Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Since some questions seem to get asked over and over again, we’ve decided to compile a list of some of the most common questions we get.

Custom Work

Q: Is Dan available for custom work or DCC installs?

A: No.  We are not an install shop.  Our video production schedule simply doesn’t allow the time for that.


Q: Can I run a DC locomotive on DCC track?

A: Yes, most DCC systems have an option to use address 0 (zero) to run DC locomotives.  The drawback is that the motors will make an annoying high pitched whining noise.  It’s really not that good for the motors, either.  If you want to run on DCC, installing a decoder is a better option.

Q: Can I run a DCC locomotive on DC track?

A: Most decoders have an analog feature that is usually on by default, so they will run on DC.  DCC locomotives, especially sound equipped locomotives, will generally take a lot more throttle to get moving than a DC locomotive.  Generally you won’t be able to run a DCC locomotive with a DC locomotive coupled together because of the huge difference in speed.  It’s possible to program most decoders to turn off the analog feature, and if that happens then they won’t run on DC at all.


Q: What kind of glue does Dan use?

It depends on the materials.  For plastic-to-plastic bonds Dan prefers liquid styrene cement.  For plastic and other materials, CA (cyanoacrylate) glue works well.  Dan likes silicone glue for installing motors into locomotive frames.  Canopy glue, which is similar to white glue, works well for clear parts.  RTV silicone is a good sealant for small speakers.

Q: What does Dan mean by “liquid styrene cement”?

A: A glue that creates a plastic-to-plastic bond by dissolving the edges of the plastic to create a “weld”.  Same Stuff by Micro Mark is one brand.  Ambroid and Tenax are others, but they seem to have gone out of production.


Q: What brand of LEDs do you use?

A: There is no specific brand.  Dan buys LEDs in bulk on eBay.  Sellers come and go.  US sellers generally ship faster if ordering from within the United States.

Q: What size LEDs do you use?

A: For HO scale trains, 3mm LEDs are useful when combined with fiber optics.  Surface mount LEDs come in several sizes.  The 0603 and 0402 sizes are most useful for small scale trains.  0603s will fit in most HO scale headlight and ditch light housings.  0402s are very useful in N scale.  Dan likes to solder his own leads to surface mount LEDs using 36 gauge solderable magnet wire.  You can also get them with pre-soldered leads but they tend to cost more.

Q: What color LEDs do you use?

A: Warm white is the best for headlights.  Regular white may have a bluish tint.  Colored LEDs can be useful for specific things, like red for an emergency light.

Q: What brand and type of fiber optics do you use?

A: Dan buys fiber optics in bulk on eBay.  There is no specific brand.  The most useful size for HO scale headlights is .030 diameter (0.75 mm).  For class lights or N scale then .020 works well.  The ends can be flared with heat to make lenses.

Q: What type of resistor do you use for LEDs?

A: For headlights 750 Ω or 1K Ω work well.  This is not based on a formula, it’s just what we’ve found to work.  For other lights like class lights or number boards that don’t need to be as bright, larger values like 2K or 3K Ω will work.  Always use one resistor per LED.  Otherwise sometimes the lights may behave in odd ways.  Dan usually puts resistors on the negative lead from the LED, but it really doesn’t matter.


Q: What are standards and why are they important?

We have a video about standards on our YouTube channel.  It’s targeted at beginners but does explain why we care so much about this stuff:


Q: Why is coupler height so important?  I see mismatched couplers on real trains all the time.

A: To prevent unwanted uncoupling.  Model couplers are much smaller than their full sized counterparts.  Despite the small size, long model trains can put a lot of stress on the couplers.  This is especially true on grades and sharp curves.  If the couplers are at the correct height, they take the stress along their center line and stay coupled.  If the heights are mismatched, then the forces of the train tend to skew the couplers vertically.  When this happens one coupler may slip over the other and let go.

Q: What is wheel gauge and why is it important?

A: To prevent derailments.  Wheel gauge is the distance between the wheels, back to back.  Railroad and model railroad wheels have flanges that ride on rails that are a fixed distance apart.  The distance between the flanges, or wheel gauge, has to be correct or the wheels may derail.

Q: What is track gauge?

A: The distance between the rails.  In most places the term “standard gauge” means rails that are 4′ 8.5″ apart, or 1435 mm.  Narrow gauge is anything less than that.  Broad gauge is anything larger.  The distance is measured between the inside surfaces of the railheads.  In HO scale (1/87 proportion), standard gauge rails are 16.5 mm apart.

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