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My 2 yo grandson is staying with us this week. Decided to build a layout to entertain him and allow me to test the feasibility of some switching puzzle operations during his naps. As much as I like the more realistic look of Atlas track, I can't argue with the Fast in Fastrack. I put this up during his nap today -- took about 20 minutes. Had plenty of time left over to check out my recent purchases.

I purchased some scale freight and Lionchief+ NW2. What a jump from the stuff I got from Christmases in the early 60's.

The electro-couplers worked extremely well. The speed control was great. The rolling stock... rolled. Very smooth. I had power cord under one end, so one end was about 1/8 to 1/4" higher than the far end and they'd roll downhill from the slope. Very happy with it all.

Now I have some questions. I'm running it all with one "wall-wart" power supply provided with a Polar Express set. Seems to be getting plenty of power throughout the layout (just a 4x8 oval, 4 remote turnouts, 2 manual). I also have one of Lionel's electromagnetic uncouplers and I plan on getting 3 or 4 more. The instructions say it will run on track power. Since I won't be using more than one at a time, am I okay just using track power?

More than anything it was just fun to operate.

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  • 4x8 Oval with yards
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He warmed up to it tonight before bedtime. I was hoping the LionChief app settings would "stick" (specifically the maximum speed) but when using the remote, I think warp returns as an option. Will be switching to iPhone control tomorrow.

I've found some Lionel freight cars for sale with "freight sounds" that have the Electro-Couplers. I think those might come in handy when working switching puzzles. Anyone have experience with these? If they work as well as the ones on the locomotives, it'll be worth it.

@JackO posted:

I also have one of Lionel's electromagnetic uncouplers and I plan on getting 3 or 4 more. The instructions say it will run on track power. Since I won't be using more than one at a time, am I okay just using track power?

More than anything it was just fun to operate.

Be careful about the uncouplers.  From the uncoupling track owner's manual:  "Be sure that your throttle is set to 10-12 volts (AC) to activate the magnet."

IIRC, the wall power supply that comes with the Polar Express (and other LionChief sets) provides 18VDC.  So, unless you use a conventional AC transformer that you can adjust to within the 10-12 volt range, you cannot operate the uncoupler per the manual's specs.

Last edited by PGentieu
@PGentieu posted:

Be careful about the uncouplers.  From the uncoupling track owner's manual:  "Be sure that your throttle is set to 10-12 volts (AC) to activate the magnet."

IIRC, the wall power supply that comes with the Polar Express (and other LionChief sets) provides 18VDC.  So, unless you use a conventional AC transformer that you can adjust to within the 10-12 volt range, you cannot operate the uncoupler per the manual's specs.

Thanks for the heads up. I hope I didn't "cook" it already. I'll check it out tomorrow.

My chief engineer has gone home with his Mom and Dad. Before he left, we had the Polar Express on board and ran both trains simultaneously. The power supply handled it with no problems at all. It was a lot of fun and there were a lot of lessons learned. Just like when I was his age, you just have to see how fast it will go. The permanent layout will have guard rails. We managed to keep them from going over the edge, but we got close a couple of times.

Got some hard decisions to make. Not sure retirement income is going to be compatible with a large O gauge layout.

With a little creativity, you can actually do a decent sized O-gauge layout for very little money.  You just have to temper your expectations.  Used tubular track is readily available, and 022 switches are a dime a dozen.  Not everyone has to spend thousands for a layout, you can extract a lot of enjoyment out of a few hundred dollars.

It's a matter of personal preference, I know. Fastrack would be the minimum. No tubular for me.  I'd prefer Atlas O for realism. I have enough room for one table size (6x10 maybe) and then the big room will eventually happen, I'll know by then if I can afford to do a large layout in O. Until then, I can concentrate on the table size and keep operating instead of perpetual planning.

@JackO posted:

Now that is excellent. Very commendable. If I switch to Atlas for my permanent layout, think I might do the same thing with the Polar Express at the local assisted living. I'm sure they would love it.

I personally think having a small O Layout at an Assisted Living place is a GREAT idea.

However, the Polar Express has a "sad" whistle and is not a great smoker.

I'd find 'em an older MTH (I have an AT&SF engine with a 605 tender) that smokes great and sounds good and loud, using a MTH Z1000 basic transfer. Use all Fastrack for the track. No switches if possible. Get some lamps and accessories and an old KW transformer for running them. Those folks would probably really enjoy it. Maybe even go prewar tinplate O! That wonderful 1930s Lionel stuff they would remember!

A "reality check" about showing trains at an Assisted Living Center ...

We asked if an abbreviated version of the modular layout of our local train club could be set up and operated as a temporary O-gauge layout for the enjoyment of their residents. Our hope was that some of their active senior men residents would join our club and become a part of our SENIOR CIRCLE to continue this community service venture throughout the county.

On "train day," ONE senior guy showed up but he didn't "step up" to join our project. With 20/20hindsight, it was clear that our initial hope was unrealistic. The room was filled with 20 or so senior women with just a passive interest in the train hobby. It seemed to us that they came to the community room at the ALC for the show-n-tell as an escape from daily TV watching.

Although the Activity Director of the SLC was generous with her appreciation of our effort, our take-away was:  "We won't go back. It's a lot of set-up and take-down effort for a minimal response." I know, some might consider our reaction as "age or gender discrimination," but one has to weigh expenditures of time and effort in relation to the benefit.  Thereafter, we decided to focus on Train Open House events that would draw families with young children as a better investment of our limited time and energy in the future growth of the hobby. As a result, over a five-year time span we gathered more than 23,000  visitors with events at community centers and (especially) at a three-week-long Holiday Open House at the Laman Library in North Little Rock, AR.

Mike Mottler
Long-time hobbyist (now age 81) spending time and energy in the hobby with two great-grandsons: Matthew (age 7) and Hudson (age 6). Pix attached.

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  • Matthew w-James
  • Hudson w-Percy
Last edited by Mike H Mottler
@ADCX Rob posted:

FasTrack is fast...



@Mike H Mottler posted:

A "reality check" about showing trains at an Assisted Living Center ...

My reality check... my son & I did this for 11 years until a change in the recreation staff.  It was not a recruitment tool, it was for the enjoyment of everybody, my son & I included.  It was resident recreation programming each year for a Sunday approaching  Christmas.  Residents and their visitors(including children) all enjoyed it as well as staff, some who came from other buildings on campus to see the display. I had family from out of town come in to see it.

The stories we got from residents about their own toy trains or of traveling on trains in days of yore was worth the effort alone. Many enjoyed sharing the display with their grandchildren & great grandchildren during the Sunday visits.

@JackO posted:

The permanent layout will have guard rails. We managed to keep them from going over the edge, but we got close a couple of times.

I would see if you can find a Lionel CW-80 locally for cheap, or any AC transformer with a handle.  Yes kids like to run at full speed, so what I've done is use a CW-80 and set the max track voltage with the handle.  So instead of 18V at the track, it may only be getting 10V.  This cuts the top speed of the locomotives and keeps them on the track, and they are none the wiser.  I still do this now that I have a permanent layout powered by my ZW-C, turn the voltage down and they can't over speed.

@sinclair posted:

I would see if you can find a Lionel CW-80 locally for cheap, or any AC transformer with a handle.  Yes kids like to run at full speed, so what I've done is use a CW-80 and set the max track voltage with the handle.  So instead of 18V at the track, it may only be getting 10V.  This cuts the top speed of the locomotives and keeps them on the track, and they are none the wiser.  I still do this now that I have a permanent layout powered by my ZW-C, turn the voltage down and they can't over speed.

Great idea. I just assumed "under voltage" was bad. Electronics normally don't like it.

Can anyone point me towards an article or thread that explains all of these peculiarities about Fast Track and the Lionel product line?  I'm probably not the only MTH person who is going to need to learn Lionel.  I never would have guessed the Fast Track uncoupling sections aren't compatible with Lion Chief.

The Fast Track uncoupling section is compatible. It's also suitable for command control. But I am a rookie with new Lionel electronics. I'm having a lot of luck just with the Lionel videos, FAQs, etc. Moving past Lion Chief to more advanced stuff is in my future. Just not sure of my budget to take on LCS/Legacy stuff yet.

Last edited by JackO
@Landsteiner posted:

"I'd find 'em an older MTH (I have an AT&SF engine with a 605 tender) that smokes great"

I wouldn't be exposing a child to large amounts of vaporized hydrocarbons (mineral oil).  Not ideal for the lungs to be sure.  Just some free advice from someone who knows a thing or two about lungs .

I suspect there are a host of things a child will be exposed to that are far more dangerous than a little model train smoke!

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