, and taking care of this electrical work is a task that requires precision and safety. Heat shrink tubing, bus wire strippers, a hot soldering iron, and wire cutters are essential tools in this category. Also, a multimeter aids immensely in troubleshooting.
Tools for maintenance like truck tuners, NMRA gauges for checking rail and wheel standards, hex keys, and spike removal pliers are vital to your toolkit. Still, you also need a good set of safety glasses, as working with small parts can unexpectedly fling debris around.
Diverse tools for diverse needs:
As you progress in your model railroading journey, your toolkit may change. For instance, when you graduate to power tools, things like a Dremel tool kit and a hand drill, sometimes called an Archimedes Drill, will help drill small holes.
It's always a good idea to have a few extras on hand, like replaceable blades for your hobby knives, extra track pins, or small nails for securing elements of your model railway layout. As an excellent example, look to Micro Engineering, which produces detailed and precise tools and models.
Overall, the right tool is often specific to the task, and having a broad selection ensures you can always use the correct device.
The 7mm scale or O Gauge is all about precision. Modellers must ensure that their reproductions mirror real-life proportions. Essential measurement tools include:
- Ruler and Tape Measure: Essential for obtaining accurate measurements.
- Calipers: They provide precise measurements of both inside and outside dimensions.
- Scale Rule: This tool aids modellers in creating real-size objects in scale accurately.
Adhesives and Binding Instruments
Several parts need assembling in railway modelling, including baseboards, tracks, buildings, and indicators. Modellers need sturdy yet adjustable binding hardware and adhesives for this.
- Wood Glue and Super Glue are perfect for bonding wood, plastic, or metal parts.
- Cement: G-S Hypo Cement
- Clamps and Vises: These hold the parts together until the adhesive sets.
Wiring and Electrical Equipment
In O Gauge, wiring and electronics are central to creating a dynamic, functional layout. Many model railroaders need to pay more attention to the importance of detailing tools in their model train tool kit.
- Soldering Iron: For secure, reliable connections between your hardware.
- Wire Cutters and Strippers: Facilitate quick, clean wire cuts and stress-free insulation removal.
- Multimeter: An essential debugging tool for checking continuity, voltage, and resistance in your circuits.
Painting and Finishing Tools
Details matter in railway modelling; painting and finishing are as significant as construction.
- Model Paints and Brushes: These are the core tools needed to add life to your model.
- Airbrush: For larger models, an airbrush ensures even, professional-looking coats of paint.
- Masking Tape: It is essential to create neat paint edges and protect areas from overspray.
- Micro-Mesh Soft Touch sanding pads: Smooth any rough areas and leave a professional finish.
- Polywatch: Scratch remover paste for plastics and resins
A fine sable hair paintbrush and model paint can help you create realistic effects, especially on delicate pieces like figurines and structures. An easy way to keep your hand steady during this light work is to use a hobby vice.
The important thing is to remember that this hobby combines fun with the precision and dedication required in model building. As you gain experience as a model railroader, you'll invariably find that single tool that feels like an extension of your hand or that indispensable tool you had never even considered initially.
If you need advice on the best tools for each task or tips on using them, please ask us at Eternal Tools, or head to Gauge 0 Guild. The community there is welcoming and offers insight garnered over years of enjoying electric locomotives, model kits, and all aspects of the model railroad hobby.
Remember, safety comes first. Patience and fun are mandatory in this rewarding hobby. Happy model railroading!