A Tool Belt for Model Railroad Work

A Tool Belt for Model Railroad Work

How to make one adapted to your needs

By Ernest H. Robl

Work on a model layout requires lots of tools, which we tend to leave here or there – and which we are constantly looking for. One way to keep tools handy and not to leave them at various locations is to use a tool belt.

Unfortunately, commercial tool belts are designed for super heavy-duty tools, such as larger hammers, which we would not typically be using on a model railroad layout.

You can, however, make your own.

The EMT holster

Start out with a web belt that can find at most outdoor stores. Get one with a plastic snap buckle.

Then, add pouches for various tools.

The key starting ingredient is an EMT (emergency medical technician) holster. This is a pouch with many smaller compartments that are ideal for smaller tools.


A look at some of the basic components of my small item tool belt that holds a variety of small pliers, screwdrivers, and other items. At the center is an EMT holster; to the right is a holster for a small flashlight; to the left, another flashlight holster holds a couple or permanent markers. And, also at left, an old vertical eyeglass case with a belt clip has been adapted to hold a utility knife.

These are used by paramedics and other emergency responders to hold such things as small scissors, tweezers, a small flashlights, etc. They are widely available on the Internet.

(The one I use — depicted here – goes back more than 20 years and came from a company that no longer exists. But there are very similar models currently available.)

You can buy these in a variety of sizes, either with or without contents. Some of the contents (such as tweezers or flashlights) may have model railroad uses. Others can be moved to your first aid kit.


A close-up look at the closed EMT holster, holding a medium pair of scissors, a medium screwdriver, wire strippers, and needle-nosed pliers.


Inside the holster are two more small screwdrivers and a tweezers.

More components

You can add an almost unlimited variety of components to the belt. A small flashlight is useful. (Source: Outdoor store. It came with its own holster.)

A spare similar holster can hold markers or a larger pair of needle nosed pliers.

I made a holster for a utility knife from an old vertical eyeglass case that had a belt clip. (I trimmed of part of the top of the case to give better access to the knife.)

Other pouches

You can also find a variety of pouches with belt loops at photo stores. For example, a pouch intended for a small point-and-shoot camera is about right for my digital level or other small electronic instruments.

Once you’ve figured out what tools you want to keep with you, it’s just a matter of looking for the right kinds of holsters or pouches. Photo and outdoor stores are two of the best sources.

You can even add a holster for your favorite Swiss Army knife.


A pouch for a small camera is just right for my digital level. You can find a variety of other containers that will fit on your belt to hold the items you typically use.

Yes, you will probably still need a larger toolbox, but for basic installation of components and occasional maintenance work, having the most commonly needed tools on your belt can be a big help. To me, the biggest help is that I don’t put the tools down when I am done with them. I return them to the place on the belt – and that way I don’t have to look for them later.

By the way, I intentionally got a brightly colored belt, as that makes the belt itself easier to spot when I put it down.


As always, comments are welcome.


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