Large Scale trains need maintenance from time to time, no matter who manufactured them. One of the most basic needs is lubrication. Most rolling stock can be lubricated by just turning it over and oiling the axles. Locomotives usually need to be partially disassembled to get to the points that need lubrication, and this takes some basic tools. Other needs for these simple tools are for repair or replacement of parts that wear out or become damaged through some form of accident. Many of the tools necessary for this basic work are also handy around the house and you probably already have some of them already.
The single most important basic tool is a #1 Phillips head (sometimes called cross point) screwdriver. Virtually all Large Scale equipment is assembled with cross point screws and 99% of those can be removed or replaced with a #1 screwdriver. Buy the best one that you can find. The Craftsman brand (available at Sears) is a good tool and is widely available. Even the Craftsman brand comes in several grades, spend the money and get the best quality offered.
Actually, this admonishment applies to ALL tools. Cheap tools are cheap because they are made of lesser quality materials with lesser precision. Cheap tools usually end up doing far more damage than their cost savings was worth. If there is a professional tool supply outlet near you, check it out. In the long run, you will be glad that you did.
For model railroad work, you won't often need a screwdriver bigger than a #1 Phillips, but you will need smaller ones. One way to get them is to buy a Jeweler's screwdriver set. These come with some number of small Phillips and straight blade screwdrivers with small handles. The slim construction is often nice as clearance for the screwdriver handle is often not available.
A pair of needle nose pliers is probably the next most important tool. For our work, a small pair with a fine tip is preferred. There are many kinds with tips of various geometries, the ones shown are probably the most useful, but you may eventually collect several other kinds. The tool will be needed to hold small parts without crushing them and to maneuver them into tight spots. Look at every pair on display in the store and pick the one with tips that are flush and fit tightly together. Hold the tool up to the light, you shouldn't be able to see any light coming between the jaws. Spring loading of the jaws is sometimes helpful but not completely necessary.
Another tool that is handier than a shirt pocket is the Kadee 5 Finger Grabber tool. This little gem is designed to pick up and hold small parts such as screws so that they can be inserted into and removed from tight places. You'll find these in hobby shops that carry other Kadee products.
Larger and stronger tools are handy in some instances. A regular pair of gas pliers (center) is almost essential. This tool can be used to grab and hold larger objects. They can also be used to bend or break parts or materials as necessary. They are really good at squeezing and tightening rail joiners that have become too loose. A similar large heavy tool is the Vice Grip (left). These come in various sizes with various jaw geometries, the smaller ones (right) being the most useful to modelers. The Vice Grip is a latching tool that can be used to squeeze and hold objects.
© 1999 George Schreyer
Created Dec 4, 1999
Last Updated Dec 4, 1999