Fitting Brass Numbers on Locos

I have fitted many brass numbers to HO steam locos, but it was so long ago I had to remind myself how to do it.

Frets of brass and nickel silver loco numbers are available at hobby stores like Casula Hobbies. The latter have sets like “AM-1 HO Numbers Brass Etch Sheet” & “AMO-4 HO Contractors Locos”

This is one way to do it – on a DJH white metal kit of loco 3214

The first problem is positioning the numbers on the cab side. With this 32 Class (3214), the rivets provide a good guide. Prototype photos also indicate the correct position for numbers. Always start with the middle number or the space between 2 middle numbers and work outwards. The number “1” requires a little more space either side.
Numbers need to be cut from the fret on a hard surface with a very sharp blade – scalpel in this case.
With care they can then be held in flat jaw pliers to remove any waste with a fine jewellers file.
I use a tiny dot of Blu Tack on the tip of a toothpick to hold and position the numbers.
In my opinion super glue is NOT the answer to attach the numbers.
Use a speck of dilute PVA or Canopy Glue applied with a toothpick to the back of the numbers. Canopy glue seems to dry a little faster than PVA but is also water soluble for cleaning up a disaster. It is great for attaching windows in models as it dries very clear.
Canopy Glue or PVA also allows a little degree of movement to shove the number around a bit.
Glue is on the back and I’m ready to position it by eye.
Small adjustments can be done with a scalpel or toothpick.
The end result showing the increased spacing either side of “1”.

I find it easier to apply brass numbers than decals.

OTHER METHODS:

  1. Another method I have used in the past is to use a strip of clear sticky tape after severely “de-sticking” it by repeatedly attaching it to a clean smooth surface then peeling it off. The tape needs to be super low stick so that you don’t peel off paint at the end of the process or that the numbers are pulled off when the tape is removed.The numbers can then be lightly attached to the reverse of the tape by the blue tack method or by picking them up with a super sharp scalpel point. The advantage is that the whole number set is done in one hit and the numbers can be adjusted and moved around before gluing. The disadvantage is that you are setting out the numbers back to front.Coat the back of the stuck-on numbers with dilute PVA or Canopy Glue and apply the strip with care. Once positioning is OK leave the PVA to dry for a day or so.
  2. It is also possible to lay all the numbers out on a clean surface using specs of blu tack , then pick the lot up in one go with the tape.

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Rick Fletcher

Born in the steam era and developed an interest in railways when given a clockwork Hornby "set". Surrounded by steam when travelling to school (by train of course) and holidays were always by steam train as we had no car. How lucky was I?

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