For a children's layout being constructed for a museum, I'm concerned about LionChief throttles being loose.  They could be at risk of being lost.  Tethers could be used, but children can sometimes be rough and I imagine even strong ones breaking or snagging equipment.  I would like to permanently (with a means to remove and replace, of course) attach the LionChief wireless controllers to the layout surface.  I can power them so they wouldn't need batteries.  Also, would probably want to cover the on/off switch (or internally wire it always on) since external power can be turned on and off.  Any ideas?

Last edited by Chuck K.
Original Post

Think of how much more fun model trains are since we have left the fixed location transformer.  The remotes (and everything related to walk-around control) have added a great deal to the hobby starting with HO in the 1990's, to now.  We need to give the kids that same feeling, I think.  

I might install controller holders then attach a flexible wire (fishing leader wire) to each controller at a length to stop it just short of hitting the floor if dropped.  In a 36" layout height, the "wander" room might be up to 6 feet right or left.  This would leave it available to hold in small hands and walk (a little) back and forth to see the train. 

Also a 2-conductor wire from a 4.5v voltage-controlled source to each remote would successfully eliminate the AAA batteries and turn off when the layout is turned off.

If you need the ability to have different locomotives to rotate or for maintenance, the kids could use permanent remotes as above.  But buy 2 or 3 of the same LC+ engine that will run using the same "captive" LC+ remote.


Oh yeah- and this system still leaves the layout open for any other digital control system locomotive run by adults.

Last edited by Mike Wyatt

I would be interested to see what you come up with we also have a children’s layout. We have judges stopped using LionChief locomotives. We had some of the original LC remotes (came with stuff in the Thomas and Friends line)  The pot in the remote was broke due to the lack of mechanical stops other than the ones in the pot. We’ve been told the universal remote and all the others like it have stops but are probably plastic. We just simply let them run postwar and MPC trains plus the conventional polar express. We use 2 ZW’s and have the input power to the ZW’s Down to about 80VAC. This keeps the trains from flying. We know everything will be rough housed. One ZW handle broke and we just leave it there as a reminder that it can break 

We wrestled with the idea of conventional (bulletproof) versus LionChief (less bulletproof) versus Legacy or DCS (too complicated).  A requirement was to have two kids run two trains on two loops AND allow crossover between the loops.  We felt LionChief was a little easier to understand versus having an inner loop on one transformer, and outer loop another transformer, and having to pass control between transformers if moving a train from one loop to the other.  Yes, that's just what we did in the 1950's, but many of these kids will only have the hands-on opportunity for a brief time so a fast easy learning curve seemed best.  And LionChief seems targeted to that.

If the LionChief controller is too fragile, I may just have to enclose it inside something with robust unbreakable controls that connect to the LionChief controls hidden inside.

This is a 4x8 layout and I wanted minimum O36.  Some years back I had built the 4x8 plan from “Twice the Fun” by Ken Hoganson in the January, 2015 issue of O Gauge Railroading magazine.  This is an exceedingly clever design and has broad curve switches, some broad curve track, and O36 minimum otherwise, but uses expensive remote switches which I found to be a bit fragile.  (I have attached that plan for anyone's amusement.)

But for the children's layout, I wanted to use O36 manual switches and found a plan online that was minimum O36 with two loops.  The "secret sauce" is the little jogs in the inner loop near the crossovers which allow sufficient space between tracks at the opposite side of the layout.  I modified the plan just a little to add a "yard" and a sketch of the result is attached.  Just in case, I'm insulating the loops from each other at the crossover switches.   For LionChief, all track will get the same power, but it could be changed to a two block two transformer conventional system in the future if desired.

Also, did some maximum speed testing on a couple of LionChief sets and found that 16 VAC from a transformer calmed things down to about 60 scale miles per hour (down from 104 mph for one of the engines!).  And if using the DC LionChief set provided "Wallpack", placing 4 or 5 diodes in series with the power (each diode drops about 0.6 VDC) achieved about the same result.  I used 10 amp diodes, but 3 amp diodes is probably enough for the 2 amp 36 watt Wallpack.


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As for the lion chief remote, I remember someone in the past mentioning an addition of hard stops to the casing in order to stop the handwheel.  I don't remember how it was done.  I do know that to get a lion chief remote apart you have to pull the knob off first, which isn't easy.  I think there was something about adding screw posts through the casing the some how had travel stops for the knob.  It may have been @Lee Willis who came up with it as he was an early advocate lionchief motive power.

If you really want the remote stationary, take them apart and build them into something like a radio shack project box that you can mount to the fascia. I do agree that unless you have multiple copies of the same engine, this will hamper your ability to swap things out and keep equipment moving.

As to the layouts, I see two different purposes.  Both meet the requirements of two trains and crossovers that you set out.  The updated one brings all the switching to one side, presumably the front, which is great for a display layout that is mostly accessible from just one side.  since accidents and derailments are most likely to happen at the switches, this makes sense.  If it were a home use layout with walk around access I would go for the first plan as it spreads out the action more.  I like them both, but I think your updated plan will be great for your intended purpose.  Plus for kids, having parallel tracks a good portion of the way around allows for "racing."  And for kids, racing trains is a great thing!

Last edited by jhz563

Be careful about surrounding the remote in metal, as that will block the Bluetooth signal unless it is done "just so."

Last edited by RoyBoy

Another idea I use for both the lionchief remote and dcs remote is a guitar holder its adjustable and I use one of my wife's hair bands as extra holding power and have them all around the RR. You can buy then from brand A in.packs of 5 for 10.00.




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Last edited by dk122trains

I've never had a LC remote opened up so I'm not totally sure what's going on inside, but the human interaction components consist of the three momentary push switches for the sound features and the potentiometer(?) for the speed and direction.  If you're going as far as to modify the remote to accept an external power source, could you simply gut the remote, mount the electronic components within signal range of the trains and then run wires to more robust buttons and potentiometers on a more traditional control panel?

Edit: I remembered that I do in fact have a spare remote laying around so I opened it up to see how it was built.  All of the switches and the potentiometer are directly soldered to the circuit board vs having wire leads running to them. There is a pair of wire leads running to the battery terminals.  The decorative knob seems to be glued to the potentiometer spindle so I wasn't able to remove the circuit board from the front face of the remote as I wanted to keep it intact.  I don't see why you couldn't get it apart if you wanted to, but the decorative knob would likely be damaged in the process.  It would be easy to solder lead wires to the terminals where the existing momentary pushbutton switches are soldered into the circuit board.  The back of the solder pads for the potentiometer are also visible, although in a much tighter grouping than the other terminals.  I'm not an electronics guru by any means so I have no idea if it'd be feasible to solder in an external potentiometer in place of the original.

Last edited by SantaFe158


If it's a matter of.not losing the remote; I had that issue with TV remotes and roommates.  I opened the remote and drilled a hole(s) in the back or sides of the plastic and threaded in a wiretwire  ending it with a crimp connector for a stop.  The underside of the coffee table got a simple handle for a drawer pull  for the anchor ...they stopped floating away       + Velcro

I have several Lionel LionChief locos (mostly of the Thomas series) on my layout for use by my two great-grandsons and  visiting kids.  I applied 2x2-inch VELCRO strips to the fascia and to the backs of each controller -- a strong enough "grip" to hold the controllers in place - ready for use;  yet easy for kids to remove and replace. 

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394

After reading all the suggestions, I've come to a design idea.  I'll describe it and, when implemented, try to remember to add a photo.  Wires will be soldered to the LionChief battery contacts and connected to a 4.5 VDC supply.  A small hole in the battery cover will let the wires through.  (If needed, the wires could be easily removed and batteries again used).  A piece of wood a little larger than the controller, and about as thick, will be hollowed out so the controller can recess into the hollowed out portion.  This piece of wood will be affixed flat to the layout surface with hidden screws.  This 1) makes it so you can't pick it up and 2) blocks the on/off switch which will always be "on".  A small aluminum plate will go across the front of the controller just below the throttle.  Two purposes:  One is that screws will affix it to threaded inserts in the wood cradle to secure the controller.  The other is that it will be shaped to limit throttle knob rotation to safe limits.  Not to limit speed (that will be done electrically), but just to prevent damage to the controllers own overtravel stops.  The wires will go to a 2-pin connector so that a controller could be quickly changed out by unplugging it and, removing two screws through the hold-down/Throttle-limit bar, and lifting the throttle out of its wooden pocket.  What this design does NOT do is protect the push buttons in any way.

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