Skip to main content

Choo Choo Charlie posted:


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.



Yes, smaller turntables were powered by workers shoving the turntable themselves, hence the term "Armstrong" turnable.




Images (1)
  • IMG_20160713_183906
Last edited by PRR8976

Charlie, thanks for taking the time to provide your very thorough explanation.  I think I get it now but I'll find out if that's true when I actually build the turntable and roundhouse.

As far as the rotational power for the turntable, I suppose horses or other draft animals could have been used as well.  Modeling that would be pretty interesting.

With the electric powered TTs, is that what the arch over the TT bridge is for - stringing overhead power cables to the TT?

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

Tom, that's a cool picture of man-handling a locomotive.  It seems like it would take a lot more men than just one with a lever to move it.  I imagined a bunch of guys climbing down into the pit and pushing the TT.








Post 12     7-16-2016  (revised 11-24-2023)

Casco, yes the tower on the TT is to provide electric power to the motors on the TT that rotate the TT.    Charlie

Medium Weight (Lionel 2018, 2026) Steam and Diesel Engine Upgrades 1986-2000s

Background:  Engines from layout start in 1977 were light weight plastic bodied Lionel 2-4-2’s, and a Marx 999 and 666.  These engines weigh 2.5 to 3.5 pounds and do not have Magna-Traction and were bought mostly from 1986 to 2000.  They run very well on O27 tracks and Marx 1590 metal frog switches.  They are limited to pulling 4 or 5 light weight cars.

Plastic shell Lionel 249, 2-4-2  with 2 way E unit   Good runner on 027 track and Marx switches Train Lots 5-10-2016 150

Marx 666   2-4-2Train Lots 5-10-2016 168

Medium Weight Steam Engine Upgrade
An upgrade to medium weight cast medal body Lionel 2016, 2018 from 1955-6 and 2026 from 1951-3, all 2-6-4 or  2-6-2, and other Engine upgrades started in 1986.  A Lionel 2018 was purchased in 1986 and later a 2016 and several 2026 2-6-4 engines.  They all are similar with the same motor and body shell.  They weight about 3.5 pounds and have 6 drive wheels for more wheel to track adhesion verses 4 drive wheels for 2-4-2 engines and do not have Magna-traction. They pull better than the plastic shell 2-4-2 and handle the 027 curves and switches very well.  They will pull six or so cars, some being heavier operating cars.  Their front marker lights are cast in the loco body but seem robust as none of my several locos have broken marker lights.

The run very well and are my favorite for running two pairs of them, when I run two loops with 2 trains per l loop with the relayed system.  They are easy to find and fairly inexpensive and I have 9 of them now.

Lionel 2016,  2-6-4  cast metal shell, 3 way E unit,  medium weight engine Train Lots 5-10-2016 151

A picture of 2-6-4 Lionel 2018.  This engine is my first 2-6-4 and I probably paid too much.  I really loved the way it ran and pulled.  Added a Rock Island decal in effort to differentiate from other Black engines.


Lionel 2026 similar to 2016 and 2018, with the same shell and motor and seams easier to find.  The 2026 is better equipped with smoke and some have extra valve gear making them more attractive.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 153

The 2026 below was made earlier in 1953 and is a 2-6-2 with more features like hand rail, twin valve gear,  cast rear truck and smoke that may make rings and slide power pickups

old 2026 with rail, valve gear 4-23-2022 2022-04-23 005

I also picked up a Lionel Alco AA 219 diesel set and repainted a Lionel caboose MP blue to match. I added a headlight to the dummy A unit and lighted marker numbers to both.Train Lots 5-10-2016 321

Diesels Added

Lionel Caboose repainted to MP colors to match Lionel 219 MP AA dieselsTrain Lots 5-10-2016 322

Two sets of Marx 1095 F3 Santa Fe diesels were added and one set was repainted as the grey plastic and red paint is not very well done (this set was ABA).  I was fortunate to pick up some O gauge Santa Fe decals at a train show.

Painted and decaled Marx 1095 F3 Santa Fe Train Lots 5-10-2016 157

Train Lots 5-10-2016 158

Marx 1095 with original red and yellow paint and grey plastic passing for silverTrain Lots 5-10-2016 159

I also procured two tin plate Marx 3152 Santa Fe passenger cars and a tin plate Marx 3197 Santa Fe observation car which I added lights to the marker dummy lights.  The Lionel 2400 series passenger cars were too rich for me then.  They would come later.  Many of these cars came from local train shows in Little Rock and from my contact Dave on trips to visit my parents in Pittsburgh.

Marx 3197 Santa Fe passenger car with working marker lights added 102_0471

One of Two Marx 3152 Santa Fe passenger cars102_0475

I also got a low cost and quality Lionel 9303 log dumping car and a Lionel 9304 coal dumping car that dump via uncoupling tracks into plastic trays.  I would get heavy into operating cars later.



Images (12)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 151
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 150
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 168
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 153
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 321
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 157
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 158
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 159
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 322
  • 102_0471
  • 102_0475
  • old 2026 with rail, valve gear 4-23-2022 2022-04-23 005
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 13   7-22-2016 

Mountain and Tunnel Construction

Every train layout needs a mountain so the trains can go through tunnels.  My childhood layout had a small Dad made mountain and tunnel on one track in the right back corner of the layout.  The mountain was made from plaster of Paris and had a Christmas tree stand in it.  Trains under the Christmas tree really add to the Christmas season.

I made my mountain to cover both the inside and outside loops and is located in the same back right corner of the layout.  It originally had one switch under the mountain with one outside loop track going in CCW and two tracks coming out.  At a later date another switch was added under the mountain and a third track on the outside loop came out the mountain behind the background board, out of sight.  I have removed some of the background when the train layout was put up on legs in the train room.

Picture of Two tracks going in MountainIMG_0109

Picture of Three tracks leaving the Mountain on Right and one track out behind the Background or tunnel to the Left  This gives two track in and four tracks out of the mountain.  IMG_0053

The mountain frame was made from ¾ inch boards for a base around the mountain perimeter and 1/4 and 3/8 inch plywood framing to make the mountains shape.  Care was taken to be sure none of the tunnel supports interfered with the train track and right of way.  Tunnel portals were cut from ½ inch plywood.   The mountain shape was covered by stapling aluminum window screen on to fill the openings between the framing and fill in the mountain shape.  An access door was made in the side of the mountain to allow clearance of train wrecks and derailments.

View of Mountain with access Door for derailmentsIMG_0051

Access Door removed showing two Marx switches inside mountainIMG_0046

View Inside mountain showing framing and some window screen on leftIMG_0049

Sears Textured Paint, a powder that was mixed with water to make a paste was used, with paper towels, to cover the aluminum screen wire.  Textured paint was used by painters to add swirls to ceilings to hide the tape seams and may not be available now but something similar should be available.  It has proven to be a great mountain material and did not crack and is much lighter than plaster of Paris and is more durable than paper mache and not susceptible to bug attack.  The textured paint was used to soak paper towels that were laid on the wire screen to form the surface.  Several layers and coats were used.

5 pounds of Texture Paint powder was used and this one left over.IMG_0235

Here is an overall picture of the mountain.  With trains going CCW, 2 tracks go in and 4 tracks go out (one under the white covered and hidden behind the blue box car).


The mountain was painted with oil based green and brown paint colors to appear like vegetation.  Concrete poured tunnel portals was made by gluing pieces of card board, from a paper tablet, leaving gaps to simulate seems from the pour.  The tunnel portals were painted with light gray paint and flat black paint was lightly brushed on above the track to simulate smoke stains from the steam engines.  This mountain just sets on the layout and was stored in attic for 9 or 10 months when the layout was not down on the floor in action.

The layout spent 20 years plus on the floor of a den or living room with the family Christmas tree standing near the mountain for two weeks or so before and after Christmas.





Images (6)
  • IMG_0235
  • IMG_0051
  • IMG_0046
  • IMG_0053
  • IMG_0049
  • IMG_0109
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 14      7-29-2016

Kitbashing the Bachmann 1975 Coal Station

The Bachmann Coal Station, number 1975, is a good kit bashing kit.


My first kit bash was was to make a raised roof, (which had a conveyor to spread coal), on the the Coal Station to replace the 1975 flat roof.  I always liked the looks of that style coal station.  I used 1/8 inch tempered Masonite with one smooth side.  The smooth sides were scored with a knife to look like siding.  Windows were cut out with a 18 inch Craftsman scroll/ jig saw and made up with panes and installed in the top section.  The parts were glued with Elmer's glue.  A sheet metal roof, obtained at a train show, was installed.  The whole coaling station was painted up with dark brown paint and lightly brushed with some grimy black paint.

Finished Coaling Station


View of the under side of the new roof.




Images (1)
  • IMG_0245
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 15      7-29-2016

Homemade Coal Mine and Coal Loading Station Operating Accessory

The next project was using another Bachmann 1975 Coal Station to make a Coal Mine and Coal Loading Station Operating Accessory.  

The Bachmann Coal Station, number 1975, is a good kit bashing kit, and used for the operating Coal Mine and Coal loading Station..


The kit was used to make the Coal Mine Entrance into the underground mine in the mountain provide the foundation beams to hold the entrance up.


A new “A” frame roof was built for the top out of 1/8 inch Masonite with a window in the end and the end was scored to be vertical siding.  The roof was roofed with some of the kit roofing.


The Coal Loading Section was also made of 1/8 inch thick Masonite.   The outside walls were scored with a knife to be vertical siding.  Windows were cut with the 18 inch scroll/jig saw and installed in the side and end walls.


A slide gate valve was made of plywood and held opened with a rubber band.  A 12v solenoid (DC solenoid rectified to AC) was use to hold the slide valve closed and to return the solenoid plunger out to engage a notch in the arm of the slide gate valve to hold it closed.  A coal storage funnel was made from card board stock.

The picture below is of the plunger return rubber band, slide gate with hole in center and notch for solenoid plunger, black solenoid and card board coal funnel.  This rubber band holds the solenoid plunger in the notch in the arm of the gate and keep the hole closed, ready to hold and drop coal.  See the wire in bottom of cone tied to the solenoid plunger which is operated to break up coal jams in cone.  The black bridge rectifier can be seen that converts the DC solenoid to operate on AC.

This picture also shows the slide valve closed (hole in slide gate is not under the funnel hole and the solid part of the slide gate is blocking the funnel hole)  and the solenoid arm is holding the slide gate closed.


This picture shows the slide gate open (the slide gate hole is now under the hole in the funnel).


Picture of slide gate return rubber band.  This makes the slide gate valve stay normally open and pulls the slide gate to open when the solenoid is triggered.  Both rubber bands are easy to replace as the are in open screw eyes and around posts and last a few years.


PS:  Recently (9-4-2017) it was not dumping.  Turns out a plot of piston stoke from the magnet shows the most pulling power is when the piston is 1/16 to 1/8 inch out.  It was much more so I had to modify by adding about 1/16 inch wood to the sloped part to make the trigger pull when about 1/16 inch out.  That fixed it.

Picture of Power graph for Radio Shack Solenoid I used.  You can see the pull in oz is much higher at 1/8 inch or small stroke.


Picture below shows the 1/16 inch thick strips of wood I added to the notch (appear whiter) to make the piston get more into the magnet and shorten the stroke for more power.


The coal is dumped into a coal car when activated with a push button on the control panel.   A flat roof for the Coal Loading Section was covered with sheet metal roofing.  Two 12 volt mini Christmas bulbs were installer in the outside corners of the floor and floor was cut out to illuminate the track below and inside the Coal Loading Section.

Picture showing lights inside to light windows and cut through bottom to light coal car area below.


The picture is from the outside of coal mine loading station showing the lights working for inside the building and lighting the car below


Like most active accessories, the coal mine/coal loader should be located for easy hand access by the operator and is not anchored down so it can be removed and/or moved as necessary to align with the track.  The coal must be hand loaded into the funnel and the slide gate valve must be hand closed.  Lionel plastic coal is used which came with a Lionel coal dumping car from the 1980s.

This was a fun project, especially figuring out a working mine and coal car loading system.



Images (12)
  • IMG_0127
  • IMG_0039
  • IMG_0031
  • IMG_0044
  • IMG_0042
  • IMG_0333
  • IMG_0312
  • IMG_0324
  • IMG_0307
  • IMG_0325
  • IMG_0865
  • IMG_0870
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
Choo Choo Charlie posted:

Here is an overall picture of the mountain.  With trains going CCW, 2 tracks go in and 4 tracks go out.



  I'm one post behind. Just noticed your mountain. Very nice job on that from the shape to the portals to the paint colors. Since you mentioned the "d" word, how often do you have derailments inside the mountain? 



Thanks for the comments and reply.  Funny as some fellow at a lumber yard called me MacGyver for the way I loaded and hauled 12 ft long boards on the side of my sedan a few weeks ago.

I used Lionel plastic coal which came with a Lionel coal dumping car from the 1980s and added that fact to the post. I would not use real coal as it would probably be finer, dusty and dirty.  The plastic coal is enough trouble to keep policed up.

Keep watching as I have a few more Lionel items and operating cars I modeled after the originals following the "build rather than buy"philosophy.

As to your first question on the prior post about derailing in the mountain;  it is not any more than any where else on my layout.  First cause is operator error of having the switch in the wrong direction as my switches and switch buttons give no indication of which direction they are set.  The few switches that are not visible like in the mountain are more prone to be set wrong.  Derailments are common on my layout with 27 switches and the fact I normally do not set up a few trains running in loop.  I usually operate, switch engines and cars, couple and uncouple, operate accessories etc. and the more things I'm doing the more errors.  Also from time to time some of the Marx switches do not lock in position and cause issues.

As I will explain in a later post there is a track that comes out of the mountain and used to go behind the layout background, hidden out of sight.  It now goes in a hidden tunnel and then to one section of the background seen behind the roundhouse.  I had to install a track occupation signal system to let me know when there was a train setting on that track as that was a big cause of wrecks.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 16  8-6-2016 

Homemade Lionel Style Cars

Funds were tight with available train funds being used to add locomotives.  I had several Marx and Lionel Scout type 8 inch box cars and time to make some homemade copies of some of my Lionel favorites.

A US Mail car was painted up.  Press On letters were used lettering and clear coated for all cars.  This one has doors that open.


Next was a Gold Bullion car.  Windows were cut in both sides with Dremel Moto tool with saw blade and a razor saw and plastic windows were added.  Gold bars were made from kitchen match sticks painted gold.  Two 12v or 7v in series mini Christmas lights were added, a feature the Lionel version does not have.  Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 001

The light pick ups were made from brass shim stock and added to a non operating Lionel coupler truck.  A piece of tin can was added to improve durability of brass shim stock.

Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 008

A Lionel small stock car was used to make a Chicken Dispatch car.  Every other slat was cut out of the side boards and parchment paper was used to Sharpie paint the chickens on.  Lights were added to the roof and a pickup made.    No chicken poop sweeping man though ! IMG_3484

An aquarium Car was made by cutting out the windows in Lionel Scout type 8 inch box car like Gold Bullion car above.  A Lionel Aquarium car sea background was purchased at a train show but one can be made from parchment paper.   Plastic fish were cut out of clear plastic from old toy boxes and colored with Sharpies.  The fish were suspended from the roof with 4 lb fish reel clear leader line and glued to the fish and roof with glass clear cement but E6000 can be used.  This allows the fish to wiggle and move with the train motion.  Lights were added to the roof and a pickup made.


Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 004

Modifying and making cars is one of my favorite parts of the model train hobby.

Later, I found all of the above Lionel cars, except the Gold Bullion car, at reasonable prices.



Images (9)
  • IMG_3491
  • IMG_3488
  • IMG_3496
  • IMG_3484
  • IMG_3479
  • IMG_3477
  • Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 008
  • Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 001
  • Gold Bullion car 4-20-2016 004
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

  That's awesome!

This is fast becoming an all time favorite thread of mine. When/ if you ever run out of goodies to show off, although you do a great job already,, I'd like to see some  more in-depth descriptions of each item.

I.e., I dont want the storynto ever be "finished", I'd prefer a rehash with more info.

It's like a tinkering heaven at your place.

Post 17   8-12-2016

Backdrop for Layout on the Floor

To add a little realism, backdrop boards were added to the back side of the layout in 2005.  These were made using 1x2 inch boards for a frame and wall paneling for the backdrop (the back side of the paneling was use to paint the backdrop).  Two corner sections were made of ¼ plywood and screwed the edge of the backdrop board and into the side of the layout to support the background vertically.

The backdrop was made in three sections for easy handling as it would be installed and removed for storage each year.  The sections where pinned together with 2 /12 inch finish nails into the frame pinned in slightly oversize holes.  They are removable.  These nails were also used to pin the frame of the backdrop to the back edge of the layout to keep it even with the back 1x6 layout frame.

An industrial and city scene was painted in the area behind the round house and mountain scenes to the left toward the mountain on the layout in the right corner.  Latex flat paint was use and purchased at Lowes and HD for a dollar for paint sample 8 oz jars they made and sell to take home and see if the wife approves!  I picked out colors from their color sample sheets.  I think they charge more than a dollar now.

A Picture of Full Backdrop when the Layout was on the floor for 20 plus years for 1 month or so for each year.  The buildings are too large for Baton Rouge but we have a huge Exxon oil refinery and chemical plant down town on the Mississippi River (Exxon seen below the blimp).


Additional pictures of the original full size background

trains 026

trains 030

Detail showing corner support - A more Recent picture without full Backdrop to allow more vision of room and window when in Train/Vintage Stereo/cave room after 2011




Images (4)
  • IMG_9690
  • IMG_3523
  • trains 026
  • trains 030
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 18   8-18-2016

Homemade Lionel Water Tower and Gantry Crane Superstructure

Personal note:  I have been out of touch the past week as we experienced the Great Flood here in south Louisiana.  I live in Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish with Denham Springs is a across the river and they had 80% of the town flooded.  The water went over the 100 year flood zone level by four feet in some places.  This is now called a 1000 year flood.

We learned that elevation is what matters not closeness to waterways.  The main instigator, the Amite River, is about 200 yards from my house.  We were blessed and our house was not flooded but over 40 thousand were.  Most did not have flood insurance as they were not in the 100 year floodzone.  We have not had power, news papers, mail, internet access, land phones and cell phones were down most of the time starting August 13th (came back on here  8/16 evening).  At least ten thousand are in shelters and over 30,000 were rescued, fortunately lots of Louisianans have boats.  The responders, including the National Guard with black hawks, did a superb job.  FEMA, Red Cross, churches, charities, citizens and all local, state and national governments are working hard to care for those that lost all;  their houses, cars, all belongings and some their places of employment.  We are all helping muck houses of carpet, flooring, dry wall, cabinets and hauling them and furniture and appliances to the street for removal.  Some areas have both sides of the street stacked 10 feet tall of ruined household and personal belongings.  Please pray for all those experiencing live changing events.

Homemade Lionel Style Water Tower

A Lionel 6-12711 Water Tower Building Kit style water tower was made in the 1980s from 1/8 inch Masonite and brick paper covering.  The tank was made from an oat meal round box and card board.  The roof was covered with roof paper.  Lights were added to the top of the water tank to illuminate the top of the coal tender from 12v mini Christmas tree lights.  The spout was made from balsa wood.  Ladder was made from cutting out every other tie from N scale rail tie minus the rails.  I had the O scale door and window plastic parts.  I think my homemade water tower is more handsome than the plastic Lionel Water Tower.




Below is the Lionel 6-12711 Water Tower Building Kit I modeled mine after (this one bought years later)


Marx Water Tower Paint Job

I used a 065 Marx water tower for installation near the round house and painted it buff color.  It is smaller than the Lionel 30 or 138, which is too big for my location.

Marx Water Tower - Painted, located near Turntable and Coaling Tower


Homemade Gantry Crane Superstructure

A gantry crane superstructure was made from ¼ inch plywood and flanges were made from card board from paper tablets.  Small strips of wood were added for detail.  The crane cab with boom was from a Lionel crane car and was found at a train show.




Images (6)
  • IMG_3518
  • IMG_3519
  • IMG_3564
  • IMG_3530
  • IMG_3533
  • IMG_3566
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie


  As usual great stuff. Thanks for posting. 

  I never realized you were in Louisiana. Glad you came out as well as could be expected. Hope you are finding enough food and other supplies if many/all the stores are damaged or destroyed. 

  Some day, please consider doing a piece on the paint you used for the top of the layout (for the grass and ballast) and maybe your construction (wood sizes used, layout height, etc). 



Thanks for responding and the requests.  The wood sizes are in post 7.  I added a sentence or two on painting the layout at the end of post 7

The details of the height will appear later in post on adding legs which was done only 4 years ago or so.  But here are is the height used.  I chose a height of 35 1/2 inches to the top of the layout side board.  The layout surface is recessed 1 inch inside of the top of the side board or 34 1/2 inches.  Much thought went into this height.  I was used to seeing the layout on the floor, either standing looking, sitting in a recliner, laying on the floor with grandkids  or knelling sitting at the control panel operating.  I do not like layout at eye level when standing as the view is not good at eye level and I do not stand well !   The 35 1/2 inch height has proven to be great for me or I would change it as the legs are just bolted on.  I have 4 chairs at 24 inches, one at 18 inches, one director chair at 29 inches and two stools available at 24 and 29 inches.  Sitting in the 24 inch chairs and stool gives one an eye level view.  I have several viewing heights available.  I usually operate standing or sitting on a stool.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie


  Thanks for the additional detail. I went back to some of your earlier posts to see that your layout has been around for a decent amount of time already, nearly 40 years for one section and 18 for another. Since you are in an area with high humidity, how is your 027 track holding up all these years years and is rust ever a problem? Is all the track original to when you constructed it? Any good tips on maintaining/cleaning your track and do you need a dehumidifier in your train room? Personally, I am a big fan of Goo Gone to clean my tubular track and have virtually no modern traction tired locomotives (except 1 or 2 which I rarely run) I'm not worried about what some say the Goo Gone does to traction tires (premature disintegration).

 Hope your local situation is better in terms of access to food, water,  reliable electricity, as well as it being safe. 



Thanks for the note.

My layout has all used 027 track. It was stored for 11 months a year in garages and my work shop, only heated and cooled hours it was in use.  Rust has not been a problem and rust on the side of tracks looks realist!  Usually I would run a piece of fine sand paper over the top of the track taking 5 mins for all before putting the layout down on the floor.  My new train room has ac/heat but I keep heat off in winter and set cool at 84degrees except when I am up there.  I have had no problem with rust or mold etc yet. 

I have a homemade track cleaning car but do not use it much.  If the trains slow down I sand or use rubbing alcohol to clean the track.  The problem usually is grease or oil from locos.

We are fine here now for us but thousands are hurting, many losing their house, cars and also some jobs. Most did not have flood insurance as they and we were not in a flood zone.  We were blessed and not flooded.  Over 60,000 lost their houses to the flood.  We have been helping friends that flooded muck their houses to dry them out and spray for mold.  We are storing some of their lessor damaged furniture in my garage.  It will take awhile for most to get houses back as so many have to be repaired.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 19  8-26-2016        revised 4-17-2022

Layout Lights, Building Lighting and Mini Christmas Tree Light Use

All buildings have lights in the ceiling like real buildings not on the floor.  My childhood layout buildings had 4 watt or so Christmas tree 110v lights.  I use small 12v mini Christmas tree lights for building lights.  These 12v Christmas tree lights are replacements only for stings of 10 bulbs and each bulb draws only 0.4 watt per bulb.  I cut up mini Christmas tree light strings and use the pig tails and sockets for the building lights.  The 12v mini Christmas tree lights, being incandescent, give a warm color light like lights in the 1950's that I model. A small staple or plastic loop is usually used to suspend the light socket in the ceiling.  I hook up the building lights with plastic wire nuts to pig tails coming through a hole in the layout to allow quick and easy building removal.  I can find replacement 12v mini Christmas tree bulbs, in packs of 6 for about $1 before Christmas at Walmart and fifty cents after Christmas if they have any left (or eBay).  The 6v mini Christmas tree bulbs, for 20 bulb light strings, are also useful as I hook them up, two in series, when two bulbs are needed.

Mini Christmas 12v, 0.4 watt, light bulb and socket in ceiling of building, held by a plastic loop.


A Lighted Church Building

Train Lots 5-10-2016 127

I have two 12 VAC transformers for lights.  Each type of lights has its own on/off switch.  One for Building lights and slide switches for other lights like round house, yard lights, flood lights, street lights etc.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 256

There are three Rail road yard lights. They are Marx Yard light towers around the turntable and Round house and the coal mine with a on/off switch.  

Train Lots 5-10-2016 019

Homemade Yard and Flood lights from Plastic Christmas Bells and Plastic Balloon Sticks

There are 20 so, small homemade flood lights on some buildings and accessories.  The  homemade flood lights are made from 1 inch diameter or so Christmas plastic bells, and poles are made from hollow plastic balloon sticks (from party stores which we have lots of in the big party town of Baton Rouge, LA) and 12 v  mini lights (grain of wheat size with pig tails) from Radio Shack.

The base is a 1/4 inch slice of a 3/4 inch dia. wood dowel (wooden broom stick !).  All accessories like saw mill, drum loader, milk car platform, barrel loader, cattle pen, etc. have a pair of these flood lights.  The flood lights have a on/off switch for each layout board.

The yard and flood lights are a must for night and dim light train operating.  They were very useful when the train board was on the floor near with room lit only by the near by Christmas tree.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 045

Train Lots 5-10-2016 014

Train Lots 5-10-2016 134

Room lights – I have an incandescent dimmer switch on the front side of the train board with outlet on the side of the train board that I plug, one or two cheap 5 foot floor lamps, with shades that can tilt, into.  This allows me to turn off the room lights and use these for room area lights.  Then if I want to operate trains in dim light or without any room lights I can dim or shut down the room lights.  We love to run night trains.

In my new second story train and video/audio room I still use one floor lamp by the TT and RH.  I have another floor light by the new board addition.  These floor lamps are not as good as when the layout was on the floor because they are closer to the train board since it now 35 .5 inches above the floor.  I use the floor lamp at the new addition for a reading lamp also.

I also have all incandescent lights for ceiling lights in the train room.  Two are pairs of flood lights over the layout and they are on a dimmer at the wall.  I like the color of incandescent lights.  I did not bother with expensive, modern, efficient lights and opted for cheap and easy to dim lights as I do not use the ceiling lights much unless trains are running at night.  I have seven windows in the room for most daytime running and they have blinds on the south, east and west windows to keep the sun out and prevent fading.



Images (7)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 127
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 256
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 019
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 014
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 045
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 134
  • IMG_1101
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 20    9-2-2016  (revised 10-30-2023)

Alumina, Chemical and Industrial Cars and Plant Switch Engine

I spent 40 years working as a Chemical Engineer in ALCOA, Kaiser, and ORMET alumina refining and chemical plants and other plants.  The aluminum companies make alumina, or aluminum oxide from bauxite.  Alumina is a very pure white powder and is used in an aluminum smelter to make aluminum metal.  Therefore I was interested in having covered hopper cars with their locos on.  Lionel made two, one for ALCOA and another for Reynolds Aluminum, that ALCOA purchased in 2000.  Before I found a Lionel ALCOA car to buy, I made an ALCOA covered hopper car from an open hopper car by making a cover from sheet balsa wood and adding an ALCOA sticker.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 198

Then a Lionel ALCOA covered hopper car was found.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 199

Making a Hybrid ALCOA Plant Switcher Lionel NW 2 and Marx 1998 Switcher

I had a Marx 1998 switcher base, wheels and motor missing the Marx shell.  I found a Lionel NW2 shell and cut out about 1 inch of the Lionel shell to shorten it to fit the Marx 1998 base.  I painted it black, white and red in the colors of ALCOAs Bauxite and Northern short line railroad from the Bauxite, ARK alumina and chemical plant in Bauxite, ARK to the a major railroads main lines.


Here is a write up on the Bauxite and Northern Railway located in Bauxite, Arkansas and near Benton, Arkansas from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

"The Bauxite & Northern Railway (reporting mark BXN) is a Class III railroad operating in the United States state of Arkansas. BXN operates over 7 miles (11 km) of track in Bauxite, Arkansas. Traffic consists of largely of alumina, and the railroad hauls 4,059 carloads per year. In 2005, the railroad was purchased by holding company RailAmerica.[1] In December 2012, Genesee & Wyoming acquired the railroad in its acquisition of RailAmerica. As of 2023, Bauxite & Northern Railway interchanges with Union Pacific in Bauxite, Arkansas and can hold up to 286,000 pounds of supplies. [2]


The Bauxite and Northern Railway was incorporated in Arkansas on November 13, 1906[3] and began operations in 1907,[1] for the purpose of constructing and operating a railroad from the town of Bauxite Saline County to a junction with the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway. The BXN connected with the Rock Island at Bauxite, and connected with the Missouri Pacific at BN Junction. For the railroad's first 100 years, it was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America.

The connection for the old Rock Island is now gone, but the remnants are still visible, including a bridge over the Rock Island roadbed and local highway."

I cut down the Lionel NW 2 body in 1982 but did not remember where I cut it out.  I had to go look !  It was very hard to see where I cut it as I did great work at that time !  I believe I used my band saw to cut 7/8 inches out of the length of the shell body.  I had to compare a current Lionel SW 1 body with the cut down one, to figure out where I made the cut.

Picture below shows the uncut orange NW 2 body has four double sections of vent panels on the top left.  The cut down NW 2 body shows one full vent panel and one partial vent panel at the front so the cut was made after the first panel;   removal of 7/8inch:   and then cut part off part of the last panel.  I am sure I left a 1/32 inch extra on each body part to allow for filing it off to make as good smooth and accurate fit.  I probably used Testor's plastic glue to join the pieces together.



Here are some photos of the Lionel coupling replacing the original Marx coupling on a Marx 1998.  This was done in 1982 and is how I remember how it was done.

Picture of Marx coupler on 1998 before removal - save coupling to add to a Lionel car with two Lionel coupling if you want to add a Marx coupling on one end.

Marx 1998 InSta Lionel couple 2023-09-16 008

The Coupler is from an old Lionel plastic truck, cut up with a razor saw.  A hole was drilled and cut out to fit over the projection left from the original coupling.  The silver is the head of a small dia, 3/4 inch long bolt that holds the new coupler to the spot where the original coupling had been.  The bolt is semi tight to allow the coupler to swing side to side with the projection staying in the enlarged hole at the bottom.  Two nuts are used on the bolt to keep it semi tight and hold that position.

Marx 1998 InSta Lionel couple 2023-09-16 001

Marx 1998 InSta Lionel couple 2023-09-16 004

A small project but it works great and lets the Marx 1998 handle Marx and Lionel coupled cars.

The Marx1998 and this hybird Marx 1998 / Lionel NW 2 switcher are a great running engines and always beatsother engines in racing through the oval and figure 8.  The Marx 1998 is the best running engine I have for racing.  It has a two way e-unit and is light and will out accelerate all and stay on 027 curves and go thought Marx 1590 switches.  It helps that is is a 2-4-2 with front and rear integrated trucks.  My kids, now adults still love to race them as I have another one too.

Bridges & Water T 2016-8-10 2016-07-26 002

Industrial and Alumina Cars

I also worked for Engelhard Corp., south of Macon, Georgia.  They mine and produced kaolin clay used for paper coating and transport it to fine white paper mills in tanker cars as a slurry.  I painted a tanker car with a white top that they use to keep the car cooler to fight algae and a black bottom and installed a company sticker.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 197

I also worked for ORMET's alumina refinery, at Burnside, LA, south of Baton Rouge, LA for 10 years and made another covered hopper car and labelled it ORMET, although they leased their cars.


ALCOA purchased Reynolds Metals in June 2000.  I bought a Reynolds Metal covered hopper car without the 12 roof hatch covers.  I made a more modern, easy to use center fill cover for the covered hopper car.  The older 12 hatch covers require a special loading bridge with 12 filling spouts and require the opening, closing and applying a security metal seals on each of the 12 hatch covers.  The center fill uses 3 or so loading spouts into the center of the car and has a four part center car long cover.  The covers overlap each other and require only opening and closing four covers and only one security seal saving time and money.


I also had a contract job to write operating instructions for a Kennecott copper smelter in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I bought a K-line work caboose with a search light and Kennecott Copper Corp. labeling.  I threw in a Lionel Anaconda copper ore hopper car.  This car is used in copper mining.



I have worked at the Exxon-Mobil refinery and chemical plant here in Baton Rouge but have not found a good Exxon sticker or decal to paint up another tank car as I have several Lionel Sunoco cars.  I have not found a Lionel Exxon tank car yet either.

I also worked for Kaiser Aluminum here in Baton Rouge and at the Gramercy, LA Kaiser alumina plant near there.  I still need to make or find a Kaiser Aluminum covered hopper car.



Images (9)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 198
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 199
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 197
  • IMG_3541
  • IMG_3543
  • IMG_3549
  • IMG_3551
  • Bridges & Water T 2016-8-10 2016-07-26 002
  • 14335839090_6746290bdd_n
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie


Post 21     9/6/2016 


Center Fill  Reynolds Alumina Covered Hopper Car


Here is my new center fill hopper car.  I purchased a Reynolds Aluminum hopper car body without the 12 door Top at a train show. 

Center fill is more modern than the 12 individual doors and quicker to fill.

The first picture shows construction with grating being made from leftover fiber window screen material which makes an easy source of grating for model trains.  Roof is made from hard 1/16 in balsa wood.

More Reynolds car 8-20-2015 003


The Second picture shows the finished painted roof.

Reynolds car & shop 8-22-2015 005


Picture of finished Kaiser hopper car below.


Choo Choo


Photos (2)




Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 22   9-9-2016  (Revised 11-15-2023)

Hidden Track installed behind Background, Industrial Bldg., Track Occupation Signal System and Train Wreck Videos

A hidden track allows trains to disappear or magically appear.  It is often used to hide the Christmas train that has candy in gondolas and log cars.  It works best if the place the train disappears and appears can be hidden.

A length of 1 X 6 one inch board was installed by installing brackets to the back frame of the train board.  The board was removable since it spanned the joined of the two train boards and had to be removed when taking up and installed when put down the train board each year.

Great Flood 8-13-2016 2016-07-26 007

The track on the hidden track section has its own cut off switch on the control panel and an uncoupling track section.  One end of the hidden track section starts in the mountain and has a Marx switch to divert the train to or from the hidden track.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 016

The other end of the hidden track goes through a hole in the background board and has a Marx switch to divert the train to and from the hidden track.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 028

Homemade Industrial Building with Purposes

The layout has a hidden track behind the background that leaves a hole that needs to be hidden.  It was decided to hide the hole by an industrial building.  This building was made from 1/8 inch Masonite with brick paper covering the sides. The main outside loop track goes through this building too.  Arch top windows were added and made from plastic sheeting and panes from 1/16 inch auto pin stripping.  Vent stacks were added to the roof.  A fake roll up door was added to the open ends of the building made from wooden dowels.  A section of flat building was made to be the building and installed against the background to give the appearance of a larger building.

I ran out of the original brick paper and had some made with a color copy machine, but is not a very good match and appears too pinkish in pictures below.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 008

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 010

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 011

Track Occupation Signal System

Three sections of the hidden track, located at each end and in the middle of hidden track, have isolated outside rails to trigger a track occupation signal to indicate if a train is present on the track since the track cannot be seen.  The signal power is controlled by the round house light switch.  The signal is mounted on the left end of the industrial building, in full view of the engineer.  12 volt mini Radio Shack bulbs of red, yellow and green are used for the signal.  Each bulb represents a section of hidden track that is occupied, and all three “on” mean the track has a hidden long train.  The lights also indicate the progress of a train moving on the hidden track.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 026

When the train layout was moved to the train room in 2011 or so, two of the background sections were removed to give a more open train room and vision of the windows and train shelves on the wall.  A tunnel was made from 1/8 inch Masonite with a removable roof to get to train wrecks.

Picture of background removed and tunnel installed to show window and train shelves

Tunnels is left of mountain, painted light blue with billboards in front

Addition Traint 9-26-2016 2016-09-24 089

Picture of tunnel with lid off.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 023

A string of Christmas tree clear mini lights were added in the tunnel to light it up for making videos and when using the X-10 TV camera car.  A picture of the front of a diesel or steam loco can be suspended over the track on a swing arm.  The swing arm is a piece of coat hanger wire bent to an L shape and mounted with two small screw eyes with the bottom one about 3/8inch off perpendicular to the train running direction.  The allows the train picture to return to a stop to block the track after the wreck automatically.  This will allow staging of train wrecks for the videos and X-10 camera car.  There is a 12 inch color TV located on the floor below the main control board to the right and a larger flat screen 55 " color TV set on the wall behind the train board for viewing live X-10 camera car videos.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 021

The X-10 camera was mounted on a flat car and rechargeable NiMH batteries are mounted in a battery holder from Radio Shack to supply power.

trains 2 1-16-2015 023



Images (11)
  • Great Flood 8-13-2016 2016-07-26 007
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 016
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 028
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 008
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 010
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 011
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 023
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 026
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 021
  • trains 2  1-16-2015 023
  • Addition Traint 9-26-2016 2016-09-24 089
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

One helpful addition was the installation of one of the mini Christmas lights of the tunnel light string as a light to illuminate a billboard sign on the background.  This light lets me know when I have the tunnel lights on and keeps me from leaving them on all night or day.

Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 020

I have several of these old plastic billboard signs on the layout with pictures of 40s and 50s signs.



Images (1)
  • Train addition 9-5-2016 2016-09-04 020

Post 23a    9-19-2016                      revised 1-17-2024

New Layout Addition Making an "L" Layout with pictures and video

We moved to Macon, GA in 1988 and had a larger living room with a bay window.  A new addition idea was hatched that would provide another loop and train running area.  A Christmas tree could be installed on the addition that would allow the tree to be seen in the bay window during the Holidays.  The outside loop of the addition would be connected to the outside loop of the original layout forming an L shaped layout.  A new control panel and LW Lionel transformer would run the additions independent loop and allow a third operator/engineer.  The main layout outside loop LW could be used to operate the new addition via a transformer transfer switch and the main loop inside LW could be used to operate the new addition via the transformer transfer switch on the main control panel.

The new addition would have its own building light transformer.  The only change that would have to be provided to make the new addition a standalone layout is a switch transformer would have to be added.  The building light transformer could be hooked to serve the switches as it has the capacity to do so.

The track plan for the layout addition chosen is below.  The red and green buttons are for switches and the blue buttons are for uncoupling or accessory operation.  The slide switches control track sections.  The short straight track with one switch is for the HO gauge trolley with a homemade timer and reversing mechanism.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 253

The width of the addition was determined by the amount of space between the original layout control panel and the right side, this width being 4 ft 7 in.  A length of 7 ft 6 in was chosen.   It has a long siding off the main loop.  It has another siding making a small loop that has two reversing tracks in a dog bone shape to allow reversing of trains in either direction.  Reversing trains is a priority for me in an operating and switching layout like I want.  The Christmas tree was installed between the dog bone loops for the holidays.  The new addition adds about 50% more area to the train layout.

Picture of the new Addition and control board in new upstairs train room after 2012

Train Lots 5-10-2016 227

Layout Addition when on floor with Christmas tree in Dec 2008 in Baton Rouge before new train room


Construction was the same as the original layout board except for the board being ½ inch plywood in place of ¾ inch particle (bagasse) board.  Wooden wheels were installed on one corner and the end and long side to allow rolling of the layout into position.

The use of ½ inch plywood decking was noticed to be much noisier than the ¾ inch particle board and was quieted by adding small pieces of truck inter tube under the track ties and switches on the outer loop and the long siding where most of the running occurs.  Truck inner tube rubber was used as it is longer lasting then foam rubber or foam plastic which may have added more quieting.  I have learned about the shorter life of foam rubber or plastic from having to replace speaker foam surrounds in as little as 10 years.  The air bubbles give the foam more surface area for oxygen in the air to oxidize or deteriorate the foam quicker.

The are ten Marx switches on the new addition track plan.  Another problem that came up was some engines and cars would hit a few Marx switch machine covers on some curves.  These switches were where the two sidings that split the loop and two switches are close together.  This required the cutting off the corners on three Marx switch machine covers.  The covers are metal and there was open space that allowed hack sawing the corners off about 1/2 inch and then soldering a piece metal to fill the gap.

Picture shows a two Marx switches close together and one with cover with one corner cut off

Cut off Marx switch covers 1-17-2023 2024-01-17 001

A recent photo of the overall L shaped layout with New Addition.  I see another project to paint the background on the tunnel that was added when two sections of background were removed to open up the room view.

Train Overhead views 9-21-016 2016-09-21 010

View from control panels, 1 operator, or 2 or 3, one for each LW trans. Small TV monitor for x-10camera car for engineer.  The TV feed also goes to a larger 55" flat screen TV on the wall to the right.

Train Overhead views 9-21-016 2016-09-21 027

View of backside of New Addition

Train Overhead views 9-21-016 2016-09-21 013

Here is a 2016 video of the layout operating in the new train room with the new addition.

The new addition would have a lake, ice skaters on pond and bridge, a farm scene, a small town main street and trolley track and a siding with multiple operating accessories.  Details will be given in future posts.



Images (3)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 253
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 227
  • IMG_9691
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Charlie, I too am enjoying your posts. I chuckle to myself when I see an idea that I too have thought of, and get inspired when I see an idea I hadn't considered.

For example, I too have modified the short stock car, only I used a K-Line 5000 series one. It was work to neatly cut out every other plank as you might also agree. Did the same thing, with the inserts from the O gauge longer Lionel poultry dispatch. Only I added a chicken figure from the movie, Chicken Run, in the open door.

I like the mini-aquarium and the idea for the "modern" tops for the hoppers. With prices being soft on used stuff, I have determined it is more profitable to scrap cars than to sell them for less than you can buy the parts. Check out the parts prices of wheel sets and trucks and you'll see what I mean. I've been using the cut roofs from box cars to make covers for hoppers and gondolas.

I've got to get around to figuring out my digital camera and do some photos of some of my creations. There are more of us 027 / traditional operators out there, than reading this particular forum category would give the appearance of.

Thanks for posting.

23b  9-21-2016        revised 4-29-2023 

Nighttime  Pictures of New Addition Train Board

COLTM16A2556 & brainel027   

Thanks for the comments.  I do not have any night videos and not many good night pictures.  My camera is not very fast and only f 2.8  I need to use a tripod.  Below are two.

As for wheels and trucks, I am always looking for junk cars and trucks at low prices. Found some at the last train show in the spring and bought a few but am kicking myself for not getting the rest.  We have a local TCA meet in the spring and fall around here.

New Addition Main Street at nightNew Add & Nite 8-27-2016 2016-08-27 033

Lionel Santa Fe Streamliners, 2400 series size, on Main Train Board

New Add & Nite 8-27-2016 2016-08-27 041



Images (2)
  • New Add & Nite 8-27-2016 2016-08-27 033
  • New Add & Nite 8-27-2016 2016-08-27 041
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Add Reply


OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
800-980-OGRR (6477)

Link copied to your clipboard.