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Model railways in solihull
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Transfer and Decal Application


Applying transfers can be tricky and lining transfers or large BR double arrow logos, as used from the eighties to the early nineties, are probably about the most awkward ones to apply due to their large size and long, thin parts. I use Fox, Frizinghall Model Railways, Howes, PC Pressfix / HMRS, Modelmaster, SMS, Replica Railways (rub-on and waterslide) and Woodhead transfers regularly without too many problems.

One important tip is to always apply transfers in strong, natural light if possible, or it is very difficult to get items such as numbers with individual digits to line up properly with each other and you may regret a late night’s work the morning after. Any good specialist model railway shop should stock transfers and they are usually available at large model railway exhibitions, such as the Warley National one at the Birmingham N.E.C.


The easiest surface to apply transfers to is a gloss or satin finish, so if you use matt paint it will be more difficult, especially when trying to get the transfers to stick. As in the instructions for transfers, which you should always read, the paint finish should be smooth and totally dry. Work around the model methodically and carefully or a careless finger might accidentally stick to an unseen transfer and remove or damage it. You might want to add the smaller and more fiddly transfers last to avoid damaging them when you add the larger ones.

Rub-On Transfers

Rub-on transfers, such as some of those supplied by Replica Railways do not require water, but they do require the same finish and care for successful application to a model. I use a propelling pencil with a 0.7mm lead or a ball-point pen to rub them onto models. The pencil is good if the transfer has to be applied in a tight corner, otherwise the pen is usually perfectly good. Sometimes it is a good idea to cut out the transfer from the backing to avoid any others on the sheet sticking to the model or if the location is awkward, but removing the transfer from the rest of the backing sheet makes it harder to get the transfer level. Large rub-on transfers are very difficult to apply as the backing paper tends to move on the model before all the transfer is applied and this can spoil the results, although you can sometimes touch them up with paint. Small rub-on transfers such as overhead wire warnings are very easy to apply.

Waterslide Transfers

I always use cold water for waterslide and press-fix transfers, but some instructions suggest warm water. If you know you are likely to have problems with a waterslide transfer, cut it out on its backing paper and place it the right way up on the model.

Flood with a generous amount of water beneath and on top of the transfer until all the paper is soaked. Leave a large transfer for a few minutes to make sure the paper will lift off easily. You should then be able to slide the paper out from under the transfer with relative ease. I use an old, small and mostly worn-out paint brush to encourage transfers off their backing and adjust their position on a model. Sometimes a scalpel helps too. When the position is right, dab gently with a clean tissue and hopefully the transfer will stick to the model, not the tissue. Be especially careful with small transfers like letters and numbers when drying them.

Press-Fix Transfers

Press-fix are probably the hardest to use as they are a variant of waterslide transfers in that the transfers are a 'press fix' as the name implies and they are very thin and have very little backing film, but many of the same techniques apply. Manufacturers include P.C. Models and Woodhead. They are printed backwards, so you apply the transfer face down onto the model on the upper layer only of the backing paper (cut round the transfer through the top layer of paper only and lift off with a sharp scalpel) and then add water.

There is a little gum on the face of transfers so that they stick better, but this makes them harder to move if you want to adjust their position and tends to attract dust and fluff while they are on the paper. Having said this, P.C. and Woodhead are excellent transfers, very finely printed and only a little more fiddly than the usual waterslide ones. There are many sheets for different eras of locos, carriages and wagons for most British railway companies. A few years ago, the Historical Model Railway Society (HMRS) started to re-issue P.C. Pressfix transfers under their own name and added a couple of sheets for BR wagons, but I'm not sure how many are currently available.

Finishing Off

When you have finished applying all the transfers on a model and any water has been removed, carefully brush or spray suitable varnish over the whole model to even out the final finish and finally seal on the transfers. I would not recommend current Humbrol matt spray varnish for this as they changed the formula a year or two ago and it can attack the paint. I usually weather models before I apply transfers as the paint thinner tends to lift the transfers off.



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Club Activities  

SMRC Events:Diary

Our Next Exhibition:

2024 SMRC Exhibition

Future Exhibitions:

2025 SMRC Exhibition


The Great Central Model Railway Event

Dean Forest Railway
- 1960's Mixed Traction Weekend

Chernet Valley Railway, Model Railway and Classic Car Event

The Great Gathering (A4's)
- National Railway Museum, York

Chinner & Risborough Open Day
& Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
1940s Weekend

Didcot Railway Centre
& Pendon Museum

Barrow Hill Roundhouse
& Peak Rail

York Railway Museum

Warley MRC Exhibition

Didcot & Pendon Railway Trip

Llangollen Railway Trip

Five set of to the
Severn Valley Railway

Toddington Railway Trip

Didcot Railway Trip

Archive Section:

2024 SMRC Exhibition

2023 SMRC Exhibition

2022 SMRC Exhibition
2022 Exhibition Photos

2021 SMRC Exhibition
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2019 SMRC Exhibition
2019 Exhibition Photos

2018 SMRC Exhibition
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2017 SMRC Exhibition
2017 Exhibition Photos

2016 SMRC Exhibition
2016 Exhibition Photos

2015 SMRC Exhibition
2015 Exhibition Photos

2014 SMRC Exhibition
2014 Exhibition Photos

2013 SMRC Exhibition
2013 Exhibition Photos
2013 Alan Bell Exhibition Photos
2013 David Tidman Exhibition Photos

2012 SMRC Exhibition
2012 Exhibition Photos
2012 Alan Bell Exhibition Photos
2012 Mike Pointer Exhibition Photos
2012 David Tidman Exhibition Photos

2011 SMRC Exhibition
2011 Exhibition Photos

2010 SMRC Exhibition

2009 SMRC Exhibition

2008 SMRC Exhibition
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2007 SMRC Exhibition

2006 SMRC Exhibition

2005 SMRC Exhibition

2004 SMRC Exhibition
2003 SMRC Exhibition

2002 SMRC Exhibtion

2001 SMRC Exhibtion

2000 SMRC Exhibtion

1999 SMRC Exhibtion

1973-1998 SMRC Exhibitions




© Solihull Model Railway Circle 2000-2024. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this website the publisher, Solihull Model Railway Circle, cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in the website, nor for any consequence arising from such information. The articles included and the views expressed on this website are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Solihull Model Railway Circle or its members or advisors. This website is intended to be a resource, but initially it is for promoting the Solihull Model Railway Circle.