5 years ago I inherited a beautifully maintained 1950's Lionel train set with two old "brick" transformers (Trainmaster "Type TW" and "Type KW") and a 665 Locomotive with tender and caboose. I set it up around the Christmas tree the following year for our 3 year old and he was immediately hooked.
Every year since then, I've added pieces. The second year, I added a bunch more track and bought him his own Williams/Bachmann Baldwin 4-6-0 Steam Locomotive.
The following year, I got a track switch and a Lionel Gantry Crane (which quickly snowballed into buying Gargraves gantry crane track, custom track connectors to connect that to the rest of my track, and, of course, a Cab-2 controller, all necessary to operate the gantry crane). Now I know why the gantry crane itself is so cheap .
Last year, he asked for something with a remote and some cooler sounds, so I got a "Tier 4 Lion Chief" engine set, which he loved.
My problem, which you have quickly recognized, is that I have no idea what I'm doing, no idea what I'm building towards, and no idea how to get any of these things to work together... and yet my son remains really excited about continuing to build the collection and we're even considering making space in the house to have it more permanently set up so he can tinker with it. At the moment, I'm using one of the old transformers to power the gantry crane and then powering the track by connecting it directly into a fasttrack section thru the little transformer that came with the lion chief. this means I can't really run the other classic trains on the track and it also means I'm totally underutilizing my Cab-2. I was so unbelievably impressed with myself that I figured out how to control the gantry crane, but i still haven't figured out how to use the cab-2 to trigger a track switch or do anything else.
I've been reading about the Base 3 and Legacy Powermaster components, which seem to potentially allow for Cab-2 control of a wider range of units and I thought that might be a cool thing to add, but maybe thats overkill based on where I am and how quickly I intend to grow the collection? I also thought about just adding another accessory or two this year, but would love to get something else that he can control with the Cab-2 remote.
Thank you friends for any advice in advance of the holidays here so that I have time to get him something really special that continues to keep him excited about this hobby!