Love the screw idea but it does scare me a bit...also prefer not to mess with the NS loco so tonight gonna try gluing some plastic strips to fill the gap a bit and see what happens...I found this plastic backing on a set of paint color samples at the office...fairly easy to cut but pretty strong in small pieces so hopefully will work.
With MTH going out of business I also bought a couple extra switches to have on hand in case anything goes awry...now have 2 extra left hand and 2 extra right hand. Next will be learning how to incorporate Lionel operating systems into our MTH based layout...hopefully in a cost efficient manner.
On a side note, we're architects so have lots of samples (carpet, fabric, wall paper, etc.) that I'm bringing home so the little guy can use to finish the inside of buildings, passenger cars, etc.
Thank you again for the responses...it still bugs me a great deal that this should even be necessary with how much these things cost but so glad to have you guys to turn to for advice and work thru the issues.