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Cheapskate model railroading

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Cheapskate model railroading
Posted by drgwcs on Friday, December 28, 2018 9:58 AM

 Sometimes we can use cheap household things to scratchbuild on our layout. Inspired by the Great Model Railway Challenge- (If you haven't seen that it's on youtube) what ordinary things have you used on your layout? Doing so is a way to keep the costs down and save money to but that pricier engine that is on our want list. (Please do not let this become a hobby is too expensive thread) I have found a lot of unconventional things to use on the layout.

I'll start this off- oil tanks- these are made from PVC pipe couplings and caps. Scribe some weld lines, add a reefer hatch on top and signs- these are from a tin sign catalog. I also had a small gas distributor that was made from some old 35 mm film cans.

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Posted by emdmike on Friday, December 28, 2018 10:22 AM

Looks great!   This is how it was done for many years before we had the multitude of kits on the market.  Back then, you created models from whatever you could find around the house or at the five and dime store.  Thanks for posting!     Mike

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, December 28, 2018 10:52 AM

For the last decade I have been writing the "Frugal Modeler" column in the NMRA Midwest Region "Waybill" on just this subject.  One article dealt with using the plastic from medicine chest items that would otherwise go into recycling: the innards of dental floss containers have short lengths of tube (culverts!) and a support that has a fabricated steel look once painted; deoderant containers have threaded rod and a "gear" as well as a case with interesting shapes.  I have made dragline shovel buckets from those shapes. 

The article is here:  

http://www.mwr-nmra.org/region/waybill/waybill20101spring.pdf

A friend who is diabetic gave me a plastic bag filled with plastic pieces associated with his insulin shots - things he'd otherwise throw away. 

I have made industrial roof vents from the caps to tubes of styptic pencils (for we who shave with blades) under the caps to the small plastic bottles of shampoo you get in motels and hotels.  The tubes themselves have uses as do the tubes from mascara brushes (brushes used by my spouse I hasten to add).  

Packages of dowels and sticks from a craft store (true, not "free" but very cheap especially if you have a 40% or 50% off coupon) provide the raw materials for a variety of projects that are certainly cheaper than using "scale lumber."  My Frugal Modeler article gave the dimensions to the sticks and dowels in N, HO and O:

http://www.mwr-nmra.org/mwr2016/mwr-images/waybillfiles/waybill20112summer.pdf

An upcoming Frugal Modeler (if I get off my duff and take the photos and write it up that is) will deal with uses for the leftover bits of wood that result from building a laser cut kit.  For example if the kit includes a stairway stringer that you punch out and use, that means there is another "free" stringer left behind waiting to be cut out.  That sort of thing.  

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by cedarwoodron on Friday, December 28, 2018 11:03 AM

I recall one of the installments of the old Boys Life Ho model railroad project where metal coffee cans were used to create Mobil Oil storage tanks. That was long before the availability of pvc pipe parts at home stores (which were 15 years in the future back then- 1964). I have used small 3/4 inch pvc connectors and end caps to make small propane tanks and other loads for flat and gondola cars. I use the two can pvc glue and then sand the connections flush with 400 and 600 grit garnet paper. Once smooth, a primer coat and a flat white coat give a great result for a project that costs less than $5- assuming you have the pvc glue on hand.

Cedarwoodron

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Posted by MapGuy42 on Friday, December 28, 2018 11:36 AM

I used mechanical pencil lead as a pipe handrail on a bridge. I use paperclip wire for turnout throw rods. Two popsicle sticks sandwiched together, and capped with a couple of strips of card stock = I-beam (for that same bridge).

And who doesn't horde the plastic centers of Scotch tape rolls?

This hobby is as cheap as you want it to be, if you're patient and creative.

-Donn

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:01 PM

Frugal, eh?  I sure get that.  All of "tanks" and "silos" in these two pictures were made from PVC pipe.

And all of the piping was made from spues.

Great stuff Dave.  Thanks for sharing!

Mike.

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Posted by NittanyLion on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:18 PM

I wanted to make a pipe load for a gondola and found a bunch of straws in a drawer. It turns out they measured out to "close enough" to the A53 specs for 20 inch OD.  I have no idea where the straws came from, so that's pretty much free in my book.

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:58 PM

    When you stay at the hospital they give you a bunch of plastic stuff when you leave. I’m sure they charge you some super expensive price for the items but since you have them why not use them. One of the items is a device which they use to test the strength of your breathing. It looked like some kind of silo to me so I painted it and put it next to my plastics factory.
High Desert Plastics
    Also in the picture are fuel tanks recovered from an old large scale truck model, and trees from a medieval board game.
    Another item I have used was flat wooden box which was the perfect height for a loading dock. And I have also made some background buildings from discarded toys.
    Speaking of toys, I always check the toy section of department stores just in case they have an item I might be able to use. Those Model Power/Malibu International LTD passenger cars (pictured above) which sell on eBay for $5-10 each were originally only $1 at Walmart when they were new.
    Other toys I have used were made by MicroMachines like these motorcycles.
Mmmm! Scooter Trash!!!!
    I have also used Road Champs diesel trucks which I bought in a Christmas giftpack for less than the price of a scale model truck. I cut off the 'hot wheels' and replaced them with scale rims and tires from A-line  and added other detail parts.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by MapGuy42 on Friday, December 28, 2018 1:11 PM

Spent or broken matchsticks = scale lumber or "close enough" ties in HO.

All kinds of products are packaged in various densities of foam that can be carved into rocks, shaped into bridge abutments or walls, or broken up into some kind of gondola load or scenery material.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, December 28, 2018 1:15 PM

In Dave's post, with links to his Frugal Modeler column, he covers match sticks with some great pictures.

Mike.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:11 PM

I use black and green drinking straws and the smaller black cocktail stirrers for pipe loads. 

I buy these off e-Bay.

Larry

SSRy

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:16 PM

I found a lot of neat stuff in the grandkid's LEGO box

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, December 28, 2018 2:28 PM

IIRC, there was an article, not too long ago, about a working overhead door, and I think he used Lego parts for the operating mechanisms.

Mike.

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Posted by drgwcs on Friday, December 28, 2018 3:01 PM

UNCLEBUTCH

I found a lot of neat stuff in the grandkid's LEGO box

Good point- another one that I was going to mention was an L shaped lego piece that is exactly the right size and shape for a diner booth. When two of these are glued back to back they make a table. They are perfect in size for HO booths and figures fit perfect on them.  Happened upon these when in the Lego Store with our youngest. They have a display with loose Legos where you can fill a bucket. He got a bucket that day with the condition that Dad needs to get a lot of these parts.....  Surprisingly you can order Lego parts

Here are links to those if anyone is interested

Corner piece- https://brickset.com/parts/4610290/corner-wall-element-2x2

Double corner- https://brickset.com/parts/6135529/wall-double-corner-1x2x1

Longer section booth seat- https://brickset.com/parts/6139694/wall-1x3x1

Booth seat- https://brickset.com/parts/6146215/wall-element-1x2x1

Corner- https://brickset.com/parts/6181753/wall-element-2x2-corner

 This is a little fuzzy because of the windows but here is a view

 

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Posted by drgwcs on Saturday, December 29, 2018 7:16 PM

Scrapbooking

The scrapbooking aisle can be a great source of items for the layout. Here you can find papers suitable for flooring and wallpaper and even window curtains. Generally you can find checkerboard patterns and mable looking papers for floors. Here is one example- I haven't added interior details yet.

There are many other uses too- There are some more offbeat papers. I ran across one that looked about the same size and pattern of brick in HO. It wouldn't work for foreground but I just needed it on the side of a foamcore sided building (Magnuson flat as a front) that almost butted up against another building. There was another one that would work for roofing- corregations a little large in HO but would work for O or standing seam in HO. I used some corregated matboard with some scribing to simulate a Spanish tile roof. That is on the station here.

Don't overlook the sticker section in scrapbooking- sometimes you can find advertising materials suitable for billboards even. I have seen a 3D Coke bottle sticker that would work for that for example.

Jim

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, December 29, 2018 7:50 PM

I have a 27 gallon tote that I have thrown hundreds of everyday items into that I will use on the layout "someday".

.

While not a layout, on my photo table I use all kinds of things for props. The parking lot under Bob's Store is a piece of scrapbooking paper, and the field under the barn is a sheet of gravel paper for a birdcage.

.

Cheap things work as props in photographs.

.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by cedarwoodron on Sunday, December 30, 2018 1:04 AM

It does bear mentioning, however, that with regard to plastic materials, I have encountered a lot of stuff I would like to hold onto for making use of as loads and parts of structures that is of the acetal plastic family- the Delrin stuff you can't glue too easily. Certain tablet containers (for dissolvable antacuds,etc) are made of this stuff. You can use double stick foam on it but it peels easily; you can use mechanical fasteners (screws) but how to hide them; sanding the surfaces sometimes helps with glue adhesion- but not always. I have become more "discriminating" with plastics lately- if it's styrene or a cousin, fine, but the Delrin stuff I generally toss in the recycle can. 

With respect to used electronics, I'm always willing to get out my small tools to break down old stuff- gears, springs, small drive motors and such provide a bountiful "harvest" of potentially useful parts- as loads or to be reworked in remotoring projects. 

Cedarwoodron

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, December 30, 2018 3:57 AM

The horizontal tanks are plastic rolls from telescript-writer paper, while the vertical ones (there are three) are cardboard tubes from other office-machine paper.  I used a pounce wheel to add some rivet detail to some .005" sheet styrene, then glued it around the tubes...

...plastic bodies from nightlights as heavy castings...

More plastic tubes from telescript writer paper...

...copper scrap load from open frame motors (I remotored a number of brass locos for a friend, using new can motors, then tore the old ones apart)...

The parts from the armatures makes some industrial-looking scrap, too...

How about some high-tech and expensive processing machinery for GERN Industries...

...built from left-over panels from a tri-level autocarrier, and some bits from an MDC Shay.

The standpipe on the left is from a Tichy kit, while the one on the right is scratchbuilt except for the spout, which is from Grandt Line.  It's a bit longer than the Tichy one, so better-suited to serving two tracks.  The balance of it is made from stuff in the "junk" box, with the tapered base the tip holder from a Bic pen...

Here's one of the long spouts, in service on a double-tracked curve.  Its water supply is from the partially visible tank to the right...

...which is made from a large, thick cardboard tube - don't recall its previous use.  It's sheathed with thin styrene, and sits atop a pumphouse made from MDC wall sections from a 3-in-1 kit.

Here's a better view of another one, one of three similar ones...

You can't get much cheaper than "free", and that's what this Tichy coaling tower was...

...however, I did have to build it...and another for the friend who supplied both kits.

This derelict locomotive was free, too, a gift from one of my father's friends.  It never ran well, but makes an interesting scene...

This scratchbuilt turntable was almost free, too.  It's made from a block of wood, with girders cut from two Atlas through girder bridges off the LHS's "used" table - two bucks apiece.  The track is Atlas flex, with the ties connecting portions removed and scale lumber (which I was going to throw away) inserted between the plastic ties.  They support the walkway deck, also almost scrap lumber, while the handrails are leftovers from Athearn diesels, plus some  piano wire.  The turntable is finger-powered, and rotates on the beater shaft from an electric hand mixer....

The operator's shack is made from styrene scraps from other projects.

Wayne

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, December 30, 2018 10:53 AM

cedarwoodron

with regard to plastic materials, I have encountered a lot of stuff I would like to hold onto for making use of as loads and parts of structures that is of the acetal plastic family- the Delrin stuff you can't glue too easily. 

Cedarwoodron 

Yes a good point that applies to a number of the "medicine chest" plastic containers I mention above.  They don't take all glues or cements, nor do they take all paints.  (Nor does styrene's wonderful "score and snap" property work with them.)

On the positive side the lacquers that attack styrene seem OK to use. 

I have found some liquid nails products that so far seem to work OK with these shiny plastics that are not styrene nor styrene-like.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, December 30, 2018 3:06 PM

Train shows.  I get all sorts of stuff, locomotives, rolling stock, structures, track, power packs, signals, decals, paint, everything, at a small fraction of list price.  Look the show up on line.  Go to the ones that are not too far away.  Come home loaded with good stuff cheap. 

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Posted by drgwcs on Sunday, December 30, 2018 9:09 PM

dstarr

Train shows.  I get all sorts of stuff, locomotives, rolling stock, structures, track, power packs, signals, decals, paint, everything, at a small fraction of list price.  Look the show up on line.  Go to the ones that are not too far away.  Come home loaded with good stuff cheap. 

 

That is for sure- it is amazing the deals that I have found at train shows. I found a couple of Brass locomotives that needed work one for 25 and another for 40. I found a hobbytown E-5 for $2 that needed a paint job and a little work. Found several stuctures too. Two other sources for deals are antique malls and estate sales. Both can be either high or low on pricing. I found several proto tank cars and a brass tank car for 6-8 each at an antique mall. I have found several deals at estate sales including some campbell buildings and a Pensy passenger set. Strangely these were good deals but junk at the same sales were priced really high. Jim

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Posted by drgwcs on Monday, December 31, 2018 9:29 PM

A neat easy and cheap way to make concrete roads. This is "fun foam" intended for childrens crafts. It comes in sheets about 12x18" and has a great concrete-like texture for less than a buck. Glue it down with some tacky glue and scribe lines with an exacto knife. Jim

PS: a couple of other cheapo things here- the "Indian pottery" are beads and the rugs are computer printed and hung on a freight car ladder. The curio building itself is an out of production musket miniatures solid cast building.

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Posted by Medina1128 on Tuesday, January 01, 2019 8:41 AM

I thought ALL model railroaders were "cheapskates". I know I never throw anything away, thinking "this will come in handy for <fill in the blank>".

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Tuesday, January 01, 2019 10:46 AM

The Route of the Broadway LION is well knwon for cheap improv...

Even the Helix is modeled as part of the subway tunnel. Here is an emergency exit...

 

 

ROARING

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by Eilif on Tuesday, January 01, 2019 12:46 PM

Lots of good stuff on this thread.

Cheapskate Model Railroading pretty much describes my entire approach to the hobby and it's refelected on my blog.

I take a bit of a different tack in regards to junk-resusal. I've built alot of wargamign terrain from houshold junk, contstruction castoffs and broken toys.  For railroading I still save bits of household junk for building detailing, but here in Chicago we're blessed with quite a few good train shows. I've found that junk-lots for rolling stock, structures and terrain are plentiful and cheap. So much so that if one is patient (and good at cutting things up with a razor saw and/or dremel) much of what one might formerly have tried to fabricate can be hacked and reassembled from junk and leftover models.  The added beneift is that junk and leftover parts already have so much of the finer detailing that you'd otherwise have to fabricate or do without.

I do buy alot of Matchbox trucks and equipment.  Lots of them are spot on for HO and a buck is hard to beat, especially if you're tolerant of not-quite perfect wheels. I've been blogging scale comparison pictures of them. 

 

Visit the Chicago Valley Railroad for Chicago Trainspotting and Budget Model Railroading. 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, January 01, 2019 1:12 PM

I like your work with Matchbox vehicles.  I just checked out your blog.

Gave me some ideas.

My grandson has boxs of the smaller Maisto cars and trucks, and most of those seam too big.  I'm going to check into Matchbox.

Mike.

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Posted by drgwcs on Tuesday, January 01, 2019 5:09 PM

Here's your sign....

We all need period advertisements on our layouts. I do use billboards from Barr Mills, Blair Line and Miller Eng. We all want something different than what everyone else has though. Tomcat had a ton of different ones that he posted, I have also made ones up on the computer or with a labelmaker.

I do have another source that would be considered free or a bonus though. I managed a hardware store several years back and we carried tin signs from a company called Desperate Enterprises. (and Kool Collectables which I think is now defunct) I must have ordered a couple of thousand of them. With every order they included a free catalog. I used the catalogs to inventory but would save some as the prints of the tin signs were perfect HO billboard size. There were also some smaller ones too that would work in N.  They work great on a blank building wall too. The Cambells soup one is from one of these catalogs. (as well as the one to the right but the flash glared it out.) The Coke sign on the top Left is a plastic fridge magnet. The Desperate magnets would make great billboards on their own. 

Below the ones on the brick building on the Left are from the desperate catalog and the Nichol Cola one is from the Kool catalog.

If you build a simple frame you get a nice billboard. Building signs can be a creative outlet. There are some of 3d scrapbooking stickers that can work to make parts of billboards too- I have seen some Coke ones in them. (For my conscience in this please just don't do this for the free catalog- they do have some nice signs I have a several of them- they do have some train signs too) Jim

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 7:47 AM

The frugality here is awesome! My minor contribution is using cleaned takeout contains as storage containers or for paint.  Why waste the plastic?

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Posted by Eilif on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 8:52 AM

mbinsewi

I like your work with Matchbox vehicles.  I just checked out your blog.

Gave me some ideas.

My grandson has boxs of the smaller Maisto cars and trucks, and most of those seam too big.  I'm going to check into Matchbox.

Mike. 

Thanks for visiting and I'm glad you found it usefull.

    One other tip I don't know if I've put on the blog yet is that just taking abit of black paint (I use a paint pen) and painting over unrealistic shiny rims can take the focus off them and make even larger-than-scale wheels look fine from a distance.

Visit the Chicago Valley Railroad for Chicago Trainspotting and Budget Model Railroading. 

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Posted by joe323 on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 8:54 AM

Matchbox trucks (Not Cars) with appropriate Detailing/weathering work well and are much cheaper than so - called scale trucks  I also use cake frosting containers as oil storage tanks.   

Joe Staten Island West 

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