General Tips for Beginners

Not Specifically Victorian and not specifically N Scale but just some useful tips.
The fine print: I'm just a beginner, too. So this is the blind leading the blind. There probably are better ways and when I find out, I'll update the notes. There is no attempt here to include what I consider advanced skills, mainly because I don't possess any.


Miniatures Painting Guide and FAQ is an excellent guide to the basics of model painting.  The presentation is ordianary but the material covered is excellent for anyone getting started.
Finding the right colour to match the real thing can be a challenge. Here are a few to get started with.

Coming Soon

A tip to help reduce brush marks – thin the paint down, even if it means doing two coats.

Air brushing

An even better way to reduce brush marks – spray painting – something totally new to me. Give it a go, it isn’t too difficult and has good results. You can go a long way with a really cheap airbrush. They are commonly available under $20 – I have seen them as low as $10. For your air supply, you can pump up your spare tyre at the local service station for free, buy a can of air for around $10 or you can buy an air compressor for around $85.
Most paints need thinning for airbrushing. Here’s a rough guide.

Coming soon

I prefer to use acrylic where I can find a suitable colour. Cleaning up with water is easier. I have found Tamiya an excellent paint to use but its colour range is aimed at the military modelling market so tends not to match railway colours. Great to use as undercoat or where you can find a colour close enough for a job at hand. Badger Modelflex– This has a range of colours designed for the North American Railways. These tend to be a good match to our railways. Add 4-12 drops Badger Extender per 1oz bottle. Steam Era- With colours like VR blue, Vline Orange, Wagon Red, Freight Australia Green, etc, it’s not hard to pick the right colour. These are gloss paints so are ready for decaling. You can buy a small jar of thinner for the enamel paints at any hobby shop. You can buy a giant tin of all-purpose thinner at Kmart or Supercheap Auto for almost the same price.
It’s worth considering buying paint in spray cans, eg. Tamiya. It’s more expensive that way but saves having to set up/clean up/pack up your airbrush and compressor.

Cleaning Brass

To clean brass prior to painting, use a 50/50 mix of vinegar/water.

Paint Stripping

Made a mess of your first attempt at airbrushing? Have no fear, ELO to the rescue. No, not Jeff Lynne and the crew – Easy Lift Off, purchasable at model shops. Comes in a tin big enough for a lifetime of messed up air brushing. Easy.


For jobs needing two or more colours, give your item a coat of the lightest colour first. Use masking tape to mask the bits to remain that colour then apply a coat of the next colour. Tamiya Masking Tape from your hobby shop is widely considered the best. When removing the tape, peeling back the masking tape rather than lifting it straight up can reduce the risk of lifting paint.


Practice on something unimportant first. That’s what containers are for. If your paint is not gloss, give it a coat of clear gloss. Testors is great – comes in a spray can ready to use, or Microscale Micro Gloss can be brushed or sprayed. When putting the decal on, wet the surface with water or decal settling agent such as Micro Sol or Solvaset. Solvaset is perhaps the strongest working. After putting on the decal, coat it with the settling agent to help it snuggle into your model. Finish off with a clear matt coat over your model to seal the decal and take away the gloss finish of the model and decal.

Removing Decals

If you haven’t covered your decal yet with a clear sealer, you have a good chance of being able to remove the decal by lifting it with sticky tape (lift, not peel) and soak whatever is left with water for 30 minutes and then gently rub. (source: - I haven’t tried it.)

Greasing your Loco

Use “Hob-E-Lube White Grease”. Comes in a tube. Using a toothpick, wipe a little onto the worms.

Cleaning the tracks

Some people use a track rubber (from the hobby shop). These are good for cleaning stubborn bits but I think a bit harsh to use for regular track cleaning. Isopropyl Alcohol (Diggers brand from Bunnings) on a clean rag I think is a better option. Top of the range and at a top price is CRC CO Contact Cleaner in a spray can from Dick Smith. Then put a little Wahl oil (from a hairdresser, it's the oil they use on hair clippers) on the track. You only need to rub a tiny amount on the track with the tip of your finger, only rub it on about 6 inches of track and it works its way all around the layout. Helps clean the tracks and your wheels so you get good electrical contact and smooth running.

Timber glue

White acrylic glue such as Aquadhere does a pretty good job gluing timber. Yellow glues such as Triton Woodworking Glue or Bostik MDF Glue are even better. They dry quicker and are stronger.