Skip to main content

Post 1    5-16-2016

Overview of Action Packed 50’s period 027 Operating & Switching Layout  and Table of Contents

Note:  Table of Contents is at the end of this short Post 1

A major objective of this layout was make the track plan and layout active and challenging to keep the engineers busy with operation, switching of multiple trains and including many operating accessories, all to keep up interest in running trains and improving the layout.  While setting up three or five trains to loop is and can be done, experience has been that just looping gets boring quickly.

This topic or thread is about how I built a 1950s period Lionel and Marx train running action packed layout starting in 1977 and using conventional control and initially two Lionel LW transformers, 20 Marx 1590 switches, an Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel and homemade $10 Turntable with pit and Round House.

The layout is portable and has been moved to six houses due to job transfers.  The layout has an Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel utilizing mini push button and slide switches.  The layout started as a single train board with two independent relayed loops allowing two trains to operate on each loop with one or two operators.  The inside loop includes an oval and figure 8 allowing train reversing in either direction and has 11 switches. The outside loop has two alternate/storage tracks and has 9 switches.  This train board can runs 4 trains with two trains per two blocked relayed loops and numerous operating accessories. It includes a homemade $10 turntable with pit, round house and operating Lionel Gantry Crane.

A second train board was added in 1988 to allow a third loop to be operated with a second Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel and a third LW transformer.  The third loop includes a dog bone giving train reversing in either direction for the outside loop for both train boards and has 12 switches.  It can now runs 5 trains with two trains per two blocked relayed loops with one train running on the new train board and has numerous operating accessories.   The layout can be operated by only one operator and by two or three operators.  It is a 027 gauge Toy train operating and switching layout (32 Marx 1590 metal frog, inexpensive switches).                     This is a portable layout and has been on the floor in various rooms for 2 to 4 months a year until recently.

A Wye was added on the outside loop between the two train boards by using two more Marx switches in 2020 for additional reversing action and the layout now has 34 Marx metal frog 1590 switches.

I hope to show that one does not have to have a lot of room, tools, skills or money to enjoy this hobby.  I will try to provide the logic and reasons for the choices I made in planning and building this layout and describe, in enough detail and pictures, how I built it for most to be able to build their own layout.

The initial layout train board described is 11 ft long and 5 ft, 9 inches wide, is in two sections and is portable and easy to store.  Simple portable power tools can be used and simple fifties type methods were used.   The construction is inexpensive and used lumber can be used.  Used 027 track and Lionel and Mark trains from the 40s and 50s were initially used.  Lionel LW 125 watt transformers and 20 Marx 027, 1590 metal frog switches are also used which are inexpensive and easily found and obtained.  The layout uses conventional control.

Suggestions and ideas will be shared that will show ways to keep costs low by train gear selection and modifying, kit bashing or scratch building simple structures and accessories including a turntable and roundhouse for less than $10 each.

I am encouraging viewers to quit just following and watching on the OGR Forum and hoping to have a layout and to get proactive and go for it, by spending time planning and then acquiring materiel and train gear and then building an action packed, interest maintaining layout.

I plan to make additional short posts to this topic periodically or when I can, on different features of my 43 year old layout to show what might be included in a layout and to keep the topic rolling for a while.  Your comments and suggestions are solicited.

Picture of overall Layout Main Train Board

Train Complete 1-17-2015 116

Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel showing Track Plan of Main Train Board


Photo showing both Train Boards in 2021 with new Wye

Layout Day Arial 8-18-2021 2021-08-18 015


                                               Table of Contents

Page 1

Post 1  5-16-2016   Overview of Action Packed 50’s period 027 Operating Layout  &  Table of Contents

Post 2   5-17-2016  Layout videos and comments posted

Post 3   5-20-2016   The Beginning - Childhood Layout

Post 4   5-24-2016   Resources- Books and Magazines & Layout Track Plan and Features

Post 5   5-27-2016   Procurement of Lionel LW Transformers, Trains, Track, Marx 1590 Metal Frog Switches etc.

Post 6    6-4-2016    Project during planning – Tootle Wooden Pull Train

Post 7   6-11-2016   Construction of Main Layout Board    (11ft x 5ft - 9in)

Post 8   6-20-2016    Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel Construction, Wiring and Transformers revised 3-10-2021

Post 9   6-25-2016   Turntable with a pit Construction & Operation - Scratch Built and Inexpensive  revised 9-2019

Post 10  7-1-2016    50’s Type Buildings from Childhood Layout

Post 11  7-8-2016    Back to USA and Homemade Round House Construction

Page 2

Post 12   7-16-2016   1980-90s Locomotive Engine and Car Upgrades

Post 13   7-22-2016   Building a Mountain and Tunnel -  Construction Details

Post 14   7-29-2016  Kit-bashing the Bachmann 1975 Coal Station

Post 15   7-29-2016  Converting a Bachmann 1975 Coal Station to a Coal Mine/ Coal Loader Accessory

Post 16  8-6-2016   Building Homemade Lionel Style Cars

Post 17  8-12-2016   Backdrop for Layout on the Floor

Post 18   8-18-2016   Building a Homemade Lionel type Water Tower and Gantry Crane Superstructure

Post 19  8-26-2016   Layout Lights and Lighting

Post 20  9-2-2016   Alumina, Chemical and Industrial Cars

Post 21  9-6-2016   Building a Center Fill Reynolds Alumina Covered Hopper Car

Post 22   9-9-2016  Hidden Track installed behind Background and Industrial Bldg.

Post 23   9-19-2016   New Layout Board Addition ( 7ft - 6in x 4ft - 7 in) Making an "L" Layout with pictures and video

Page 3

Post 24   4-11-2016   Building a New Addition Track Plan and  Active Track Diagram Control Panel

Post 25   10-4-2016   Building a Ice skating pond on New Addition

Post 26  10-10-2016  Train whistles and Diesel horns

Post 27  10-13-2016   New Addition Main Street

Post 28  10-18-2016   Roadside Diner for Main Street Siding

Post 29  10-28-2016   Other New Addition Areas - Industrial, Local Train Station, Farm, Air Port

Post 30  11-15-2016   Trolley for Main Street - Homemade Reversing Mechanism

Post 31  1/28/2017   Installation of remote operating Lionel 12834 Gantry Crane

Page 4

Post 32  4/20/2017   Installation of Lionel 192 Control Tower

Post 33  6/4/2017    List of Layout Installed Accessories

Post 35  6/22/2017  Unit trains Operated on Layout

Post 36  7/25-2017  Train Shelves Built and Under Window Shelves Added for the Train Room

Post 37  8/5/2017    Layout Skirting Made and Installed

Post 38  8/12/2017   Popular Trains Run on the Layout - Operating Train  (1st Post, Milk Car)

Post 39  8/18/17   Popular Trains Run on the Layout - Operating Train  (2nd Post, Cattle Car)

Post 40  8/20/2017  Popular Trains Run on the Layout - Operating Train  (3nd Post, Barrel Car & Un-loader)

Post 41  8/24/2017   Popular Trains Run on the Layout - Operating Train  (4nd Post, Ice Car & Icing Station)

Page 5

Post 42 8/31/2017   Popular Trains Run on the Layout - Operating Train  (5th Post, Gondola or Coal Dumping Car)

Post 43  9/4/2017    Automating the Manual Lionel 6-12774 Lumber Log Loader

Post 44   9/9/2017    Common Trains Run on the Layout - Passenger Trains

Post 45   9/21/2017   Common Trains Run on the Layout – The Christmas Train

Post 46   9/29/2017    Common Trains Run on the Layout - General 4-4-0 Engines and Trains

Post 47  10/9/2017     Common Trains Run on the Layout - Wrecking Trains

Post 48  10/19/2017   Common Trains Run on the Layout – Maintenance Trains

Post 49   11/24/2017   Finds at TCA Train show in Ponchatoula, LA in November 2017

Post 50   12/28/2020   Layout on Christmas 2017

Page 6

Post 51  1/17/2018   Common Trains Run on the Layout – Space and Missile Trains and Cars

Post 52   3/17/2018   Building a Homemade Lionel 6413 Mercury Capsule Transporting Car

Post 53a  4/28/2018   New engines and Track Upgrade

Post 53b  4/29/2018   Track Nippers and Track Cutting Jig

Post 54   6/1/2018    Cab-Forward Engine

Post 55   3/15/2019   Building a Homemade Vanderbilt Tender

Post 56  3/18/2019   Small Engines Used on the Layout

Post 57   9/4/2019    Building a Homemade Longer 6 Wheel Vanderbilt Tender

Post 58  9/24/2019    Large Steam Engines Used on the Layout

Post 59   2/3/2020     New Engine - Lionel 561, 0-8-0 Switcher

Post 60   2/9/2020    Building a Homemade Lionel 9278 Life Savers Tank Car

Page 7

Post 61   5/1/2020     Addition of a Wye to the Layout

Post 62   5/10/2020   New Flood Lights on Cattle Corral and new Milk Platform after Wye Installation

Post 63   7-2-2020   Marx Trains Run on the Layout

Post 64   8-14-2020   E Z Wooden Ties Added to Layout to make Semi-Super O27 Realistic Track

Post 65  9-2-2020   Building a Homemade Lionel style 193 Industrial Water Tower added to Main Train board

Post 66   9-8-2020   Building a Lionel 6407 Flat Car with an Improved Rocket

Post 67  10-19-2020   New and Last Train Shelf added to Train Room

Post 68  10-28-2020    Signal Bridges Now Operating

Post 69  11-18-2020    Homemade Lionel 6805 Atomic Energy Disposal Car

Post 70   1-4-2021    Homemade Transfer Caboose

Post 71  1-18-2021   Homemade Bobber Caboose

Post 72  1-19-2021   Adding an Clip on Amprobe Ammeter to Layout's Three LW Train Transformers

Post 73   1-28-2021   Painting and Lighting of Two Rio Grande Cabooses

Post 74   2-9-2021     SP and N5c Cabooses converted to Union Pacific

Post 75   2-29-2021   Two Repainted Cabooses - Penn N5c and SP Santa Fe and Review of a latest Homemade, during Virus, Cabooses

Page 8

Post 76    3-18- 2021    A Lionel 6-8562, GP 20  -  Latest Diesel Roaming the Layout

Post 77    6-19-2021    Reviving 1930s Lionel 238 Streamlined Torpedo Locomotive and Tender

Post 78    8-11-2021    Engines Purchased with Previous Owners Modifications


Last edit 8-18-2021 pg 3


Images (4)
  • Train Complete  1-17-2015 152
  • Train Complete  1-17-2015 116
  • Train Overhead views 9-21-016 2016-09-21 014
  • Layout Day Arial 8-18-2021 2021-08-18 015
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Post 2   5-17-2016

Thanks for the comments and encouragement to keep posting.

Here is a little Lagniappe (south Louisiana French for "a little something free").  A video from Christmas 2006 when the layout was taking up two thirds of the family room for 2 months.

I really love having a floor layout in a main room being a bigger part of family life, especially at Christmas time.  The Christmas tree is on (above) the extension built in 1998.

I hope the video works.  If not try You tube link below.



Videos (1)
2006 Christmas Layout on floor of family room
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 3   5-20-2016

The Beginning - Childhood Layout

My childhood Marx 027 layout consisted of an oval and figure 8 utilizing four Marx 1590 switches on a ping pong 9’ x 5’ board on the floor.  The train was a Marx 999 freight set.  We had a Lionel 1033 transformer.  It was on the living room floor for two weeks after being installed on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree in the plaster of Paris mountain.

I had two friends that lived on my block in south St. Louis, one had a Lionel train with cattle car loader and milk car and platform.  The other had American Flyer layout.  Both had layouts on the floor with a single loop and a bypass or siding with a couple of switches and were down for two weeks at Christmas also.  I had the Marx layout with oval and figure 8 with four Marx switches and we all liked to run that Marx 999 doing lots of switching with the figure 8 allowing reversing in both directions.

When my brother and I were 8 and 10 or so, the train track and gear were removed and the layout dismantled.  We had moved to new house my Dad and his friend built for us in Afton, a suburb of St. Louis.  My brother and I got into building solid wood and plastic models, then stick and paper air planes, model boats and later 049 powered U control planes.  We went into Fox 35 U control planes in junior and high school and I got into radio control (tubes & 67 v batteries !) boats.  The Marx 999 trains set and tracks were in storage.


Pictures of Marx 999 set with original carsMarx-999 & Lydia Band 5-19-2016 005

Marx 999 engine (set is original but engine is retired due to worn out motor gear, this is a replacement)

Marx-999 & Lydia Band 5-19-2016 003

Marx Uncoupling sectionMarx-999 & Lydia Band 5-19-2016 008


Images (3)
  • Marx-999 set
  • Marx-999
  • Marx uncoupling
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 4   5-24-2016

Resources- Books and Magazines & Layout Track Plan and Features

Resources:    These five booklets and books were helpful and used from the start.

“Lionel O/O27 Train and Accessory Manual”  No. 6-2953 Copyright 1975, 33 pages, a great book to explain how to operate two trains on one loop with blocked track sections and relays to keep trains from over taking one another.

“Lionel Track Layout Book O27”, 21 pages

“Operating O and O27 Trains”   by Maury D. Klien and Bruce C. Greenberg , 1976, 242 pages.  This is a "must have book".

"Model Railroading, A Family Guide" by Bruce Greenberg, 1979, 167 pages, hardback.  Describes blocked track, cab control panels and repairing train gear.  It was a Christmas gift in 1981.

“Model Railroading”, 5th ed., Reprinted in 1990 By Greenberg Publishing,  Original published by Bantam, written by Lionel staff in 1950, 384 pages.  I had the original from a 1950s (is now missing) and acquired the 1990 ed. 

In 2019, I bought a beat up 3rd ed. which featured a homemade turntable with a wooden wheel to turn it and a homemade 3 stall round house.  The 3rd ed. better represents the a 1950s style Lionel train layout and is worth hunting down if for information on the style of my layout.

These two magazines were used later to keep up with model railroading and keep up interest.

I found Classic Toy Trains magazine in 1988 and have issues from the start, Summer 1988 to lately with some missing the last few years.  But I find the early 5 years or so have more use to for my 50s style layout and my post war locos.

I also have O Scale Railroading magazine, starting with run 45, Aug 1976, and later changed its name to O Gauge Railroading Magazine and later started this forum.  My issues are complete until the last few years.  I find the issues from the late 1980s and 1990s to better suit my layout and postwar locos.

This magazine was not used and recently discovered.  It is Lionel's "Model Builder" magazine published from Feb 1937 to Mar 1949, total of 79 issues for 10 cents an issue.  It shows many track plans and how to do articles on building TT, RH other buildings and uses the same older methods I used from the 1950s.  It is available free at or


Layout Track Plan and Features

One major objective of the layout was to make it interesting and challenging to operate.  I did not want a simple loop or two of track and just sit back and watch trains circle around.

My brother and I quickly became bored with our simple loop with a figure eight in a few days of running at Christmas.  I wanted an active track plan with lots of running routes, train reversing, lots of switches and have the ability to operate multiple trains.  I wanted things for the train to do like load, unload, uncouple, make and unmake trains and thus it should have operating accessories and operating cars.


Several lists of desired features were made and several track plans were sketched.

The layout will be a portable, floor layout as it was desired to install the layout in a family or other room floor for two months around Christmas and then removed and stored in the garage or storage or shop room.  The layout would be moved with the house hold furniture when relocating for employment  (this was a great idea as the layout has be in six different houses from 1976 to 1993 !).  All track, switches, transformers and control panel would be attached to the layout and trains, buildings, bridges, mountains, accessories, etc. would be removed for storage or transport.

The layout would have section sizes that allow easy moving in and out of the house for storage in garage, etc. and also allow packing for shipment with house hold goods for job relocation.  It proved to be good to make sections sized as to fit in queen size bed mattress boxes. The section must be small enough to go through standard size doors and up steps.  The sections must have means to allow it to be moved for storage and into the house from the garage by one person.

The oval and figure 8 was the basic building block.  Reversing was desired and this configuration allows reversing in both directions.  This was my childhood layout and liked the train operation with only four switches.

Two train and two loop operation was desired so a second loop was added around the inner loop and figure 8.  Inter connections between the loops were provided allowing transferring trains from both loops while running in either direction.

Train storage and passing was desired so full length bypass was installed on the outer loop.  A small bypass was installed on one of sections of the figure 8.

Two transformers were located on each side of the active switch and track diagram control panel to allow two engineers to have convenient access to one transformer and the active switch track diagram control panel.  A selector switch was installed to allow one transformer to operate the whole layout or switched to allow one transformer to operate the inner loop and the other to operate the outer loop.

All of the track was blocked and controlled as to “live” or “dead” by a slide switch on the control diagram control panel.  The exception to this is all switches are always “live”.

Multiple trains operation on each loop was desired.  This will allow four trains to be operated on a total of two loops.  A major source of information for multiple train operation on one loop was the booklet “Lionel O/O27 Train and Accessory Manual”, No. 6-2953 Copyright 1975.  Part 8 starting on page 28 shows how to operate multiple trains on one loop by preventing one train from overtaking and running into the train ahead.  It does this by having insulated blocks controlled by a relay with train occupation sections.  A 5 ohm, 25 watt adjustable resistor is installed to keep engine E units from cycling when being halted to allow the lead loco to move ahead.   Installation of multiple train operation was easier due to the blocked track plan utilized.  Two slide switches on each loop control the multiple train operation.  One power ups the relay.  The other selects direction the trains are going, CW or CCW by setting which of the two detector section is to be used ahead of delaying block.

The idea for a homemade turntable would come later.

 Track diagram shown on active control panelTrain Lots 5-10-2016 252


Switches on control panel - next Photo

 Top - reset switch on circuit breaker and light showing Short

2nd down - Relays on/off switch for in loop and out loop for multi train per loop system

3rd down - switch to set up relay system for CW clockwise or CCW counterclock wise train operation

4th down - Transformer selection switch:   left red dot for Red LW controls whole layout, or right for Two transformer operation Red dot and Green dot to allow Red LW control inner loop and Green LW to control the outer loop.  Color is the light color on LW trans. Train Lots 5-10-2016 251


 Video of Two trains Operating on One Loop if it works on OGR


YouTube Video of Two trains Operating on One Loop Link Below, in case vidio above does not work



Images (2)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 252
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 251
Videos (1)
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 5      5-27-2016

Procurement of Transformers, Trains, Track, Switches etc.

When I started acquiring trains and train gear I lived and worked near Kingston Jamaica, starting in 1976, for four years and traveled back to the USA every 6 months and visited family in Texas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Florida.

I looked in the Pittsburgh Gazette paper want ads for O gauge trains.  I found none but did find an ad from Dave who wanted to buy Lionel trains.  I called and asked him if he had any to sell, he did.  He had a serious train collection and liked to sell trains he did not need or to raise money to buy more.  This started a series of trips to Dave’s house every 6 months or so.


I got my first Lionel LW transformer (to go with the Lionel 1034 transformer I had) , and got several used Marx 1590 switches and used track.  I got some cars and a Lionel MP 219 diesel also.

Almost all of my switches, track, transformers, accessories, engines and cars etc. were bought used.  I believe in the saying " The second mouse gets the cheese".


I have settled on Marx 1590 metal frog switches for several reasons.  One;  I had 4 of them from childhood, two;   they will pass fat wheel Marx 999 and other engines and I had some Marx, three;  they are easy to buy and inexpensive and I need a lot of them (layout has 28 switches), four;   they are reliable, simple and easy to repair if necessary, five;  they have metal frogs and not plastic, and six;  they have a low profile, take less space than Lionel 022 switches with huge switch motors sticking out and blend in with the track and seven;  they use no continuous power as they have no lights (Lionel switches, which have two or three lights on the switches and controllers all the time each ( times 31 now)).  The Marx 1590 switch only uses power when switching the frogs position.  I operate the switches with mini push button switches mounted on active track diagram control panels with most push button switches in place on the track diagram to make finding the correct switch of 31 easier.

Switch operation is by a 12 volt, 40 or so amp transformer that has been modified by removing enough off the secondary wire windings to give 14.5 volt output for only momentary operation for switches and some accessories.  Many consider the Marx 1590 switch the best post war switch yet they are lowest cost.

You may notice I have painted all my Marx 1590 switches gray to match my track ballast color.  I did this because I had some that were bare silver metal with red switch machine boxes and some were all black, some silver and some with red solenoid boxes and I wanted them all the same color.  Also by painting them all light gray, the color of my road bed, they blend in with the road bed and the switch boxes are less obvious.  I did not go to the trouble to paint fake rail ties on the switches (quite a chore with 31 of them).

Marx 1590 Switch update 10-9-2017

Marx 1590 switches have one short coming in that they will not pass some Lionel train roller pick-ups without problems (usually the pick-up roller gets stuck) due to the center rail large gap near the frog point.  This problem is easily solved by installing a 3/4 inch piece of a finish nail (cheaper) or a 027 rail pin in the two center rail ends of switch as shown in the following pictures.  This will fill the center rail gap and keep Lionel pick-up rollers from hanging up or losing contact on Marx 1590 switches.

The center rail of the straight track shows one inserted pin and switch in straight position.  Note how the pin fills in the straight center rail gap.


The center rail of the curved track shows the other inserted pin and switch in curved position.  Note how the pin fills in the center rail of the curved section.


Additional Engines and Coal Tenders

When in Beaumont, TX we saw an ad for a garage sale that had Lionel trains.  I purchased four 2-4-2 plastic, mostly non scout engines, like Lionel 248 and 249 with coal tenders for a great price $10.  The non scout engines, with open frame motors and 2 way e-units run great although they are limited to pulling only 4 or 5 lighter cars  which was just fine as I did not have any heavy operating cars like the milk and cattle cars yet.  These four engines were the start of the idea for a turntable.  I am a dedicated garage sale goer and rarely find Lionel trains but have found a few.

Pictures of the three of the  2-4-2 plastic Lionel engines that inspired the turntable.  They were all black and I painted all of them in the 1980s.

2-4-2 engine

A sharper picture below

Train Complete 1-17-2015 182

Train Lots 5-10-2016 147

Train Lots 5-10-2016 149

Turntable Idea Hatched

The acquiring of 4 additional engines hatched the desire to design and build a turntable for the layout.  I have always considered a turntable as the"Holy Grail" of railroading and always looked for turntables and roundhouses at railroad facilities I passed.  TTs have the advantage of turning around an engine verses a transfer table which can not.  I started sketching a TT in my proposed layouts and had no idea of whether to buy one or scratch build one.  A turntable is the single best item to best achieve my objective to add interest and action to my train layout.

Procuring Additional Train Gear

Since moving back in the states I have purchased lots of trains, track and switches, etc. at TCA, Great American and Greenberg’s train shows especially in the 80s and 90s.  I have done better in later years at TCA local meets in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.  I asked sellers at these meets for Marx switches and one fellow at a TCA meet in Shreveport, LA said he had 16 at home that I could have for free.  I said I would  gladly pay the postage and I did.

Some trains were from OGR forum members.

A few engines were procured off eBay but I find bidding leads to high costs in most cases (too many buyers for one item) and shipping costs, but the selection of trains for sale cannot be beat.

I have had more than one acquaintance give me their old family trains when no one in the family wanted them and they did not want to bother with selling them and wanted a good home for the trains.

One new locomotive, a K-Line GG-1 was purchased new form K-Line when first issued on a special, as I figured I would never spend hundreds of dollars for a used Lionel GG-1.  Years later the K-Line GG-1 developed the dreadful zinc pest, on the truck side pieces on one side of two trucks, warping them.  I was able to purchase two truck side pieces from Lionel that fit.



Images (5)
  • 2-4-2 engine
  • 2-4-2 engine
  • 2-4-2 Southern
  • IMG_0529
  • IMG_0536
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 6     6-4-2016  

Project during planning – Tootle Wooden Pull Train

While planning the layout, accumulating material, track, switches, etc. in Jamaica in 1976 I built a wooden toy train pull toy for my young son and baby daughter.   This train now has been also enjoyed by my seven grandchildren, the youngest now 5.  The train was made from scrap ½ inch and ¾ inch wood.  The wheels were cut with a 2 ¼ inch hole saw (2 ½ for loco drivers) and an electric hand drill.  The crane car has a wooden tooth gear to hold the cable in position.  The search light car was made from a discarded flashlight reflector and head.


Pictures of Tootle Wooden pull train

Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 003

Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 007

Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 010




Images (3)
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 003
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 007
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 010
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post  7    6-11-2016

Main Train Board Construction

I drew up several plans as small sketches to get ideas for what I wanted.  I then drew out and designed my layout track plan to scale with a homemade template.  I was overseas in Jamaica and did not have or know about store bought templates!  My template was made from a piece of polyethylene from a coffee can lid.  I cut a 027 straight and curve cutout with a X-Acto knife.  I used 1/10 inch to one foot scale on the template shown below.


I then laid out the two ovals I wanted with a figure eight in the center one.  This let me determine how big to make the layout.  I then had 10 or 15 Xerox copies made on legal size paper.


These made it easier to make several tries to get the position of the switches to go between the two ovals and the location of my turntable and other track sections to get the fit.  This is one is a rejected try shown below but accurate for the homemade turntable


The below picture is a latest diagram of the first board.


My tools in Jamaica from 1976 to 1979 were an electric 7 inch Skil circular saw, a Toro 18 inch jig saw, an electric hand saber saw, a 3/8 inch electric drill and 1957 Weller 100 watt soldering gun.  I threw together small work bench and installed a 4” X 6” wood working vise.

Plywood was rare and expensive in Jamaica.  I was able to obtain a few sheets of particle board made from sugar cane pulp called bagasse from a neighbor who worked for a company that made the board.  This board was ¾ inch thick and very heavy like particle board in the states (I would have used ½ inch low grade plywood in the USA to keep weight down).  I made the layout in two sections.  The frame was from 1x6 boards with 1x4s for the cross pieces.  1” x 1” strips were nailed around the inside perimeter to hold the particle board to be installed and recessed 1 inch from the top of the 1 x 6 boards.

6 inch diameter wooden wheels were made from 3/4 inch plywood sealed with Elmer's glue to allow moving of the board sections by one person.  The wheels were installed, with 1 inch diameter wooden dowels for axles (paraffin wax for lubrication).  One wheel is on a corner and another is down the side about 2/3 to the end.  This allows the board to be turned and pivoted around this wheel.   Handles from 1 inch diameter dowels were installed under the board along the edge to allow steering and lifting when moving.  The boards were built in the carport and moved and leaned against a wall when work was finished each night.

The layout sections were small enough to store and ship in mattress boxes when we relocate due to work transfers.  They are small enough to go through standard size doors and up steps.

The main board length is 11 ft, 1.5 inches in length and width is 5 ft, 9 inches   The section with the control panel is 6 ft, 3/4 inches long.  The other section is 5 ft , 3/4 inches wide.

Pictures of wheels on board one, Pivot Wheel on one side (this is a double 6 " diameter plywood wheel for the weight of the transformers and control panel on this section)

Train Lots 5-10-2016 337

Corner wheelTrain Lots 5-10-2016 336

Picture of both corner wheel on left and side wheel on the right of one section

Train Lots 5-10-2016 335

Track Installation

Track was installed using a few short screws to hold it down.  Switches were installed as well as uncoupling track sections.  Insulated track pins were installed to form track blocks to allow every section of track between the switches and to form blocks for the coming relay and blocks for two train operation and for track sections with installed with isolated outside rails for relay controlled two train operation to come.  Wire pig tails were soldered to a track for each track section to provide power and ground and to each uncoupling track section and each outside isolated outside rail section.

Early on I made a Track Cutting Jig to help cut short sections of straight 027 track.

The jig  is made from a scrap of 3/4"  wood 2" x 2 1/4 " with a same size 3/8" plywood glued on the bottom.  Three slots were sawed, with a jig saw, 1/4" deep and 1/8" wide at the spacing of the three rails of 027 track.  A 1/16" wide slot was cut at 90 degrees to the track slots to accommodate a fine hack saw blade.


A piece of 1/2" plywood was made to act as a Track Hold Down.  Shown at the top of picture.  Groove was cut to go over the track tie if necessary


Picture of clamp holding Track Cutting Jig, track to be cut with hack saw with a fine blade and Track Hold Down.  The Track Cutting Jig is held in wood working vise.


I use a fine tooth hack saw blade and find the Track Cutting Jig makes cutting shorter pieces of track and easy neat job.

Layout Painting

The layout was painted with oil based glossy enamel paint. Oil based paint was normally used 35 years ago and is more durable than water based paint.  My layout originally was a temporary floor layout and was walked on during installation each year so durability was important.  Light Gray paint was used for roads and pavement and track ballast.  Medium and lighter green and brown paint were used for the ground and mountain.
Brown and green railroad model grass and brown dirt were lightly sprinkled on the layout paint when wet.

Post Script

Post 53a shows how to fill gaps between rail sections with aluminum flashing and Post 53b shows details of my homemade Track Cutting Jig and using track pliers (small kippers) to tighten flashing and rails around track pins.  Both Posts 53a an 53b are on page 6 of this topic



Images (4)
  • Train Complete  1-17-2015 152
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 337
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 336
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 335
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 8   6-20-2016            Update   3-10-2021

Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel Construction, Wiring and Transformers

I decided to make a control panel with an Actionable Touch Track Diagram when I built my operating, switching 027 layout with total 31 Marx switches (on two control panels), starting in 1976 or forty year plus year ago.

Model Railroading book shows an active track diagram control panel with 7 toggle switches located on the diagram.  Most Lionel train show room layouts had a track diagram but the switch control switches were not on the diagram and they layouts mostly consisted of 5 or 6 isolated loops with only a few sidings.  The book Greenberg's "Model Railroading with Lionel Trains", Vol 11 of 1992,  page 40, shows a control panel with 38 Lionel switch controllers lined up and sheet with the track plan below.  I do not know how they identify which Lionel switch controllers operates which track switch.

I have had extensive experience, from 1965 to 2010 or so,  with flow chart diagrams control panels in several chemical and refinery plant control rooms.  These control panels were often from the floor to ceiling and grouped by function with 10 to 15 feet of width each.  They had instruments to control flows, temperature, pressure, etc for various spots in the unit they controlled.  These instruments were located on taped or marked out flow sheet on the panel that diagrammed the process flow and made it possible to easily show and control the process.  Therefore I knew I wanted an track plan diagram with the push button switches and slide switches located showing where the Marx switches, un-coupling track sections and the sections of track blocks were actually on the train layout.  (note:  now days these industrial plants have computer controls and diagram controls by computer monitors, some having active screens for control)

The first reason I picked and active track diagram control panel is I have 20 Marx 1590 track switches on the main train board and having that many switch controllers lined up would be difficult to operate deciding which control switch went with which track switch.  The active touch track plan diagram makes it easy to find the proper switch.  The uncouplers require an additional 14 switches to be matched with the uncoupler track section and would be hard to identify which switch worked which uncoupler track section.  An active touch track diagram control panel solves both these problems.

A second reason is it saves space by combining the switches for the track switches and uncouplers and on the small track diagram.  This is possible by using Radio Shack momentary mini push button control switches which are located at the spot on the diagram where the track switch or uncoupler track is located on the train board.

A third reason is I like the looks of an actionable touch track diagram as it is less cluttered than a large bank of Lionel switch control switches and seeing the track plan helps identify the different tracks on the layout.  Lionel used track diagrams to show a picture of the track plan on some of their showroom layouts but they did not have active switches on the track diagram to control the layout.

Note on main control panel actionable touch layout diagram Below:  The red and green mini push button switches are for track switches.  The blue push button switches are for uncoupling track sections.  The black slide switches are for cutting on and off power the track section they are on.  When WHITE  shows completing the white of the diagram, the power is ON.  When the BLACK of the switch slide lever is blocking the white track of the diagram, the power is OFF. My Trains 4-18-2016 014

The control panel frame was made from ¾ boards and glued and screwed to side of the train board.  The center section is for the track diagram.   A section to the right and one to the left are for two Lionel LW transformers.



The actionable control touch diagram panel is made from 1/8 inch tempered Masonite.  It was painted medium gray.  Radio Shack mini momentary push button switches and mini slide switches, both spdt and dpdt were used.  Push button switch buttons were painted green for main ovals and red for other.  The blue switch buttons are for uncoupling tracks.  1/8 inch color diameter dots from Dymo plastic tape cut with a hole punch were added to each push button switch to increase durability of the paint on the buttons.  1/8 inch wide white auto pin stripe was used to outline the diagram.

Some Data on my Actiionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panels   (as of 4-10-2020)

Main Control Panel   (26 inch X 9 inch) Mini Switch Inventory

(Key:  Mini Push Buttons = PB,  Slide Switches = SS

Actiionable Track Diagram              

Turnout PB        un-coupling PB        Track sect SS        Round H. Rotary      

       36                           14                           14                          8              

Side Switch Panels

Mini Push Buttons     Slide Switches

           16                            14

What a mess of wires!  I just installed one wire at time and checked circuits as I went.  There is no electrical diagram for the whole layout.  There are several dozen one page diagrams for all individual circuits but one has to just trace the wires to know how to repair.  Some wires are labelled like Common or C and I tried to make all common wires have black insulation.  Most wiring is 14 ga for track power and switches and 18 ga for lighting and accessories.  The14 gauge wires were too stiff to bend easily when swinging the control panel up for work so all the large gauge wires had a 20 ga.,  8 to 12 inch long pig tail soldered on them to go between the wire and its push button or slide switches on the panel.


After having this actionable touch track diagram control panel for over forty years, one idea for an improvement has been come up.  The improvement would be to have the direction of the switch on the diagram be illuminated in the route the tracks are set up to.  The operating engineers memory is required now to remember what route has been set on the various track switches.

This would require replacing the existing Radio Shack push button momentary mini switches with illuminated mini switches push button momentary switches.  These switches would light and remain lighted until its paired push button switch, which operates the opposite direction for the track switch is operated.  I do not know what it would take to make these paired push button illuminated switches work this fashion.

Layout Power Keyed ON/Off Switch

I installed a main total layout keyed 110 v switch to turn the layout on and off on the right of the control diagram panel frame.  The keyed layout On/Off switch gives the chief engineer control over layout use by unauthorized persons (kids, my 1 year old daughter and 3 year old son at the time).  The picture shows a plastic case from 35mm film canister being used to shield the 110v contacts on the keyed switch for safety and is only high voltage in either control panel.


Layout main wiring was 14 gauge stranded copper wire from salvaged from scraped industrial instrument control cable ( plants always use only new wire)  in single wires, no pairs.  18 gauge wire was used for some close switches and building lights etc. also single wires.  It was found paired wires (or zip 18 ga lamp cord) could not be used to each coil of the Marx 1590 switches due to induction caused with AC power on zip lamp wire or twisted wire would not work the switch coil.  All wire connections to the track were soldered.  This includes power, isolated rails for sensors for two train relay controlled running and track power if used for accessories.  I used no clip-on track connectors or Lionel accessory track switches)

5 ohm, 25 watt variable Resistors for two train per loop operation to keep E-units from cycling when idled.


Relays (under a plastic cover) for two trains per loop Operation - to halt chasing train when sensor track trips relay


Transformers Installed on the Layout

Initially trains only were run on one Lionel LW and one Lionel 1034 transformers.  The LW transformer could power two trains per loop.  The train transformers are used only to run trains not for lighting or accessories unless used for track voltage for the cattle pen or milk car when trains are not running.


Later the 1034 transformer was changed to another LW transformer.  Issues were had with the LW lever increasing voltage by turning counter clock wise verses clockwise for the 1034 and other Lionel transformers.  LW transformers were chosen as the standard.  I stumbled on the Lionel LW transformer and consider it the best transformer made to run one loop or up to two trains per loop.  Many others have also come to this conclusion and written about its advantages and unique features.

LW transformers output 125 watts for one train or 62.5 watts per train when running two trains per one LW.  By comparison a ZW at total 275 watts or divided by 4 gives 69 watts per each train loop.  LW transformers put more watts per train than any other Lionel post war transformer.  Also the LW transformers are less expensive than other transformers, most of mine cost $30 or so each.

LW transformers have a lighted dials which shows when the transformer is putting out any voltage and the light varies in intensity as the voltage is changed.  The light also shows when there is track voltage on even when the external circuit breaker is thrown.  The lighted dial makes night operation better showing the voltage at night.

For the configuration of my control panel, having one transformer like the ZW run two loops with two operators would be crowded.

A common ground was used for all switches, lights and transformers.  All train transformers were phased.

All tracks outside rails and transformers share the same common.   All transformers are phased so trains can go from a loop on one transformer to another loop with another transformer.  I have two switches that select all tracks and all loops to be run on the red lighted LW trans.  A second selection is for red lighted trans to operate main board inside loop only and green lighted LW to operate main board outside loop and new board to right of main board.  Another switch on the new board control panel selects the be controlled by the green lighted LW or lets the green lighted LW control the main board outside loop and the orange lighted LW control the whole new board.  This last selection allows three operators to each operate a separate LW and zone.

Each Lionel LW train transformer runs only trains and is protected with a 6 amp circuit breaker mounted below the control panel with the reset button sticking up threw the panel face.  The CB's have a 18 volt light bulbs wired across the contacts and mounted below red plastic to show the light (labeled "Short") when the CB trips.  The CB is reset with by pushing the red reset button on the control panel.

Left side switch panel of active touch track Diagram below.   "Reset" is for 6 amp circuit breaker (CB) for inside loop LW  transformer (the reset button is part of the 6 amp circuit breaker mounted under the panel 1/8 in Masonite panel)

"Short" is light wired across CB to light when tripped, the red Reset button is the actual CB reset button as the CB is below the control panel.


A 40 watt 12 volt transformer had some secondary windings removed to increase the voltage to 14.5 volts, to power only the switches, crisply.  This transformer has a 6 amp circuit breaker protecting it and layout wiring,  It rarely trips usually when I throw some of the Marx switches wired as pairs and one of them is dirty and slow to operate.

One more 12 volt, 40 watt transformer is used for building and flood lights and another small 12 volt 3 amp transformer is used for yard lights and a Lionel Gateman accessory.  They are each protected with 4 amp fuses, in screw to undo fuse holders, to protect it and layout wiring.

Picture of two lighting transformers 12 volt 40 watt building lights on left and 12 volt, 3 amp, or 36 watt yard light transformer on left and the 14.5 v  40 watt switch transformer in the center.  These transformer are protected with circuit breakers to protect layout wiring and transformers.


When wiring the mini push button momentary switches on the control panel, 6 inch, 20 gauge flexible pig tails wires were added to the ends of the 14 and 18 gauge wires put less strain on the switch leads and allow the control panel to be swing up to work on the wiring.  A needle nosed pliers, with rubber band clamping the handle, was used on the push button mini switch leads to be a heat sink to protect the plastic switch body from solder gun heat (learned this the hard way).

Right side switch panel of control active touch track diagram is below.   "Reset" is for LW Trans circuit breaker for outside loop.

"Relays" switches to power up 2 train per loop relay.  IN and OUT selects the direction of travel.

"1T" selects the LW on left with red light to controls whole train layout. "2 Trans" selects red lighted LW to operate inside loop and green lighted LW on right to run outside loop.  This slide switch is dpdt and both poles were wired to transformer wires as these Radio Shack mini slide switches are not rated for 10 amps.  It has held up for 40 plus years.


Green 110 vac pilot light above shows when keyed whole layout switch is  "on".  This is very important to keep from leaving the layout on all night ( I wish it were brighter!).

The layout power cord is now plugged into a timer switch, which allows 2,4 or 6 hours on before power is cut off for add protection against leaving the layout on as the train room is isolated from the house and out of sight often.



Images (11)
  • 102_0448
  • 102_0453
  • 102_0452
  • 102_0459
  • 102_0456
  • 102_0454
  • 102_0455
  • IMG_0157
  • My Trains 4-18-2016 014
  • IMG_1285
  • IMG_1287
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 9   6-25-2016  revised 9-2021

Turntable with pit Construction & Operation - Scratch Built and Inexpensive

The center piece of the layout is the scratch built, inexpensive turntable and roundhouse.  Designing and building the turntable was the most fun part of the whole train layout for me and well worth the time and effort as it provides much operation interest and fun.  The Turntable was built during the initial layout construction in 1977 in Kingston Jamaica.


The turntable rotates on a 6 inch diameter (8" might be better for a larger TT) lazy Susan ball bearing unit and rotation is by a hand crank driving a pulley beneath the turntable using a spare or used clothes dryer drum belt.  I had a spare dryer belt as I lived overseas and appliance parts are hard to get.  Track alignment is the realistic, "line it by eyeball" method and roundhouse  track selection is by a rotary switch.  A momentary push button switch is used to activate the selected RH track and the TT track.  A light in the TT shack comes on with the activation of the TT track and indicates power is on.  The turntable has a pit as that is more realistic and better looking in my view.  It would have been easier to surface mount a lazy Susan bearing on the train table like the Lionel TT but seeing it made a pit a must have.

Location of the control panel and the turntable should be fairly close to each other for two reasons.  One is the use of a clothes dryer belt will require it to be close.  The other is it is helpful for the engineer to be close at hand to correct derailments and to see the turntable as eyesight is used to align the TT and the tracks.

Picture of TT with TT crank (red knob) and Control Panel -  Picture shows the track with crane car and caboose align with the TT and the off trackTrain Lots 5-10-2016 272

Picture of main control panel track diagram with selector rotary switch (black knob with pointer) to select track for transfer of train from TT to spur/roundhouse track.  The black push button momentary switch, below the rotary selector switch, controls power to the selected track and the turntable track.Train Complete 1-17-2015 152

Two pieces of 027 track or 17 5/8 inches was chosen for the turntable bridge length.   17 5/8 inch diameter will handle all of my engines and coal tenders at the time I built it.   Two more inches of length would have been better and handle my later bought larger engines and coal tenders but space was at a premium   I cut a  17 5/8 inch diameter circle in my  3/4 inch thick particle board train board using a sabre saw and used the ¾ inch thick, 17 5/8 inch diameter cutout as a pulley by adding a rim of 1/8 inch Masonite around both edges as pulley flanges sticking out about ½ an inch.  

I did most of the work on the TT with my train board section standing on edge, leaning against a wall.  To build a TT for an existing permanent layout on legs would require lots of work under the table and looking up.  In such a case one might want to build a two foot or so module to construct the TT and install as a unit.

A recessed ring around the turntable hole, about 1&1/2 inch deep, was installed on the bottom of the hole and a 1/2" plywood bottom was added.  A 3/8" hole was centered in both TT bottom and the pulley.   A 2"x 2" x 3/4 inch block was drilled in the center to take a 3/8 threaded hollow lamp rod.  The block and rod were mounted about 1 inch from the rods end and drilled for a 2 inch long finish nail.  The block was glued and screwed to the pulley in the center.

A 6" lazy Susan ball  bearing (Ace or Home Depot for $4) was screwed to the top of the pulley.  Four 1 inch diameter holes were drilled through the pulley for the screws on the other flange of 6” lazy Susan bearing.  These holes allow the bearing to be screwed to the underside of the pit bottom.

The lazy Susan bearing will hold all the weight of the pulley and take the side thrust from the clothes dryer belt.  The 3/8” threaded hollow lamp rod allows thin, flexible twin wire to feed power to the TT bridge and to secure the bridge to the pulley beneath the TT pit.

The 3/8" dia. threaded hollow lamp rod was installed through the pulley and the rod was pinned block on the pulley with a nail.  The rod was measured to the length needed to go through the pulley, block, TT bottom and to the top of the TT bridge minus a ¼ inch, sawed off, and a hole drilled through the bridge to be able to pin the rod to the TT bridge to be built.

A pair of wires were run up through the 3/8" dia threaded hollow lamp rod and soldered to the outside and middle rail of the track that was put on the TT bridge.  Some slack was left in the wire and a type of disconnect like a plug or spring clips ( I used two electrical connectors cut from old 9v batteries) was installed to allow removal of wire to unwind the wire if it gets twisted too much (I also try not to keep going is one direction too much!)

Picture of 17 5/8"dia. Pulley under Turntable with Clothes Dryer Belt and wires from TT BridgeIMG_0006

I used a spare electric clothes dryer belt that is about 3/8" wide and 1/8"thick and about 8 to 10 feet in total length (not diameter).  This is the size of most any make of clothes dryer.  The belt  is super strong, as after all it must apply power to 20 pounds plus of wet cloths in dryer drum, from the motor to the drum.  

I made a hand crank out of a 6" long 1/4" carriage bolt as the driving pulley with disk and knob held on to the disk with a Tee nut and locking nut as the crank.   I used over sized Tee nuts for shaft sleeves for the shaft, top and bottom.  A small pulley was made for the shaft from a ¼ inch ID radio shaft coupling and two brass grommets soldered together to make a Vee to give more bite on the belt by the small shaft.  This Vee is necessary to keep the belt from slipping on the small diameter shaft of the crank and also make the diameter larger than the shaft.

Picture of Hand Crank Vee pulley made from radio tuner shaft coupling (seen with the set screws showing) and brass grommetsIMG_0024

I made a 2" dia. take up pulley assembly and used a threaded rod to move it to make and adjust the tension in the dryer belt. The threaded rod was installed on the 1"x6" edge of the train board near the control panel.  I installed a 3" dia. pulley to make an S in the belt routing to allow belt tensioning.  A 2” dia. pulley was used to make the belt stay about  ½ inch apart after coming of the ½ inch Vee pulley on the hand crank to insure good 180 degree contact with the Vee pulley.  Pulleys are made from 1/2 inch plywood with flanges of 1/8 inch Masonite having polyethylene next to wood from coffee can lids.

Picture of Belt Routing - Belt length total is 8 to 10 ft not diameter on drawing.


Picture of Pulleys and Belt - Tension adjuster on bottom belt with wood box with metal strap, the hand crank with Vee pulley is to the left of the picture.  The two pulleys force the belt to have maximum contact around the Vee pulley (180 degrees).IMG_0019

A turntable bridge was made out of wood and the bridge was pinned to the 3/8" dia threaded lamp rod with a finishing nail.  The 3/8” dia threaded lamp rod is anchored to the bottom of the 17 5/8“  pulley and on top of the TT bridge with two 3/8" dia lamp round thumb nuts.

Small wheels were made for the ends of the Turntable Bridge to transfer the weight of the bridge and locomotive with coal tender to floor of the TT pit  (I used some small ball bearings I had for wheels).

See picture of the TT bridge wheels (note the Sharpie pen ties and rail on the floor of the TT pit ! ) Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 005

Wiring of the Turntable and Round House/Spur Tracks

Tracks were added to store trains around the TT being careful of spacing between tracks.  The tracks were wired to a Radio Shack rotary 10 position switch to select the track to be powered.  A momentary contact push button switch (with black push button) was installed on the control panel and wired in series to allow the selected track and turntable bridge track to only be powered when this switch is held down.

The turntable track and all the Round House/stall tracks have common outside rails.  The center rails of the Round House/stall tracks are each wired individually to a spot on the rotary selector switch on the control panel (see Picture below)  thus allowing only one stall track to get power at a time.

Turntable Operation

Once the RH track is selected, pushing down the momentary black push button switch on the control panel allows that track and the TT track are wired for the red lighted LW trans on the right to control the engine to go from the inside loop, over the TT and into that elected stall.

I do not have a diagram.  All of the center rails of the stall and TT track are wired to the black push button switch.  The other terminal of the black push button switch is wired to the output of the Red lighted LW trans.  When the TT track and selected stall track are activated by the momentary switch and power from the Red LW is applied, a light comes on in the little house on the TT to indicate power is on the TT.

The Red lighted Trans always controls the stall tracks, TT track and all of the inside loop on the main board.  It also is wired to all switches on the inside loop of the main board.

Picture Below:

See the RH track selector switch with black pointer knob:   Black push button switch that must be pushed for power to go to selected RH track and turntable is below the black knob on track to TT.  Red and green buttons are for switches and blue are uncoupling track sections.  Black slide switches turn on and off the section of track they are on.  The black slide switches show "white" on and "black" off.  All tracks are blocked and controlled by a slide switch.  All rail switches are always hot or on.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 252

With the selector switches above the red lighted LW transformer can also control the outside loop of the main board as another selection or it can control the outside loop of main board and the new train board thus giving it control of every piece of track on the whole board.

Note on picture below, that one track aligns with the TT and the approach track.  This is the only track that a wrecker caboose and crane car can be sent over the TT and be stored around the TT.  I made sure to leave this track outside of my future Round house to be built and detailed later.

Picture of Track that will allow work caboose and crane car to be stored Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 009

I added details like the lighted TT operator shack, ladders on the bridge to the pit made from cut up N gauge track ties (remove the rails and cut out with every other tie), a TT bridge central tower for overhead wire with ladder, pigeons and poop, and Sharpie penned in rail and ties in the TT pit.

TT bridge has 1/8 inch smooth Masonite deck, grooved with knife to look like wood planks and painted buff to look like wood.  Some sieved coarse sand was glued into the pit bottom.

Picture of Turntable with center mast and ladder, exposed ties, birds, and pit trackTurntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 010

A close up of TT power tower and pigeons, ladders were made from plastic ties from N gauge track with every other tie cut out with X-acto knife or diagonal pliers


A TT control cable tower was made from wood and a TT operator shack were made later to add important detail to the TT Bridge.  Also note the wooden support beams for the TT decking and ladders.


This project takes time, planning and careful measurements to make it all work.  Care must be given to aligning and screwing down the tracks so derailments are few or at least blamed on the TT operator !

To summarize:

A great operating turntable with pit can be built for $10 and using only a hand held jig or saber saw, 1/4 inch electric drill and soldering gun

The turntable can be made for any gauge trains and any size, all up to the builder.

The TT really did cost me less than $10 since I had a spare clothes dryer belt.  You could get a belt from a junked dryer, as a used belt is plenty good for this.  Buy a new one for your current dryer and use the old one for the TT !

The turntable uses an inexpensive, easy to find lazy Susan ball bearing unit to provide smooth and accurate rotation of the turntable.  A used clothes dryer belt provide rotation of the turntable via a hand crank for my turntable.

Remote or Power Operation of this Turn Table

If you do not want to place the TT close to the edge of your layout and be restricted by location due to the length of the clothes dryer belt one can power the turntable with a used DC electric drill or screw driver motor.  The drill motor could be powered with a small cheap HO DC transformer in both directions.  This would be easy to power the TT with a shorter belt and pulley on the drill and the the TT could be located anywhere on your layout.

The  TT has worked well since 1977 or almost 39 years and is very reliable.  It would not turn in 2015 and after investigation the cause was a broken solder joint on one of the grommets on the Vee pulley.  The original was soldered with a 100 watt soldering gun (the only soldering tool I had) and it lasted 38 years.  I re-soldered the Vee with a propane torch, with a soldering iron tip, that gets much hotter.

Post 11 shows how I built a $10 Roundhouse.



Images (12)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 272
  • Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 005
  • IMG_0006
  • IMG_0077
  • IMG_0019
  • IMG_0024
  • Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 009
  • Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 010
  • IMG_0306
  • IMG_0925
  • IMG_0912
  • Turntable details 9-2-2019 2019-09-01 005
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 10        7-1-2016

50’s Type Buildings From Childhood Layout

I have two buildings from my brothers and my childhood layout on my layout.  They were both made by our Dad, about 1950, using his childhood pedal powered scroll or jigsaw.

One building is a small train station, made from Masonite with the roof covered with model railroading  roofing paper.  The building has cuts scribed in to resemble siding.  It has widows and other parts sawed out by jigsaw after drilling a hole and making inside cuts.

Train station built in 1950, roof paper was originally Green IMG_0082


The second building is a gas or service station.  It is made from some type of thin wood covered with paper on both sides.  The siding has model railroading brick paper glued to the side to simulate brick siding.  The two garage doors have windows cutout with a pedal driven jigsaw.  The rear windows were made from some plastic window covering with cloth support simulating window panes.

Gas Station built in late `940's or 1950 IMG_0087


These building construction methods lead me to build several of my building using Masonite and brick paper which is still available from hobby shops or on eBay.  I got mine from Walthers years ago.

My brother and I used my Dad’s pedal powered #1 Amateur Velocipede Scroll (jig) Saw from age 7 or so through high school.  My father used this pedal powered jig saw to make these two buildings.  When pedal driven the saw had a 3/8" round leather belt between the upper pulley and the large pedal pulley.  My Dad installed a small ¼ hp motor when I was about 10.  My brother still has that jigsaw.

Picture of  a  pedal powered #1 Amateur Velocipede Scroll Saw just like ours.

#1 Amateur velocipede scroll saw

Many other 50s style Plasticville buildings, original and kit bashed, are used on the layout also.



Images (5)
  • IMG_0083
  • IMG_0087
  • IMG_0102
  • #1 Amateur velocipede scroll saw
  • IMG_0089
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 11   7-8-2016

Back to the Good Ole USA and Round House Construction

The main train board with turntable was built in 1977 and 1978 in Kingston, Jamaica.  It was down on the living room floor for Christmas 1978.  The only structures were a Bachmann Coaling Station kit stuck together and a small Marx water tower.  But fun was had running the Marx 999 set and the four plastic body Lionel 2-4-2 engines and playing with the turntable.

We moved back to the states in 1979, to Little Rock Arkansas, to a house with a two car garage and a small room off to the end.  I used it as a work shop.  After moving in, buying cars and getting settled in, it was time to get to building and collecting structures for the train board.


Round House Construction

The first consideration in building a $10 round house is to decide how many stalls the RH will have. 

I think the minimum that looks good is three.  Many more can be added than three but I find that you cannot see and enjoy your engines as much when they are in the RH as all that one sees is the engine fronts.  I decided to make my RH a four stall one and I am very pleased with it.  It has a good shape verses a three stalls and fits my area very well.

I like the stepped roof style RH and I like lots of windows so as they are typical of the era as electric lights were not all that common in the early times and windows provided daylight.  I have windows on both sides, all along the back wall and on the stepped roof wall facing the front.  I did not leave room or have room for a shop or tool room that many RH have.

My round house is made from my typical 1/8 inch thick, one side smooth Masonite tempered sheeting.  A sheet costs about $13 for 4ft x 8ft sheet and you will only need one half of a sheet or less.  I cut this with saber saw, or jig saw.  I used my old Craftsman 18 inch jig saw with 1/3 hp motor, now out of storage, to cut out the windows after drilling a hole to allow get the blade in the window area.  You can use a sabre saw for this if that is all you have.  The smooth side is put on the outside of the sides and back wall as brick paper will be glued on.  Some 1/8” Masonite strips were used to reinforce the bottom and door frame. 

Front of Round House


The outside walls will be covered with modeling brick paper, glued on with Elmer’s white glue after the building is assembled with Elmer’s glue.

The roof is made from Masonite too but the rough side is up to be the exposed roof surface, to simulate  gravel on a wood and tar paper roof.  I have a step in the roof with windows in the bricked section between the two roofs so the roof is made in two parts. 


Four Tracks and four Stalls in Round House



You can see how I determined the size of the RH by fitting it in over 4 sections of track.  It is about 30 inches wide and 17 deep.  I made sure not to include my one section where I can drive on the TT and directly to this one section with a long consist of engine, coal tender, wrecking crane car and wrecking caboose.

The picture below shows how I had to cut out part of the rear of the RH to go over a Marx switch machine housing.  It also shows I had make sure the RH did not get too close to the tracks.  It is a tight and custom fit.


Rear of Round House - wall over switch machine, Electrical connector (from 9 volt batteries) for RH lights right of switchIMG_0100

Both roofs were made in four sections.  I assembled the RH with Elmer’s glue and added plywood angles to strength the wall to roof joints.  I painted the inside walls brown and the inside roof light gray to better illuminate the inside.  The outside of the roof was painted light gray, with a dusting of black paint to be dark dirt.  Then I installed the brick paper doing a good job around the windows.

The windows are made from clear plastic sheeting from boxes lids from toys or other heavier clear plastic.  The windows had panes made from black 1/16 inch auto pin striping on the inside.  The windows were glued on the inside with "Pliobond" rubber cement, but contact cement or Aleen's Tacky glue will work.

Inside RH showing Roof and wall braces, windows and some lightsIMG_0165


Picture showing double thick front wall and thicker bottom brace.  I painted the center of the tracks in the RH black to simulate a pit below the tracks to let workers work on the under side of the steam locomotives (shown in picture below).IMG_0173


I made RH stacks, with covers to keep rain out.  The stacks are to help remove smoke for the steam engines.  Balsa wood was used to make the stacks.  I like the square style stacks better than round ones.  Rain covers for the stacks were made.   I also installed a ladder or two to get on the roof.  Ladders were made from N gauge railroad tie plastic strips with the rails removed and every other tie cut out with a pair of diagonal wire pliers and trimmed with a X-acto knife.

Ladder, stacks and Roof, and also emergency generator from Lionel searchlight carIMG_0167

  Close up photo of a Stack with cover and dust on top!IMG_0169


Lights were installed in the ceiling of the RH in two rows and are operated by a slide switch on the control panel.   I am big on night train operation with the room lights dark or dimmed and lots of controlled lights in all building, flood lights, street lights, yard lights, cars and engines, etc. 

See how the lights let the engines show up in the RH in a semi dark roomIMG_0195


Photo showing the balsa wood TT operator shack (made from balsa wood) on TT bridge and view into RH.  The TT operator shake has a small grain of wheat light inside that comes on when power is applied to the TT track and the selected RH stall track.IMG_0197

Photo from outside into lighted up RHIMG_0201


Another neat photo of lighted RH in semi darkness, just to encourage you to build a TT and RHIMG_0203

I chose not to make doors for the front of the RH as I wanted to see the fronts of the locos inside and I would have had the doors open most of the time and they would just get in the view and way.

I love my round house and it is my favorite building on the layout and the most fun and satisfaction to build.



Images (12)
  • IMG_0095
  • IMG_0098
  • IMG_0166
  • IMG_0165
  • IMG_0167
  • IMG_0169
  • IMG_0173
  • IMG_0195
  • IMG_0197
  • IMG_0201
  • IMG_0203
  • IMG_0100
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Hi Charlie,

That's a great layout.  I like the creativity and innovation particularly the TT and RH.  I appreciate your time and effort in explaining how you built the project.  You've inspired me to try my hand at building my own.  I'm trying to figure out the wiring for the TT.  Did you run a common wire with individual wires to each track?  Is there a schematic you could post?

Also, I'm wondering how real TTs were powered.











All tracks outside rails and transformers share the same common.   All transformers are phased so trains can go from a loop on one transformer to another loop with another trans.  I have two switches that select all tracks and all loops to be run on the red lighted LW trans.  A second selection is for red lighted trans to operate main board inside loop only and green lighted LW to operate main board outside loop and new board to right of main board.  Another switch on the new board control panel selects the be controlled by the green lighted LW or lets the green lighted LW control the main board outside loop and the orange lighted LW control the whole new board.  This last selection allows three operators to each operate a separate LW and zone.

The turntable track and all the stall tracks have common outside rails.  The center rails of the stall tracks are each wired individually to a spot on the rotary selector switch on the control panel thus allowing only one stall track to get power at a time.  Once this track is selected, pushing down the momentary black push button on the control panel allows that track and the TT track are wired for the red lighted LW trans on the right to control the engine to go from the inside loop, over the TT and into that elected stall.

I do not have a diagram.  All of the center rails of the stall are wired to the rotary selector switch.  The rotary selector switch and TT track are wired to the black push button switch.  The other terminal of the black push button switch is wired to the out put of the Red lighted LW trans.  When the TT track and selected stall track are activated by the momentary switch and power from the Red LW is applied, a light comes on in the little house on the TT to indicate power is on the TT.

The Red lighted Trans always controls the stall tracks, TT track and all of the inside loop on the main board.  It also is wired to all switches on the inside loop of the main board. 


Picture Below:

See the RH track rotary selector switch with black pointer knob:   Black push button switch that must be pushed for power to go to selected RH track and turntable track is below the black knob on track to TT.  Red and green buttons are for switches and blue are uncoupling track sections.  Black slide switches turn on and off the section of track they are on.  The black slide switches show "white" on and "black" off.  All tracks are blocked and controlled by a slide switch.  All track on all the Mark switches are always hot or on.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 252

 With the transformer selector switches above the red lighted LW transformer can also control the outside loop of the main board as another selection or it can control the outside loop of main board and the new train board thus giving it control of every piece of track on the whole board.

As to how TT on real trains are controlled, in days of steam the tracks were not powered and trains moved on and off on their own steam power.  The same goes for diesel electric engines, their own power but they normally do not use a TT as they can operate in both directions.  I do not know about an all electric engine although most would not be on a TT.

If you meant how were real TT rotated, the small ones were often pushed by men by hand with the engine and coal tender balanced as to weight distribution.  Bigger ones had small gasoline motors or electric motors through a gear box to rotate the TT.

I hope this helped rather than confused you.




Images (1)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 252
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.