Recommended Tools for Working on a Model Train Set

By: Kanooga


A model train set toolkit should be well-organized and contain a plethora of tools. A small toolbox or plastic container with a lid and handle will allow you to move your toolbox around the track or train area as needed. A gardener bag with pockets on the outside and a large interior is another good idea for a toolkit holder.

Include several rags or a roll or two of paper towels in your toolkit. The rags are useful for cleaning up spills, wiping brushes, or dusting the tracks. Washable rags may be less expensive overall.

Needle nose pliers are used for holding items that need cutting and bending. You can also hold wires and small pieces of scenery in place while joining or gluing them. The pliers should be 6” to 8” in length. Wire cutters at the end will be helpful.

A hobby hammer is much smaller than a regular household hammer and allows you to get in between train track rails and other small places. You will probably want both a ballpeen and footed hammer.

An X-Acto type knife is needed for trimming scenery, placing glue in place, and a myriad of other activities. Be sure to get at least a medium-duty as it will hold up longer. Rubber grips will provide a cushion for your fingers if you will be doing a lot of cutting and trimming.

A rail nipper looks similar to a pair of flat-topped pliers and is used to cut model train tracks. The cutting edge is square, which allows you to cut very close to the track. The best length is about 6-1/2” long.

An assortment of small screwdrivers is needed for your model train set. You will need Phillips screwdrivers in sizes #1 and #0, and standard screwdrivers in both 1/16” and 1/8”. Magnetized ends are helpful to pick up small parts that drop during construction and additions to your track.

Tweezers will be useful for detail work, building scenery, and putting together buildings and structures. You can pick up tweezers at any store, but you might consider a curved set so you can get inside small places.

Clamps, such as rubberbands, alligator clips, or small v-blocks are needed when gluing together model train assemblies. Use an old cookie sheet to store your work while it’s drying – the sheet will prevent glue from sticking to paper and creating more clean-up later.

Paintbrushes in small sizes are best because much of your detail painting is on a small scale. A good hobby shop or craft center has an array of paintbrushes; pick up an assortment in sizes 2, 3, 4, and 10. Look for round brushes with a good tip.

Filing tools are needed to remove leftover plastic or metal from your buildings and train cars. Get an assortment of about eight to ten files to start; you can add more later. Sandpaper will also be necessary when building track layout boards as you will want to be sure the surface is smooth. A sanding block or electric sander can make your job easier.

Solder iron is useful when you are doing any amount of wiring. There are corded and cordless models. It is recommended to find a solder iron with a fine tip so you can get into those tight wiring places.

Scissors are needed for cutting and trimming. Pick up several pairs ranging in size from small tips to larger tips for cutting track covering. A bent tip allows for precision cutting.

A lighted magnifying glass is useful when working with extremely small parts. A bench magnifier with either a moveable or fixed base allows you to use both of your hands for your work.

Power tools, such as drills and saws, are nice for cutting boards and drilling holes for wiring. A miter box cuts perfect corners and a cordless drill allows you to move the drill wherever you need it.

Finally, be sure to get an NMRA gage for your model train set. Match the gage to your model train size. This gage allows you to check your tracks and switches for proper sizing of your model train parts. You use the gage to check and make adjustments to your train tracks and wheels.

Finally, it is recommended to always wear safety glasses when working with power tools, sanding, or cutting any items that may fly into your face.

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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about model train. Click here to download our free train set guidebook filled with hobby tips, ideas and information.

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