Dad's been retired for almost 20 years now, and he always talked about getting his Lionel train back up and running again.  It's one of the common "relegated to the basement, I'll get to it someday" stories.

He gave me his childhood set when I was a kid in the 70's, and I loved it.  It was one of a million of the "typical" postwar steamer sets, with the whistle tender and the milk car and the cattle and the light was so much fun!  A clever figure-8 with a spur, all the bells and whistles.  I played with it for days.  Until it had to be packed away because it took up too much room on the carpet in our tiny house (4' x 9').

It went under my parents' bed, and disappeared from sight and mind.  When we moved in the mid-80's we set it up for a brief while in the basement, but it was only a shadow of what I remembered.  The track was corroded, the loco was dirty, and it was a chore just getting it to go around the loop once without stalling or jumping the rails on account of the old, warped plywood it was nailed to.  I was interested in high school things, then off to college, and dad didn't have the motivation to keep the train going.  It languished, eventually becoming a repository of all the stuff that inevitably builds up with a life full of kids, Christmases, Easters, gymnastics, travel...

Time flies, doesn't it?  I've got 4 of my own kids now.  My oldest, Andy (he's 16), frequently asks me about the train in grandpas basement.  He sees it there, peeking out from under the bags full of who-knows-what and stuffed animals.  But more importantly, he sees the entire wall full of the dusty trains on grand display, frozen in time on a set of RailRax that George Olson himself gave to me when I worked for him (in an industry totally unrelated to trains!). 

I called dad a couple weeks ago.  It's now or never.  Andy is willing and able to help with getting this thing off the ground.  Dad took an inventory of the stuff he's got laying around, and has been remotely taking measurements of the house including door positions and swings, interior walls, etc.  We've settled on the attached layout, and we'll start building this summer I suppose.

The Blue figure 8 and the pink spur are his existing layout.  One KW and One LW transformer.  Lionel 031 track 3-Rail track on the blue and green loops, Gar-Graves / Ross will all be purchased new for everything else.   We're able to run three trains simultaneously (Blue Figure 8 031 loop, Yellow / Pink / Cyan 054 loop, and Green 031 loop on the far right.)  A cool feature is that both the blue and yellow/pink/cyan can be reversed without staging any trains that are in storage on the "B" Spur (red), the "S2" Spur (salmon) and the "S1" spur (white).  We can also kill the Lionel LW transformer feed to the green loop, turn on a feed from the KW and run the 031 train across the B spur in a continuous dog bone.

We can have 3 (long) trains parked while Running 3 trains separately. Blocks are all color coded.  We'll have to be creative for the Gray-blue block where switches 7 & 8 are...sometimes it needs to be fed from the KW xformer, sometimes from the LW depending on what we're doing.   I plan to implement a mechanical failsafe that prevents us from turning on live power from both transformers to the blue block (or the green block) at the same time.  And I've read about phasing, I don't anticipate issues with the KW & LW.

We were careful to leave access to everything, the left side of the layout is 18" from the wall so we should be able to get in there OK.  

Going back and forth with dad over Skype the past few weeks has been so much fun!  We're currently 1500 miles apart, but planning this layout has brought both of us some seriously needed relief from life's everyday stresses.

Would like to get feedback from you guys who have been doing this for a while.  Thanks for reading!

Layout 20200213


Photos (1)
Original Post

The only thing I can think of to note is I think the LW variable action might be on U , making certain acc voltage combos unusable on it; forcing use of one or the other for acc voltages... (might be the TW I'm thinking of though)

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Is the present old track now run worthy?

Note tubular is still available to fill the old space with new flat rails too. (I assume the old rails warped some from the wood moving. Remounting flat rails might prevent need for a tabletop swap too.

Menards offers a decent Lionel-ish O track for cheap, GGraves may make a sectional style track that mirrors the dia too..? You can bend the flex down to 0-31 but it's kinda hard for some folk to go under 36" bends.

New track is awesomely better for running than "good enough" old track cleaned up. You need to try it to realize it. (I run 90% 50+ year old, well used track, but that is changing slowly.)

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Adriatic posted:

The only thing I can think of to note is I think the LW variable action might be on U , making certain acc voltage combos unusable on it; forcing use of one or the other for acc voltages... (might be the TW I'm thinking of though)

I think you are right, and it's both of them.  (I just checked the Greenberg Repair and Operating Manual to confirm)

It was suggested to me a long time ago (probably by my dad) that the way to remember this is that any of the controllers with multiple throttle controls had the U as common and any with just a single control had the A as common.  I'm not sure if that holds true for every transformer they ever made, but it holds true for some of the most popular ones (LW, KW, TW, V, VW, Z, ZW).


Thanks for the feedback on the transformers.  The way I've got it figured the LW (the YELLOW transformer) will be dedicated to switches, accessories and, from time to time, running a single-motor train on the green loop.  The KW (red transformer in my sketch) will be doing the heavy lifts on running 2 trains.

As for 072, would love to, but space doesn't allow. for what we want.  All of our equipment (including some of the MTH premier Superliner cars) should do fine on 054, and I can pretty much guarantee that we'll never have the budget to plunk down for a loco that absolutely requires 072 to run on.  If we did, then we'd be expanding the layout at the same time!

We're going to see how the existing 1950's era Lionel track works for the blue (figure 8 loop).  IF it gives us too many fits, we can change it out.

BTW, we measured the "B" siding and my 4 car Amtrak Superliner set, Premier FP40 and baggage car come in 1" under the available parking length! (Wasn't luck, we planned it that way!)


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