Passenger Car Techniques

I have collected a number of passenger car modeling techniques for various sources and am sharing them here. Some of the individual techniques apply to more than one area so they are listed in pages for both areas.

Where possible, I have included the name and sometimes the email address of the contributor so you can contact the contributor if you wish. I have not tested the email addresses, so they may be out of date.

Do you have passenger car tips or techniques to share? Email them to me using the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Window Glass
Don’t use super glue (cyanoacrylate) for this, as it will fog the window material. White glue, like Elmer’s, will work, though it does not really stick well to plastic, and you may have to reapply the window to the model from time to time. For a more permanent solution, go to a hobby shop that has model airplanes, and get some “canopy cement.” This is a glue that will attach the plastic window glass to a model while leaving the glass clear. The glue doesn’t know that it is being used on a train and not an airplane, and the merchant who sells it won’t care. -Frederick Monsimer

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You know, I realized a great way to make graffiti without buying those expensive decals. I use White-out (a correction pen), the finer the tip the better. I even made up a cool scene with this- I painted an HO car, parked it in front of a university, and put an angry teacher beside it, like one of his students painted it! -asparuh frangov (viper)

Instead of using windows included in a kit or making your own from styrene ( clear ) use Sobo glue. Take a plastic cup, and on the bottom pour some Sobo glue. Take a toothpick and spread a little around the edges of the opening. Then, taking as much as you can, spread it over the window, making sure to keep it level. Let it dry overnight and it will be clear and look like a real window!!! -Paul Spilman

Commuter Train
I found that for a commuter train, one good way is to buy some Athearn round roof Heavyweight coaches (Not Clearstory roof- they look too old) and repaint them Floquil Coach Green. A switcher will do for older layouts- I use an S-12. It can be a local railroad (mine’s B&O), or a private commuter line. Remember- Commuter engines seldom match the coaches. -Stephen

Kadee Height
When putting your own Kadee draft gear pocket on the Proto 2000 Northeastern (My example that I worked on) caboose, if you install the centering spring above the coupler, the coupler will ride too low. Therefore, you should put the centering spring UNDER the coupler to achieve a little more height. This is why one should ALWAYS test fit the coupler’s height before gluing or screwing the pocket together or to the frame! -Stephen

Pin Stripe
To do very fine pin striping on diesel engines, around signs, on storage tanks, and motor trucks or their trailers.

Go to a sewing center and select a color and size (diameter) of sewing thread that would best match the width of stripe needed. #60 cotton is the heaviest. It looks like the cable on a 200 ton wreck crane. Then thread is graduated on down to very fine silk which looks about like a one inch wide stripe, (.01148″ in HO) Cotton thread is ‘fuzzy’, so set up for alignment first, then the very last thing before you lay the thread in place, put a few drops of clear gloss or matte finish , as desired, on a corner of a rag and quickly draw a length of the thread through it and place on the item. Let dry the appropriate length of time. My father used a small camel hair brush to apply a ‘base’ of clear along the side of a passenger car, wiped the thread, placed the thread, set the weights and waited until the next day to trim off the excess.

Dad made a jig with 8p nails. Two along the length of the car, and one against the end. He nailed a block of wood at right angle (top to bottom) and far enough away to clear the couplers. One block on each end. These blocks were 1/8″ shorter than the car was wide. Using a straight edge, he marked where the ‘stripes’ were to go on top of these blocks then pushed a straight pin in both blocks at the marks. He did a black, red, black pattern laying the three threads side by side. It was impressive. Turn the car over and do the other side, the stripes will align and match. He tied a fishing weight on both ends (same weight each), on a length of thread that would allow about six inches to hang down on each end. Lay the first one against the pins, lower down to the car side, and let the weights hold it in place. Try this on scrap wood, you will find it easy. Visitors will wonder how you got such fine thin stripes. Enjoy !! -W.D. Wilson

Drill Bits
Some kits require the application of handrails and it is not allways possible or desirable to run out and buy a #76 drill bit. My solution was to take a pin, rough up one side of the head, insert it as straight as possible in a chuck and drill away. If you loose it no big deal, the sewing basket is full of them. I’ts worked well for me on my walthers caboses. -Tony Rosa

Kadee Springs
To keep Kadee knuckle springs from ever falling off your couplers, apply a tiny bit of CA-glue to one end of the spring before putting the spring on. This bonds the spring to either the knuckle or the coupler, but still allows the spring to freely compress. Use an X-Acto knife to put the springs in place. -Jeremy Kudlick

Kadee Springs
I can’t take credit for this as I saw it on another website. To keep those little bitty springs used for Kadee and Micro-Trains couplers from flying away, run a thread thru the spring until you get it placed. The thread can then be (carefully) pulled out. -Johnnie C. Scott

Good Seated Figures
If you build plastic airplane models be sure to save the pilot figures. The best castings make good seated figures, fishermen, and hoboes. Others can be glued inside of passenger cars to simulate seated passengers. -Jack Hanks

Applying Decals
Be sure to see Joe Czapiga’s The Art of Applying Decals on the How-To page.

Grabs and Hoses
Since I’m a blues guitarist, I’ve found that guitar strings make great grab irons and air hoses A set of medium gauge strings is about $8 bucks and it will last a longggggg time. There are 6 asst sizes from .046 to .010 They’re good for locos, pax, and frt cars as well. I’ve used some of the larger ones for maintenance facility hose and piping. Enjoy! -Ted Tyson Sr

Do you have passenger car tips or techniques to share? Email them to me using this contact form: