As a model railroader learns new skills and techniques, new tools will follow. The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to acquire good tools. As you get more involved working on your model trains and building your own structures, you’ll want to pick up a few basic tools. Your local hobby shop or craft store can help you find what you need.
1. Basic tools for your model workbench. As you begin building models, you’ll find a good hobby knife to be your most valuable investment. The blades and holders are widely available and inexpensive. Using a fresh blade every time you start a new project will make your work go quickly. A razor saw is another great tool that will let you cut through a variety of hard materials with precision, including wood, plastic, and some metals. A set of jeweler’s screwdrivers and needle files will come in handy during model assembly. A pair of small pliers as well as tweezers will help you handle delicate parts.
2. Glue: Strong stuff. There are many brands of model cement for plastics out there. Avoid the smelly, goopy stuff that comes in a tube, and instead use the kind of liquid model cement or solvent that you apply with a small brush. You don’t need to use a lot of cement when you are bonding plastic to plastic, so use it sparingly! Plain old white (PVA) glue is best for bonding porous materials, such as paper, cardboard, and wood. Make sure to replace the cap of your glue when it is not in use so it won’t dry out. Make sure your work area is properly ventilated when working with solvents.
3. Paints and weathering. At some point you’ll want to paint and customize your model railroad equipment. There are special paints formulated to work specifically with plastics that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with. They can be applied with a brush or an airbrush. Some are available as spray cans. Always work in a ventilated area when you are painting. If spraying, keep the spray can or airbrush moving past the edges of the model to avoid pooling. Very convincing weathering effects can be had by applying crushed pastel chalks to your models with a brush. The results can be sealed in with a light spray coat of clear lacquer. Photos of real trains can be your guide on how to paint and weather your models. Like any skill, practice makes perfect!