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Complete finescale novice

23175 Views 44 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  celticwardog
Ok guys,

I am thinking of a small 4MM finescale layout, but I have a few questions...

which is easier to convert, steam or diesel?

where is the best place to get wheels, or does Alan Gibson make P4 or EM?

can most RTR models be converted, or are there some that cannot be done? same with wagon and coaches?

Sorry if I sound a bit slow...

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Hi Sean, you don't say to what standard you are planning to model.

I agree with Cameron.

Here are some links for you to have a look at: and

00FS has finer standards that bog standard 00, EM looks good and P4 looks even better with dead scale standards. The work and expense required goes up as the standards rise.

I am in the planning phase to go EM.

Now you've shown me up, I didn't know about that. I thought DOGA was THE place for 00FS. Thanks.

That sounds about right Cameron. The standards seem to reduce running clearance (standard 00 is 0.5mm) between wheel and rail although the flangeways are still 1 mm (same as DOGA Fine and EM). I don't see any dimensions (other than 16.2mm gauge) on the link you provided so I can't easily compare.

An interesting discussion Cameron, but maybe we should let Sean get a word in edgewise

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Sean, all that EM does is make the gauge a little closer to scale and fines things up. The models are still 4mm/ft.

As for track, I can recommend the following books: Iain Rices' Finescale Track and

Trax 2 (comes with a CD with a track template program) The instructions were good enough to allow me to make a double slip in code 100.

DVD: Terrific Track with Norman Soloman. It says sold out so you may have to do some checking around.

To start, I recommend making points using copperclad timbers. These don't have chair detail but, once painted and ballasted, look pretty good. You can get all the kit from C&L:

I would say you should use code 75 bullhead (BH) rail. For modern track, flatbottom rail is more common I think, code 82. Code 100 rail is too big IMO, so yes start from scratch. C&L do flex track, but as far as I can tell only in BH.

You'll need roller gauges at the very least. There are advanced gauges (a 3 point gauge is handy because it gives some gauge widening on curves) and jigs which can be sourced at EMGS so a good idea to join.

My advice is to take your time. Read up on the subject, collect the recommended tools, jigs, gauges etc. Make sure you have good soldering equipment. Your first tries may not be so great (mine weren't) but keep at it.

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Good point (pun alert!) about SMP Richard. I haven't used them for ready made points, having made my own copper clad ones. They are a viable alternative if, as you say, your budget can stretch that far and if, as discussed elsewhere, your skills aren't there yet. There's no harm in trying, hand made copper clad points cost only a pound or so for material. C&L sell ready made components, such as blades and crossings, as well.

One thing about the nickel silver rail is that C&L's HiNi (or some such) is a superior alloy and looks less yellow than other NS rail.

I got a job lot of SMP stuff a couple of weeks ago including a full pack of flex track and some kits. Tons of wooden sleepers and rivets as well.

I think the choice of steel vs NS is a comfort level thing. I did try steel quite some time ago (influenced by that chap Rice) but wasn't comfortable with the soldering. Things have moved on since then with better soldering products but now I have a large stock of NS rail.

My first successful efforts at points involved taking some old Peco code 100 points and remanufacturing with copper clad. I didn't bother salvaging the crossings because they were insulfrog. However, if one was to obtain some cheap Peco code 75 electrofrogs, it should be possible to do the same with these, including re-using the crossings.

I have invested in the more advanced gauges from EMGS.

Well, I'll wade in with my 2 cents.

It's my opinion that there's a progression to these things. Whether making points or improving the realism of our trains, I firmly believe you need to walk before you can run.

I learnt the trade on 00, making a decent layout a few years ago using Peco code 75. I then moved on to making points in copperclad - successfully (even a double slip
) which boosted my confidence no end. I have made several etched loco chassis so I am comfortable with

My next foray will be EM (whenever I get round to doing that

However EM and P4 are quite different systems despite being less than a mm apart. With EM, tolerances are finer than 00 but not dead scale. It is my belief that current RTR loco wheels will work on EM (the purists may disagree) - this reduces the cost (a steam loco wheelset from Ultrascale will run you around 70 pounds) and effort of conversion hugely. You HAVE to replace wheels with P4 - and usually rebuild the chassis (unless you can use the Easi Chas from Brassmasters)

At some point, I don't rule out doing something in P4. A mate of mine who has a very nice P4 layout, told me he regretted going P4 because it is a lot of bother.

So, Sean, you'll need to assess your goals and current skill set and get to grips with this. My only concern is if you try for that "bridge too far" you'll be disappointed.

Oh, as for the brass chairs, Cameron, those in your link appear to be lost wax brass. I have seen a system demonstrated in MRJ that has the builder folding up each and every chair from an etched fret (can't recall the supplier) - seems rather a lot of work to me, despite looking brilliant.

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Jim has a great point about diesels and P4. Making trackwork in EM, P4 or even 00 is about the same effort, with even finer flangeways for P4. For steam locos, I think the cost and effort becomes large in P4, having to re-source P4 standard wheels (not cheap at all
, in fact easily as much again as the original loco), although chassis can be reworked to retain the RTR mechanism (if that's acceptable and most are these days). Tim Shackleton did a conversion of a BR Standard 2-6-4 in MRJ 133 and 134. Very inspiring. Brassmasters continue to expand their range of Easi Chas kits for RTR locos - suitable for EM and P4. I have one for my Bachmann 3F that I'm itching to try.

I just made a test track on a 1' x 4' board on which I have put a single point and siding in 00 and EM.

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Sounds like you and I are on more or less the same wavelength Sean.

My test track is nothing to write home about:

Basically made from wood I had lying around, even the cork top is mismatched. Sides are 4" deep 1/2" crap both side ply. The track nearest the camera is EM, with a point I made from a SMP kit I had. I don't intend to use copper clad for the real layout, except maybe in the fiddle yard. The small Peco point is quite old and was insulfrog. I converted it to quasi electrofrog by excavating under the crossing and re wiring.

Track is loosely held down with pins (gasp!) for now. I will wire it another day.

I am extremely impressed with High Level. I plan to standardize on their gearboxes. I'm building a chassis with their CSB (Continuous Springy Beam) components at the moment (not because my EM locos need that, but it interests me).

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Thanks Sean.

My plan is to go the C&L/Exactoscale chaired route, copper clad looks good when painted and ballasted but I'm not happy about the lack of chairs.

My soldering has become more enjoyable since I got myself a Weller soldering station:

A bit dear but, if you plan to do a lot of soldering, well worth it. This unit reads back tip temperature. Rule of thumb (Tony Wright I think) - tip temperature should be twice the melting point of the solder).

I've also been using plumbers flux with my Carr's 145/188 and regular 60/40:

This is probably a brand you don't see in the UK, but I've been told Templer's Telux works well. It is a paste so can be applied with precision. It is not acidic either and there are no nasty fumes. I did a test joint over a week ago and didn't clean it. Last time I looked it was still shiny. My solder joints using phosphoric acid tend to go a dull grey.

I definitely plan to take a lot of pictures of the chassis build. I'm waiting for the body kit right now before continuing.

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I'm not familiar with the Marlins setup. I think everyone needs to find their comfort zone with modelling, there are certainly several ways to do it.

Chairs can make you go cross eyed for sure. I have most of the EMGS point jigs and gauges, now so I'm raring to go...once I figure out where

Brassmaster's 4F kit has provision for working inside valve gear, but if you have some good pictures and drawings you should be able to cobble up plausible cosmetic gubbins.

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Ah yes, Maplins, a name I have heard but not a place I have used.

The vee and blade jigs are not essential. You really should get some roller gauges and 3 point gauges (these give you gauge widening on curves).

I have Templot downloaded but never really got to grips with it. I have had success making templates using Trax 2, a good book and basic track planning software.

Sometimes kit building can be X rated. I'm doing a D&S L&Y brake at the moment and the instructions for the brake gear are not all that clear.

Making vees and blades is not that hard. I used a couple of pieces of PCB to make a jig for the point above:

I was surprised how quickly and easily I could make blades - always seemed a struggle in the past so maybe things are clicking.

You need a block of wood, big file with a dead edge and a small file for finishing. Use the big file to file the side of the rail in contact with the stock rail away from you while resting the rail on the wood - this removes material quickly. Turn the rail over and carefully file down the just the top flange of the rail - this is where the dead edge comes in since you want the bottom flange intact. Use the small file to sharpen.

Sorry if you know this already, but others may benefit.

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I used to have a board with all sorts of vees, but got rid of it once I got my vee jig. I wanted to do this point build from first principles because I'm rusty.

Looking forward to seeing your point making

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