DeWinton Station Garden Railway



Helpful Tips and Tricks for Model Railways

Helpful tips and tricks I have learned...please refer to the Newsletter section in the sidebar links for many more ideas with how to instructions.

1. An automatic water level sensor and valve: Have you ever considered hooking up an old toilet tank top to the garden water supply? It is an easy way to maintain the operating level in your pond features: the floating ball valve within the tank will allow water to enter, but only when the supply pond level drops from evaporation or a loss of volume created when you begin to operate the pumps.

The principle is simple in that water will find its own level. With the tank sitting in the lowest supply pond, with the stopper valve removed from within the tank: position the ball at the desired water level. When the water level lowers, so does the floating ball valve, thus, opening the supply line. Once the water level again returns to capacity the valve automatically shuts off, thus stopping the flow.

2. Make a realistic all weather tile roof for your buildings: Available in hobby and craft stores are plastic sheets that resemble a Mexican style clay tile roofing material, (Look in the building a dollhouse section). These sheets are relatively easy to work with; individual rows can be cut for ridge tops and edging trim.

The secret to making this look realistic is to then paint the entire roof with a granite or hard rock paint, the type used for exterior concrete repair. Apply the gritty paint into any cracks as though it was a cement mortar. This paint product also will double as exterior stucco for the sides of buildings, or just a durable weather seal on the rooftop of any building. Tinting can be requested and added to make any colour required.

3. Build your own flashing rail crossing sign: Surely you have considered making a flashing crossing signal to support the entrance to your layout or to caution visitors as they are about to walk over some track work. I have found the simplest way to co-ordinate or to synchronize the alternating lights is to purchase at an electronics wholesaler: a 12v DC Multi-purpose timer #6062 by Altronix (instructions included). Check their web site for the dealer nearest you at or e-mail:

Use your imagination to create a realistic looking shade cover, I cut out a section of a 5 gal plastic pail with the double rings near the top lip and used two sided round truck signal lights 4-6” from an automotive supplier. You will have to purchase two extra red lenses to replace the amber ones that come with the lights that were designed to be visible from the front view.

4. Protecting raised roadbed materials: Because I live in Alberta, Canada (elev. 3500’ with severe snow and frost conditions) I decided to elevate my track work. First by placing treated 6” posts deep into the ground along the routing of the proposed rail lines. I then determined elevations and cut the posts to height with a reciprocating saw (or chainsaw). Then spanning the posts with treated 2x6” lumber, now I then left this to settle for two years before intending on placing the finishing layers.

Note: - I temporarily placed track on this framework and ran trains while I then worked on some of the other aspects of the scenery and garden. I have now picked up the track finished the roadbed, this process consisted of covering the 2x6” framework with a layer of 3/4” plywood, which can be shaped and shimmed underneath, if required for alignment and finally by covering the entire surface with an ice and water shield over the raised decks and rolled roofing material on the open stretches. This way the wooden substructure will withstand extreme moisture conditions such as being buried in the snow for months at a time, I did mention I lived in Canada- Eh!

Track has now been reapplied and ballast can be added so the water will now runoff and fall off the sides and into the garden. This procedure may sound complicated and pricey, but so is the alternative of not doing it right the first time around and then having to tear up the layout and to start over!

More tips:

Building a G-scale Stationary Operating Platform and Carrying Case

Please forward any helpful tips that you would like us to consider for publication on this site, or for further clarification on any of my tips, send an e-mail to Barrie at or call 403-680-7061.

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