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See your ideas in FDT's weekly emails!

Factory Direct Trains services a myriad of expert and creative modelers who have a wealth of knowledge to share with the model railroading community. Here, you modelers can share your best original tips with fellow model railroaders. If your tip is chosen for publication in one of our emails, we'll send you a $25 gift certificate to FDT and recognize you in the email by name and home town!

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Previous Winning Reader Tips
The contributors of the winning tips below have each received a $25 FDT Gift Certificate and have had their great ideas published in FDT's weekly emails!

Published in FDT email on: Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010

Tip #5: Soldering Heatsink 

When soldering, it helps to have a heatsink of some type to draw heat way from the area where your current soldering is taking place--this keeps neighboring solder joints from softening and parting. I use a pair of metal "clamping" tweezers on the connecting metal between an old joint and the current soldering target. The tweezers become a heat sink instead of my other joints! Works every time.

--John Nelson
Rainier, WA

Published in FDT email on: Monday, Jan 25, 2010

Tip #4: Easy Signs and Movie Posters
I make my own period signage, movie posters and billboards by using the images from websites that sell antique and reproductions of these items. Sellers know the images online are too small to enlarge full size with any quality, but the images are perfect for reduction to your train scale.

First, I do a Google "image" search for "antique signs", "old ads" or "movie posters" to see everything that's available. You can search a particular product if you want something specific. Copy and paste the images using a photo or paint program on your computer, then scale them down for the location you plan to use them.

I place dozens of them on a single 8-1/2x11 sheet, including several duplicates, leaving room to trim them out. Save the file as a jpeg or tiff file onto a disk or flash drive. Have it printed out using a color laser copier at the quick copy center for best appearance. (Inkjet printers don't usually hold the detail very well.) Ask to see what type of paper is available before printing: A harder surface paper usually gives the best quality for small images.

Trim and glue the signs in store windows, on walls, and on roadside billboards. A color copy is usually less than a dollar and can yield hundreds of signs.

--Don Consolver
Valrico, Florida

Published in FDT email on: Monday, Jan 18, 2010

Tip #3: Natural Headlight Color

Some locomotives come with headlights that are too  blue/white for my taste. And it can sometimes be hard to find prototypical replacement LED colors at your local electronics store. But there is a solution!

The bright-white LEDs' blue/white color can be turned a more natural yellowy/orange color by using Tamiya model paints Clear Orange.

You can either brush the paint onto your LEDs, (make sure you get the very end) or simply hold the cathode and anode end and dip it into the open paint jar. Then place these into a piece of styrene foam until dry.

--Simon Brown
Melbourne, Australia

Published in FDT email on: Saturday, Jan 16, 2010

Tip #2: Free Grab Irons & Cut Levers

I model in N scale and have had a heck of a time installing wire grabs and cut levers. I don't know how many dollars worth of wire and etched parts I've lost. Then it came to me: Use those twist ties that come with trash bags!

By removing the paper/plastic coating, a nice sturdy piece of wire is revealed. When bent using tweezers and small pliers, then cut to size, you have great looking cut levers, grab irons, and handrails. Make a mistake? Bend and cut another. The price is sure right!

Once painted and mounted, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between purchased parts and the homemade ones.

--Steven Howard
Owatonna, Minnesota

Published in FDT email on: Tuesday, Jan 11, 2010

Tip #1: Keep Your Drivers Handy

Whenever I work on my locomotives or rolling stock and I need to use a number of small screwdrivers, I simply get a small block of styrofoam (2"x1"x1") and poke each screwdriver into the styrofoam vertically.

This way, I am not searching for what I did with each particular screwdriver and it will not roll away or fall on the floor.

It also lets me easily see what sizes I have available. I also do this with small drill bits and pin vises too.

--Sam Edge
Franklin, Tennessee

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