JeffPo's Model Trains Page
Last update: 02/08/18
I received a toy train set when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was a Southern 2-4-0 steam engine and tender, with a consist of 4 cars (hopper, gondola, flatcar, and caboose). The track was a simple figure eight, that could also be arranged in an oval. I played and played and played with that train, with adventures fueled by my imagination. I use to dream of expanding it into a larger layout, but lack of money and living in a small town that didn't have hobby stores pretty much nipped that dream in the bud. But that didn't stop me from having fun. I built tunnels and trestles for my simple track. I had a pretty good supply of plastic cowboys, Indians, and horses. I can't count how many times that train got robbed. I built train depots out of my Lincoln Log set. And of course, every now and then we'd have a major "earthquake" that would slide the depot onto the track, only to be "destroyed" by the next passing train. My imagination made up for the lack of track. I'd pretend each transit around the layout represented so many miles.
A thousand years later, my interest in model trains was rekindled by finding some track and rail cars at a yard sale, and the discovery of a flea market vendor that sold used model train stuff. As an adult, I've been able to indulge in the model train hobby and realize some of my childhood dreams. And I get to share those dreams with my kids. I now own quite a bit of track and a good number of locomotives and railroad cars. Below you'll see various pictures from our model train adventures. At the bottom of the page I have some links and information to model train resources.
I use typical Lionel trains (and competitors) in my layouts. That means I'm using O scale (or O gauge) model trains. The two terms are used interchangeably but technically scale refers to the size of the model (compared to an actual full size object) and gauge refers to the width of the track. In the United States, O scale is a 1:48 ratio. Lionel O scale track is unique in that it has three rails. The three rail system has more reliable electrical contacts and is less prone to short circuits. It also means you can easily create "reversing loops" where there train enters a loop through a turnout (switch) then exits the loop through the same turnout (i.e. reversing direction).
Old layout on 4ft x 8ft sheet of plywood.
This was my fixed layout . It was basically a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood with green deck carpet and track tacked on. It had changed quite a few times, but this one seemed to be the most versatile. The train could travel on the outer loop (in the direction indicated by the red arrows), or it could also come inside to travel on the modified figure eight. There was a spur off the figure eight for parking cars. There was also a spur off the main loop, that trains could back into for "fueling". While my son has now outgrown playing with trains, he really liked spurs with bumpers, and I liked the way they lit up. From other layouts I've attempted, I've learned that kids need some "green space" to play in. To be honest, this was probably more complex than it needed to be. A large oval with a passing siding and a couple of spurs with bumpers would probably satisfy just about any kid.
I've also found that a sheet of plywood can be very heavy! I kept this layout against a wall in my garage, but it was kind of cumbersome to bring it in to play on. If it had been in a room where I could just lie it down on the floor, it would have gotten used much more often. This layout has been dismantled.
New Layout Planning
I've now moved to a house where I can have a dedicated room for my trains, and I'm no longer thinking about a layout in terms of what a kid would play with. So now I'm planning a typical layout on elevated bench work (i.e. table). The room size is about 19ft x 14ft. Access to the room is through double French doors. There's a double window on the opposite side of the room. The room also has a door in the far left corner (as seen from the French doors) for access to a little paint studio I built for my wife. The near left corner has a door to a bathroom. The room is currently used as a home office, with a large desk and filing cabinet, and it will continue to be an office after the layout is up. So while it's a large room, the desk and opening doors take up quite a bit of space.
This image is just me thinking on "paper", with 5ft x 8ft bench work or tables.
I think I'm going to run a layout in an L-shape against the right long side wall and the shorter window wall (wall opposite the main French doors). At first I was thinking the layout will be a run of 4ft x 16ft in the long arm of the L-shape, and a run of 4ft x 8ft in the short arm of the L-shape, all made from 4x8 sheets of plywood. However, I've discovered that if I use Fastrack, I can't really get two track loops to fit on a 4ft diameter board. So I really need about a 4.5ft to 5ft wide surface. So now I'm thinking I'll do 5ft x 16ft for the long arm of the L-shape. 5ft really uses up the room space, but I think it's necessary for the track and any buildings I add. I'm also going to have to alter the short arm of the L-shape because if I do 5ft x 8ft I won't be able to open the door to the paint studio. So it's going to have to be shorter, and possibly more narrow.
The image you see above is just me dabbling with the size and shape to get an idea of how it would look. I probably won't have enough space for the rail yard I've got drawn, especially if I want to add buildings. Notice that the long arm of the run has the two tables pulled a bit apart, and that the track cuts the corner going from the long arm onto the short arm. That's on purpose. I'm thinking of using truss bridges in these areas. I want my bridges to really be functional. I want a lot, but have limited space to do it all. O-gauge takes up a lot of room! My desire is to have two independent lines of freight and passenger. I'd also like to have a trolley system and a coal mining system. And of course, buildings, operating accessories and such. A rail yard would be nice for parking railcars and making up trains, but I think I'd give it up for buildings and operating accessories. I could also elevate the trolley and/or mining system to get it off the main board. This might also look better and give the layout some dimension. I'd also like to have a mountain somewhere on the layout, which would probably be associated with the mining system. The natural location for this is probably the far right corner (as viewed from the main doors). My main desire is still just running the trains, not modeling. So it doesn't have to look realistic, nor does it have to be all planned out. My first step is going to be to construct the long arm of the L-shape and get some track in place so I can just see the trains go. I'll probably just start out with two simple, independent ovals. I plan on putting some type of carpet on top, both as decoration and to deaden the sound.
I've got more layout planning ideas near the bottom of this webpage.
I'm also planning on displaying some of my railroad lantern collection in this room in some fashion. Instead of shelves, or hooks directly in the wall, I might use long boards (i.e. 2x4 boards) mounted to the wall that I put the hooks in.
Trains for Kids
First of all, buy your kid a train! They are great to play with and really foster the imagination. Pair it up with some other building toy, like Lincoln Logs, some blocks, or Legos, and the fun will never stop. However, I personally would NOT recommend buying a HO scale train for a child. While it's probably the most popular modeling scale and cheaper overall, it is just too small and flimsy and aggravating for small hands. Buy an O gauge train instead, like the ones from Lionel or Mike's Train House (MTH). At about 1:48 scale, O gauge trains are big and rugged. They are made to be played with. While more costly than HO scale, they more than make up for it in how they stand up over time and what can be done with them. With this larger scale, you'll notice that your kids incorporate their other toys into the play. Before long you'll notice various other toys will be catching a ride in the hopper or boxcar, as it speeds around the track.
Diesel or Steam locomotive?: It can be a personal preference. While I prefer steam myself, I've never noticed my kids preferring one over the other. They seemed to like the diesel horn better than the steam whistle. But a steam engine is also neat, especially when it smokes. Just make sure whatever diesel you get does have a horn, and whatever steam engine you get does have a smoke unit and a whistle. The only caution is that with the steam engines, you do need to put a few drops of smoke fluid in them from time to time. You don't want to run them dry for very long or the heating element that produces the smoke can burn out. On nicer units, you can actually turn the smoke unit off for unlimited running without smoke fluid.
Freight or Passenger?: Unless the passenger train is tied to a particular movie, like The Polar Express, or a TV show, like Thomas the Tank Engine, I find that most kids prefer to play with a freight engine. With freight cars you have more action. You can put things in the gondolas, hoppers, and flatbeds. They also have operating cars such as the log dump cars, or cars that light up like the searchlight cars.
Layout: The layout doesn't have to be big in order for a kid to have big fun. A simple oval or figure eight will please any kid getting their first train. But for a little extra, you get ten fold the playing ability if you add a switch and a siding, or better yet, two switches and a passing siding. That lets them operate the train like a real train, moving cars to and from the siding. And when in doubt, add length. Longer running trains always means more fun.
Track While it's quite a bit more pricey than the traditional tubular track, Lionel's Fastrack is a great option for creating a small layout for the kids. I think most of Lionel's sets come with it now. Most sets will have a basic oval. It has a built in roadbed and really stays together. The built in roadbed also helps to protect the floor underneath (i.e. keeps the carpet from getting dirty), and provides a more stable platform for when you do setup on soft surfaces like carpet. I've got a few locomotives that seem to run much better on the Fastrack than they do on my old tubular rails. And old might be the keyword. Older, used track can sometimes have problems. If you're looking to save money, tubular track is definitely the way to go. But save yourself a headache and buy new, or at least track that's in like new condition for the kids to use. Save the tinkering with old track and switches for yourself, when the kids are in bed.
Accessories: You really don't have to worry about adding accessories at the beginning, because the kid's imagination will fill it in. They will incorporate their other toys into the train play. But a couple of things that go a log way is a few diecast cars or trucks (pretty cheap at Walmart) and a couple of grade crossings so they can drive them across the track (though they aren't absolutely necessary). Flashing lights and other specific train accessories are neat too, but they generally involve more hands on from the parent to get them working.
Buildings: Adding buildings is an inexpensive way to really expand the imagination and play. And you don't have to buy the high priced ones made specifically for model railroads. Anything will do. I've used bird houses and Lincoln Logs in my layouts. My kids have also used Lego bricks. You could even make some buildings out of cardboard. Those Christmas Village style houses that people use for holiday displays also work great. Buildings provide the depots, stations, and towns for the trains to stop at during their daily runs.
Southern Steam Train Set
The train set that started it all! Here's an image of my first locomotive, the Lionel 2-4-0 Southern steam engine. The body is plastic, but it has a nice motor in it (although in recent years it hasn't ran that well). The plastic bell has broken off and I've been meaning to replace it. The tender has a wheel that contains gravel or something similar in it. It rolls along the center rail of the track and gives a "chugging" kind of sound. It does not have a whistle and the engine does not smoke.
Below you'll see the rail cars that belong to my Southern line train. They came with the set, although they represent other lines. They originally had plastic trucks with plastic wheels (what was Lionel thinking?!) but have been replaced with diecast trucks.
Here you see a Lionel Canadian National hopper and a Lionel Republic Steel gondola with containers.
Here you see a Lionel Union Pacific flatcar (stakes lost many years ago) and a Lionel Southern caboose.
Santa Fe Steam Train Set
Lionel stock photo.
Here's an image of my Lionel Santa Fe 4-4-2 steam locomotive and tender. The engine smokes and there's an air whistle in the tender. This was the first set I bought for myself as an adult. I was at Todd's Train Depot (was in Wendell, NC, but now out of business) and happened upon this set. Of course Edna, the proprietor, had a good price on it so I couldn't resist it. This set really launched me into buying other engines and cars. I immediately set it up on the kitchen floor when I got home and have been railroading ever since.
Here you see a Lionel Santa Fe boxcar and a Lionel Santa Fe flatcar (with a truck trailer).
Here you see a Lionel Santa Fe log dumping car and a Lionel Santa Fe flatcar (with a two car load). The log dumping car is fun to use.
Here you see the Lionel Santa Fe caboose (illuminated) and the add-on Lionel Santa Fe searchlight car. The searchlight car was purchased separately.
Chessie/B&O Diesel Train Set
Lionel stock photo.
Here's an image of my...uh...Jonathan's Lionel Chessie Diesel engine. It has dual motors and a horn. This was the second train set I purchased as an adult, and from here there was no turning back. The set was supposed to be for my son, but in reality we all took pleasure in playing with it. I've been thinking about adding a bright LED for the headlight to make it more realistic.
Here you see a Lionel hopper and a Lionel box car from my Chessie line of rail cars.
Here you see a add-on Lionel tanker and an add-on Lionel coal dumping car from my Chessie line of rail cars. These were purchased and added separately. When purchased new, coal dumping cars generally come with a bag of simulated coal. While it looks cool, I found that actually using it creates a mess. Instead of "coal", I use bigger items, like wooden blocks and such, that can be easily picked up and reloaded.
Here you see a Lionel searchlight car and the Lionel caboose from my Chessie line of rail cars. The caboose is illuminated.
Polar Express Train Set
Lionel stock photo.
Here's an image of my Lionel Polar Express 2-8-4 steam locomotive. It's a very heavy engine and nicely detailed. The classification lamps glow on it. There's an air whistle in the tender. It runs very well and the wheel action can be mesmerizing. The engine also smokes..
Below you'll see the rail cars that belong to my Polar Express line train. The set originally came with three illuminated passenger cars. Lionel also made a few more add-on passenger cars for the set, and a reefer box car.
Here you see the Lionel coach that contains the toys and marionettes, and the Lionel add-on baggage car.
Here you see the main Lionel coach car and the Lionel add-on dining car.
Here you see the last Lionel coach car with observation deck. I'm planning on replacing the non-illuminated rear marker (which they used a red rhinestone for) with a glowing LED. A lot of people are doing this to make it more realistic.
Here you see the Lionel add-on hot chocolate car (Lionel stock image). And somehow I ended up with TWO of the same car. This is what happens when you store your trains under the bed instead of having a layout to use them on. You forget what you have! Longer trains are neat, but a small layout can only accommodate so much train. I'm currently listing it for sale on the Raleigh Craigslist if anyone wants it. Search for "polar express hot chocolate".
Plymouth PRR Diesel Switcher Train Set
Here you see a K-Line Pennsylvania (PRR) Plymouth switcher train set. It's a cute little train that has prototypical couplers. The size of the cars are a little too small to use with normal O scale (and they don't have O scale couplers anyway), but the locomotive will work (it comes with spare O scale couplers). I've been thinking about getting some of the small Plymouth coal or ore cars and make a small mine train using the locomotive. That's if I ever get my layout going.
The locomotive is diecast and has illuminated marker lamps. It also had directional lighting and a smoke unit. The purchase of this set was more of an impulse buy. After discovering it, the little switcher engine seemed very neat and unique, and the price wasn't too bad. Whenever, if ever, I construct my permanent layout, I'm not sure how much of a role this engine will play. I don't know how much pulling power it has. It looks more suited to a small yard, or steel mill, or perhaps a mining company.
The freight includes a box car and a tanker.
An illuminated, bay window caboose brings up the rear.
Pennsylvania Passenger Train "Set"
The reason I have "set" in quotation marks is because this is a set I created by purchasing the passenger cars and the engine separately, then put them together. The engine was made by K-Line while the streamline passenger cars are from MTH. I purchased the passenger cars because I had been wanting a passenger train. I came across them at a decent price. However, I discovered that they were too heavy for my engines to pull very well so they stayed boxed up, until I found the GG1 at a train show.
This is the K-Line GG-1 Pennsylvania electric locomotive that pulls the consist of passenger cars. It has a diecast body and is quite a hefty piece. It is a very strong puller and has no problem pulling the heavier passenger cars. My other engines struggled a bit. It doesn't have an electronic horn, but I'm thinking about trying to add one. Any suggestions?
This is the MTH Pennsylvania baggage car.
This is the MTH Pennsylvania coach car.
This is the MTH Pennsylvania vista dome car.
This is another MTH Pennsylvania vista dome car. While the other passenger cars were purchased as a set, this one was purchased separately at a train show. It is slightly darker, with a slight difference in the lettering font and the pen striping. But it's still a good match to the other cars and adds length to the train.
This is the MTH Pennsylvania coach car, that brings up the rear of the train. The rear marker lamps have a faint glow from the illumination of the interior car bulb. I've been thinking about adding some tiny LEDs directly behind the lens to make them really shine.
Central Railroad of New Jersey Work Train "Set"
This is a Central Jersey (CNJ) work train that I have created, hence the "set" being in quotation marks. I wasn't a collector of the CNJ line, it's just that I had other CNJ cars and decided to create a "set".
I've acquired a Lionel diesel NW2 locomotive with a calf unit to pull it, but haven't snapped any pictures yet. This is a photo of a pair from an auction site. I've thought about trying to add directional lighting to the calf unit such that the headlight will only come on when the train is in reverse.
Here you see a Kline Central New Jersey crane and tender car set. The other side of the crane car has two hand wheels that turn to lower/raise the boom and hook. These two cars are what started the set. I was looking for a crane car at the time, and ended up with the CNJ line because of availability and price. These were just pulled by my other engines until I thought about getting a matching engine to go along with them.
This is a Lionel Central New Jersey bunk car and a Lionel Central New Jersey tool car. Both are illuminated. Came across them at a train show and thought they'd go well with the crane car.
Here's a Lionel Central New Jersey caboose. I spiced it up a bit by adding a diecast Kline truck to the front, and a MTH diecast truck with flashing end-of-train device on the back. The original back truck didn't have a knuckle coupler on it anyway. The flasher is neat in that it has a burst at the end of its cycle. Check out this (low quality) video of the caboose.
With the addition of the locomotive, the work train is basically complete. I don't think true work trains are very long. However, I still might add other car to go with the crane. Perhaps a flat car for hauling stuff. It's basically going to be a long RED train!
Here's one of two Lionel Central New Jersey gondolas I have. I only wanted one, but mistakenly ended up with two. Keeping trains in storage means you forget what you already have.
New York Central Passenger Train "Set"
I have no official images of my cars for this one. Shown is the Lionel stock photo. A few years back I bought a Lionel NYC passenger car expansion pack that had three passenger cars. I just wanted some relatively economical passenger cars to play with. I did have the PRR passenger cars, but they were a bit too heavy for my current engines at the time.
I've decided to create a full NYC passenger train so I acquired a couple more passenger cars that were intended to compliment the expansion set.. Didn't even know they existed until I can across them on the Internet. I got a baggage car and a vista dome car. These are Lionel stock photos.
Can't have a set without engines! Needing something to pull these passenger cars, I also acquired a NYC F3 set. They are made by MTH and it's two A units, one powered and the other a dummy. This is a MTH stock photo. I'm thinking about adding directional lighting to the dummy unit such that it's headlight will only come on when the train is in reverse. I've always loved the front end look of the F3 and similar engines.
New York Central Flyer Freight Train Set
I have no official images of my cars for this one. Shown is the Lionel stock photo, model number 6-30016. The engine number is 8635. I bought this used set after seeing it advertise locally. Wasn't really in the market for it, but I figured at the used price it was worth it to get the extra track, transformer, and another steamer engine. With the included searchlight car, this brings my number of NYC searchlight cars up to three. And I also have about three other searchlight cars from other railroad lines as well. I could create a searchlight car train! Sadly, I discovered that this tender's Trainsounds sound system isn't working. My bad luck! I'm in the market for a replacement if you have one. Even another railroad line would work because I could just swap the shells.
Southern Crescent Steam Passenger "Set"
The reason I have "set" in quotation marks is because this is a set I created by purchasing the passenger cars and the engine separately, then put them together. It's a Lionel locomotive and tender, and Lionel Southern Crescent passenger cars
This is my Lionel "Southern" 4-4-2 steam locomotive. It was originally a used Lionel New York Central 4-4-2 steam locomotive that I picked up at a local model train show. The original engine is superimposed in the lower left corner. I had been wanting a cheap, diecast steam engine similar to my Santa Fe, but I wanted it in a Southern Railway green color. The only Southerns I've been able to find are the higher price models. So I decided to buy the NYC model and paint it myself. I painted it with enamel green paint. It actually looks pretty nice. I wanted the SOUTHERN letters on the tender to be smaller, and in gold, but that didn't work out. My painting skills and patience weren't up to the job. I ended up using some stick-on vinyl letters. This engine was for playing, so I didn't put that much work into it. Though, I have been thinking about getting some enamel modeler's paint and doing a few more details for fun.. Plus I need to put some numbers on the cab. It has an air whistle in the tender. Unfortunately the smoke unit has burned out. Plus it seems to leak smoke fluid. I don't know if I'll replace the unit, or just run it like it is, which means I don't have to constantly be adding smoke fluid. After some thought, I decided that instead of using it as a freight hauler, I'd get some Southern passenger cars to go with it (see below). In the future I'll probably buy a real Lionel Southern Crescent steamer (6-8702) to pull the passenger cars with, if I find one for a good price.
Here are the Lionel Southern combine car (named Andrew Pickens) Lionel and the Southern baggage car (named Joel Chandler Harris). A combine care was a railcar that combined sections for both passengers and freight (or railway post office).
Joel Chandler Harris was a southerner known for the Uncle Remus stories, and the story of Br'er Rabbit. Andrew Pickens was the 46th governor of South Carolina, in the early 1800s. There was another Andrew Pickens that was a congressman from South Carolina in the 1790s, but I don't think he's the one represented on the railcar.
Here are two Lionel Southern passenger cars, named Stonewall Jackson and P.G.T. Beauregard. Both men were generals of the Southern Confederate army.
Here is the Lionel Southern passenger car with the observation deck, that brings up the rear of the train. It's named Robert E. Lee, the Southern Confederate general that led the Confederate army.
All of the passenger cars are illuminated. I've thought about getting the add-on diner car (6-19001) if I find it for a good price.
Wisconsin Central Plymouth Switcher Set
This is a set made by K-Line that features a Plymouth diesel pulling six small mining cars filled with coal, for the Wisconsin Central railroad.
This engine is the same as my other Plymouth diesel in the Pennsylvania line. The locomotive is diecast and has illuminated marker lamps. It also had directional lighting and a smoke unit.
On my layout I've been thinking about having a small mining train on an independent loop. I'd probably have it elevated, and in the back. I was going to use my PRR engine I already had. I searched and searched for some standalone K-Line coal mining cars but just couldn't find any at a decent price. I thought about building my own, but I don't have the skill or patience. Then I came across this entire set and decided to get it. I'm not going to change or add a thing (though I might still use the PRR engine). The mining train is just going to go back and forth. A cool feature would be to have it go into or around a mountain, but that requires more space, and mountain building skills. We'll see.
I picked up this Industrial Rail trolley at a local model train show. When the train hits a bumper, it switches direction. That means I can setup a straight length of track with bumpers at each end, and it will travel back and forth automatically. It also has a "reversing unit" (i.e. forward, neutral, reverse) in it which means I can run it on my layout like a normal train. The overall goal of purchasing this trolley was to use it in a Christmas village display. Haven't done that yet, but I can envision it. :)
Here's a Southern line diesel switcher that is made by Ready Made Toys (RMT). It has dual motors and directional lighting. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a diesel horn. It's a neat little engine. I do have a problem with the uncoupling lever hanging down low enough to hit (bottom out) on my old O27 switches. Not sure what to do about this. I'm still debating whether or not to use Fastrack for my permanent layout. While much more costly that tubular track, and also bigger (i.e. larger turning radius so it needs more room), my trains do seem to run much better on it. At this point I'm probably going to switch over to Fastrack for the better running, and use O27 track for mining operations, or perhaps the trolley you see above.
Well, I actually bought another Lionel New York Central 4-4-2 steam locomotive. It smokes and has a tender air whistle. My intentions were to paint it red because I wanted a red engine for hauling freight. The red CNJ engine is supposed to only be a work train. However, after buying this NYC steamer I found a red Gulf Mobile & Ohio RS3 diesel that I'm going to use as my freight train puller, so I've decided to leave the NYC steamer as is for now. Or maybe I'll paint it blue. :) The thing is, I already have another NYC steamer in that complete set I bought (though the Trainsounds tender doesn't work). What I should do is just sell this one, and put those funds toward another train. I could also use this one for parts. I could switch tender shells with the NYC set to get a whistling tender. I could switch engine shells with my Southern steamer and have it smoking again. We'll see.
Here's an Erie line 4-6-4 steam engine by Lionel. It has good hauling power. The tender is equipped with an air whistle and the engine smokes. It's a good smoker and will blow smoke rings at times. I think this engine is from the "Riding the Rails" set by Lionel, given the hobo stick/sack painted on the front. I've also picked up an Erie caboose (by MTH) to tag along with it, and a bay window Erie caboose (by Lionel) as an alternative. I figure this will be a good steamer when I want variety.
Here's an image of my Lionel New York Central 0-6-0 dockside switcher. It's diecast, has operating couplers on the front and back, smokes, and has an electronic whistle (pitiful sound). The only flaw is that horrible sounding whistle, which sounds more like a buzzer. Otherwise this is a gem of engine.
Lionel RS3 in Gulf Mobile & Ohio colors (Internet image). Basically was wanting a colorful engine to pull freight, I like red, and I've been thinking about getting a RS3 for a long while. Sadly, it's currently not working. Some kind of short in the engine. I'm going to have it repaired if economically feasible. I have already picked up a second one as a replacement.
Miscellaneous Rail Cars
Below you'll see various other rail cars I have. It's not all of them, but I haven't had time to snap images yet of the others.
Here you see Kline Union Pacific flatcar with pickup trucks, and a MTH Conrail searchlight car. The searchlight on this one automatically turns.
Here you see a Lionel Gulf tanker and a Kline Missouri-Kansas-Texas boxcar.
Here you see a Kline Reading tanker and a Kline Nickel Plate Road boxcar.
Here you see a Lionel Seaboard boxcar and a Lionel Midget Mines coal dumping car. Coal dumping cars add extra action to a layout. When purchased new, coal dumping cars generally come with a bag of simulated coal. While it looks cool, I found that actually using it creates a mess. Instead of "coal", I use bigger items, like wooden blocks and such, that can be easily picked up and reloaded.
Here you see a Kline NYC boxcar and a Lionel NYC searchlight car. Searchlight cars add a lot of fun to train.
Here you see a MTH NYC searchlight car. The searchlight rotates automatically.
This is a K-Line Southern crane car. The other side of the crane car has two hand wheels that turn to lower/raise the boom and hook.
This is a K-Line Southern crane tender/boom car (Internet image). I looked a long time to find one, and finally found one for cheap at a train show.
Lionel boxcar for the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway (TPW) on the left, and Lionel boxcar for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (the Milwaukee Road or MILW) on the right
Lionel boxcar for the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway (EJE) on the left, and Lionel boxcar for the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway (THB) on the right. The TH&B car has dual opening doors.
Lionel boxcar for the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company (CNW). The image on the left shows the built-in end-of-train device that flashes red.
Kline searchlight car, work caboose, and crane car for the Santa Fe Railroad. The searchlight is geared to the trucks such that it turns as the car moves down the track. I'm not sure what the difference is between a work caboose and a boom car. They pretty much look the same. My other cars with cranes have a structure for the crane to rest on. I'm thinking about building one for this car.
Here's a Penn Central gondola by Lionel. It originally had plastic, non-operating trucks, but I replaced those with diecast operating trucks.
Here's a variety of two bay hoppers that I have picked up. They're the low end Lionel versions. I've upgraded the non-operating knuckles with ones that work, and put metal wheels on all of them. Various road names: Great Northern, B&O, CN, and Reading. I had originally planned on painting them all the same color but I don't think I'm going to do that now. Too lazy, and I kind of like the different colors. I had thought about making some coal loads but ended up buying some off of EBay. Not really impressed with what I bought given the price (the seller is making killer profit), but it looks okay and it saved me the time. I bought 12 loads, so I need to get 5 more hoppers. I also need to post some pictures out here of what they look like.
Here's a low end Lionel flatcar for the Pennsylvania line. No stakes with it. I think this car was part of a box from a yard sale.
Kline cars. Reading hopper with coal load, PRR flatcar, and D&RGW boxcar.
NYC Pacemaker boxcar by MTH.
Lionel Southern boxcar and Lionel Southern hopper. Both have diecast trucks.
Below you'll see various cabooses that I have. The caboose is a bit different in design and function from other rolling stock, so I thought they needed their own space (if they weren't part of a set). It's not all of them, but I haven't had time to snap images yet of the others.
This is a Ready Made Toys (RMT) caboose in the Southern line. It's illuminated, with diecast trucks and illuminated marker lamps. It can go with the RMT Southern diesel switcher I have or the green painted steamer that I turned into a “Southern” (if it's not pulling the Southern passenger consist).
This is a Lionel caboose in the Gulf Mobile & Ohio line (Internet image). Illuminated. I got it to go with the RS3 diesel in the same line. It was an afterthought after buying the RS3, and took some searching to find one.
Here you see a Kline NYC caboose. The caboose is illuminated. I've got two NYC steamers, but have been thinking about getting a NYC diesel (other than the F3) that this could be paired up with. I also have the steam switcher this could be used with.
Here's an Erie caboose by MTH. It's really nice, with a hefty feel to it. It's illuminated. I got it to pair up with my Lionel Erie line 4-6-4 steam engine. However, given it is semi-scale, it's a little bit bigger than my regular railcars. I've been thinking about selling it. I did get a Lionel bay window Erie caboose (see below) to use with the steam engine as an alternative.
Here's a low end Lionel caboose for the Pennsylvania line. It's not illuminated. I think it was part of a box of stuff from a yard sale.
Pennsylvania work caboose by Lionel. It's not illuminated.
Erie bay window caboose by Lionel. I got this one as an alternative to the semi-scale Erie caboose I have by MTH. It has a single bulb for illumination in the middle, but the bay windows are blacked out. It has simulated marker lamps molded into the side, with clear lenses (which means they glow white, which is not typical). I might put some red film inside so that they glow red, or maybe even put some tiny red LEDs in there to really make them shine.
Below you'll see some accessories that make playing with trains a bit more fun. I actually have some yard lights, and crossing gates too, but haven't snapped images yet.
This is a before image of a birdhouse I bought from a local craft store.
This is the after image once I turned it into a water tower for my steam engines. Although a little too big for O scale, it still fits enough for imaginary play. The ladders and the supporting pilings with crossbeams, and the water funnel are scratch built. You can also manually lower and raise the water funnel.
Various Model Railroad Scenes
Here's an image of the Chessie passing some cars parked on the siding.
Polar Express engine blowing smoke rings as it rounds the bend.
Once I get my new layout up and running, I'll be snapping some more images.
Other Railroad Related Pages On My Site
Model Trains (current webpage)
Wax sealers, telegraph, whistle, misc
Model Train Resources and Information
All of our local stores seemed to have closed one by one, with only Nick's Trains still being open. If you know of any good ones in the Raleigh area, please let me know.
Nick's Trains, 5201 Oak Park Road, Raleigh, NC 27612, Phone: (919) 881-1010. Nick is the flea market vendor that really got me back into model trains. He has since opened up his own store. The store has various railroad items, from antique to modern. Nick can also take care of your repair needs. He's a great guy to talk to and can offer you advice on your railroading needs. Email: NicksTrains Website: http://www.nicks-trains.com
Model trains and supplies:
http://www.modeltrainsoftware.com/bl-212.html Excellent source of LED lights and other stuff. The LED lights are already wired with a bridge rectifier (so it will work with AC current), a capacitor, and a resistor, so you can just hook them directly up to power.
Lionel Trains Toy trains. The name brand leader in O gauge trains.
K-Line Trains Toy trains. Another maker of O gauge trains. Great quality. Update 11/09/11: Sadly, now out of business!
MTH (Mike's Train House) Toy trains. Another maker of O gauge trains. Great quality.
Menards Menards appears to be a hardware and supply store that also sells model train stuff. While I haven't bought anything from them, online folks seem to rate them very highly. Check out their rolling stock and truss bridges!
Industrial Rail Toy trains. Update 11/09/11: Can't seem to find the website anymore.
Ready Made Toys Toy trains. Nice little diesel (BEEP). Might be going out of business.
Williams Electric Trains Toy trains.
Wholesale Trains.Com Toy train dealer. Good prices.
Charles Ro Supply Company Toy train dealer. Good prices.
http://www.modeltrainstuff.com Diecast trucks and other stuff
http://myworld.ebay.com/dansdrumheads/&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2754 eBay dealer that sells LED lights, etc.
http://electricrr.com The Electric RR Co. Sells sound board stuff. Considering a GG1 sound board/speaker from them.
https://tomarindustries.com Tomar Industries. Sells illuminated O scale marker lamps (under Accessories link). Also sells illuminated drumheads.
http://stores.ebay.com/Dans-L-E-D-epot?_trksid=p2047675.l2563 Dan's LEDepot. LED lights for markers, headlights, etc.
Ma & Pa Junction. Never bought from them, but advertise as having low
prices. Sells a Williams sound board for $30 (also found on Amazon for
about the same price)
Update 10/11/15: Can't seem to find the website anymore
Train simulation software:
Auran Maker of the Trainz Railroad Simulator. This is basically Microsoft's competition and they seem to be the only major player in the game at this point, given that Microsoft has discontinued its product. It looks cool.
Microsoft Train Simulator A pretty good attempt at a train simulator from Microsoft, though it was plagued with bugs. Unfortunately it has been discontinued. Update 06/26/17: Can't seem to find the website
Train Artisan Maker of add-ons for train simulator software. They sold an add-on for Microsoft Train Simulator and offer a few free downloads of locomotives and rolling stock on their website. Update11/09/11: I can't seem to get the website to finish loading, but I'm leaving the link for now.
Maple Leaf Tracks Maker of add-ons for Microsoft Train Simulator. Looks like they do more modern locomotives (i.e. diesels) and rolling stock. They also have new routes. They use to maintain a forum that is now located at: http://22.214.171.124/main/index.php
Train-Sim.com Website dedicated to train simulators with information, forums, files for download, etc.
Other train resources:
Forum: O Gauge Railroading magazine Great forum for talking about toy trains. Similar to Classic Toy Trains forum, but dedicated to O scale.
Forum: Classic Toy Trains magazine Great forum for talking about toy trains. This deals mainly with O scale.
Forum: Model Railroader magazine This forum deals more with modeling, with more emphasis on smaller trains like HO and N scale.
https://bigindoortrains.com/indoor_resources/0_s_scale_building_fronts/0_s_scale_building_fronts.htm O-Scale Building Front Photos. Print these out, glue to cardboard, and use them as a background on your layout.
http://www.traincity.com/price_guide Prices for used trains.
North Raleigh Model Railroad Club Also lists local area train shows.
All-Gauge Model Railroading Page
Directory of World Wide Rail Sites Has links to various layouts and railroad modeling resources.
Golden Spike Enterprises Lists some of the bigger trains shows and events on the east coast.
http://www.ogaugerr.com O Gauge Rail-Roading
http://ogaugerr.infopop.cc/6/ubb.x O Gauge Rail-Roading forums
http://timkorepairdepot.com/Home.html Timko Repair Depot. No experience with them, just listing the link as a resource.
http://www.modelrec.com/search/product-view.asp?ID=8287 MRC. Possible source of sound boards
http://www.scarm.info Simple Computer Aided Railroad Modeler (SCARM) software. It's FREE, and so far it looks like a great tool for designing layouts. Pretty easy to use.
http://www.xtrkcad.org/Wikka/HomePage XTrackCAD (layout software) Great FREE tool for planning layouts.
http://www.aorailroad.com Awesome O-scale layout. Very realistic.
http://www3.sympatico.ca/larry.lajambe Another awesome O-scale layout.
http://oscale.homestead.com Bob & Elizabeth's Jakl's layout. HUGE, awesome layout.
http://www.venturea.com/train.htm The JAM & L Railroad. I like this one because it's not too big or complex, but has lots of action, scenery, etc.
Interesting Track Plans to Ponder
The track plans below are more for my planning benefit than for any website visitors. As I design and build my own layout, I like to see what others have done. These are various plans I've found on the Internet.
I really like this one for two main reasons: 1) it's L-shaped, which is what I'm working with, and 2) it has two independent lines which I'm also considering. It has a simple outside line which would work well for fast passenger traffic. The inner line is more complex, with spurs, crossovers, and sidings, which would be great for freight traffic. I'm currently referencing this layout pretty heavily as I design my own. This is an actual existing layout someone built. See: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/o-gauge-lshaped-design-and-plans
The allure of this one is that it has a lot of action in a basic 5ft x 15ft space. That would be one wall of mine. I'm not sure I'd have the spurs like this one has, but it shows what can be done with the space.
This one shows what can be done with two 4ft x 8th sections, in a L-shape.
This is a small, but full size image. And this one was an actual layout someone built. I liked it because it had a lot of action in a smaller space, but didn't look overwhelming.
Current Design in Progress
This is just me playing around with what I might build for my current layout.
The horizontal length across the top is about 16 ft (i.e. two sheets of plywood). That might increase about a foot or two if I separate the tables and use bridges, like I talked about at the top of this webpage.
The vertical distance down the left side is about 10 ft. The room size in this direction is about 14 ft. I can't use this entire length because there's a paint studio in the corner and I have to leave enough room for the paint studio door to open. I might could get an 11 ft track run in this direction. There might even be a little section that will extend behind the door all the way to the door. I'd use this space for some kind of scenery, building, or industry. Or even back a track spur or two into it.
The BLUE track will definitely be Lionel Fastrack. I figure it will be used for a high speed passenger line. I'll probably want at least one spur or passing siding on it, but it will probably start out as just a plain loop.
The RED track will also probably be Lionel Fastrack. I figured it would be used for hauling freight. I'd also want it to have a couple of sidings or spurs, as freight operations always need that. Of course, when running trains just for the fun of it, they aren't needed. And more than likely the first iteration of it will be a simple loop.
The GREEN track is for a trolley line, which will probably be elevated. It might also lack the loops and use the bump and go features that some trolleys have. Or, I could use the loops and make it a dog bone kind of shape. More than likely it will be standard, steel O27 track. I have plenty of that and the smaller cars will work fine on it. I'd also like to have a mining train somewhere in there, but I'm running out of space. When using O Gauge/Scale, and Fastrack, you really need a lot of space. The mining train would also use O27 track. The mining train could be similar to the GREEN track, with loops on the end. Or it could be quite a bit smaller, and just doing a loop around a "mountain" or through a tunnel. The overall shapes will probably change and get more complex. This is a work in progress. I just need to find the time to get some of the bench work built so I can at least put down some track.
It's a given that I want a passenger service and a freight service. I'd like to incorporate a gantry crane at some point. I want at least a coaling industry represented, that includes the mining train and probably some kind of coaling tipple. I was also thinking about having a petroleum industry, so I could have a tanker train every know and then.
*** Wanted Model Railroad Items ***
Below is a list of items that I'm casually in the market for.
1) Southern Crescent steam engine and tender (6-8702)
2) Southern Crescent dining car (6-19001)
3) Lionel Fastrack: straights, curves, cross-overs, switches. Need all sizes.
REALLY need some switches. And I REALLY need some track. All I have
is what has come in various train set purchases.
4) RR-Track software. Looks neat, but too pricey. Using freeware
right now, which is probably all I need.
5) Modern New York Central diesel locomotive. O27 curves.
5a) Modern Southern diesel locomotive. O27 curves.
6) Coal dump car for the Santa Fe line (or AT & SF)
7) Log dump car for the Chessie line (or C & O).
8) Clean O31 track and switches. Probably only going for Fastrack now, but
will still consider these.
9) Pennsylvania steamer (with pulling power) or modern diesel. O27
10) Lionel gantry crane. Never even thought about these before, but have
decided they would look neat on a layout.
11) 6 to 8 flatcars for log loads
12) 6 to 8 tanker cars
13) 5 Lionel double bay hoppers, O27. I'm using these for coal loads and I
need 5 more to add to the ones I already have.
14) 4 or so station platforms. Actually, I need even more than that.
Basically want something my passenger trains can be parked next to. I
picked up a couple of MTH Railking platforms (brown platform, gray roof:
30-9006), so a couple more of them would be good to get. I've also
discovered that MTH sells a brick passenger station that includes two platforms.
If I got that I probably wouldn't need to buy any more platforms.
15) Trainsounds tender. Really only need the frame and electronics.
I already have a New York Central System tender shell for it. Trying to
get a working version to go along with my NYC engine 8635. If I have to
buy a complete unit, I'll do it, for a good price. I basically need any
tender with Trainsounds. For example, the Lionel Lines 6-36788 would work.
16) Oil derrick with pump. I want to create an oil field for my
17) Coaling tipple for my coal train.
18) Water tower with flashing light. The tall ones like you see in
19) Water tower for steam locomotives. Maybe two of them. I
have my homebuilt one, but I'd like a more realistic looking manufactured one.
1) Southern Crescent steam engine and tender (6-8702)
2) Southern Crescent dining car (6-19001)
3) Lionel Fastrack: straights, curves, cross-overs, switches. Need all sizes. REALLY need some switches. And I REALLY need some track. All I have is what has come in various train set purchases.
4) RR-Track software. Looks neat, but too pricey. Using freeware right now, which is probably all I need.
5) Modern New York Central diesel locomotive. O27 curves.
5a) Modern Southern diesel locomotive. O27 curves.
6) Coal dump car for the Santa Fe line (or AT & SF)
7) Log dump car for the Chessie line (or C & O).
8) Clean O31 track and switches. Probably only going for Fastrack now, but will still consider these.
9) Pennsylvania steamer (with pulling power) or modern diesel. O27 curves.
10) Lionel gantry crane. Never even thought about these before, but have decided they would look neat on a layout.
11) 6 to 8 flatcars for log loads
12) 6 to 8 tanker cars
13) 5 Lionel double bay hoppers, O27. I'm using these for coal loads and I need 5 more to add to the ones I already have.
14) 4 or so station platforms. Actually, I need even more than that. Basically want something my passenger trains can be parked next to. I picked up a couple of MTH Railking platforms (brown platform, gray roof: 30-9006), so a couple more of them would be good to get. I've also discovered that MTH sells a brick passenger station that includes two platforms. If I got that I probably wouldn't need to buy any more platforms.
15) Trainsounds tender. Really only need the frame and electronics. I already have a New York Central System tender shell for it. Trying to get a working version to go along with my NYC engine 8635. If I have to buy a complete unit, I'll do it, for a good price. I basically need any tender with Trainsounds. For example, the Lionel Lines 6-36788 would work.
16) Oil derrick with pump. I want to create an oil field for my tankers.
17) Coaling tipple for my coal train.
18) Water tower with flashing light. The tall ones like you see in small towns.
19) Water tower for steam locomotives. Maybe two of them. I have my homebuilt one, but I'd like a more realistic looking manufactured one.
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