Skip to main content

Page 1

Post 1,  5-16-2016,  (Post 1 revised 7-6-2024, Table of Contents revised 7-10-2024)

Overview of Building and Evolution of a Fun Action Packed 50’s Era, Conventional Control, Operating & Switching Layout

Note: Table of Contents for this whole topic is at the end of this Page 1, Post 1

A major objective of this layout was to make the track plan and layout active and challenging and not be a simple looping, monotonous and boring layout where interest is quickly lost. Most display type layouts have great scenery and craftsmanship but have several single loops running several trains and no track switches or even a way to reverse the direction of the trains on the loops. They hold ones interest for 30 minutes max but do not require much if any attention of the engineers.  This type of layout will not hold the interest of the viewers and operators long at all and is not the layout I want to build.

This layout was designed to keep the engineers busy with operation, switching, reversing, coupling and uncoupling, operating multiple trains and includes many operating accessories, all to keep up interest in running and watching trains and improving the layout.  2 of the 3 loops have double revering loops and the outside loop has a Wye to allow lots of options to reverse trains.  The layout has 31 Marx switches and 18 uncoupling/operating track sections for lots of  train operating options.  An operating homemade turntable and associated TT whisker tracks will allow reversal of engines and storage and selection of locos, and was desired and planned into the layout from conception.  The layout has several operating accessories that provide action and a purposes and jobs for the trains to serve.  Another objective was to have fun building, operating and sharing the layout with others specially young children.

While setting up three or five trains to loop on 3 interconnected loops, is and can be done on this layout, experience has been that just looping gets boring quickly.  The layout has numerous operating accessories, some of which allow simulation of industries to give the some trains an operating purpose.  The layout has 31 Marx track switches and 21 uncoupling/operating track sections.   I will refer to the train layout as a train board at times, as was done in the 1950's toy train board under the Christmas tree.

The layout is portable and has been on the floor for two months per year starting in mid December, from 1977 to 2011.  It has been moved to five different houses, due to job transfers, by packing layout sections in mattress boxes.

This topic or thread is about how I built a 1950's Era, Post War style Lionel and Marx 027 train running, challenging,  action packed layout starting in 1977 and using conventional control.  Initially, the layout had two Lionel LW transformers, 20 Marx 1590 switches, 12 operating or uncoupling track sections, an Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel and a homemade $10 operating Turntable ,with pit, and homemade Round House.  Larger engines like the Lionel 4-6-4, baby Hudson's 2046, and 2056, the Lionel 6-8-6, S-1 Turbine 671, the Lionel 2-8-4, Berkshire 756,  the K-Line 4912, GG1, the Williams BL2 and F7 ABA are successfully operated on this layout.  It should be pointed out more modern, constant 18 volt remote control engines were not available in the 1970 and 80's yet so conventional control was the only system available and I have elected to stay with it and my 50's type engines.

We were job transferred, by ALCOA, from Mobile, AL to Kingston, Jamaica in July 1976.  We rented a house and bought a used English, right side drive, stick shift, small Hillman Hunter four door sedan.  We had some furniture, household goods and appliances shipped from the USA to Kingston, Jamaica.

1976 - 1977   We brought the family Marx 999 freight set, 027 track, Lionel 1034 transformer and four Marx 1590 metal switches to Jamaica in our moving shipping container in 1976.  I also made purchases of 027 track and Marx switches, some additional engines, and cars on trips back to the USA in 1976 and 1977.  We had a 1½ year old son and our daughter was born in Kingston in November 1976.  We had a busy 1976, and no time for trains.

The 4 year old ALCOA alumina refining plant, where I worked,  was about 35 miles from Kingston and the plant was 30 miles from the mine in one direction and 30 miles in the other direction, to the port where the alumina was shipped from.  The plant had its own ALCOA switch engine for use in the plant spotting oil tank cars from the port, ore cars from the mine and alumina cars to the port and empties from all.  The Jamaican Railroad transported all cars from the mine and port, to and from the plant on their tracks.

I planned, made track diagrams, and started layout construction in the carport of our rental Manor Park house in New Kingston, Jamaica in 1977.  The layout was ready for operation, on the family room floor, for Christmas 1977.

Layout plan started with features I liked about my childhood Christmas layout.  The childhood layout was made in two sections from a 9 ft x 5 ft ping pong size piece of plywood and the layout was portable and only on the floor for the two week Christmas holidays.  It had an oval and figure 8 track plan with 4 Marx 1590 switches.  It had a removable mountain with tunnel in the far right corner and that mountain contained a Christmas tree and stand.  A small control panel had a place for a train transformer and the four Marx switch twin control push button switches in a row.  Almost all these features would be included in the new layout.

The new layout has a unique compact Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel utilizing mini push button and slide switches.  This style of control panel was developed to allow quick and easy control of 19 Marx remote controlled switches by following the track diagrams on the control panels.  The layout will have reversing loops and numerous uncoupling track sections.  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 engineers.

The inside loop includes an oval and figure 8, allowing train reversing in either direction and has 11 switches and an operating homemade Turntable.  The outside loop has two alternate/storage tracks and has 9 switches.  The outside and inside loops are joined by two pairs of inner connecting Marx switches. This train board can runs 4 trains with two trains per two blocked and relayed loops and numerous operating accessories. It includes a homemade $10 turntable with pit, homemade round house and now an operating Lionel Gantry Crane.

A second train board was added in 1988 forming an L shaped layout.  This addition allows a third loop to be operated with a total of up to three engineers with three Lionel LW transformers.  The layout now can be operated by one engineer or by two or three engineers at two control panels.  This addition has a second Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel and a third Lionel LW transformer.  The third loop includes a double dog bone, giving train reversing in either direction for the outside loop for both train boards and has 11 switches and 6 operating or uncoupling track sections.  The layout 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 and now has a Wye, that allows reversing train on both outside loops. It is a 027 gauge 50's era train operating and switching layout (initially 29 Marx 1590 metal frog, inexpensive switches). This portable layout has been on the floor in various rooms of 5 houses for 2 months a year, until 2011 when it was installed on legs, upstairs in a new two story two car garage.

The topic tells how layout operation started with 2-4-2 Marx 999 freight set and Lionel plastic locos, evolved to 2-6-4 Lionel 2018 and 2026 locos and then heavier 2-6-4 Lionel 2035s with Magna-traction locos and even Lionel 4-6-4, 2046 and 2065 and the 4-8-4 Lionel Polar Express loco.   Operating accessories were the Lionel Milk car with platform and homemade turntable and evolved to two milk platforms, a cattle pen, Icing station, lumber saw mill, drum loader, barrel loader, coal mine loading station, log dumper at the mountain and remote controlled gantry crane as well as numerous remote track sections for log and coal dumpling cars.  Numerous rail cars have been added including operating dump cars, giraffe, cop and robber, ducking cars and others.  Many unique homemade cars were made including Vanderbilt coat tenders, Life Saver car, Borden's "Butter Dish" Milk Tank Car, cabooses, Mercury capsule car, rocket cars and many more.

A Wye was added on the outside loop between the two train boards, where the train boards form the L shape, by using two more Marx 1590 switches in 2020 for additional reversing action and the layout now has 31 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 and have fun with this hobby.  I will try to provide the logic and reasons for the choices I made in planning and building this layout and to describe, in enough detail and pictures, how I built it for hobbyists to be able to build their own layout.

The initial layout main train board described is 11 ft , 2 inches long and 5 ft, 9 inches wide.  It is in two sections, is portable and easy to store and be moved by one person as it has wheels build into some layout edges.  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 40's and 50's were initially used.  Lionel LW 125 watt transformers and 19 Marx 027, 1590 metal frog switches are also used which are inexpensive and easily found.  The layout uses conventional control.  Almost all trains and operating accessories were purchased used from individuals from paper ads or at train meets and shows and most are from the Postwar or 1950's time period keeping costs for equipment low.  I have other hobbies and interests competing for time and limited funds.

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.  Construction of homemade, scratch built, copied and modified rail cars are also explained and featured.

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 material and train gear and then building an action packed, interest maintaining layout.

I plan to make additional posts to this topic periodically or when I can, on different features of my 44 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 as it looked 1977 to 1988

Train Complete 1-17-2015 116

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

Red and green buttons are push button switches for the track switches and blue buttons are uncoupling and accessory operating push button switches.  The black slide switches are for controlling the track sections and when the black is blocking the white track indication lines, the switch is OFF and the track section is not powered.

Train Complete 1-17-2015 152

Photos below showing both Train Boards in 2020 with new Wye. The first train board was started in 1977 and second train board was added in 1988 to make this a L shaped layout.  Lengths of the two L legs are 11 ft, 2 in original X  12 ft, 3 in including the original and the new train board making the long length on the right side below.

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

The Wye on outside loop can be seen in center of picture above Green lighted LW transformer


Details of the Completed L Shaped Layout in use since 1988

The two control panel track diagrams below show the total L shaped track plan of the completed Layout.  The layout main train board includes an oval and figure for the inside loop of the Main original train board giving reversing in both directions and an includes a turntable.  The second control panel, for the new train board, shows a double dog bone giving reversing in both directions for the outside loop of both original and new train boards.  The bottom edge of the original train board shows the recently added Wye that allows reversing of trains on the outside loop, including the ability of moving a train from the outside loop of the new train board, to the outside loop of the original train board and also to the inside loop of the original train board.  One can see the fun to be had with trains on the side tracks and the loops clear and one train allowed to roam freely all over the uncluttered loops and routes.  The layout has now 31 Marx track switches and 21 uncoupling/operating track sections,

Below  -  Main Train Board Control Panel  -   11 ft 2 in  x  5 ft 9 in, the only board to 1988 and the new train board track diagram (with new Wye) control panel in the same position as the actual L shaped total layout

Control Panel Main 12-28-2022 2022-12-28 016


Above - The New Train Board Control Panel , 7 ft 6 in x 4 ft 7 in, added in 1988,  which can Operate Stand Alone

Lengths of the two L legs are 11 ft, 2 in original X  12 ft, 3 in including the original and the new train board making the long length on the right side below.

The planning and construction of the Original Main train board are covered in the first 22 posts of this topic, then the planning and construction of the New Train board is covered in posts 23 to 30, making this a L shaped train layout.  Posts 31 to the last post detail how homemade accessories, rail cars were made and other improvements and operational improvements like the new Wye.

The exceptional layout track plan with three loops, three Lionel LW transformers and 3 operating cabs on two control panels, train operation with two trains per two loop operation, homemade $10 turntable and round house, Wye, 31 Marx 1590 switches, homemade accessories, and many homemade cars make this a very challenging and rewarding layout to make and operate.

The inside loop of the original board allows reversing in each direction with an Oval and Figure 8.  The outer loop has allows reversing in each direction with a double loop Dog bone and a Wye allows reversing with forward and reverse operation and allows movement of a train from the third loop on the new board, through the outside loop on the old board into the inside loop of the old board.  Routing trains and operating is always challenging as there is no means to tell which way a switch is thrown other than to look at it or remember which way it is set.  I am pleased to share the layout with you and hope you enjoy the write up and learn some new ideas, or hints.

Video of layout in 2022 operating 5 trains - two loops have 2 trains on 1 track and one train on the New train board loop


                                  Table of Contents

T of C     revised 7-10-2024

Page 1

Post 1  5-16-2016   Overview of Building and Evolution of a Action Packed 50’s Post War 027 Operating Layout & whole topic Table of Contents,  last revised  7-6-2024

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

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

Post 4   5-24-2016   Resources- Books and Magazines, Layout Track Plan and Features Explained, & Procurement of Light Weight Lionel Steam Locomotives 1977 to 1980, (Revised 7-10-2024

Post 5   5-27-2016  Selection & Procurement of  O27 Track, Marx 1590 Track Switches, Lionel LW Transformers, Switch Transformer, etc. (revised 6-19-2024)

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

Post 7   6-11-2016   Main Layout Board (11 ft - 2 in x 5 ft - 9 in) Construction and Track Installation (revised 7-1-2024)

Post 8a   6-20-2016   Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel Construction and Layout Wiring  (revised 6-2-2024)

Post 8b   6-20-2016  Track Transformers and Other Transformers Installed on Layout (Revised 4-29-2023)

Post 8c   6-22-2016  Improving and Repairing Marx 1590 Postwar 027 Switches  (revised 4-11-2024)

Post 8d  6-20-2016   Two Direction Automatic 2 Train Operation on 1 Loop  -  Manual and Automatic Relayed Track Loop Operation System  (revised 4-11-2024)

Post 9   6-25-2016   Turntable with Pit Construction & Operation -  Scratch Built and Inexpensive ($10 !) Can be any where and size  (revised 7-1-2024)

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

Post 11a  7-8-2016   Homemade $10 Round House Construction when back in USA- Homemade

Post 11b  7-13-2016   More Wiring Details on LW Transformers, TT and Tracks

Page 2

Post 12   7-16-2016  Medium Weight (Lionel 2018, 2026) Steam and Diesel Engine Upgrades 1986-2000's

Post 13   7-22-2016   Layout Mountain and Tunnel -  Construction Details

Post 14   7-29-2016  Bachmann 1975 Coal Station Kit-bashed

Post 15   7-29-2016  Coal Mine/ Operating Coal Loader Accessory - Homemade & Converted from Bachmann 1975 Coal Station

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

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

Post 18  8-18-2016   Lionel type Water Tower and Gantry Crane Superstructure - Homemade  (revised 6-4-2024)

Post 19  8-26-2016  Layout Lights, Building  & Accessory Goose Neck Lighting and Mini Christmas Tree Light Use (revised 6-15-2024)

Post 20  9-2-2016   Alumina, Chemical and Industrial Cars and Plant Switch Engine  (revised 6-4-2024)

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

Post 22   9-9-2016   Hidden Track installed behind Background, Industrial Bldg., Track Occupation Signal System and Train Wreck Videos  (revised 11-15-2023)

Post 23a  9-19-2016   New Layout Board Addition ( 7  6n x 4  ft - 7 in) Making an "L" Layout, with pictures and video  (revised 1-17-2024)

Post 23b  9-21-2016   Nighttime  Pictures of New Addition Train Board  (revised 4-29-2023

Page 3

Post 23c  9-21-2016   More On New Addition Train Board  with Videos   (revised 4-2-2024)

Post 24   4-11-2016   New Addition Track Plan and  Active Track Diagram Control Panel  (revised 3-27-2024)

Post 25   10-4-2016   Homemade Operating Ice skating pond on New Addition

Post 26  10-10-2016  Train whistles and Diesel horns  (revised 4-13-2022)

Post 27  10-13-2016  Main Street on New Addition

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

Post 29a  10-28-2016   Industrial, Local Train Station, Farm, Air Port, Microwave Tower on New Addition

Post 29b  10-30-2023   Installation of the Lionel 6-12703 Icing Station between the Two Train Boards with 19823 Refrigerator Car  (revised 11-16-2023)

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

Post 30b   1-9-2023   Layout Train Operating Capabilities and Schemes

Post 31  1/28/2017  Lionel 12834 Gantry Crane operating - Added to Layout (revised 6-26-2023)

Page 4

Post 32  4/20/2017  Renovation and Installation of Lionel 192 Railroad Control Tower  (revised 5/31/2023)

Post 33  6/4/2017   Operating Accessories on Layout List and Photo of Locations on the Layout  (revised 5-26-2023)

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

Post 36  7/25-2017  Train Shelves - Economical, Wall Friendly and Moveable

Post 37  8/5/2017   Layout Moved to New Hobby/Train Room in 2011 and Layout Legs and Skirting Added  (revised 6-17-2024)

Post 38a  11-23-2023  Heavy Weight Steam Engine Upgrades 1998-2011

Post 38b  8/12/2017  Operating Car Train  (1st Post, Milk Car)

Post 39  8/18/2017  Operating Car Train  (2nd Post, Cattle Car)

Post 40  8/20/2017  Operating Car Train  (3rd Post, Barrel Car & Unloader)

Post 41  8/24/2017  Operating Car Train  (4r Post, Ice Car & Icing Station)

Page 5

Post 42 8/31/2017   Operating Car Train  (5th Post, Gondola or Coal Dumping Car)

Post 43  9/4/2017    Automating the Manual Lionel 6-12774 Log Loader Building to allow moving logs from Mountain to Lionel 464 Lumber Mill (revised 3-29-2023)

Post 44a  9/9/2017   Passenger Trains Run on the Layout (Revised 5-27-2027)

Post 44b  9/9/2017   Run on the Layout - Giraffe Cars and Train - The most Popular Cars on the layout  (revised 1-26-2024)

Post 45   9/21/2017   The Christmas Train Run on the Layout (revised 1-4-2023)

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

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

Post 48  10/19/2017  Maintenance Train and Homemade Track Cleaning Car (revised 9-19-2023)

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

Post 50   12/28/2020   Layout on Christmas 2017

Post 51  1/17/2018  Space and Missile Trains and Cars Run on the Layout (revised 12-30-2023)

Page 6

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

Post 53  4/28/2018   New Diesel Engines, Track Upgrade with Track Nippers and Track Cutting Jig

Post 54   6/1/2018    Cab-Forward Engine

Post 55   3/15/2019   Vanderbilt Tender - Homemade

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

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

Post 57b  11/20/2023  Medium Steam Engines Used on the Layout

Post 58  9/24/2019   Large Steam Engines Used on the Layout  and Fix for Lionel 2046 & 2025 Rear Truck Shorting on Derailment (revised 11-20-2023)

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

Post 60   2/9/2020   Lionel Style Life Savers Double Dome Tank Car - Homemade

Page 7

Post 61   5/1/2020   Wye Installed on  the Layout  (revised 10-23-2023)

Post 62   5/10/2020  Flood Goose Neck Lights on Cattle Corral and new Milk Platform added 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 a Semi-Super O27 Realistic Track  (revised 1-5-2023)

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

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

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

Post 68  10-28-2020   Signal Bridges Now Operating

Post 69  11-18-2020   Lionel 6805 Atomic Energy Disposal Car & Homemade Electrical Pick Up  (also see Page 7, Post 74 for additional details)

Post 70   1-4-2021  Transfer Caboose-Homemade

Post 71  1-18-2021   Bobber Caboose -Homemade

Post 72  1-19-2021  Adding an 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 & Homemade Electrical Pick Up - Colorful and Beautiful

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   1930's Lionel 238 Streamlined Torpedo Locomotive and Tender -  Revived with Marx motor and Paint Job

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

Post 79    2-14-2022   NO-OX-ID A-Special Conducting Terminal Grease Treatment for My Layout Track to Prevent Sparking and to Eliminate Track Cleaning FOREVER !

Post 80   4-19-2022    Videos - Showing Two Sets of 2 trains running on 1 track and 5 Trains Running   (Revised 4-20-2023)

Post 81   9-28-2022   Broken Lionel 2035 Classification Lights - Repaired

Post 82   12-22-2022   Covered Lionel Gondola Car - Homemade

Post 83  4-18-2023   Gondolas on the Layout  (revised 5-10-2024)

Post 84  6-7-2023   Homemade Borden's "Butter Dish" Milk Tank Car (revised 7-2-2023)

Post 85  7-10-2023  Homemade Sawdust Burner for Lionel 464 Saw Mill

Page 9

Post 86  9-9-2023   Steam Powered Switch Engines Operating on the Layout (revised 9-18-2023)

Post 87  11-8-2023  TCA 11-2023 Train Show Finds

Post 88  1-7-2024   Postwar (1945-1955) Steam Locomotive Weights

Post 89 3-15-2024  Passenger Cars Added and Run

Post 90  4-23-2024  Frosty Bar gets a Ice Cream Cone on Roof

Post 91   6-21-2024  Layout Corner Treatments Currently in Use

Last edit Table of contents 7-10-2024


Images (7)
  • 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
  • IMG_1004
  • IMG_1013
  • IMG_2520
Videos (1)
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  revised 1-6-2024

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 for Christmas 1948.  The train was a Marx 999 freight set.  A Christmas later, about 1949, we got a tin plate Marx LNE 13079 Leigh New England coal car with four operating hopper doors. Later still, we got a Lionel 1033 transformer a big improvement over the cheap little Marx on that came with the set.  The layout was on the living room floor after being installed on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree in the plaster of Paris mountain with tunnel in right back corner.  The layout was in two sections with a 1 x 4 frames, one having the control panel with transformer and controllers for four Marx switches, taken down a week after New Years and stored in the basement against a wall.

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.

We moved to new house my Dad and his friend built for us in Afton, a suburb of St. Louis.  Dad put the layout up in the basement, after we insisted, but later we never played with it for a year or so.  When my brother and I were 8 and 10 or so, the train track and Marx switches  were removed and the layout dismantled.  My brother and I had gotten 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

Tinplate Marx LNE 13079, Leigh New England coal car with four operating hopper doors


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


Images (4)
  • Marx-999 set
  • Marx-999
  • Marx uncoupling
  • IMG_2070
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 4   5-24-2016       revised 7-10-2024

Resources- Books and Magazines, Layout Track Plan and Features Explained & Procurement of Light Weight Lionel Steam Locomotives (1977-1980) O27

Resources- Books and Magazines

Resources:    These ten books, magazines and booklets, were helpful and most used from the start of the layout design and construction.

First Book. and must have.  “Operating O and O27 Trains”,  "A Comprehensive Guide to the Desgn, Construction and Operation of a Layout For Lionel Trains " edited by Maury D. Klien and Bruce C. Greenberg , 1976, 242 pages. This book was first published by Lionel and titled Handbook for Model Builders (Fun and Facts for Amateur Railroader) in 1940 and written by Lionel personnel.  The "Operating O and O27 Trains book has pages 7 to 168 from the Model Builders book.

"Operating O and O27 Trains"  is a "must have book for building a postwar Lionel train layout " and my main, best layout building book.  It has track plans, details on homemaking surface mounted turntable, round house, coal mine, and sand station and details how to wire a layout to run two trains on one track loop using a relay and how to keep the engine eUnit from cycling.  It lead me to install 2 trains on 1 track operation, a homemade turntable and round house, control panels and coal mine on my post war layout.

This book explains a lot about how real train yards and engine service facilities work, bridges, signals and all about trains.  It has numerous train track plans and is the one source to get acquainted with real post war trains and train layouts.  It is available at Amazon for about $7 in 2022.


Second Book,  “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.

Third Book, “Lionel Track Layout Book O27”, 21 pages

Fourth 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.

Fifth Book.  “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.

Sixth Book. In 2019, a "Model Railroading" 3rd ed. was purchased, 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, for information on the style of my layout.  The 3rd ed. even has 15 pages of track plans as blueprints.

Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 002

Turntable has a pit and is more complicated to build than mine.
Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 006

The roundhouse is great and built with frame work and again requiring more effort than my simpler construction.

Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 007

Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 008

The book even had a layout track plan diagram for track switch switches.  My control panel track plan diagram is in the section following this picture.

Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 010

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

"Classic Toy Trains" magazine was found in 1988 and have issues from the start as a subscriber, Summer 1988 to lately with some missing the last few years.  For me, the early 10 years or so issues have more use for my 50s style layout and my post war locos as later issues started moving away from postwar trains and layouts.

I also have " O Scale Railroading" magazine, starting with run 45, Aug 1976, and later changed its name to "O Gauge Railroading" magazine around 1989 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.

Old 1980s and 90s issues of these magazines can be found at train shows and TCA etc. train meets for little or no money.  Also, back issues may be available for these magazines by way of on line archives.  Old issues from the 1980s and 1990s make great reading watching boring TV shows and I have spent some of that time reading and making my own customized indexes to allow me to quickly find articles of interest to me.

Two more sources were later found to be good for 1950's style model railroad layouts.

"Model Builder" magazine was not used and recently discovered.  Lionel's "Model Builder" magazine, published from Feb 1937 to Mar 1949, for 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 1950's.  It is available free at or

Another booklet not used but very helpful is "How to Operate Lionel Trains and Accessories for 027, O and Super O" published by the Lionel Corporation in 1965.  It must have been available on line for free as I have a home copied edition.  Ebay also has some copies for sale.  It is about 31 pages and is a summary of installing Lionel track and accessories and maintaining Lionel trains.  It can be found here:

Layout Track Plan and Features Explained

Major objectives of the layout include making it interesting, fun and challenging to operate and observe for all operators and viewers, young and older.  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.  An active track plan with lots of running routes was desired with trains reversing, lots of switches and have the ability to operate multiple trains.  Things were needed 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 is to 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 store it 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 for moving as it was made sections sized as to fit in queen size bed mattress boxes. The board section must be small enough to go through standard size doors and up stairs.  The sections must have means to allow it to be moved for storage and into the house from the garage by one person (examples: wheels and hand holds).

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 we liked the great 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 a 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 transformer selector switch was installed on the control panel 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.  Post 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.  There are two insulated sections for each loop to allow two train operation in both directions.  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 and it is the ultimate operating accessory allowing track engine storage and swapping.

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

Switches on control panel - next Photo

Top - LW Train Transformer reset switch on circuit breaker and light showing Short

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

3rd down - switch to set up relay system for CW clockwise or C W counter clockwise two trains on one track operation

4th down - LW Transformer selection switch:   left Red dot for Red Lighted LW on left of control panel controls whole layout, or right for Two transformer operation Red dot and Green dot to allow Red Lighted LW control inner loop and Green Lighted 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 video above does not work

Light Weight Marx and Lionel 2-4-2 Engines and Coal Tenders, 1977 to 1980

I had a Marx 999 steam locomotive freight set from childhood to start with.

When in Beaumont, TX, on vacation from Jamaica, I saw an ad for a garage sale that had Lionel trains.  I purchased four Lionel 2-4-2 plastic bodied, two way e Units, 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 along with seeing lots of TT in track plans in books.  I am a dedicated garage sale goer and rarely find Lionel trains but have found a few.

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

Pictures of three of the Lionel 2-4-2 plastic bodied engines that inspired the turntable.  They are from around 1958 and have good metal 249-100 motors and two way E units and are good runners and came with small streamlined 1120T coal tenders.  They were all black and I painted them to make them individual in the 1980s.

2-4-2 engine

A sharper picture below

Train Complete 1-17-2015 182

Train Lots 5-10-2016 147

This one is better Lionel 2-4-2, with a die cast body and 3 way e Unit.

Train Lots 5-10-2016 149

Turntable Idea Hatched

The acquiring of 4 additional steam engines accelerated 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.  The sketching of a TT, in my proposed layouts, was started and I had no idea of whether to buy one or scratch build one.  A turntable is the single best item to achieve my objective to add interest and action to my train layout.

On a later trip to Dave's, some cars and Lionel MP 219 AA diesels were also purchased.

Procuring Additional Train Gear

Since moving back in the states, lots of trains, track and switches, etc. were purchased at Train Collectors Association (TCA), Great American and Greenberg’s train shows especially in the 80s and 90s.  More were found  in later years at TCA local meets in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.  Sellers at these meets were often asked if they had any Marx switches and one fellow, at a TCA meet in Shreveport, LA, said he had 16 at home that I could have for free.  This offer was gladly accepted and I paid the postage and that purchase paved the way for the new addition to make the train board an 'L" in 1988.

Some trains were purchased 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 on eBay and wanted a good home for their trains.

Only one 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.  Two Lionel truck side pieces that fit were purchased from Lionel.



Images (8)
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 252
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 251
  • IMG_1110
  • Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 002
  • Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 006
  • Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 007
  • Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 010
  • Model Railroading Mag 2024-07-09 008
Videos (1)
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 5      5-27-2016, revised 6-19-2024

Selection and Procurement of used O27 Track, Marx 1590 O27 Track Switches, Lionel LW Transformers, Switch Transformer, etc.

We lived in a rental house at Constant Spring,  Jamaica, a suburb of north east of Kingston, Jamaica.  My work was in the country, about 30 miles west of Kingston Jamaica.  The layout idea was started in late 1976, when acquiring trains and train gear started.   We lived in Jamaica for four years and traveled back to the USA every 6 months and visited family in Texas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Florida.

In the Pittsburgh Gazette paper want ads for O gauge trains, none were found  but an ad from Dave who wanted to buy Lionel trains was found.  Dave was called and asked if he had any trains to sell and 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.

Choice and Procurement of Used O27 Gauge Track and Operating/ Uncoupling Track Sections

Track type selection was an easy choice.  Since the layout was to be a portable, operating, smallish, Toy train layout, O27 track was the obvious choice.  O27 will allow more track in a given space.  O27 is easily found, inexpensive and has a low profile (1/4 inch lower track height than O gauge track).  027 also allows the use of the low profile and small foot print, reliable Mark 1590 switches to be used.  Also I already had four Marx 1590 switches and these switches are easy to repair even in place.  O27 operating/uncoupling track sections were also installed.  These are easy to find and inexpensive to purchase.  Controllers for both the Marx switches and the operating/uncoupling track sections were not used.  Inexpensive and smaller Mini push button switches on the actionable control panel are used thus large and the additional cost of buying controllers was not incurred.  This selection made it easier to find and buy both Marx switches and operating/uncoupling track sections.

I have found I can operate large locomotives like Lionel 2046 and 2055 baby Hudson's, Lionel 561, 0-8-0 switch engine,  Williams F7 ABA, 4032 Santa Fe, Williams BL2 diesel AA, and Lionel, 2-8-4 Lionel Berkshire 756, so 027 track and Marx 1590 switches were a good choices for me.

Choice and Procurement of Marx 1590 metal Frog Track Switches

I have settled on Marx 1590 metal frog switches for several reasons.  The switches do not have a number on them and I have one box that is labeled R.H. 1589.

Marx 1590 Switches 2024-06-19 002

Reasons for choosing Marx 1590 Switches

One;  I had 4 of them from childhood,

Two;   they will pass fat wheel Marx 999 and other engines and I had a lot of Marx,  

Three;  they are easy to buy and inexpensive (most cost $5 a pair or less) and I need a lot of them (layout now has 31 switches),

Four;   they are reliable, simple and easy to repair, even in place, if necessary,

Five;   they have metal frogs and not plastic,  

Six;  they have a low profile, are compact and take less space than Lionel 1122 switches with huge switch motors sticking out and they blend in with the track

Seven;  they do not use continuous power (only powered when switching the track) as they have no lamps, on the switch or on the switch controllers.

The 027 Lionel later #1122 switches, have two # 53 lamps in the switches and controllers that are ON all the time each ( 2 - #53 lamps lighted X .12 amps  X 14.5 volts = 1.74 watts per switch installed)  X  31 switches now) equals 54 watts for just the Lionel switches #53 lamps.  The Marx 1590 switch only uses power when switching the frogs position.  The Marx switches are operated with mini push button switches mounted on compact active track diagram control panels with most push button switches in place on the track diagram to make finding the correct switch of the 31 easier to find.

You may have noticed all my Marx 1590 switches were painted gray to match my track ballast color.  This was done because several Marx switches I had were bare silver metal with red switch machine boxes and some were all black, some silver and some with red solenoid boxes and it looked better to have them all the same color.  Also by painting them all light gray, the color of my track bed, they blend in with the 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).

Illustration of compact:   an area of my layout showing 11 Marx 1590 Switches, including my new Wye at the bottom

Layout Switches and steros 3-6-2023 2023-03-06 002

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 large center rail large gap near the frog point.  This problem is easily solved by doing a 50 year widely known old fix.  The fix was to install 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.  This modification was made in the first year of the installation of the Marx switches.

The picture below shows the center rail of the straight track with one inserted track pin (or cut off finishing nail) and switch in the 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.


Much more information on the Improving and Repairing Marx 1590 switches is given on this Page1, post 8c.

Track Switch Operating Transformer

Switch operation is powered by a single 12 volt, 40 amp or so transformer that has been modified by removing enough of the secondary wire winding to give 14.5 volt output used for only momentary operation for switches and some accessories.  Higher switch voltage was required as it makes the switches snap into the locked position quickly and I have 5 sets of paired Marx switches that operate as pairs.  These are switches that only are operated as pairs and use a common push button for each direction for each switch pair.  Thus the paired switches eliminated 10 push button switches and makes the control panel more streamlined.  The higher 14.5 voltage makes these paired switches operate faster.  Two pairs of switches connect the inside loop to the outside loop of the main train board:   two pairs convert the Outside loop from two loops to an L shaped track plan and on pair of switches operate the Wye always in tandem.  Many consider the Marx 1590 switch the best post war switch even though they are lowest cost.

Selection and Procurement of Lionel LW 125 watt Lighted Single Train Transformers

A Lionel LW single train transformer, (125 watts input but output is probably 95-100 watts) was purchased (to go with the Lionel 1034 transformer I had) for track voltage, and along with several used Marx 1590 switches and used track.  These were purchased from Dave in Pittsburgh, on one of my trips home from Jamaica and later at train shows.

The Lionel LW transformer is unique.  One thing was the power lever is turned counter clockwise to increase voltage which is opposite from other Lionel transformers.  Then, if another transformers are paired with the LW, things get confusing.

The LW is the most powerful single engine transformer Lionel made at 125 watt input or 95-100 watt output.  Per train operated, it is more powerful than the ZW.  Also, if multiple trains are operated with the ZW, if one throttle is changed, the speed of the other trains will changed and I plan on operating multiple trains on this layout.  My layout was designed with two independent, interconnected loops.  Later with the addition of a new train board, a third loop and a third LW transformer was added.

Since I wanted two operators to be able to share the Control panel, I could use two LWs, with one on each end of the Main Control panel, and the operators would not get in each others way.  It is hard for two operators to share a Lionel ZW transformer.  The LW has a lighted dial and the light intensity goes brighter as the voltage output is increased.  This is great for night operation and to see the lamp intensity vary with indicated voltage output.  The LW is inexpensive to purchase and $35 is the most I paid for any of my three plus spare LW's.  The LW track transformers are used only to run trains, or to operate accessories that require variable track voltage.  They are not used to throw switches or light buildings, etc. thus saving all transformer output for train power.

Other Layout Transformers

Other single voltage transformers are located underneath the layout and include two 40 watt, a 12 volt AC transformers.  One 12 volt transformer is used for all layout building lights and other lights like street, flood, accessory illumination lights and any accessories that require a constant 12 vac.  There is another 12 vac lighting transformer under the new train board that now forms an L shaped layout.  

This layout would not be as compact, easy to operate and affordable without the use of used O27 track, Marx 1590 switches and Lionel LW transformers.

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".



Images (7)
  • 2-4-2 engine
  • 2-4-2 engine
  • 2-4-2 Southern
  • IMG_0529
  • IMG_0536
  • Marx switchs points and drawing 7-14-2022 2022-07-14 007
  • Marx 1590 Switches 2024-06-19 002
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 10.  The train was made from scrap ½ inch, ¾ inch wood and a heavy mailing tube for the loco body.  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 and powered with flashlight batteries.


Pictures of Tootle Wooden pull train with Tootle steam engine, coal tender, gondola, flat car, searchlight car, operating crane car and Red caboose.

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

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

Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 004

Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 005

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


Images (5)
  • 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
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 004
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 005
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post  7    6-11-2016  revised 7-1-2024

Main Train Board Construction and Track Installation

I drew up several plans as small sketches to get ideas for what I wanted for a track plan.  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 O27 straight and curve cutout with a X-Acto knife.  I used 1/10 inch to one foot scale on the template shown below.


A two ovals and figure 8 on the inside loop was chosen and I then laid on paper.  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 2021diagram of the first board showing the new Wye at the bottom  mid right.


My tools in Jamaica from 1976 to 1979 were an electric 7 inch Skil circular saw, a old 1950s cast iron stationary 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 board, from a neighbor who was the manager of the 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, to make it easier to handle and move through doors and up steps.  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 and the edges 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 and with paraffin wax for lubrication.  One wheel is on a corner and another is down the side about 2/3 way to the other end.  This allows the standing train board on edge, 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 working night or weekend day.

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 wheel allows the board to rolled on two different board edges, each board has a total of 3 wheels, to allow two adjacent edges to be on the the floor to be moved

Train 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

Photo showing layout on floor w/ wires being hooked up.  Bottom left is new addition or 3rd train board


Photo showing the wire connector strips on main train board and wire pigtails from 2nd train board bring wire to control panel


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

Track Installation and Block Track Sections

Track, including track switches, were laid out and assembled on the train board, in the expected track plan position.  It was then marked off in pencil, removed and the track area was painted with light grey paint as reported later in this post.  Track was installed using a few short screws to hold it down.

Track switches, uncoupling track sections and isolated outside rail track sections were installed with 6 inch pigtail wires coming out the bottom through holes drilled in the the train board.  This will make wiring the sections to the control panel much easier.

Insulated track pins were installed to form track blocked sections to allow every section of track between the switches to form blocks.  These track blocked sections allow for a train to be stopped or stored almost anywhere on the layout.  Some of the track pins were made from round tooth picks, with a 1/16 inch of wire insulation in the center, as I ran out of nylon ones.  Four of the track block sections will also be used for the coming relay and blocks for two trains on one track operation and for track sections with installed with isolated outside rails for relay controlled two trains on one track operation to come.

One eighth inch diameter holes were drilled for all track switch power terminal spots and where all track feed and commons wires will be attached, with them being on the side of the rail away from the control panel to be more hidden.   Wire holes were also drilled for the Marx switch electrical terminals.

Wiring the Track Sections

CTC Track Lock-on's were not used on this layout and all wires to the tracks are soldered to allow permanent and secure connections.  Six inch wire pig tails were soldered to each track section with the pig tails going through the hole drilled as above.  Wire pig tails were soldered to a track for each track section to provide power and common and to each uncoupling track section and each outside isolated outside rail section.  14 ga insulated wire was soldered to each pig tail and run and routed to the appropriate control panel switch an soldered with a needle nose pliers on the switch contact, held tight with a rubber band on the pliers handle, to be a heat sink.  The above actions were done with the train board section standing on the wheels on the board edge and leaning against a wall allowing the worker to stand or sit while working.

Up Dated Information

If I were building the layout in 2022, I would use NO-OX-ID Special A contact grease on each track section joint to improve conduction between track sections.  I would use a finger to apply a thin coat of the NO OX each track pin and put a small about into the open hole of the other end of the track section. I would also apply some NO OX to the track contacts on the Marx 1590 switches.

Details of NO OX use on track and switch contacts are given on Page 87, post 79 of this topic, shown below.

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 53b shows how to fill gaps between rail sections with aluminum flashing and rails around track pins.   Post 53b is on page 6 of this topic



Images (7)
  • Train Complete  1-17-2015 152
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 337
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 336
  • Train Lots 5-10-2016 335
  • IMG_1354
  • IMG_9676
  • IMG_9675
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 8a   6-20-2016            Update  6-29-2024

Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel Construction and Layout Wiring

It was decided to make a control panel with an Actionable Touch Track Diagram when I built my operating, switching 027 layout with total 31 Marx 1590 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 their 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  knee high 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 units 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.  I saw it was easy to follow flow diagrams and one would work with a model train track plan diagram .  It was made with mini 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 process diagrams on computer monitors, some having active touch screens for control).

It was important to keep the control panel easy to operate, quick to operate and logical.  Having 20 switch controllers lined up would make it impossible to find the controller of the switch I wanted to throw quickly and easily.    

The first reason active touch track diagram control panel was picked 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 un-couplers require an additional 14 push button switches to be matched with the un-coupler track section and would be hard to identify which switch worked which un-coupler 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 un-couplers 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 the track diagram shows a picture of the layout and helps view hidden parts of the layout and I like the looks of an actionable touch track diagram as it is less cluttered than a large bank of Lionel switch controllers and seeing the track plan helps identify the different tracks on the layout.  The track diagram helps visitors see where all the tracks are going.  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.

There is Still a Need for a Actionable Touch Track Diagram for modern Train Control Systems

The Actionable Touch Track Diagram developed is a 1940-50's version of a Touch Screen laptop computer.  Many modern model train operators, that use DCS and DCC, walk around with remote controllers and have a layout with 20 or 30 switches, will have the same issues I would have if I just lined up 20 Lionel switch controllers.  Many modern train layouts operate at slower scale speeds giving them more time to operate the switches.  The use of a small Actionable Touch Track Diagram control panel like mine, will make identifying the switches to be activated, for a given route of the train, easy and quick.  So this type of mini track push button switches on a track diagram still make operation of modern DCS or DSS controlled layout easier, quicker and more accurate (less switch throwing mistakes).

Note on main control panel actionable touch layout track diagram Shown Below:  The RED and GREEN Mini Push Button switches are for track switches.  The two YELLOW mini push button switches direct the train to the hidden track section behind the background.  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 switch slide WHITE shows completing the white of the diagram, the power is ON.  When the switch slide shows BLACK when 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.  The sections on the side of the track diagram are for other slide switches for accessories, building lights, etc.   A section to the right and one to the left are for two Lionel LW transformers.


A second newer Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panel is on the New Train Board shown below, with the third Lionel LW transformer and an HO transformer for the back and forth street car trolley.


The actionable control touch track diagram panel is made from 1/8 inch tempered Masonite.  It was painted medium gray.  A 1/8 inch groove was sawed in side board of the layout where the control panel is to be, above the angled side boards of the control panel.  This groove accepts about a 1/4 inch of the 1/8 inch Masonite panel with the diagram and will anchor it on the top.  The Masonite panel is just slid along the control panel side boards and into the groove in the side board of the layout.  Three small 1/2 inch counter sink headed screws are used to hold the bottom of the Masonite diagram control panel to the front edge of the control panel frame.  The removal of these three screws will allow the 1/8 inch Masonite control panel diagram to be slide back a 1/2 inch and then pushed up the bottom  exposing the inside of the control panel for maintenance or expanding the control panel.  See picture below of opened up control panel.   

Making Holes for the Control Panel Switches

The holes were made in the 1/8 inch thick control panel front for mini push button switches with a 1/4 inch diameter drill.  Holes were made for the 1/2 inch by 3/4 inch mini slide switches with the Toro Jig saw.  A small portable saber saw, with a wider blade, could be used but it harder to make accurate holes with a portable saw.  This was done by drilling a 1/4 inch diameter hole inside the drawn outline where the switch was to be located.  The jig saw coping saw sized saw blade had the tension reduced and was unloosened on the top where it was attached to the jig saw.  The control panel was laid out, right side up, and the top of the saw blade was stuck in the hole in the switch outline to be sawed.  The blade was then reattached to the top part of the jig saw and the blade tension was adjusted to allow sawing.  The outline was followed and the part to be removed was then loose on the saw blade.  The blade tension was released and the top part of the blade was removed and the sawed unwanted part and the control panel were taken off the saw blade.  The control panel front is ready to be move to the next mini slide switch hole to be sawed.

Wiring of the Control Panel

Radio Shack Mini Push Button SPST Momentary N/O (Normally Open) Switches (rated at .5 amp at 125 vac) and Mini Slide, 2 position, 3 poles, Switches, both SPDT and DPDT were used.  eBay is now a good source for these switches now that Radio Shack is about gone.  Push button switch buttons were painted Green for main oval loops and Red for other positions.  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.

  Photo of Mini Push Button and Slide Switches

Mini Push button and slide switch 6-29-2024 004

I just installed one wire at time and checked circuits as I went.  There is no electrical diagram for the whole layout.  There are dozen or so 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.  The 14 gauge wires were too stiff to bend easily when swinging the control panel up for work and put too much force on the mini switch contacts.  So all the large gauge wires had a 20 ga., 8 to 12 inch long pig tails soldered on them to go between the wire and its push button or slide switches on the panel. The wires were just installed one at time for each function, dividing this complicated wiring project a small easy steps.

What a mess of wires!


Some Data on my Actionable Touch Track Diagram Control Panels   (as of 5-8-2022)

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

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

Actionable Track Diagram           

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

       38                         15                             14                             8

Control Panel Side Switch Panels ( for Accessories, Building Lighting etc.

Mini Push Buttons     Slide Switches

           16                            14

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.  It is 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.  There is a Green pilot light on the control panel right above the keyed switch to indicate when the keyed switch is ON.  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 gray plastic case from 35mm film canister being used to shield the 110 v contacts on the keyed switch for safety and one of two high voltage wire or contact in either control panel.  The other 110 v switch is for the rotisserie motor on the ice skating rink on the new train board.


The layout power cord is now (since 2021) plugged into a Timer Yard light switch, which allows 2, 4 or 6 hours ON before power is cut off for added protection against leaving the layout on as the train room is isolated from the house and out of sight often.

General Wiring

The layout has a single wire common wire that is a 14 ga and black colored insulation.  This makes wiring easier and uses less wire.  All three of the LW track transformers the layout will ultimately have are phased as well as the three 12 v  lighting transformers and the 14 v switch transformer.

There are several common wire junctions, that consist of a brass 1 inch flat head screw and two brass wire washers and a black common wire is daisy chained to 4 or so locations on the bottom of the train board.  A items like switches, building lights, whistles and diesel horns, etc. get there common from the closest common wire junction.  The new commons are added to the common wire junction by loosening the brass screw an wrapping a couple inches of the new 18 ga wire around the screw between the two brass washers.

Wire Junctions, that consist of a brass 1 inch flat head screw and two brass wire washers

Wiring LO 6-2-2024 2024-06-02 001

For instance, a Marx switch has a common, a curve and a straight connections.  The common of the Marx switch has a 18 ga section of wire routed to nearest common wire junction, usually less than 4 ft away.  The other two Marx switch 18 ga wires will have to be run the distance from the switch to the control panel some times 10 or 12 feet away.

All 14 and 18 ga wires are 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 (like 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.  To use 18 ga zip wire, the wires were unzipped and separated.  Paired wires also not used on wires to the track either.  The only exceptable zip type paired wires allowed are for 110v to transformers.

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).  Wires are soldered to the track by scraping the rail to bare, clean metal with a pocket knife and using a Weller 100 watt or 100/140 watt soldering gun with rosin core solder.  A Dremel Moto Tool, with grinding wheel or bit, can be used but my Dremels are 110 v and the power wire handling is a pain, worst than the pocket knife.

I do not have to label most my wires on my layout.  If a wire needs a label,  I write, in ink, on a small piece of usually white or light colored paper, 1/2 inch wide x 2 inch, the function of the wire, not just a number, that would require keeping a list of numbers and functions.  A written function allows one to know the purpose of the wire immediately, like while crawling under the layout.  This is very helpful when searching for the purpose of a wire among many wires where all the wires have numbers.

I fasten the paper ID tag to the wires with regular clear shinny Scotch tape as I have found it more durable, tougher and longer lasting than the Scotch Magic tape that is frosty and can be written on.  The regular Scotch tape it wrapped around the wire and fastened to both sides of paper tag, covering all the paper on both sides.  I often use double layers of regular Scotch tape.  This will work with any size or gauge of wire.  I have some tags put on by this method for many years on my layout.

Control Panel Details

Picture Below:  Right side the control panel next to the  Active Touch Track Diagram is below.   "Reset" is for LW Trans circuit breaker for outside loop and the button is the actual "Reset Button" on the circuit breaker and you can see the tin tabs on the CB to hold it to the control panel Masonite board.

"Relays" switches to power up 2 trains per 1 track or loop relay.  IN and OUT selects the direction of travel for the inside loop or outside loop of the main train board.  There are two relays and one operates 2 trains on 1 track on the inner loop and the other 2 trains on 1 track on the outer loop.

"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 was brighter!).

Recently, with the train layout in a isolated in the room above a garage, I was still leaving the layout ON accidentally on a few occasions.  Therefore, a Christmas tree timer was added that the main 110 v plug to the whole layout is plugged.  This timer can be turned for 1 hr, 2 hr or 6 hours ON and then switch OFF.  I usually set it for 1 hour ON and this timer had eliminated the Layout being left on all night or longer,



Images (13)
  • 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
  • Wiring LO 6-2-2024 2024-06-02 001
  • Mini Push button and slide switch 6-29-2024 004
Videos (2)
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 8b            6-20-2016                                                   (revised 6-29-2024)    

Track Transformers and Other Transformers Installed on the Layout

Initially trains only were run on one input 125 watt Lionel LW and one input 75 watt Lionel 1034 transformers, which I had from my childhood layout.  The LW transformer can  power two trains per loop.  The train transformers are used only to run trains and not for lighting or accessories unless used for track voltage for the cattle pen or milk car when trains are not running.  Marx 1590 switches and controllers do not have any lights, which would steal power from the train controlling LW transformers.


Later the Lionel1034 transformer was changed to another Lionel 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.  Lionel 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.

Lionel LW transformers input 125 watts for one train on the loop.  By comparison a Lionel 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.  A  Lionel LW will provide input 62.5 watts per train when running two trains per one LW.  Also the LW transformers are less expensive than other transformers, most of mine cost $30 or less 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 to the track is changed.  The light also shows when there is track voltage on even when the external circuit breaker is thrown.  The lighted transformer output voltage dial makes night operation better showing the LW transformer output 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, this includes track LWs, 12v lighting transformers and the 14 v switch transformer.

A common ground was used for all switches, lights and transformers.  All train transformers were phased, this includes track Lionel LWs transformers, 12v lighting transformers and the 14 v switch transformer.

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.

Track Lionel LW Transformer Selection For Loops Control

All tracks outside rails and transformers share the same common.   All track Lionel LW transformers are phased so trains can go from a loop on one transformer to another loop with another transformer.  I have two Transformer Selection Slide switches that select all tracks and all loops to be run on the Red lighted LW trans.

The first transformer selector switch, on the Main control panel and labeled  1 T (which selects the Red lighted LW to operate the Whole train board) and 2 T  (which selects the Red LW to operate the Inside loop of the Main train board and the Green lighted LW to control the Main train board and the Whole New train board).

The first selection (1T) lets the Red lighted LW transformer operate the whole layout or both track loops.  The  second selection is for Red lighted transformer 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 when it is built later in 1988.

A second transformer selector switch on the New board control panel, selects the tracks be controlled by the Green lighted LW  on the New train board.  The first selection lets the Green lighted LW control the Main board Outside loop and the Orange lighted LW control the Whole new board.  This second selection allows the orange lighted LW on the New control panel control only the New train board.  The will allow three operators to each operate a separate LW and layout 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 control panel face.  The Circuit Breaker'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 a 18 v Light bulb wired across CB to light when tripped.  The 18 v light bulb is under a red plastic. The red Reset button is the actual CB reset button as the CB is below the control panel.


Lighting and Track Marx Switch Operating Transformers Installed on Train Board

A 40 watt 12 volt transformer had some primary 110v  windings removed to increase the output voltage to 14.5 volts, to power mainly the 31 Marx 1590 switches crisply and some accessories, both intermittent operations.  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.

There are two 12 volt lighting transformers.  One 12 volt, 40 watt transformer is used for building and flood lights and another small 12 volt 36 watt 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 below of two lighting transformers 12 volt 40 watt building lights on left and 12 volt, 36 watt yard light transformer on left and the 14.5 volt,  40 watt switch operating 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).



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
Videos (2)
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 8c         6-22-2016   (revised 1-30-2023)  

Improving and Repairing Marx 1590 Switches

I have been operating my O27 postwar layout for 44 years and it has 31, Marx 1590 metal frog O27 switches.  Over the years I have learned from others and my experience several tips and ideas on how to improve and repair these reliable, available and inexpensive track switches and share them below.  These 31 Marx switches are now very reliable and capable of handling Marx, Lionel, MTH and Williams train engines and cars.

Marx 1590 switches are made to operate with Marx engine double sliding pickups.  The Marx switches have problems with Lionel style roller pickups which are narrower and have smaller area rollers than the Mark sliding pickups.  The rollers have issues with the wider gaps with the Marx pivoting center rails and often get hung up and cause derailments.

Pictures of pickups on Marx 1998 engine, top picture below, with sliding pickup (3/8 inch W x 1 inch Long each) and on the bottom picture below, a Lionel caboose pickup roller (3/8 inch W x 1/4 inch Dia)

Marx and Lionel Pickups 1-21-2023 2023-01-21 006

Marx 1590 switches wider gaps can be reduced easily by installing a 3/4 inch pieces of a finish nail (cheaper) or a 027 rail pins in the two center rail ends of switch as shown in the following pictures.  This fifty year old fix will fill the center rail gap and keep Lionel pick-up rollers from hanging up or losing contact on Marx 1590 switches.

The picture below shows the center rail of the straight track with one inserted pin (or cut off finishing nail) and switch in the 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.


Later problems were had with some Lionel car electrically pickups hanging up on the single track end of some of the Marx 1590 switch center rail points causing derailments.  This problem was solved by crushing down the top part of the center rail point by gently pounding it down with a small hammer or by grinding it off to a 45 degree angle.  The smoother angle of the rail can be seen below.

Marx switchs points and drawing 7-14-2022 2022-07-14 007

Recently I had problems with derailing on one of my Wye switches causing a caboose pickup to catch at this same spot.  I found a better cure than crushing down the rail point to be installing a 1/4 inch of nail with a rounded trip in the small piece if center rail shown below were the rail is rounded off (see picture below).  Care must be taken to insure only about 1/16 inch of rounded nail is exposed and it must not hit the tips of the pivoting center rails.


Cleaning and NO OXing Marx 1590 Contacts

Engines or car pickups can intermittently lose contact when traversing Marx switches.  The Marx 1590 switch track contacts can get dirty or bent.

Check to see if the copper switch contact is bend down and not making contact with the contacts on the bottom of the rotating track section.   A small screw driver can be used to bend the copper contact up to get better contact with moving contact of the rotating track section.

Picture of Marx 1590 switch rail copper contact strip.  The two rivets below the copper contact are the contacts for the center rail. IMG_1094

The track switch contacts can be cleaned with fine sand paper glued up to make two sided sand paper.  It is used by pulling in both directions while working the pivoting track section to both positions.  Then a little NO OX ID Special A contact conducting grease can be applied, with a small thin piece of card board, can be applied to both sides of the contacts to keep sparking down and contacts clean.

Picture of two sided fine sand paper strip cleaning contacts IMG_1096

Non Locking and Slow Acting Marx 1590 Switch

Recently a Marx 1590 switch on the main board, inside loop bottom left inside to outside, would not lock and was slow.  This is the first such Marx switch failure in 44 years of operating this layout!  About one half of my 31 Marx 1590 switches have a hole in the side of the switch mechanism cover.

Hole seen below is typical of the hole in 1/2 of the Marx switch housings:


I never noticed that some Marx 1590 switches had a lubrication hole until recently.  The troubled switch did not have such a hole.  To get access to the Marx switch solenoids and sliding mechanism, the switch must be removed from the layout, a real pain for many of them that are not near a curve.  Then the two rivets must be ground out or cut into section with a pair of diagonal pliers to be removed.  Next the 3 or 4 tabs of the housing must be bent and allowing the housing to be removed.

Picture shows the slide mechanism and arm to the solenoid piston that needs to be lubed.


I drilled 1/8” hole in solenoid cover long side 1-5/8“ from big end, ¼ inch from top, and sprayed WD 40, with the small application wand, left, right and down.  This fixed the switch and it locks every time and fast.  Later I found out about one half of my 31 Marx switch solenoid housings have a hole on the inside, side edge already that can be used to lube the slide mechanism and solenoid piston.  Spay Silicone spray probably would have been better than WD 40.

You can see this hole allows good access to lube the moving parts inside the switch housing.  Another switch with housing is shown below one with new hole drilled in the side


Interference of Trains and some Marx 1590 Housing

The below picture shows the corner of the solenoid housing was cut back (by black & tan top automobile) on two Marx switches to keeping the cow catcher of some locomotives from hitting the switch housing. This was necessary when two Marx switches are too close together.  The switch housing was removed from the switch, the corner cut off with a fine blade hack saw and part of the removed housing was J B Welded back on to fill the hole left from corner removal.  It is possible to do this with the switch in place on the layout as removing a Marx switch on most of my layout is a big undertaking.  A Dremel Moto tool, with cutoff wheel, can also be used.


Overhead Picture below shows two track sections with Five compact Marx switches in a Row and the difficulty in removing a switch for repair - This area of the layout has shows eleven Marx 1590 switches.

Layout Switches and steros 3-6-2023 2023-03-06 002

Page 1, Post 5 of this topic has me touting and giving more information on the Marx 1590 switches.


revised 3-8-2023


Images (6)
  • IMG_2217
  • IMG_2221
  • IMG_2223
  • IMG_2232
  • Marx and Lionel Pickups 1-21-2023 2023-01-21 006
  • IMG_1087
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Note to pprHorseshoecurve:  many more pictures coming in future posts

Post 8d   6-20-2016            Update   4-11-2024

Two Direction Automatic 2 Train Operation on 1 Loop  -  Manual and Automatic Relayed Track Loop Operation System

Manual Operating 2 trains on 1 track

Two trains on one loop can be operated Manually.  This is possible as all track sections except for Mark switches are blocked and controlled with by slide switches on the control panel.

The engineer has to watch the trains and when one starts getting close to overtaking the other, wait to the trailing trains is on a track block and throw the blocking switch and leave it un powered until the lead train gets ahead, then reinstall the power to the track.  This most easily done and seen using one of the two blocked train sections at the ends of each loop.  In this operation both trains should have eUnits and have the eUnits locked in forward to keep the stopped train from cycling into neutral or reverse.  Marx and some Lionel engines have two way reversing devices (R F R F) and can not be used for this method of 2 trains on 1 track operation without turning the switching the section blocking switch (after stopping the engine), ON which will give Reverse and then OFF, and the ON a second time which will give Forward operation.

Two Direction Automatic Relayed 2 Trains on 1 Track Construction and Operation

This is a neat "Old School" 1940s and 1950s method of automating 2 trains on 1 track using a relay to keep one train from over running the other when operating 2 trains on 1 track.  The book, mentioned in Post 5,  “Operating O and O27 Trains”,  "A Comprehensive Guide to the Design, Construction and Operation of a Layout For Lionel Trains " edited by Maury D. Klein and Bruce C. Greenberg, 1976, 242 pages was instrumental for me learning about building an automatic relayed 2 trains on 1 track systems (See page 220 of book below).  I learned of using variable resistors in the circuit to keep the eUnit from cycling when paused (see page 222 of book below).  These instructions were used to allow me to install two Automatic 2 trains on 1 track systems, one on inside and one on the outside loops of my layout.  I developed a circuit using one double throw, double pole slide switch to allow 2 train on 1 track to operate in two directions, CW or CCW for each loop and installed the switches.

Automatic 2 trains on 1 track is desirable as it does not require constant engineer attention and the locking the train engine eUnits in forward.  This system also has selection switches that allow 2 trains on 1 track operation in CW or CCW directions for each loop.  This automatic 2 trains on 1 track system was build with the original 1977 train board construction in Kingston, Jamaica.

Both the inside and outside loop were wired for two trains to operate on each loop, by using 12 vac relay and 5 ohm 25 watt variable resistor for each loop.  The resistor is necessary to allow a small amount of power to go to the engine to keep the reversing eUnit from cycling.  Two way reversing eUnits cycle FRFRFR and three way eUnits cycle FNRNFNR.  Most three way eUnits will have a switch to lock the eUnit in one position and function and must be locked in F.  I have several engines with two way eUnits so a resistor is a must for me.

Each loop already had a section of 4 or 5 track sections at each end of the both loops.  A train sensing track section was make by modifying a section of track to have one outside rail insulated from the metal ties with electrical tape between the rail and metal ties and a insulated plastic pins were installed in each end of the insulated section and a wire was soldered to each insulated rail track of the section.  This insulated track was installed on bottom straight part of each loop to act as the switch to trigger the 12 vac relay to cut the selected isolated track section, to have a reduced voltage to the 5 ohm resistor being in that circuit.  This will make the behind train, that is over taking the train on the insulated track section, causing it to stop but still have voltage to not let the e-unit cycle.  When the front train passed the insulated track section, full voltage is applied to the rear train and it resumes running.

Below is a circuit I used to wire the double throw, double pole slide switch that provides operation of trains in CW or CCW directions.  I had to look at the bottom of the control board to figure out how wired the DPDT switch as there was not an original diagram.  I was real smart in those days!



The DPDT direction switches can be seen in picture below, between the CC and CCW curved arrows.

Two other switches labeled RELAYS allow the relays to be turned off when 2 train on 1 loop operation is not desired.  The diagram shows these switches right above the word COMMON.  The LW transformers have no trouble handling two train operation as they are the largest wattage single train operating transformer Lionel made.

These two loops, with 2 trains operating on each loop, work very well.  Since the layout has rather short loops. the trains must have engines that use nearly the same voltage and amperage to run and have nearly the same number of cars per train so speeds are rather close together.  The number of cars can be adjusted on which ever train needs help keeping a close speed to the other train.

Picture of one 5 ohm, 25 watt variable Resistors for two train per loop operation to keep e-units from cycling when idled by the relay.  The silver band with a screw is adjusted along the resistor to get a 5 ohm reading.


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


Video of 5 trains in 2022 - Two loops of 2 trains on 1 track and the Operating Car train on New train board   Note:  At the end of the below video you can see the new train board to the right.  It is also possible to operate the 2 trains on 1 track of the outside loop on the outside loop of the original train board and the new train board thus operating on a L shaped outside loop using both train boards outside loops.  How about that !

Video of 2 trains operating on one track loop





Images (3)
  • IMG_1750
  • IMG_1750
  • IMG_1864
Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Post 9   6-25-2016,   revised 7-1-2024

Turntable with pit Construction & Operation  -  Homemade and Scratch Built and Inexpensive ($10 !)    How to Build Turntable with Pit for $10, any Size and any Where

The center piece of the layout is the scratch built, inexpensive turntable with pit and a roundhouse. Yes, even the $10 turntable has a pit like the real TTs.  I am not fond of those unrealistic surface mounted TTs, like the Lionel and Atlas styled TTs, even those costing $300.  I designed this inexpensive TT with a Pit.  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 can be built the same way I made this one for any size of TT table one needs and for any gauge of train track and any where on a layout.  It can be rotated by crank, pullies and belt like mine or rotated with an junk electric DC battery drill or screwdriver motor powered by a small, cheap DC HO transformer and located any where on a layout.  If your layout is already built, the turntable can be more easily built in a 2 or 3 ft or so, square module, in your work shop and then set into the layout.  The turntable can be detailed from 1950s 027 to any scale, depending on the builder desires.


Turntable Description and Construction Details

The first key feature of the TT is the turntable bridge and bottom pulley rotate on a 6 inch diameter (8" might be better for a larger TT) Lazy Susan metal turntable ball bearing unit,  Rotation is by a hand crank driving a pulley beneath the turntable,  The second key feature is the use of a spare or used clothes dryer drum belt.  The dryer belt connects the hand crank to the bottom pulley which is connected to the turntable bridge.

I purchased the 6 inch diameter lazy Susan turntable ball bearing unit, for about $5, at a hardware store.  I had a spare cloches dryer belt as I lived overseas and USA appliance parts are hard to get.  Fortunately, I never needed it for the dryer which was sold on leaving Jamaica. Track alignment is the realistic, "line it by eyeball" method and roundhouse whisker 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 than surface mounted TT 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 one made a pit a must have.

Location of the control panel and the turntable, with hand crank, should be fairly close to each other for my layout 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 with the tracks.

This homemade turntable can be belt driven with a hand crank like mine or can have an old battery driven screw driver as power and the TT can be located anywhere and made any size.  More details later in this post.

Picture of TT with TT crank (red knob) and Control Panel -  Picture shows the whisker track with crane car and caboose align with the TT and the off track

Train Lots 5-10-2016 272

On the picture above, the width (between left to right) is 32 inches. There are a few more inches meaning it could have been a little wider.

Depth ( top to bottom) is 42 inches.  For my 027 layout, the depth measurement is about the maximum I could have used.

Picture of main control panel with track diagram with whisker track selector rotary switch (black knob with pointer) to select track for transfer of train from TT to whisker/roundhouse track.  The black push button momentary switch, below the rotary selector switch, controls power to the selected whisker 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 as space is limited.  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 portable, electric saber saw and used the ¾ inch thick, 17 5/8 inch diameter cutout as a pulley by gluing a rims of 1/8 inch Masonite around both edges as pulley flanges sticking out about ½ an inch.  

Most of the work on the TT was done 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.

The 6" dia lazy Susan ball bearing (Ace or Home Depot for $5) was screwed to the top of the pulley.  Four 1 inch diameter holes were located and 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 separated 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.  The wires are separated (if they were zip wires) to insure there is no induction between the wires.  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 from turning the TT bridge in one direction too much!)

Below picture of 17 5/8"dia. Pulley under Turntable with Clothes Dryer Belt and the separated wires from TT Bridge.  The 6" dia lazy Susan is between the TT bottom (with the black mark) and the 17 5/8" dia Pulley.  See one of the holes in the pulley (on the black line) to screw the lazy Susan bearing to the bottom of the pit.


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), is used to move the TT.  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.   Over sized Tee nuts were used 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 grommets.  Dryer belt is shown in red, around the Vee pulley.


A 2" dia. take up pulley assembly was made and a threaded rod used 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.


Pictures of Pulleys and Belt - Tension adjuster on bottom belt with wood box with metal strap is on the right, 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).  The slot at the bottom leads the belt to the hand crank with Vee pulley.



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 (ball bearings) were used 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 two pair of small ball bearings I had for wheels).

See picture of the TT ball bearing 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

Whisker tracks were added to store trains around the TT being careful of spacing between tracks.  The whisker tracks were wired to a Radio Shack rotary 10 position switch to select the track to be powered. The rotary 10 position switch takes less room than 10 individual switches and fits in the Track plan diagram control panel perfectly.  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 whisker tracks have common outside rails.  The center rails of the Round House/stall whisker 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 whisker 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 whisker track and the TT track are wired for the Red lighted LW transformer 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 whisker tracks 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 whisker 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 Transformer always controls the whisker 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.

More details on last post on this page 1 to Casco,   reply posted  7-13-2016 by ChooChooCharlie

Video of Turntable in Operation

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 whisker 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 whisker 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 whisker track outside of my future Round house to be built and detailed later.

Picture of Whisker track that will allow work caboose and crane car to be stored

Turntable Detalils 5-29-2016 2016-05-24 009

This TT can be detailed to any extent or even scale quality and I detailed my TT for 027, 1950s style layout.

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 track

Turntable 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.


Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 008

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 a real 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, any size or length of turntable, and located anywhere by automating TT rotation via battery DC junk electric drill or screwdriver motor  :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 clothes 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 metal turntable ball bearing unit, to provide smooth and accurate rotation of the turntable.  I used a used clothes dryer belt to provide rotation of the turntable via a hand crank for my turntable and put my spare belt on the cloths dryer in Jamaica.

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 DC screw driver motor.  Junked DC electric drills and screw drivers show up often at garage sales and thrifts for a couple of dollars, as it costs a lot to buy new batteries and is often cheaper to buy a new tool.  The drill motor can 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 44 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 homemade $10 Roundhouse to go with my homemade $10 TT .



Images (15)
  • 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
  • IMG_0947
  • IMG_1103
  • Tootle train 5-26-2016 2016-05-24 008
Videos (1)
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 1940's or 1950s 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 11a   7-8-2016    revised 1-7-2023

Homemade $10 Round House Construction when Back in USA

The main train board with turntable was built in 1977 in Constant Spring, outside Kingston, Jamaica.  It was down on the living room floor for Christmas 1977.  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 that 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.

The Ultimate Railroad Structure, The American 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 believe the engines cannot be seen and enjoyed as much when they are in the RH as all that one sees is the engine fronts.  It was 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 small area very well.

The stepped roof style RH was liked more and lots of windows were added as they are typical of the era as electric lights were not all that common in the early times and windows provided daylight.  There are windows on both sides, all along the back wall and on the stepped roof wall facing the front.  Room was not available to 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 were covered with modeling brick paper, glued on with Elmer’s white glue after the building is assembled with Elmer’s glue.  O gauge plastic brick wall sheeting can be used for covering the RH sides for more realism.

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

Four TT Whisker tracks and four Stalls in Round House


You can see in the picture above, how I determined the size of the RH by fitting it in over 4 sections of TT whisker track.  It is about 30 inches wide and 17 deep.  I made sure not to include my one TT whisper track section where I can drive on the TT and directly to this one whisker track 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 switch.

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.  The inside walls were painted 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 flat black paint to be darker 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 sections 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, Aleen's Tacky or E6000 clear glue will work.

Inside RH showing Roof and wall braces, windows and some ceiling lights


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


RH stacks were made.  The stacks are to help remove smoke from the steam engines. Balsa wood was used to make the stacks.  The square style stacks were preferred over the round ones.  Covers were made to keep rain out of the RH.  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 shack 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.


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 & RHIMG_0203

Doors for the front of the RH were not make as I wanted to see the fronts of the locos inside and the doors  would have 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 (13)
  • IMG_0095
  • mceclip0
  • 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.










Post 11b          7-13-2016

More Wiring Details on LW Transformers, TT and Tracks

Reply to questions from Casco

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 a LW transformer selector switch that select all tracks and all loops to be run on the Red lighted LW trans.  A second selection is for Red lighted LW transformer 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 LW transformer selector switch on the New board control panel selects which LW will control the New train board.  The Green lighted LW can control the Main board Outside loop the New train board.  The transformer selector switch can select the Orange lighted LW transformer control the whole New board thus giving three LWs operating the whole layout.  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 buttons are uncoupling or accessories operating track sections.  Black slide switches turn On and Off the section of track they are on.

The black slide switches show "white"  for "On" and "black" for "Off" (The black is from the black of the switch slide lever).  All tracks are blocked into four to eight track pieces sections and controlled by a slide switch.  All track on all the Marx 1590 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.


revised 1-7-2023


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
800-980-OGRR (6477)

Link copied to your clipboard.