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I was reflecting on some of my recent restorations and thought it would be helpful to share some tips and tricks. I have read many on the forum, so I am sure others can contribute to this list. These are meant to be a little non-standard, since there is plenty to read on the mainstream ways to repair old trains.

On my recent restoration, I broke the end off a hand railing. Without the end, the railing can't be mounted from the back by bending the tab part of the railing. You can buy replacement railings at several places, but I had already placed and received the order for this restoration. Ordering just a railing for a dollar would incur several times that in shipping charges. So, for the frugal (and impatient) I solved my problem with this tip... I used some solder. Solder bonds well to soft nickel railings. I put a little on the end of the railing I broke off. Using gravity and a pair of needle nose pliers, I pulled the end of the railing up and away from the tip of the soldering iron. This extruded about a quarter inch of solder from the end. Once the solder was cool, I was able to mount the railing. I had to pinch the solder a bit with my pliers to get it to fit through the slot on the tinplate engine. I was then able to melt the solder just a little on the back side to keep the railing from pulling out.

I have also broke tabs of tinplate parts. I now heat the tabs with a soldering iron before unbending them or rebending them. This keeps them from breaking. For the ones that broke, I have two methods that worked relatively well. One method was to use a thin piece of tin that I cut with hobby scissors to the size of a tab. I was able to glue the new tab to the old tinplate with JB Weld. Clamping is required. JB Weld takes a long time to cure to full strength, so it is best to wait 48 hours. I was then able to mount the tinplate part as though the original tab was there. On another part, I was able to use a small piece of black, double-sided, hobby mounting tape. This held the tinplate body to the frame effectively where I was missing a tab. It is not very noticeable and is a pretty strong, but not permanent bond.

One last tip for this post, use Evapo-Rust to remove rust from old trains. I find mine at Harbor Freight. It works better than you can imagine! If the rust is mostly on the surface and has not eaten through the metal, the part can definitely be saved.

A couple of things I would like to hear from others: Has anyone successfully used car bondo to repair and restore badly deteriorated tinplate? Also, has anyone chemically re-blackened old tinplate trucks and wheels (I have a few sets of wheels where the blacking has been lost due to rust removal)?

Thanks for reading!


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Hi George,

  Nice idea for a combines my love of tinplate/prewar steam switchers along with my love of trying to be frugal! I say "trying" because I sometimes buy basket cases and the last one needed lots of repairs which was a whole separate thread. 

  One of those locomotives, a #230 had some prior abuse where the headlight had a chunk missing. My friend and I used Bondo to rebuild that headlight's housing. The housing also has a raised rim around it so it was a fairly involved repair, but the Bondo worked great and with being patient and some sandpaper, it was pretty easy. I think we inserted a pencil at one point to keep the round shape needed for the headlight housing to allow the headlight lens to be installed later.  The repair came out so well, you cannot tell there was work done on it. 

  You also mentioned JB Weld. That stuff is great and should be on everyone's workbench. I've used it to attach marker lights and to attach a homemade cab step made out of copper and JB Weld. 


Last edited by PRR8976

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