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I'm gradually figuring things out.  For a smaller layout - door size - it seems that 027 gauge is better because of the sharper turns.  Looking online, all I've seen for that is the Lionel tubular track.  Are there any other choices?

Since the curves are sharper, do I have to be careful what running gear I use?

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You need to check any locomotive you buy to see if it will negotiate 027 curves before actually buying it. As a general rule, any Lionel postwar steamer except the scale Hudson and the Berkshire should work. Postwar diesels that will work are the NW-2, the GP-9 and the Alco FA-2. I have seen videos where the GG-1 electric will run on 027 track, but I have never actually tried it myself. The Fairbanks-Morse and F-3 diesels will NOT run on 027 track. For freight cars, the scout and 6464 series will work. Usually any freight car that is 10 inches long or less will work. For passenger cars, the 2400 series will run on 027 track. That's all I can think of off the top of my head.  

I would strongly urge you to look at O-31 if you can fit it which will let you run just about all traditionally size equipment and make use of the more refined O22 tubular switches. There is even O-31 Fastrack and switches should you want to go that route.

As with any track and equipment, you must look at the minimum curve specifications and ensure that it is smaller or equal to your smallest curve size on a given route.

As for other track choices beyond O-27 tubular, that can get you the small tight curves, you can look at using something like Gargraves flex track. Be warned that shaping the flex track, especially tightly, can be "an experience". People have built jigs to help them make the bends.

Last edited by bmoran4

I had an O27 layout for a long time, and a pretty large selection of locos.  There's a little misinformation in the posts above.

At least some, maybe most Lionel F3 diesels WILL run on O27 track.  I'm pretty sure the 2243 Texas Special was originally sold in an O27 set.  GG-1s will definitely negotiate O27 track and switches with no issues.  The giant 773 Hudson WILL go around O27 curves, although it looks ridiculous and the overhang may threaten nearby structures.  Pretty much any Postwar or MPC-era Lionel, Marx, etc., is fine EXCEPT the Berkshires (which have a longer wheelbase than the Hudson) and the Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster.

MTH RailKing diesels, at least the ones with 4-axle trucks, and steam locos with up to six driving wheels should be fine too.  But with rubber tires on both sides of the same axle, these may slow noticeably because the wheels cannot "skid" around these sharp curves, which is essential to smooth operation.

One point of confusion about "what will run on O27" involves 1121 / 1122 and 5121 / 5122 switches.  These had large plastic motor boxes to cover the switch coils, and in the case of the 5122, a target indicator that sticks up showing the track direction.  If your track plan includes switches and S-curves, you may have issues with pilots ("cow-catchers"), railings, and cab roofs hitting the switch indicators.  Also, see my comment about Marx O27 switches below.

S-curves are a bad design practice that should be avoided if possible.  No matter what, it's important to allow sufficient clearance between adjacent tracks.  There are no real "standards."  Experiment with your largest equipment, or borrow some large equipment to test with.

Sharp curves result in a lot of centrifugal force.  I strongly advise you to put some type of border or safety barrier around the edge of your door to keep trains on the platform and off the floor!  This can be plexiglass, or even just a wall made of 1 x 4s around the edges (which will help to stiffen the platform.)

I have experience with O27 and O31 switches, including Lionel O22s.  The O22s have some nice features such as being able to swap the switch motor to the opposite side, and an option to power them from fixed voltage.  But I wouldn't really call them "refined."  They are pretty bumpy; trains tend to rumble through them with a lot of bouncing.  At 50 years old, it'll be hard to find some without a lot of wear.  I'm pretty sure Fasttrack O31 switches would be smoother.  

One problem with upgrading beyond O27 is that the cost of switches increases dramatically, and the geometry of the larger curves is limiting; you end up with much shorter straightaways.  One of the best O27 switches was made by Marx.  It has a flat, featureless metal box to cover the switch coils.  A large section of rail pivots on a center point, so it's not realistic LOOKING.  But it works very well with many types of locos.

If saving money is an issue, consider using manual switches on the front side where they can be reached, and save the electrically controlled switches for the middle and back of the layout.

Honestly if I were going to build a small tabletop layout today, I would beg, borrow, or steal to get 6 x 10 or at least 5 x 9.  And I would use O36 track and switches from Atlas.  If your platform is deeper than 36" you'll need to allow a 14"-16" access aisle along the back wall so you can get back there to reach derailments, clean the track, etc.  Welcome to a fun adventure!!

Last edited by Ted S

To answer Jerry's question - which is not entirely clear - if he's looking for other brands of tubular 027 track, YES they are out there. MARX, K-Line and Williams by Bachmann would be the brands. The other possibility is Gargraves, which matches in height tubular 027, but Gargraves minimum curve in sectional track is 32 inches.

Basically as long as the diameter of the curve fits on your particular door, you're good to go. But you might not be able to design as complex an operating layout. And the larger track height of either tubular 0 or any of the road bed track types, I find visually distracting on a small layout surface like a hollow core door. And in the case of road bed track, it also takes up more space in general, meaning less room for buildings or scenery.

Okay, over the years, I've built at least a half-dozen layouts on hollow core doors. All have been with 027 track, many with all Lionel switch tracks (though I have used MARX and Lionel from differing production periods). All the layouts have had track configurations you should supposedly avoid, including "S" curves, and I've never had any problems.

The key to that is you either keep your trains short (ie: only a few cars), or you do as I do, and remove the typical rivet that holds the trucks to the car body. This loose rivet mounting will be the number one cause of derailments on tight 027 curves, especially when backing up a train.

Some other pointers on door layouts, all learned by experience.

  • To reduce the unavoidable rumble noise cause by the hollow core door, I make track ties out of brown foam such as can be bought at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I also use a short piece of self-adhesive insulation striping on the underside of each metal track tie. I use only enough screws to secure the track in place, but the foam insulation below the tie also helps to absorb some of the noise transfer from metal screws.
  • Older hollow core doors seem to be made of more durable and thicker materials. That's my preference. Either way, it's a good idea to add some bracing to the door to prevent bending. A lot of N-scale guys build layouts on hollow core doors, but their trains aren't as heavy. Anyways, I use Liquid Nails, a few couple screws and attach nice straight 1x4's to each side of the hollow core door for some added support. It also enlarges your door width by 1-1/2."
  • Smaller sized traditional or 027 types of trains (like the MARX plastic 3/16 or the K-Line 5000-series) look better on a smaller layout. As do smaller sorts of engines. So while most non-high end Lionel GP-9's will negotiate 027 curves and clear switch box housings, the Lionel NW2, traditional Centercab switcher or Alco FA look far better on such tight curves. But I do suppose that is also a matter of personal preference. K-Line made a bunch of traditional locos like their Alco FA, MP-15, S-2 switcher and RDC Budd Car that are good bargains price-wise and look good size wise. 
  • There are plenty of lower cost engines out there on the secondary market that will run and look fine on a door layout with 027 track. The KEY POINT is what you are powering them with. Many of the engines with truck mounted DC can motors DO RUN FAST with a typical Lionel transformer, because most have a minimal 6 volts to the track. You can either rewire the motors to series, or use a transformer that puts out a lower minimal voltage to the track. The Lionel 1033 can't be beat for this: A choice of two voltage settings to the track, with one working better for postwar/MPC and the other works great for the can motored engines I just mentioned.
  • Another side point to these lower cost can motored engines is that they were made in LARGE quantities with universal parts. In the case of K-Line, they're out of business. So if you end up needing parts and you can't find them, you can always find a second unit to cob for parts. Same goes for Lionel. There's instances where you can buy a used starter set Lionel 4-4-2 engine for less than the parts you might need for another one.

 

I could write a book about tips and pointers for making door layouts. Like anything else, there are compromises. But in lieu of not having a layout at all, I find hollow core door layouts can be the compromise answer. And if you're on a budget to start with, then using 027 track is definitely keep you in check as many of the newer (and expensive) more scale proportioned trains aren't going to make that tight curve.

A final pointer: Lionel is not exactly honest... maybe it's just oversight... as to what will and will not run on 027 curves. If you look a pre-FasTrack Lionel catalog, you'll see a good many engines (including the FT diesel) that came in starter sets with 027 track, BUT NOW have minimal curves listed as 031. Now, Lionel is not making tubular 027 track, and that could be the reason. Except for the little fact that rolling stock in the same catalogs will be listed as 027 minimal curve. 

Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy
@Ted S posted:

I had an O27 layout for a long time, and a pretty large selection of locos.  There's a little misinformation in the posts above.

At least some, maybe most Lionel F3 diesels WILL run on O27 track.  I'm pretty sure the 2243 Texas Special was originally sold in an O27 set.  GG-1s will definitely negotiate O27 track and switches with no issues.  The giant 773 Hudson WILL go around O27 curves, although it looks ridiculous and the overhang may threaten nearby structures.  Pretty much any Postwar or MPC-era Lionel, Marx, etc., is fine EXCEPT the Berkshires (which have a longer wheelbase than the Hudson) and the Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster.

MTH RailKing diesels, at least the ones with 4-axle trucks, and steam locos with up to six driving wheels should be fine too.  But with rubber tires on both sides of the same axle, these may slow noticeably because the wheels cannot "skid" around these sharp curves, which is essential to smooth operation.

One point of confusion about "what will run on O27" involves 1121 / 1122 and 5121 / 5122 switches.  These had large plastic motor boxes to cover the switch coils, and in the case of the 5122, a target indicator that sticks up showing the track direction.  If your track plan includes switches and S-curves, you may have issues with pilots ("cow-catchers"), railings, and cab roofs hitting the switch indicators.  Also, see my comment about Marx O27 switches below.

S-curves are a bad design practice that should be avoided if possible.  No matter what, it's important to allow sufficient clearance between adjacent tracks.  There are no real "standards."  Experiment with your largest equipment, or borrow some large equipment to test with.

Sharp curves result in a lot of centrifugal force.  I strongly advise you to put some type of border or safety barrier around the edge of your door to keep trains on the platform and off the floor!  This can be plexiglass, or even just a wall made of 1 x 4s around the edges (which will help to stiffen the platform.)

I have experience with O27 and O31 switches, including Lionel O22s.  The O22s have some nice features such as being able to swap the switch motor to the opposite side, and an option to power them from fixed voltage.  But I wouldn't really call them "refined."  They are pretty bumpy; trains tend to rumble through them with a lot of bouncing.  At 50 years old, it'll be hard to find some without a lot of wear.  I'm pretty sure Fasttrack O31 switches would be smoother.  

One problem with upgrading beyond O27 is that the cost of switches increases dramatically, and the geometry of the larger curves is limiting; you end up with much shorter straightaways.  One of the best O27 switches was made by Marx.  It has a flat, featureless metal box to cover the switch coils.  A large section of rail pivots on a center point, so it's not realistic LOOKING.  But it works very well with many types of locos.

If saving money is an issue, consider using manual switches on the front side where they can be reached, and save the electrically controlled switches for the middle and back of the layout.

Honestly if I were going to build a small tabletop layout today, I would beg, borrow, or steal to get 6 x 10 or at least 5 x 9.  And I would use O36 track and switches from Atlas.  If your platform is deeper than 36" you'll need to allow a 14"-16" access aisle along the back wall so you can get back there to reach derailments, clean the track, etc.  Welcome to a fun adventure!!

Thanks for all that info!

To illustrate what is, and isn’t possible; this is a 78” x 36” door, loco is a Lionel semi-Scale Berkshire 

1) Lionel O31 Track including short straight in curve and reversing loop, it seemed to fit together better that way

C4804F0D-36AA-42A2-8360-6EDADF758670

2) Lionel O27 Track, O27 switches including passing loop, reversing loop and two sidings. Essentially this allows two trains to be on the layout together. It would be possible to set it up so that they alternated, stopping automatically in the passing loop, but I didn’t try that yet. 

43DB2313-D9CD-47B9-A7FD-2C65938F31B0

 

 

As you can see, you get a lot more operating potential with O27. Trains are basically loco plus three cars. The 24xx carriages suit it very well. 

 

I have had a Williams die-cast Scale Hudson around this loop, but there is a tendency for the tender to derail. The “semi-Scale” version includes a shorter tender, which would make sense. Lionel and K Line semi-Scale Hudsons, the semi-Scale PE 2-8-4 and traditional-sized PW locos like the #2025 2-6-2 romp round and the 0-4-0 switcher looks good, too. 

One point about electric switches - the instructions warn against leaving locos too close to them, making the contact for the solenoid and eventually, damaging the switch. I looked at electric switches and concluded that they were not appropriate, for that reason.

I also looked at O42 radius switches, and O42 easements into the curves but they just take up too much room.  

 

 

 

 

 

Attachments

Images (2)
  • C4804F0D-36AA-42A2-8360-6EDADF758670: Lionel O31 tubular track; over loop with reversing loop
  • 43DB2313-D9CD-47B9-A7FD-2C65938F31B0
Last edited by Rockershovel

To illustrate what is, and isn’t possible; this is a 78” x 36” door, loco is a Lionel semi-Scale Berkshire 

1) Lionel O31 Track including short straight in curve and reversing loop, it seemed to fit together better that way

C4804F0D-36AA-42A2-8360-6EDADF758670

2) Lionel O27 Track, O27 switches including passing loop, reversing loop and two sidings. Essentially this allows two trains to be on the layout together. It would be possible to set it up so that they alternated, stopping automatically in the passing loop, but I didn’t try that yet. 

As you can see, you get a lot more operating potential with O27. Trains are basically loco plus three cars. The 24xx carriages suit it very well.  

Should there be two pictures here?

When I recently ordered some Atlas 0-45 and straights from Trainworld I noticed that Atlas makes 0-27 curves with the blacked out center rail. 

https://www.trainworld.com/man...full-curved-section/

8E357F82-5466-4BB8-A3B4-78699A79A5EF

Thanks.  I've decided to go with multi-tie, black center rail track, either Gragraves or Atlas.  So, I've made one decision.  : )

Now I have to decide if it's going in the living room or the bedroom.  I'm still inclined to go with a narrow layout.  I have the Strasburg set and an old 2026 locomotive.

Various websites don't always respond the same to search inquiries. For example, I find Google easier to use to find things here than the specific search function on this forum.

Anyways, I went to Trainworld and instead of using the specific search box, I selected Atlas, then 0, then Track, and here it is... and Atlas 027 (item 6043) curves are listed.

https://www.trainworld.com/sea...tronics=&engine=

The hobby isn't too different from using various web search engines: Sometimes you have to play around to get something to work. A lot of folks dump on 027 tubular track and switches especially, as it is. But again, sometimes you have to play around with something to get it to work.

To answer Jerry's question - which is not entirely clear - if he's looking for other brands of tubular 027 track, YES they are out there. MARX, K-Line and Williams by Bachmann would be the brands. The other possibility is Gargraves, which matches in height tubular 027, but Gargraves minimum curve in sectional track is 32 inches.

Basically as long as the diameter of the curve fits on your particular door, you're good to go. But you might not be able to design as complex an operating layout. And the larger track height of either tubular 0 or any of the road bed track types, I find visually distracting on a small layout surface like a hollow core door. And in the case of road bed track, it also takes up more space in general, meaning less room for buildings or scenery.

Okay, over the years, I've built at least a half-dozen layouts on hollow core doors. All have been with 027 track, many with all Lionel switch tracks (though I have used MARX and Lionel from differing production periods). All the layouts have had track configurations you should supposedly avoid, including "S" curves, and I've never had any problems.

The key to that is you either keep your trains short (ie: only a few cars), or you do as I do, and remove the typical rivet that holds the trucks to the car body. This loose rivet mounting will be the number one cause of derailments on tight 027 curves, especially when backing up a train.

Some other pointers on door layouts, all learned by experience.

  • To reduce the unavoidable rumble noise cause by the hollow core door, I make track ties out of brown foam such as can be bought at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I also use a short piece of self-adhesive insulation striping on the underside of each metal track tie. I use only enough screws to secure the track in place, but the foam insulation below the tie also helps to absorb some of the noise transfer from metal screws.
  • Older hollow core doors seem to be made of more durable and thicker materials. That's my preference. Either way, it's a good idea to add some bracing to the door to prevent bending. A lot of N-scale guys build layouts on hollow core doors, but their trains aren't as heavy. Anyways, I use Liquid Nails, a few couple screws and attach nice straight 1x4's to each side of the hollow core door for some added support. It also enlarges your door width by 1-1/2."
  • Smaller sized traditional or 027 types of trains (like the MARX plastic 3/16 or the K-Line 5000-series) look better on a smaller layout. As do smaller sorts of engines. So while most non-high end Lionel GP-9's will negotiate 027 curves and clear switch box housings, the Lionel NW2, traditional Centercab switcher or Alco FA look far better on such tight curves. But I do suppose that is also a matter of personal preference. K-Line made a bunch of traditional locos like their Alco FA, MP-15, S-2 switcher and RDC Budd Car that are good bargains price-wise and look good size wise. 
  • There are plenty of lower cost engines out there on the secondary market that will run and look fine on a door layout with 027 track. The KEY POINT is what you are powering them with. Many of the engines with truck mounted DC can motors DO RUN FAST with a typical Lionel transformer, because most have a minimal 6 volts to the track. You can either rewire the motors to series, or use a transformer that puts out a lower minimal voltage to the track. The Lionel 1033 can't be beat for this: A choice of two voltage settings to the track, with one working better for postwar/MPC and the other works great for the can motored engines I just mentioned.
  • Another side point to these lower cost can motored engines is that they were made in LARGE quantities with universal parts. In the case of K-Line, they're out of business. So if you end up needing parts and you can't find them, you can always find a second unit to cob for parts. Same goes for Lionel. There's instances where you can buy a used starter set Lionel 4-4-2 engine for less than the parts you might need for another one.

 

I could write a book about tips and pointers for making door layouts. Like anything else, there are compromises. But in lieu of not having a layout at all, I find hollow core door layouts can be the compromise answer. And if you're on a budget to start with, then using 027 track is definitely keep you in check as many of the newer (and expensive) more scale proportioned trains aren't going to make that tight curve.

A final pointer: Lionel is not exactly honest... maybe it's just oversight... as to what will and will not run on 027 curves. If you look a pre-FasTrack Lionel catalog, you'll see a good many engines (including the FT diesel) that came in starter sets with 027 track, BUT NOW have minimal curves listed as 031. Now, Lionel is not making tubular 027 track, and that could be the reason. Except for the little fact that rolling stock in the same catalogs will be listed as 027 minimal curve. 

K-Line says that their MP-15 was a scale engine.

O31 and O27 

Once upon a time, many, if not all Class One prototype railroads traditionally employed smaller and lighter rail on sidings, other than mainline passing sidings of course, e.i. industrial spurs, public team tracks, etc., since secondary track didn't require heavy rail standards to safely move heavy freight trains over the road.

In the event there are modelers on the Fourm who use this method would you kindly share your ideas with the rest of the OGR Family.  Please feel free to submit photographs of same.

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

We use all O-27 profile on the layout. We have O-42 which was made with K-line on the main outer loop. We also use a lot of O-27 and O-34 curves and switches on the inside industrial and switching areas mainly old Marx switches as they are dead simple and reliable, and the boys love flipping them manually. Here is a video of our Railking YB6 backing some passenger cars into one of the industrial areas. We've updated it a little since this was taken, but still more or less the same. It backs up from an O-42 K-line manual switch/curve into it.

We've also added some K-line Super K straights on the main line since that video was taken. (You can see in the picture below) I like the look of the more sparse stuff on the sidings as @Trinity River Bottoms Boomer was speaking about. Now, this is a high end layout by any stretch but it is good for my two boys.

train stuff

One last picture is the yard area, again, mostly O-27 old Marx track/switches and some Lionel. I have two more of the K-line O42 switches in the yard, and two Marx O34 switches that lead into it. 

yard


 

Attachments

Images (2)
  • train stuff
  • yard

Aldover: I received a pair of Marx O27 manual switches for Christmas one year.  I loved to "Bend the Iron" just like I saw the real railroaders do when I rode my bike down to The Katy RR tracks in Farmers Branch, TX., to watch them switch the local industries.  This was back in 1961 during the Deramus era.  The power assigned to the afternoon job were former Baldwin Locomotive Works S-series switchers that had been sent to EMD in LaGrange, IL, who re-engined them with GM engines. 

Great memories of innocent youth indeed!

I really like your layout!  Wish I could join y'all for an operating session but there's no way I can pull it off.  Health issues you know.

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

The contributors to this thread offered helpful info about using hollow-core doors as a platform base; which is what I used too. I glued green patio carpeting to the top surface of the doors, which provides some sound deadening and a better-than-paint look. I added a perimeter fascia board of 1x4 stock for stability and painted Lionel orange as a tribute to Big L.  It also provides a mounting surface for control buttons for action accessories (the Lionel #90 button is my preference).

About supporting "legs" for support of the platform ...
I used SKIL plastic sawhorses as supports, with guide strips of quarter-round stock installed on the underside to keep them in position; simple but effective.  The sawhorses are well suited for temporary or holiday layouts - easy to put away to storage. I realize that other hobbyists may build and install platform legs with 2x4s, which are readily available at big box stores, but IMHO, that's overkill -- unless one intends to sit/stand on the platform when at work.

Carry on ...

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394
mottlermike10@gmail.com

 

@Jerryc41, I know I linked this site before, but since you've decided to go with Atlas or Gargraves track, here's some layout ideas for hollow door layouts, if you are still also going that route. At least Atlas, unlike Gargraves, has a switch track for 036 curves.

30 inch wide door:

http://www.thortrains.net/marx/drlayat1.html

32 inch wide door:

http://www.thortrains.net/marx/drlayat4.html

36 inch wide door:

http://www.thortrains.net/marx/drlayat2.html

 

@Bill DeBrooke, Yes , but if you compare an Atlas or MTH MP-15 diesel to a K-Line version... well, the K-Line one did have a scale proportioned body. But with the compromises to the frame, it navigated 027 curves. And it came in many starter sets with 027 track, sometimes with the MARX origin 5000-series cars.

The K-Line one may have had a scale proportioned body shell (as even with a good number of Lionel postwar trains like the F-3 or GP-9), but the Atlas and MTH MP-15's are scale models. If you are a scale aficionado, the K-Line version (as many others here have written) isn't going to compare. 

Also if you remember years ago, K-Line got a lot of heated criticism right here on this very forum, for labeling products "scale" on the box, when the actual product wasn't fully to scale dimensions. Not to mention the fiasco over the A-5 or the fuel tank on the SD70. Today's current "love fest" for K-Line wasn't always so evident in the past.

 

Good find Brian!  Thor's designs are great!  They actually provide for a modicum of realistic operation.

If you have the space I recommend building them with Atlas track.  If not, Ross or Fasttrack O31.  Finally if your budget is really thin, then Lionel or Marx O27.  Adding extra ties and even a simple roadbed made of asphalt roofing shingles greatly increases realism.

Last edited by Ted S

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