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Five inexpensive garden railroad tools

By Marc Horovitz | January 14, 2021

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Grouping of old toothbrushes

Here are five tools for a garden railroad you can make or obtain cheaply.

1. Make a ballast broom
If you do a lot of reballasting (or ballasting) on your railway, take an old 4-inch paint brush and attach the handle with screws to an extension pole about 3 feet long. This becomes a mini-broom to push the ballast around. You can use it standing up, it’s narrow enough to get into tight spaces, and it won’t disturb plants or trackside structures.

Grouping of old toothbrushes
Old toothbrushes are good for a variety of tasks on your railroad. Photo by Marc Horovitz

2. Keep that old toothbrush
An old toothbrush is a great tool for any number of projects, such as cleaning kit parts before assembly or brushing small bits of dust and debris from a structure.

3. Easy roadbed maintenance
A shrub rake — a narrow rake with long, thin tines — is ideal for clearing your track of leaves, twigs, and other debris. When used carefully, its flexible tines will not harm adjacent foliage.

4. Cosmetic-brush duster
A cosmetic brush (available at drug stores and beauty-supply houses) makes an ideal duster for trains that have been sitting on a shelf. They come in a variety of sizes and are inexpensive to buy.

An inexpensive cordless screwdriver contains a useful motor for railroad projects.
Inexpensive cordless screwdrivers can be a source of reduction gearboxes and rechargeable batteries. Photo by Marc Horovitz

5. Cheap motor and gearbox
Looking for a cheap motor with a reduction gear and a rechargeable battery to power your next kitbashed or scratchbuilt large-scale locomotive or railcar? You can find them in inexpensive cordless screwdrivers. These items are often on sale at hardware stores for about $10.

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