Open Stuck Paint Jars 
Keep one of those thin rubber jar cap grips on your workbench for opening stuck food jar caps. This gadget works great for quickly opening up stuck model paint jars.

Mortar Brick Lines

Here's a money-saving tip to make your brick structures more accurate. A very inexpensive way to create mortar lines in any scale model is to apply Apple Barrel Colors 20526 Country Gray Craft Paint (these 2 ounce bottels say "Plaid" on their labels) On sale these can be bought for $1 or less at a crafts store. Just apply with a piece of paper towel and quickly wipe away the paint, leaving paint only in the mortar lines. Your model will look a great deal better and your wallet will thank you as the competitive Modelers Mortar & Scenery Base would have cost your $4 or so.
Great Ott Lamps
Before you buy your next gadget or freight car kit, buy an Ott-Lite instead. Ott makes great lamps for hobbyists. I learned about these lamps when I bought one for my office desk. They give off a very natural light that is indispensable for assembling models. The hobby version even has a neat handle that allows you to move it around from one work area to another. If this Ott lamp doesn't improve your modeling I will be a monkey's uncle. My local hobby shop carries the lamp, but you can check with your local crafts shop first. Incidentally, I have no financial stake in this company.

Scotch Brand Carpet Tape

Scotch Brand carpet tape is a wide double-sided tape that works wonders for keeping small parts from flying away when you spray them with paint. Even if you are not spray painting small parts, this tape can serve from keeping small parts fly away when you exhale in their vicinity. This tape can be found at most hardware stores.


Layout Design Special Interest Group

Thinking of starting a model railroad layout? It all begins with planning; and planning begins with the Layout Design Special Interest Group. Find their web site on the internet and read their entire Layout Design Primer. It's a great place to learn from others' mistakes and successes in layout planning. Then join the Layout Design Yahoo discussion group and post your questions there. The answers and suggestions will just flow in. If you like what you see, join the SIG by sending them a check for your subscription to their very informative Layout Design Journal. You will soon be writing them a check for back issues of the Journal, if my guess is right. Give the Layout Design SIG a shot and it will be one decision you will never forget.

Model Master Liquid Cement

If you have not assembled a model railroad related kit in years, don't delay another minute. One of your best aids to a quick start is Model Master TM Liquid Cement For Plastic Models. It's the odd shaped glue carded at your hobby shop or art supply store. Underneath its black cap is a great needle applicator that prevents the kind of messes you recall of building models as a kid with a tube of glue. Buy Model Master Liquid Cement in the 1 fluid ounce black bottle together with a model railroad kit of any scale and you can get excellent results compared to the old tube of glue from your childhood.

Address Numbers for Commercial Buildings

If you need address numbers for the commercial buildings on your model railroad, you might have trouble locating them in your local hobby shop's model railroading section. Instead, look in the military modeling section of the shop, and you might be in luck. I found Numbers Item number TC1007 by TechStar Modeling & Diorama Accessories. Sorry I could not provide a street address for this firm, but the package gave no hint of this information. This package contains 3 sizes made of etched brass. Give it a try. This product is made in the USA and retails for $8.98 at my hobby shop.

 A Fast Start To Operations
If you are ready to start operating your layout but need a nudge, try the following two lesser known suppliers. First, contact Bill Pistello at Modular Model Railroad Equipment Company  at 625 South Princeton Avenue, Villa Park, IL 60181 630 832-9152. Bill sells acrylic car card holders made to fit 1 1/8" x 3" car cards. The car card holders come in thick and thin types as well as one, two, or three pocket varieties. As Bill says, "Don't piut those tackey thick wooden boxes on the side of your miniature system, do it with style!" I have installed his boxes on my layout and I can testify that they look great and are just right for holding car cards. If you dread writing out your car cards, try Ship It! Car Cards by Albion Software, 39 Stanley Drive, Glastonbury, CT 06033 . I can testify that this product works great. Just enter the information about your cars, industries, and goods shipped, and you are in business. Of course, you will need a computer, printer, and heavy weight paper. Incidentally, I have no financial stake in either company.

Great Source for Weights

Inadvertently, I found a great source for weights to use to hold our modeling projects together while they dry. Try reject marble bases for small sports trophies. My kids were digging around one day and found someone had buried a whole bunch of these in a nearby property. The kids brought these home and I promptly washed them and kept them. Not too long afterwards, I saw that my local hobby shop had a bunch of reject marble trophy bases as well -- only difference was that the hobby shop's bases were cleaner and carried a price tag. Next time you pass your town's trophy store, pop in and see whether they will give you the rejects for free or for a nominal price. These bases are great for assembling structures in any scale. You can even feel good that you are keeping these items out of a rapidly filling up land fills.