Restore Model Railroad Equipment Using Precision Tools

Xuron® Model 485 Long Nose Plier was used to restore a vintage model railroad car

Tom’s Corner

Tips, techniques and commentary from Master Model Railroader Tom Piccirillo

One of my favorite hobby activities is rebuilding old model railroad equipment that I have acquired over the years from friends, estate sales, and flea markets. I think it’s really cool to transform what appears to be a pile of junk into a high quality model. So, the time came to restore a beat-up O scale brass model of a Pennsylvania P54 coach that’s been in storage for about 35 years.

Tom Piccirillo Author and Master Model RailroaderWhile placing the model on my workbench, I got to thinking that, when you look at all the minute detail being applied to railroad models, you can’t help but notice that they have a jewelry-like quality. It’s true . . .  many of the processes used to fabricate the various components that go into detailing a locomotive, passenger car or freight car are the same as those used to produce jewelry. For example, the art of lost wax casting is a process that produces miniature parts in brass with remarkable detail and accuracy. Obviously, tools designed for use in the jewelry industry would be ideal for use in assembling highly detailed railroad models, as well.

Just as factories equip their workers with the tools needed to fabricate, position and assemble miniature components into high quality models, the scratch builder or rebuilder can benefit from the use of professional quality tools to make or refurbish high quality models in his own workshop.

Many of the parts on this model needed to be soldered back in place; they were hanging loosely . . . ready to fall off. Over 51 years of model building experience taught me that, to achieve the best results, I would need to use precision-made pliers to hold these parts while soldering them back in place. I used a Xuron® Model 485 Long Nose Plier to hold the model brake rigging components in position during these soldering operations.

Xuron® Model 485 Long Nose Plier is used to hold components during the soldering process when restoring a vintage model railroad car

This plier has fine tips that are precisely shaped to the contour needed to carefully grasp and position these detail parts during re-assembly. The jaws extend into hard-to-reach places, and the comfortable rubber handles let me apply just the right amount of pressure to hold the parts gently, yet securely. Plus, the smooth jaws prevented marring the base material. Xuron® brand  precision-made pliers make it possible to restore old models to perfect condition.

Xuron® Model 485 Long Nose Plier


Tom Piccirillo

Tom Piccirillo started building scale models at age 12 after discovering a copy of the April 1964 issue of Model Railroader magazine for sale at a local corner store. After receiving his degree in mechanical engineering in 1974, he pursued a management career in well-known industries, such as Burroughs Corporation and Ohaus Scale, and holds patents on electronic connectors. His most-recent tenure was president of Micro-Mark where, for 24 years, he developed and marketed ingenious tools for builders of scale models. Tom is a prolific author and has written many how-to articles for the hobby press, including Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman, The NG&SL Gazette, Fine Scale Modeler, Dollhouse Miniatures, and Great Model Railroads. In 2009, Tom earned his Master Model Railroader certification, and has been awarded the Paul Mallery Trophy for model building excellence. Currently a member of the Hobby Manufacturers Association, Tom consults for major USA and international producers of tool and hobby products, providing editorial and photographic services in addition to Marketing Analytics. He is perhaps best-known for the construction and operation of the O scale Somerset County Traction System, which he has described not only in magazines, but also on Public Television. Tom is also former-president of The New Jersey Live Steamers, where he operates his home-workshop-built 1/12th scale locomotives and cars. He is restoring an antique Mercedes-Benz automobile, and is an accomplished jazz rhythm guitarist.

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