Generally, I don't like simple loops. This is a challenge, given that I also like standard gauge trains with their traditional primitive means of propulsion - so when I was digging through old-school methods of automatic operation, these two-train loops really appealed to me:

IMG-4470IMG-4469

I love the simplicity, but also how fun it would be to watch two trains dance with each other across the the layout. Am I wrong in thinking that these conceptual layouts would be made possible given four MTH 233 switches? I know standard gauge would demand them to be far larger than represented above, especially if something like a State Set was thrown into the mix - but apart from the sheer scale of it, are there operational limitations that I'm not seeing? I only ask, because I so rarely see anything like this applied to standard gauge trains.

I have two MTH 233's that have proven to be very reliable after being rewired with larger gauge wire - having burnt them out very quickly with creative operations in the past. 

Thankful for any input - or videos any of your Standard Gauge setups that purposely avoid a simple starter set oval. Maybe somebody out there is using Lionel 99N block signals for what they were designed for?

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It’s not as if I’ve done anything complex, but I had a ton of fun last Christmas with a simple dog bone with two reverse loops - it was just complicated enough to stay interesting. However, there’s a much larger train set coming my way this year (yes, I’m very excited), and reverse loops don’t seem like they’ll be practical - so I’m trying to find other ways of “thinking outside of the loop,” like the two-train operations above.

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I really enjoy the planning and implementation of what you describe.  One thing to consider, is that when the train enters the "dead" control section, and then power is re-applied, the E-unit will want to cycle. 

Option 1 - You can switch the e-unit to forward only

Option 2 - If your prefer to retain the e-unit cycling ability, the starting/stopping would be controlled by switching the center rail power on and off (rather than control via the outside ground rails).  You would need to insulate the center rail, and install a resistor that maintains a minimal amount of power when the power is "off" i.e., not enough to make the train move, but enough that the e-unit will not cycle.  Page 31 of the 1954 Lionel operating manual describes this.  Pages nearby discuss other "old school automatic operations."  

JD2035RR posted:

I really enjoy the planning and implementation of what you describe.  One thing to consider, is that when the train enters the "dead" control section, and then power is re-applied, the E-unit will want to cycle. 

Option 1 - You can switch the e-unit to forward only

Option 2 - If your prefer to retain the e-unit cycling ability, the starting/stopping would be controlled by switching the center rail power on and off (rather than control via the outside ground rails).  You would need to insulate the center rail, and install a resistor that maintains a minimal amount of power when the power is "off" i.e., not enough to make the train move, but enough that the e-unit will not cycle.  Page 31 of the 1954 Lionel operating manual describes this.  Pages nearby discuss other "old school automatic operations."  

I don't have an issue hard wiring everything to just go forward only (as this will be a floor layout, the variable power motors are subject to can accidentally trip an E unit as it is- as I have discovered).

However, the solution offered in Option 2 is pretty cool - and duly noted!

Sounds like the insulated outside rails is the way to go for you. 

I found this gentleman's layout on youtube a few years ago, where he restored his grandfather's 1950's layout with automatic control.  It's two reverse loops with a passing siding in the middle.  It really is neat to see the whole thing operate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE5cpJas0zM

http://corycraft.blogspot.com/p/the-grandpa-russ.html

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