I am working on my new layout and have most of the track finally put down. I'm curious if people have a recommended list of operating accessories, or ones they particularly enjoy. As a note, I'm using Gargraves track with Ross switches (and being frustrated that the shoes catch and cause derailments). As such, I'm seriously considering a new line without switches just for the operating cars. Also, I have a 2.5 year old son who loves helping me work on the layout and running his own trains, so any accessory would appeal to him.

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I agree that the gantry crane is one of the best accessories, but I would consider something simpler for a 2 to 3 year old, especially if he will want to run the accessories under your supervision. 

Consider the operating barrel loader and operating barrel car, and/or the operating log loader and operating log dump car. I had them both from the time I was a young child, and loved playing with them supervised by my dad until I was 8 or 9 years old, and then on my own thereafter. Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

I like the dairy platform.  This is a K-Line platform.  I have a K-Line milk car, MTH milk car and an MTH ice car that can make deliveries.  I put a small piece of yellow pin stripe on the platform and on every operating car to ensure a perfect spot for operating consistently without worrying about lining up.

Have Fun!




"I'd rather be lucky than good"


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The four operating cars made by K-Line, then reissued by Williams by Bachmann have no sliding shoes.  They all operate via remote hand held transmitter.  They all operate flawlessly, with the exception of the milk car that I have.  I did buy it second hand, so it may simply be a bad apple.  

If operating accessories are the route you seem to be taking, as am I, tubular track is really your best option.  Sorry to say that as I know you already must have most of your Gargraves track on hand.  I tried K-Line Super-Snap O72 turnouts but the sliding shoes still didn't like them.  

The nice thing about sectional tubular track is that it is easy to switch out a section if you want to add an operating track section.  Extra wooden ties are a simple way to enhance the look of tubular track if you really can't live with those large gaps between ties.  The wooden ties can be slid under existing track and held in place with either a small brad or a tiny spot of glue.  I say tiny because you may want to remove ties for track alterations.  

I agree there are many of us who want realism but still want action via track side accessories.  I've seen layouts where Gargraves and similar type track is used interspersed with traditional tubular sections and turnouts.  From experience, I have found that no layout ever remains unaltered.  So for me, tubular has prooven the best route.   

Dan Padova


"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill


Kids and adults too enjoy making things go by pushing buttons, so I have several operating accessories that work when a big red button in the bench-work fascia is pushed.

Accessory Push Button ConceptAmusement Park 483KBSchylling Rocket Ride 50KBAmusement Park 385KBDSCN2590Interlocking Tower [12)

Bobby Ogage

"I hear that train a coming,

it's Long Island No. 39 rolling

around the bend"



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The Gantry Crane is the best of the best IMO. This one is almost as old as I am and I'm older than dirt:

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Yes, it is complex to operate but your son will grow into it. 



All photos are mine unless specifically noted otherwise.


Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.


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The accessory my grandkids like the best is the American Flyer barrel loader with the forklift truck picking up the metal barrels and then depositing them in a waiting gondola. Also, the #97 coal loader and #164 lumber loader are classic fun to operate Lionel accessories along with the magnetic cranes either by Lionel or MTH. Lat but not least is the Lionel Bascule bridge. Beautiful on the layout and fun to see operate. As far as the sliding shoe issue you have two choices; the first is to use MTH log and coal dump car as their sliding shoes pose no problem for the Ross switches. Or, take Gargraves track pins and put them in the  rails on the switches to create a ramp that the sliding shoes will glide on rather than get caught on. Several per switch are required but this solution works. Good luck and have fun.

For little ones, my grandkids always liked the Lionel operating playground with swings, seesaws, etc. I also picked up an inexpensive recordable sound card and recorded children's playground sounds which goes off whenever someone operates the playground, itself and added some bikes and a ice cream truck.

They also quite liked the gateman (mine is MTH); the movement of the Lionel Icing Station; and the Lionel Operating Platform where the passengers seemingly disappear by magic by pressing a button after the train departs. Saying "Where did the people go ?" always got their inquisitive minds going.

I would stick to some of the more plentiful items, since they are always for sale second hand and hence more "bang for the $".

Crossing gates etc.


Milk cars / platform

Icing station

Log dumping cars


And don't forget action cars like the aquarium car, chase gondola, mail delivery boxcar(variations, santa etc). 

Speaking from first hand experience:  When I was five, I couldn't get enough of the fork lift platform. Simple, reliable and entertaining.




My heart is warm with the friends I make, 

And better friends I'll not be knowing;

Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,

No matter where it's going.

                        Edna St. Vincent Millay


Operating Gateman houses and whistle houses are always good.   The newspaper stand is a favorite as well. 

I use inexpensive doorbell buttons to operate them.   The buttons are big and don't take much force to work,  two things that make them more friendly for kids of all ages.  Just avoid the lighted doorbell buttons,  they let a little current through all the time which can cause problems. 

As to operating cars I always loved missle launchers as a kid but they do tend to cause some havoc!

May God Bless us all.

Some accessories operate off of buttons and should provide entertainment for your kid - 352 Icing Station, 128 Newsstand, 445 Switchman, 145 Gateman.  I use them on my portable layout for shows and kids like them.  Does Gargraves make conversion connectors for tubular track?  If so you can insert an operating track section for operating cars that use them such as the 3461 dump car.

If you can't find #90 controllers, Trainz carries some K-Line pushbutton controllers that mount on the surface of the layout.


The Lionel Sawmill creates a convincing illusion of "sawed planks." My favorite is the Lionel matched pair: Culvert Unloader and Culvert Loader. The MTH iconic accessories (Mel's Diner, Gas Station, Car Wash, and Fire Station) are classic action pieces, with sound effects.  I install Lionel #90 pushbuttons on the perimeter fascia boards, aligned with each accessory.  Visiting kids "make the rounds" of my L-shaped layout and push every button.  IMHO but based on experience, the AF Oil Drum Loader is MORE RELIABLE in operation than the Lionel version of it. I prefer to avoid coal-handling accessories - which tend to scatter coal around them; messy and difficult to pick up.

Trains in motion are fun to watch, but the monotonous path soon gets boring.  Action accessories enhance the fun of the world's greatest hobby.

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394

I suggest starting with a 3461 log dump car with bin.  Then get a log loader.

Logs are a size that a three year old can handle, and they are safe.  Push a button to dump the load into the bin, and he can replace them on the car by hand.  Six inch Lincoln logs would work well with this car.

Then get a log loader.  Best is Lionel's old 164, last made in 1960.  You can get one that looks reasonably good and works well  for $70-$80 on eBay - there are several current buy-it-now in that range.  Don't buy one that shows any rust in the photos and be sure that the seller states without reservation that both conveyor and dump chute are working.  If the listing is unclear on this, ask the seller if he can assure you that the conveyor works well.  These accessories are usually fixable with a scewdriver, pliers and WD-40 and that my include cleaning the motor.

The downside of the 164 is that it needs track on both sides about 15" apart.  A longer and less attractive accessory that works alongside one track is the 364 log conveyor.  You dump at one end and load from the other.  Problem is that it needs 28" of straight track with control section at one end.  The 364 is cheaper, but they don't look very nice.

In summary, I think log handling has good play value for a very young boy, and the accessoroes are not easily breakable.  Later accessories my be more imaginative, but they tend to be more breakable.



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