Improving RTR Stock & Kits

An introduction to detailing and upgrading rolling stock

Course tutor – Karl Crowther

Tank WagonIn response to requests from our participants, professional modeller Karl Crowther will be working with both RTR models and kits to help you lift your rolling stock to a whole new level of detail. Ranging from simple RTR upgrades to more complex kitbuilding and reconstruction work, the course aims to enable you to add more detail to your rolling stock and make it look more authentic overall. Couplings, painting, lettering and weathering techniques will also be touched upon.

Aims of the course

Granted, today’s RTR offerings generally require very little extra refinement, but there is still plenty of scope for re-working of older products, plus a wide diversity of kits available – both to cover any gaps in what’s available ‘off the shelf’, or indeed simply to build for your own satisfaction.

For this exercise, the emphasis will be on working in 4mm scale (OO, EM or P4). Ideally, please bring with you any projects you would like to work on (essential if you’re working in any other scales). Also on hand will be a few Parkside kits and various detail parts for you to experiment with. Whatever your level of prior experience, Karl will be on hand throughout the process to give help, guidance and encouragement as your work progresses.

Topics it is intended to cover include:

  • Adding various small details using range of etched and whitemetal parts (e.g. handrails, door springs, brake levers, ladders, new buffers etc.).
  • An overview of what parts are available from the trade.
  • An overview of available resources on prototype vehicles.
  • Construction and modification/upgrading of plastic kits – from simple addition of detail parts such as new wire handrails/buffers, to complete brake gear rebuilds.
  • Working with etched kits*1.
  • A look at various coupling systems (e.g. Spratt & Winkle, Alex Jackson, Dingham).
  • Re-wheeling to EM or P4.
  • Working with compensation and springing.
  • An introduction to painting, lettering and weathering techniques*2. 

*1 As we will so some extent be working with small etched metal components etc., confidence in soldering such parts would be an advantage here. 

*2 Also please note this course will NOT be covering the use of airbrushing.


Materials/tools suggested to bring with you:

  • Cutting mat
  • Craft knife
  • Small Files/sanding sticks
  • Steel straight edge
  • Small engineer’s square
  • Small pliers & side cutters
  • Small tweezers
  • Glass fibre brush
  • Small drills (down to 0.4mm), cutting broaches etc.
  • Soldering iron (e.g. Antex 25 watt), 145o & 188o solder and preferred flux
  • An assortment of styrene sheet and strip material – E.g. Evergreen, Slaters, Plastruct.
  • An assortment of nickel-silver or brass wire (e.g. 0.3-0.9mm).
  • Suitable adhesives (e.g. MEK, superglue, 2-part epoxy)
  • Your preferred transfers, paints and brushes

Suggested introductory reading

Highly recommended are the three volumes by Geoff Kent in the Wild Swan Series:

The 4mm Wagon: Part One – Opens, Minerals and Hoppers. ISBN 1-874103-03-8

Part Two – General Merchandise Vans, Special Purpose Vans and Tank Wagons.

ISBN 1-874103-24-0

Part Three – Conflats & Containers, Wagons for Long Loads & Steel. Brake Vans and Finishing Touches. ISBN 1-874103-97-6