I have been using the LionChief controls for many years for kids to control the trains at many shows over the years. I  mount the LionChief controller on boards with wood blocks to hold up custom cut plastic covers to allow the kids to move the speed control from stop to medium speed.   I found that before the kids would turn the speed control and break it or pull it off and damage it so I came up with this system to mount them to protect them with the plastic covers and keep the trains moving forward less chance of a derail. For some I drill a hole and use drywall or plastic plugs under the hole fat side to controller to allow them to blow the horn/whistle and talking buttons. (never the bell or you get a fleet of bells going drives you nuts - except for the battery ready to run G scale trains with plastic track bell does not stay on) I take a photo of the train add the name and mount this with double sided tape and a clear cover on the board next to the controller. You can find clear plastic shelf liner peel and stick at the dollar store that works well for covering photos and text on the display board.  I wire up transformers to the tracks and adjust the speed so the kids can not run the trains to fast. With the new LionChief engines they run on DC so you can use the small DC power packs you find cheap at shows.  I often add a lighted freight car with power pickup and wire all my engines and freight cars with a matching small plug male/female so that I can plug in any freight car to engine. This doubles the power pickup so with clean track and wheels most of the time a train should not stall out. Some of the engines I have the engines have failed so I gut them so they just roll and use any Diesel with LionChief to push them.

With the plastic G scale battery engines I have removed the 6 C cell battery holder and wired in 2 - 4 battery AA holders. Then I use rechargeable batteries the trains run 4 to 6 hours on a set of 8 AA rechargeable batteries. I found a hi capacity rechargeable AA battery at Ikea look for the Ladda 2450 batteries these are excellent. 

For animated accessories the Lionel gate-men the solenoids burn out quickly; so I use in place of them Tortoise switch machines wired to DPDT center off switches mounted in plastic boxes on the fence for kids to control them. Small HO/N train transformers so you can adjust the voltage so the switch machine works slowly and figures move in and out slowly. Also used for other animated stuff like Fork lift or other moving accessories. 

I use vehicle trailer plugs mounted on the boards that screw to my fence for quick connections for the displays. Make sure you label them if you have more then one on a board. 

I made fencing out of 2x4's 3 boards for the height then the 8 foot boards for the length. I painted them white and then screwed in white lattice 4x8 foot plastic fence for the face. I have 8 so I can set up a 40x24 layout if I have a display in a corner of a building.

I store the fence in a 4x8 trailer and have 4 foam boards that glue on green carpet and mount 0-27 or MTH Real Reaktrax loops of track with long drywall screws; make sure they are threaded all the way from top to bottom with the carpet it helps hold track in place. I can fit the 4 boards on top of my fence in the trailer. Also have rolls of green outdoor carpet and use the old K-Line Super Snap track; this is excellent stuff quickly snaps together stays together and has good electrical contacts. If I break a connector I can use metal pins in the ends of the track to keep it together. Here shown are some examples at large public model train shows.  I also do a set up for special events at our railway museum for Thomas the tank engine and Polar Express events.  Have even done a few displays at real railways events. Through a normal year the trains will run for hours on end at many many shows. I also have a shot of last summer at our club ride on railway / garden railway layout where I used the Atlas track and my fencing for several months of busy weekends. You can see in the one shot at the garden railway a wooden whistle I taped on a air mattress/pool pump see the black hose hanging from the wooden whistle and kids could pump this up and down to blow the whistle very popular. 

The LionChief trains and controllers have totally transformed how I do displays for kids and families, over a normal year I am able to share my trains with thousands of people. Thanks Lionel for a great product. I am excited to see for the new 2020 Lionel catalog that they are offering more of the basic engines at a reasonable price. I do not normally run smoke or need the LionChief plus extras.  However in the 4th photo down you can just see on a table top left a 4x8 switching layout I put together with RealTrax and I have teens bring in other teens to switch trains here with 2 LionChief plus engines then I run smoke on the steamer and electro couplers on the diesel. 





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Last edited by kj356
Original Post

I have found (w/ young grandchildren) that the Lion Chief PLUS engines I run are a pain w/ young kids- they try and blow the whistle or horn (at least half the fun for them) and they keep releasing the train when they open the coupler.  (The newer ones you have to first push the "shift" then the coupler- that's an improvement!).

I have bought all of the grandchildren (three families) LC starter sets and all but one (including my own LC+ locos, I have 5 of those) have been perfect.  The one that was NOT perfect, the set was replaced by the LHS and his distributor (try that on an Internet buy!!)

Great product.  

For the shows I just unplug the wire going to the couplers. I have had that problem with the grand kids at home suddenly they are making sounds and an engine takes off without its train! Have got to get to pulling the coupler plug from my passenger train! But lots of fun to run. Found the blue tooth does not connect as well especially on the garden railway looses signal behind a rock mountain and tunnel. 

Last December I had an iPad on a museum-grade stand with the Lionel Bluetooth App for the kids to run the Polar Express train on the show layout's lower level.  Another track had conventional control of a Beep train.

I observed two classes of young engineers - a) button smashers where any control had to be exercised  (and abused) without any regard to the effect it caused, and b) kids who experimented and observed the control effect.  The second group also explored all of the sub-screens of the app, messed with sound volumes,  and occasionally disconnected the Bluetooth link.  Some of them became adept running the layout and got to use our CAB2s for the upper level.

If Lionel upgrades their Bluetooth App, a provision to lock the configuration screens to prevent novice engineers from messing up the configuration, it would be a nice improvement for public hands-on layouts.  The app was intuitive to most of the kids.  Much better than conventional control where the fwd-neutral-rev logic is not intuitive.

For some reason, the young engineers ran the trains in reverse most of the time.  Always stopped the trains on the backside of the layout instead of at the stations.  Can't fix that.  Derailments were rare even though trains and scenery were within reach.  I had to restore 1:43 diecast cars and trucks to proper positions every day before showtime but had nothing disappear.

The Gatemen on the layout survived but I had a transformer for each trimmed to the minimum voltage to make them operate.  Again, the button smashers liked to press the activation button constantly.IMG_20191214_124516

The Bluetooth app and LionChief locos were a huge win for our visitors.



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For the amount of shows that I do in a typical year (other then 2020) Polar Express runs 4 weekends 12 hour days 8 days of running. Thomas 5 - 10 hour days and the many trains shows I set up at 2 to 3 day events. The controls have to be bullet proof kids will abuse them and with a large layout and perhaps 20 trains running it is hard to keep an eye on everything. A few kids will try there best to reach over the fence to derail a train throw things on the track or try their best to break a controller. Thus the heavy duty bolted down covers over the LionChief controllers and heavy duty switches and push buttons are needed to protect things from getting broken. The system I have improved on each year keeps things running most of the time. I had considered I Pads etc. they they are to easy for the kids to destroy. Most kids and families are great but you get some and who knows where the parents are; often staring at their phones not near their kids thinking they can just dump their kids to play. The few spoil it for the most that are good and enjoy the displays with their children. LionChief controllers are cheap compared to an I Pad etc. 

I have found that the 4x8 switching layout works well for older kids, I am able to often get some teens to selectively invite other teens / children that look interested in to run the LionChief Plus engines with switching loading and dumping logs, barrels etc. We have always tried to invite kids that do not show signs of having a cold or coughing and being located next to the washrooms have always asked them to go wash their hands with soap and water before coming inside the fence at the display and handling the controllers and switches etc., a little precaution so relevant to today's situation. 

Just a note on the fencing and making sure that your layout is safe and the public is safe. I came up with the fence idea that I have now used for many many years, after a couple of displays I had done at major railway companies displays. I was asked to set up and run model trains for an open house at a large Railway station for a rail company and run some of their trains. They said they would provide some crowd control fencing. I set a large display with several trains running. What they gave me was like the airport roll out things on movable posts. A little kid from across the station spotted the trains and came running across right into the display before his parents saw what he was doing and I saw him from the other side of the display and was not able to get to him in time. He grabbed a large O Gauge steam engine running at speed with a large flywheel and pulled it off the tracks and had his finger stuck bleeding in the side rods. It took some work to pull his finger free as with the worm gear in the engine could not just back it out. I was worried about a lawsuit of course. I also saw at a train show a large elevated O gauge layout as with most train shows a rope around the display. I was at the far end and heard screams then a crash looking over a kid had gone under the rope and grabbed a steam engine derailing it and the engine and long line of nice scale passenger cars crashed in pieces 4 feet to the cement floor with of course everyone yelling! After those incidents I put up the fence and always post signs do not touch the display. I occasionally still get kids leaning way over the fence or the odd kid climbing my 2 foot high fence  to grab something derail a  train or pull something off the layout. But it is protected much better with a solid fence and signs to not touch it is pretty obvious if you damage something or climb the fence you are at fault rather then with a rope etc. Would also protect you a bit of someone tried to sue you saying they got shocked or injured from your display. With the battery powered controllers on the fence this also makes it safer rather then some sort of powered control panel connection. Staying safe and keeping kids back with a fence is much better then what I see at shows wear some operators have to yell at some kid coming past the ropes. Makes for a much more positive experience for all. 

?? How does your train club display or others you have seen keep kids back from the displays??

I decided to use the iPad after visiting a couple of Museums where the iPads were common for interactive displays.  The curators I talked to were very positive on the reliability and durability of their iPads.  The steel case and stand I purchased from the river site provided good protection and the iPad is none the worse for the experience.  The biggest problem was fixing the Lionel app's volume and other settings after kids explored the app's options.

I agree that ropes do not provide any protection.  Plexiglass around the perimeter works best.  Our modules have 6" to 8" Plexiglass but several operators are in attendance at shows to deter determined intrusion of hands.  Our modules are 40" high so the youngest crowd needs parental help (and supervision) to stand on foot stools to get close to the trains.   For unattended layouts we have used 24" or higher Plexiglass walls.  Different crowd and opportunities for mischief.  That said, my snow village layouts have operated many seasons without Plexiglass and tragedies.   Tracks are 6" from the edge and no heavy scale equipment is running.

One problem with having Bluetooth control of trains is Legacy engines with Bluetooth on the "adult" layout.  Even though these engines are being operated by a CAB2, they can be selected at the iPad (or a visitor's phone) if another controller has not already paired.  To prevent this, I pair the engine with my phone app when I start running a Bluetooth engine at shows.  I can operate it with either the CAB2 or app.

@kj356 and @Tracker John

You both have the exact sort of situation (public interaction) that I had in mind when I started making my LionChief Gateway project. I have spent a good amount of time developing a system that acts as a Bluetooth LionChief Repeater with the added benefit of being able to set your own speed limits or even use completely custom switches/control panels to run the trains.

It would be possible for my board/software to use things like arcade machine buttons or even elevator buttons to run multiple LionChief Trains (each from their own set of buttons). It can automatically link up to the trains of your choosing and can even run in between the real LionChief remote or app.(with your speed limits and disabled features like couplers locked out). You can also hook up custom display panels to show how fast each train is moving, everyone love blinky lights! In theory my code would even allow me to write a completely custom app (without a disconnect button or settings screen for example) that can run in a Kiosk mode.(locked down functionality).

I just recently used this code of mine to run LionChief Trains Using the Legacy Cab-2 https://youtu.be/4Ujb8xEGKEk

For other items I did with the project check out my main OGR Topic on this project: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ief-bluetooth-remote

Wow that sounds interesting! The more stuff the kids can do the better. Of note though most of kids that want to run trains at most of my events are 2-5 years old. However of interest during the Polar Express events we get a lot of the older children and teens young adults visiting the event. I have found over several years that teen girls I guess age 12 or so and up, tend to stick around for a long time at the Christmas /Polar Express layout waiting to try out all the trains and animation/ sound buttons, and looking at finding all the many scenic details animations and scenes. So for most shows the simple LionChief controls a few sound and animation buttons keep there interest for a long time (parents wear out and want the kids to move on). 

I have found at the train shows that letting older teens in to run the switching layout they are happy to do something more complex for a half hour or so.

That's fantastic. Many kudos for not only your generosity with your time, but also with your ingenious setup.

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