LIONEL TRAIN TIPS:
On site pages:
 
The LIONEL series remote switch assemblies: The Lionel Switch (12/16/13)
Interface or Command Control: Computer Control (12/23/13)
Commercial Lighting for "O" gauge layouts:   TIP for using LED diodes. (1/2/14)
The 2000 series Sheet Metal Cars: (1/7/14)

The TRESTLE made easy: Trestle Design (2/14/15)
Save a ton on Landscape Dressing:  Dressing your Landscape (12/6/15)
AC-DC sometimes it matters:  AC-DC Electric Trains 01/2/16
Off site links:

Lionel POST WAR FAQ. The LIONEL POST WAR model identifier website.
Best Viewed 1024 by 768 or higher.
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Remote Switches:
There are some very nice mechanical "O" gauge switches and they come in a variety of paths to choose from.
Switch types and numbers:
Lionel No. 1122 -- These are "027" radius remote switches and are available RH or LH.
Lionel No. 022 -- These are "031" radius remote "O" gauge switches, available in RH or LH.
Lionel No. 112 -- These are SUPER-O switches in "042" radius and are also available RH or LH.
Lionel No. 6-5132 and 33 -- These are "031" high-rail switches. Very rugged and dependable. These can easily be converted to LED illumination
and are readily available at swap-meets for far less then the new model "120xx" series.
In later years Lionel released switches that allowed users to run "042" up to "072" in high rail tube steel track.
These were the 120xx series covered here...
The path is of course the radius of the track in your system. If you use an "042" radius, the 12080 switches are your choice. This allows you to maintain a 042 radius throughout your
track layout.
There are variations in the switch mechanism, but the common units available today use a small motor for the switch mechanics and a switching arm that handles the direction indicators.
The switches require 12-15VAC for proper operation. This voltage can be captured from the track wiring, however in an isolated multi track layout, this becomes a nightmare.
The 12080 series switches assumes that the track is hot on the outside rail to the center rail. The inside rail is considered neutral and requires an isolation pin in the circuit. This creates
a problem if you plan to switch circuits using computer control.

Before we discuss this issue we must look at the switch unit itself:

This is a typical 6-12080 switch unit.
The controller is a 3 wire unit with momentary SPDT (single pole - double throw) switch.
These units use LED indicators and have a small 1n4007 rectifier diode with a series limiter resister (1000-1500 ohms)
Note that these components are not critical. Radio Shack parts are available for substitution.
The switches require AC to operate properly. Yes, they can be used with DC, but because the diodes wired
in the circuit "forward" (green) and "reverse" (red) the DC polarization will be an issue. In other words POSITIVE
DC will fire the green LED only. The red LED will only fire on NEGATIVE DC. I suggest a small 12VAC transformer or
take power off your transformer accessory poles (14VAC).

As wired from factory the isolated pins are "center" and "inside". Mouse over the switch to see the pin arrangements suggested by Lionel to run the switch "out of the box" (PnP).
You will notice there is a jumper across the "TRACK" posts (1 and 2). This allows you to use track power and this insures that the AUTO-SWITCH circuit functions properly.
The RED center pins and BLUE inside pins must be isolated (fiber pins supplied). However you can remove the "jumper" and feed the track from a common accessory feed of the
power pack (a Lionel 1033 transformer). You feed the HOT to PIN 2 on the switch and the NEUTRAL is taken from the track.
This simply will not work in a multi-line switching system. What Lionel should have done was allow for isolation of the switch operation. That means only the RED (center pin) will
isolated. This allows a computer controlled (or simple switchboard) operation of the switch and approaching trains on separate lines.
What happens in the case of separate lines (with separate power packs), even if the system is fully "phased to neutral", the track operation requires inside and outside rails to be
connected in phase so trains entering one zone from another will continue with no loss of control. That means two separate power transformers are going to "handshake" at
the switch and as one train passes from ZONE A into ZONE B the power control is passed from one 1033 (A) to 1033 (B). This will require an isolated switch control.

In the wiring example shown "S1" and "S2" are simple "switch board" operation of a
multi-track, multi-pack design. As you can see, the track is phased between all 1033
transformers (red) and control lines (blue) and switched for the MAIN LINE and the
ELEVATED - TRANSIT line (zones).
The computer control (simple as a Commodore C-64) can be placed at the switch
positions (S1 and S2) and the computer can operate the switches properly, but only
if the switch is isolated from the track.
Isolation means that we totally control the switch from another power pack or from
the accessory poles on the 1033 unit. In order to do this we must open open up the
6-12080 series switch and make some modifications.
You do not need to work on the controllers, these will function properly after the switch
has been modified. However, note that the "auto-open" function will no longer operate
the switch. You will manually control all switches, unless you decide to design your own
computer interface (permanent layout). More on this later...
To modify or not to modify, this is the question.
This is an easy question to answer. If you are simply running a single track in a LOOP
pattern like an OUT and BACK with a short inside trap, this modification would not be
necessary. In fact it will probably frustrate the operator. However, if that inside TRAP
requires a ZONE, you must complete the mod. In any one zone, you can operate the
locomotive forward and reverse, while the outside track functions in a separate zone.
That zone can also reverse, stop for milk car delivery and continue, while the inside zone is dumping a few loads of logs. This requires switch isolation. It also enhances
the layout operation. Now you have a two or three person operation. You begin to involve others and create team work and good common sense user habits. Unlike a
video game with a reset, this communicating requires verbal communication and a
good sense of team play. One operator is fun, but two operators makes the layout enjoyable.
As you can see from the layout here, a simple loop OUT and BACK track design turns into a three zone, three
transformer operation, The four switches are located at the entrance to each zone and the RED dots represent
switch controlled operating zones. While this looks like a single train layout, if you "zone" properly, the layout
will support 3 trains.
When you "zone" a layout, you should consider the use of each zone. The passenger train should have a fast
track to run on...stopping only at stations along the way. The freight yard is where additional zones can be
created, so the transfer of cars from one train to another can be accomplished. The use of active mechanical
cars like the "log car" or "milk car" should be done on sidings. You can store additional locomotives in zones
as well. You can design a turntable (use an old microwave over turn table motor) or use a rolling bridge system
in the "locomotive garage" zone. Once again, the fast track zone is operated by one person and the freight yard by another...
and so on!!

The MODIFICATION:
In this image you see the underside
of the 12080 (1) switch assembly.
The cover must be removed, there
are 5 (five) small screws that hold
the shield in place. Remove these
screws. DO NOT REMOVE the
large screw that holds the center of
the switch unit.
Now remove the insolated sheet that
protects the wiring from the track and
solder connections. Set these two
pieces aside. Do not loose the screws.
The RED-YELLOW-BLUE leads
are passed through a hole into the
switch mechanism. Leave these where
they are. We will concentrate on the
track only.
First cut: Open up the bridge that
connects pole number (1) with the
center rail. This would normally be
"track hot" in a zoned layout.
Second cut: Now open the bridge
that ties the inside rails to the
yellow controller wire.


Now remove (or relocate) the black wires as shown above and make sure the resistors connected to pole (4) are connected to the bridge on pole (3). Now using the "black
wires" short yellow arrows together. You can relocate the "inside rail" connections using the black wire you cut. and you can also use the "black wires" from the "outside
rails" to jump to the bridge at pole (1). Note: The purple "cut" line does not have to be very large. Remove 1/4 of the bridge using a set of small shears and leave the
bridge in tact so you can undo the modification any time you choose.

What you have done is "isolated" the track circuit from the switch. Now you must apply AC(14V) to poles 1 and 2 on the switch. Wire the controller as directed in your user
manual and test. You can now operate the switch with no track in the circuit. The train operation will require an isolated pin at the "center rail" only. The rest of the track
is now fully functional "outside to inside" rails. Doing this helps to eliminate those pesky "E unit" functions that forces the locomotive to enter "neutral".
Now install the switch into your layout and have fun.

AC-DC it can make a difference:
The more you play with trains, electric motors, solenoids, thing-ama-bobs and gadgets, the more you begin to understand about electricity, energy and "electromotive force".
First E_Train Locomotive  What you must understand are the numbers, they mean a lot. For instance, in some hobbyist thinking, more voltage means more power...not true. Many often think the larger the better, also not true. Some hobbyist believe that DC is the "only way"...really not true, and that old fashioned thinking...electric trains are toys; now that makes no sense at all. Real world is two rail, but toy trains have been three rail for a century. No, I don't consider HO or N gauge "scale train equipment" as toys. I believe they are "model railroads". That does not mean "O" gauge cannot survive on AC or DC, and the number of rails is not important until you consider the facts.
FACT 1: Either track (2 rail or 3 rail) can carry AC/DC or BOTH (at the same time). Some "electric trains" can operate on AC or DC. Some can operate very well on BOTH!!
FACT 2: Two rail track requires insulated car trucks and insulated power pickups (through the wheels) for both AC or DC. Small gauge DC devices must have proper poliarity to operate correctly.
FACT 3: Positive DC turns a DC motor "forward", while Negative DC turns the motor "reverse". AC, using a separated field motor coil, can select "forward" or "reverse" by switching the field coil. Permanent Magnet motors turn one direction unless the magnet field is reversed. That is the principal behind selective field motors.
FACT 4: Voltage is worthless without current. This is by electrical law a true statement. We measure WATTS (power) using the same formula for AC as DC, but AC is far more complex. The only way to calculate power is Volts times Current. Example: A 60 watt light bulb on 120 VAC requires 1/2 an amp (500 mA) to operate. A 60 watt light bulb on 12 VDC would require 5 AMP to operate. A train transformer that delivers 250 WATTS, operates on 120 VAC and requires 12.5 AMPS for full output. Calculate: 120 VAC times 12.5 AMPS = 250 WATTS!
FACT 5: Power loss (Voltage and Current) along transmissions lines (rail road track) is directly related to the conductor resistance. Silver is the best conductor, copper is next on the list then gold...at the bottom of the list is TIN. Understanding this is important for you Lionel "tin plate" railroaders. In order to overcome material loss, you should always deliver more power to the track when possible.
   Let us apply the theory:
We will be using AC on a THREE RAIL track system. The center rail is AC HOT and the OUTSIDE RAILS are NEUTRAL. Note that Lionel rolling stock has no insulated wheels outside rail to outside rail. Only the center rail is insulated. That is also true with the track. The TIN PLATE railroad ties are only insulated from the center rail. This can be very useful as you will see later on.




The computer and COMMAND CONTROL:
You must consider the Lionel Command Control system. These track control systems are available from select manufacturers including Lionel. The remote control operation is
unique in that it allows more than one train to be operated by more than one operator. Each has his/her own remote hand control and operates their locomotive as an engineer
on a single layout of track in any design.
The POST WAR before 1969 hardware can be converted to these systems, but it will be expensive. If your layout consists of 1945 to 1969 hardware you might consider
computer interface using older 8 BIT computers or USB controllers and the modern Windows LapTop.

There is more to come.
You must consider a computer interface for our layout. Sooner or later you want the enjoyment of programming your layout and actually watching the
results. This is a great way to involve a young computer student into the real world of computers. Outside of games, most young people care less about the inside working
of programming and application for "input/output" circuits. Database applications are fine for inventory of your equipment, but that is boring to tears for a young student.
This application, like robotics, teaches real world computer presentation and it challenges the mind.
You already have the trains, so why not the computer interface? Does this sound expensive yet? Well it does not have to be. If you look around at any flea market, changes
are you will find a Commodore C-64. These were very popular in the early 80's and this little 8BIT wonder is more than enough to run a Lionel layout of medium size.
You can pick up the computer for $50.00 with a disk drive for another $25 bucks and all you will need are a couple of inexpensive items for your interface.
On the other side of the coin, you can purchase a USB interface kit from Ramsey Electronics. These boards are inexpensive and they allow I/O interface via the USB port
on your "personal computer" or "laptop".
Programming the interface will be easier on the C-64, simply because the Commodore will speak "native basic" and requires no compiler. The PC will be a little faster in
operation, but the programming will require some structured language understanding.
I suggest you start with the C-64. The Commodore has an interface connector known as the "user port". This 16 BIT port is broken down into a couple of edge connectors
that support I/O directly to the address buses. This port can be accessed using a simple "basic" command: POKE to "output" (turn on a register) or PEEK to "input"
(read into a register) data to the I/O buses. Please take a moment and visit this page: The C64 User Port. This illustration shows you just how simple it is to control the
ON/OFF functions of 8 individual registers in the C-64 architectures. The flashing LED diodes indicates a 5VDC source that can be connected to small 5VDC relays
(available at Radio Shack) which can function as the switch momentary controller contacts. The C-64 can PEEK at these registers (56577) and read if there is activity which
could be analyzed to "throw a switch" or "halt a train". These functions are also done with simple 5VDC relays. Look here at a few Simple PEEK/POKE programs. The
registers for the C-64 "user port" are 56579 to POKE and 56577 a PEEK. If you POKE 56579 by 255 (0-255) you will turn on ALL registers. Likewise if you PEEK
56577, 255 you will look at all the INPUT lines at one time.
On your train layout...you would PEEK 56577 and look for a position where the train is on the layout. Sensors along the track send the data back to the USER PORT. If the
INPUT DATA on register 56577 shows active motion along the track, you may want the computer to "halt one train", "close one switch" and "open another". This is done
by POKE commands sent to the 56579 registers. This is where common sense and computer logic meet. You must use "human intervention" to explain to the computer what
must happen in a specific IF THEN situation. All this can be done in C-64 basic.
Note that the same can be accomplished using the USB interface board from Ramsey Electronics. The UK1104 4 Channel Relay Board with A/D interface can be programmed in
Visual Basic, C++, Java and other languages. This board comes with all you need, and adding additional boards is simple. This process requires more expensive computer equipment
but it eliminates need for relays and A-D (analog to digital) conversion circuits.
I have used both methods myself and find the C-64 computer easy to use and fun to program. You will need a disk drive or cassette deck to save the program. This can be a PIA
because these peripherals use old media that can be hard to find for purchase. The Ramsey board is a great interface and will make the over all hardware portion of the project
very easy. The instructions are good and you can test it directly inside a few moments as long as you understand the programming.
Either way...unless you do the modification above, the 6-12080 switches will not be compatible with a computer controlled layout.
I hope this technical article has helped you.
If you have questions...contact me at LOCOGUY71 "@" MyPOPmail.US

Schematics to be uploaded:
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Commercial Lighting:
  
In the world of make believe we often look for the most expensive way
out for realism...but in all reality, what is realism?? Especially to the on-looker.
In my case "on looking" comes through the eyes of children. After all, I do holiday
trains simply because my grandchildren like them. I have fun making something
out of old scrap or items laying around the shop that looks like reality, only in
miniature. For example...I use DRY WALL sanding screen in place of cyclone
fence. I will show you my baseball backstop (Little League) in the future. It
was "scratched" out of the sanding screen and vegetable skewers. What is neat
about the "backstop"...it does not require a scale. Most any configuration will do.
   In the image to the left, you see "flexible straws, LED diodes, and ornamental
washers". The straws come in various sizes as do the LED indicators. These
happen to be the normal "panel indicator" type, but they are high intensity and
they light up areas very bright. Generally I use them in pairs and wire them in
series. This affords the 14 VAC accessory voltage off most "Train Master" packs.
Use of a 1N4007 AC rectifier in series with the diodes and these puppies will
light your layout for many years. They draw no current to speak of and do not
become the slightest bit warm. You can use these in many tight places where you
don't want to place or replace incandescent lamps. The grain of wheat LED diodes
are very small and bright as well. Most are 12 VDC but you can find them in 5V
versions and excite them with a 3 or 4.5 VDC wall wart.
   Making them useful in scratch buildings is one thing, but LED diodes do not offer
the warm look of incandescent lamps, unless you work at it a little. As shown here
there are a few different sizes for "flexible straws". These can be used to create
lighting as shown here. Insert the LED wire leads into the straw and glue them into
place. Next glue a small "ornamental (decorative) washer" (CLICK HERE). These
are available at most hardware stores and Home Depot. The washers act like reflectors, similar to old commercial lighting that was used prior to the turn of the 21st century (before CFL).
These lamps can add realism and generate shadows to interior buildings, street scenes and landscape. Be sure that you choose the correct washer for the size straw and LED you use.
realism is in the shadow and the flooding of light onto a small area. Incandescent lamps just don't get the job done and they are always burning out. One thing to remember, when you
decorate the straws use permanent markers. Most model paint will destroy or at least distort the straw. I use DUCO Model Cement for this application because the DUCO does not
harm the straw like many plastic glues do. The silver painted unit in the image will be used in my "scratch built" engine house. They will hang (2) from the main roof beams. I am certain
they will generate shadows and look like reality to those little peeking eyes. This becomes fun stuff, because detailing interiors is now at a new art level, just let your imagination run wild.
   You can use high intensity LED diodes in your locomotives. They offer a brighter, sharper and more realistic running headlamp on an old 2056 or 685. Again, use a simple 1N4007 to
rectify the AC to DC. Adding a 1500 OHM resistor in series with the LED and you will insure longevity. You can replace the original lamps with LED replacements. These do work, but they are expensive and tend to have a short life in a locomotive application.
   Start saving energy (I have to laugh) by considering LED diodes on your layout.

Churchfield Consulting (1/2/14)
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The 2000 series SHEET METAL PASSENGER CARS.
 

Special Off-Site Link: A numeric number (and color scheme) index.
The finest collection of all passenger series came from the PRE-WAR and early POST WAR Lionel. These cars were elegant and came in three models, which included the
Pullman (6440) car, the rear Observation Deck (6441) car and a Mail/Baggage car. Of these the No. 2615 car was one of the hardest to find or recover.

This article covers the basics of the cars and how to restore them. They are very easy to dismantle and all
the parts "tab over" through slots for easy (but cautious) re-assembly. The car shown to the left is the later
of the series. The car itself has raised letters "Pullman" and the number. These cars also have the standard
coupler that was released in 1945/46 and became the standard for all Lionel sets. These cars replaced the
"mouse trap" couplers and "tin plate" truck assemblies that can be found on the PRE-1945 (Christmas) sets.
The early versions of the cars had inserts in the car so that nameplates could be "stamped" onto the car
and displayed where the "PULLMAN" stamp was later added. The car shown above is the 2442 in all BROWN.
   In order to explain the repair in detail I must tell you that the PRE-WAR couplers were sold in many sets after, and during the war. I was born in 1943 and my set of "green"
(2640/2641) cars had the "pre-war" (mouse-trap) box couplers, however my father bought the set for my brother. It was purchased in '42 during the war. My brother was
fatally injured in a car accident, and my father never displayed the trains until I was 5 years old (1948). The set was pulled by a 1666 Prairie Locomotive. Unfortunately, there
is not a decent website that I know of for identifying PRE-WAR Lionel sets in any gauge. I do display a No.140 set on this website.

   The illustration below shows a previously re-painted 2640 completely disassembled. I will show the detail restoration (as close a color scheme as I can find). I want a set
of "chocolate brown" shells with a "burgundy roof" and a "cream" window insert. The "brake box" will also be "burgundy". The scheme is similar to the 2440 series, but colors
will be brighter. I will modify the 2400-28 "window strip" and illuminate the cars using amber LED diodes.
   The car is shown in 5 basic pieces with the window shade and passenger insert (2448-28) window strip.
The non-silhouette insert is a 1" by 8 3/4" strip of Mylar plastic. To replace the original strip, simply use  a
pair of .015 clear plastic strips with a piece of white (or colored) paper sandwiched in the middle. You can
add window shades or silhouettes to match your taste. I will show you a couple of those that I have created. If
you have a "laser" printer available, print the strips at 300 DPI. This would be a 2700 pixel by 300 pixel
image in COLOR or B&W (600 DPI would double this size).
Ok, let's get to work...
There are five basic pieces to the car. all of these pieces use TAB/SLOT assembly. If you are rebuilding
the 6440 series, you will have a different shell, however the window inserts (3) are the same on any of these
shells. The 2600 roof unit (4) is interchangeable with the 2400 series cars. The "brake box" (1) will also
fit the new series. The "trucks" also are interchangeable, but the "mouse trap" cars sit a little farther apart
than the "standard coupler" units. I have modified a 2442 with a "standard coupler" on one end and the
"mouse trap" on the other. This allows me to interchange locomotives, tenders and mix "rolling stock"
with the passenger cars. It should be noted that not all of these cars came illuminated. You will have to
find trucks with "center rail" pickup that will match your cars and mate with your "tender".
Choosing a color scheme may be interesting. The GREEN series uses a two tone DARK/LIGHT scheme with a SOFT YELLOW window frame. You can best see this
on the off-site link I posted at the beginning of this article. I did "Google search" for the 2440 passenger car and never found the actual car on the Internet.
Shown here is the correct scheme, although the roofs are a bit brighter than original. The inserts are clearly marked
2640 and the shells have openings for the number plates and the PULLMAN inscription on the body side. The link here
displays the SET as sold in 1942. However the locomotive is a 2241 and not a 1666 as I remember the set. During the
war days, a lot of these trains sets were sold as "ala-cart" and that may be the reason my 2640's were pulled by a
1666 that was available after the war. The set displayed here is the NO. 140 from the Lionel Catalog of 1939. It is
sad to say that the lettering on my cars has all but rubbed away from storage in the original cartons. The cartons are
long gone so value of these cars is less than those pictured in the set. The 2224 Tender I have is in excellent shape
and the "whistle unit" plays with a sweet note. I will restore these cars as soon as I complete the conversion of the
blue unit set to the "brown scheme". Both these sets will be pulled by the 1666 when the restoration is completed. It should be mentioned that the BLUE  (2630) cars were pulled by the 1668E and the "scout" tender. They boasted the Marx (mouse  trap) couplers, although I do not think Marx had
a damn thing to do with it. The 2640 cars were done in the BROWN scheme, and I have also seen these in YELLOW, but never did I see the actual number on these cars.
Link to the 140 set: (opens in a new window). Link to the "electro-coupler" page (opens in a new window).

In the next installment...
I will select the colors in BROWN and BURGUNDY. The CREAM will be mixed from WHITE and YELLOW. This work will be done using a small "air brush". I will attempt
to number the window inserts using "dry transfer" technique, however the Lionel font is impossible to find on a "transfer" sheet. I will design my own "window strip" and add the
pictures here.

 You can click on this image to download the strip in a ZIP file. The image
  is a Photoshop PSD image in 300 DPI resolution. In order to create a LH
  image for opposing side, simply flip the image. Print and place behind the
  window frames in your passenger car. (not to scale)



I might add...these cars, in any condition are worth money.
Not many of the PRE WAR cars are posted on eBAY, but
I have managed to add to the collection this year. The
prices range from 25.00 to 250.00 plus. Displayed here
are the 2630 BLUE, 2640 GREEN and 2640 BROWN sets.
 

 

 


My personal color scheme:
This is my color scheme for "Church Field" and Haley's Corners.

The BURGUNDY over BUFF with ALMOND window inserts. All three cars are now running behind
a 1666/2466W tender. I have three (3) 1666 Locomotives, but only one tender. These units are
very rare and quite expensive. As you can tell, I am not a "scale junky" and I like to run period
Lionel trains with a vast array of color and personality.

The roof color is Rustoleum Burgundy with a "satin" look. The Almond and the Buff are Krylon.
I will add the detail as soon as I print the window strip.
I will also add my nameplate and numbers as soon as the dry transfers arrive.

BTW: I will be adding another window strip to this site soon.


Here is my complete set. The "Greens" are pretty much original. The "Blues" were repainted prior to purchase.
I will be re-painting the "blue set" soon. But for now I want to finish and detail the "Buff and Burgundy" cars
including the "observation" unit.
I am in need of three (3) "mouse trap" truck units with center rail pickup. These can have "black" or "stainless"
hot boxes. If you have a set, please contact me. I am getting leery of eBAY these days. This stuff is hard to find,
but matters become worse when the items you do find are not represented properly or you get out-bid by 10 cents
because some "bidding" application is beating you to the bid.

Have fun with your PRE-WAR passenger sets, and please, send me a picture of your personal color scheme.
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The TRESTLE BUILD project.
This is one of those time consuming projects that finishes off the layout long before the layout is finished. I mean, it becomes the center of attraction long before all other detail is added to the layout. The TRESTLE systems of today are made up of bridge steel and girder design. There is a lot of material from companies like Plastruct and a limited smattering of others. If you are in the hobby, you know there is only one real supplier (period). The plastic girder, I-beams, L-beams and small construction parts available will allow you to make a living example of an Iron and Steel bridge and trestle. One must note...this will be expensive and time consuming.
You can always use a stock Lionel 111 trestle set. The 111 will raise your track about five inches above the table top and all at one level. There is a graduated system as well (110). Lionel also made a series of bridges. The No. 317 was very popular and was manufactured between 1945 and 1969. They bring decent dollars at most shows and swap-meets.
   To the right...is an image of the first section of my trestle system. This was designed from a "five" post trestle that was covered on the Internet and in a recent "TRAINS" magazine. There are a few of these style trestle systems available in kit and pre-fab units. They range in price, but the "bass wood" units are the best bargain costing about $4.00 each.
   You can build the "five" post system like these for about $2.00 each. That price affords your "O" scale system to be 28 scale feet high per tier. The Revell Basswood products are available on-line or at many retailers like Michael's Crafts. Here you can get Bass and Balsa wood in many sizes for the project. Obviously the higher the trestle the more expensive it must be. But, the over all consideration for safety and structure reliability ends on the total design. My upper tier track is "027" and will be the main line for the "Haley Mountain Iron and Coal" system pulled by a 1666E. The locomotive is cast and from the late 40's. The trestle must be capable of carrying the locomotive and no less then 12 ore cars with caboose. The lower layout is "O" gauge. Note that some of the track is K-line "027" Super. This stuff is nice, but hard to find. Got any???
When it comes to TRACK and TRESTLE, you must layout your design first and then apply the system later. I chose to use a 3" wide Luan base form for the track and build up from there. This will add stability. The "Super O" track is far stronger and will not need a base. Since the ballast was not used on trestles, the "Super O" is by far superior to "027". I do not have the pocket expense capability of "Super" and it is hard to find these days.
   In real RR trestle design the ties were part of the tier construction. That is the correct design, and if you are a perfectionist, that is the only way to go. As you can tell my system is simple and to most visitors not an issue.
One thing should be noted...
Do not become a perfectionist with this project. Trestles were not perfect. They were, in many cases patched and repaired over the years of use. Try to capture that aging as you build the system. Lack of perfection will not take away from your finished product.

 Here is the RIO GRANDE style trestle. This image is actually eight inches high, so you can copy it from here and print
it out for design. Note the total height here is 36 feet or 9" in "O" gauge.
The design uses a 4 over 6 post with cross stringers. The posts are 1/4 by 1/4 bass wood. These come in 36 inch length
for about $2.00 each. In scale money, that would be 3 - 12 foot 8 inch by 8 inch posts for about 70 cents each. Not bad!!
The Sills, Caps and Sway Braces are 1/4 by 1/8 bass wood and will require 10 cuts for each tier. Depending on your height,
this could be the larger expense. I chose bass wood for these pieces, but balsa could be used.
  This design is not the only way to go. A straight 5 post unit is shown below and like mine, these are easier to make and
if you look at real world systems, you will find these were popular for 15 to 30 foot ranges. I believe the stability in the
5 post system is actually a bit better, especially when the bottom Sill is wider than the Rio Grande style.
  As you can see from the image to the right...this is what an older trestle
system would look like after years of UV rays and weather. Notice the
repair. This is a basic 4 post system and would look great on your "O"
gauge layout. Note that the sway braces run parallel to each other and are
not "crossed braced" like displayed to the left.
  You can just about use your imagination, but don't be exclusive. Real
railroads just were not made that way. Want more examples?? Bing,
images "Railroad Wooden Trestle System". You will get a face full of design
ideas and a lot of details on aging and modification to suit your needs and
your realistic pocket book.

 

 

 

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Saving Money on Landscape Dressing.
  One problem we seem to have is spending a small fortune on "diorama" supplies. Basic kits can cost up to $25.00 and only cover a small square foot area on a 100 square foot layout...do the math!!!
  The trick is to make the supplies yourself. Roll your own grass. Grow your own trees, create you own rocks, lakes and water falls. Basically model your layout and cut back on using your bank roll.
  Let us start with the basic...all that saw dust you sweep away, all those coffee grounds and tea leaves you toss into the garbage, well start by saving that stuff. Most all of you purchase meat from a super...those styrafoam trays, keep them, use them as drying pans for your used coffee grounds or tea leaves. Dry the organics you use daily. Ask your relatives and friends to help. In a very short period of time you will have plenty of basic material to create with.
2 ounces for 6 bucks!!!  Grass...let's compare...you can purchase a few ounces of grass like material for $5.99 or purchase water color based paint, a strainer or two and prepare all types of grass and ground cover for your complete layout. The cost for paint and strainers comes to about $10.00...but you can reproduce more than 25 bags of grass from one bottle of "water color" based paint.
BTW: If you are willing to spend $6.00 on two ounces of paint...fake water paint, you don't need this article!!
  Trees...anything will work...do you eat fresh grapes?? Save the stems, they make great tree branches. You can spray paint them as desired and use large sawdust material for foilage. You can even use organics like tea leaves for the foilage. Unless you are trying to reproduce the Black Forest, you can allow your imagination to run "out of control". Don't worry...if you don't like the results...dispose of it properly and you are not out a small fortune.
  Sawdust is the base of most all landscape products we purchase. Some suppliers also use ground cork or even ground sand stone. But the basic product we have been using for hundreds of years remains...sawdust. If you do not have a wood shop, you are probably "buying" your way through the hobby. Even so, you must know a neighbor, friend or relative who has a small shop. That person generates a lot of sawdust and is more than willing to give it away. You can get your base material from cabinet shops, carpenters or hobbyists...they are all willing to give. The stuff is a hazard and a real time consuming nightmare keeping it in check.
  Ok, enough bullshit...lets make some grass...
First you will need some sawdust, lets start with a few cups of the stuff. How and where you get sawdust is up to you. If you are into a permanent layout, chances are you have a hew tools for woodwork. That means you have sawdust. There is no special type or special wood...pine, oak, ash, maple...it is all the same. But there are different applications and different "strains" of sawdust. Depending on the tool, sawdust can be too fine or so course that it will not pass through your strainer. Let's take a cup of sawdust and refine it for the color process. Use a styrofoam plate under your strainer to gather the sawdust. You will use these plates over again the the process.
First you will need strainers...not just one, two or three will be needed. You can buy these is different sizes. The largest will be a sink strainer, just about anything will pass through this screen, so you use it last in the process. Always start your strain process with the smallest filter and advance to the largest in the last step.
  Step one would be the tea strainer or flour strainer, complete the straining and what remains in the basket goes to the next larger strainer...and so on. Yes, you can use a "flour sifter". These items are available at flea markets or on eBAY for less than 5 bucks. They often come with multiple strainer filters that are placed in the bottom of the basket. Soup or "spider" skimmers work as well, although they are rather course. The flat "pot strainer" is a good choice, they are large and work great for application of the finished product. If you are lucky enough to have a set of "laboratory sieves" you are really in business.
   Straining is all about the "mesh" and that mesh size can be important. You are working in 1:48 scale for "O" gauge diorama, so a 10 micron filter may be a little too fine for most sawdust. On the other hand, you can make a real nice "general ground cover" strainer out of any size piece of window screen. I leave the design up to your imagination, but a 10 by 10 inch flat screen strainer works very well. I prefer the 8 inch round PVC pipe strainer made from door screen.
   Ok, you should have about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of fine sawdust ready to color...please don't sneeze!! Transfer your sawdust into a plastic jar. It will only require a small amount of "water based" paint to color your sawdust. Basic colors are White, Black, Green, Yellow, Brown and Red. There are several places you can purchase these paints. I like the "Artist's Loft" brand sold at Michael's craft stores. "Crayola" also sells a really good water based paint, although it is a little more expensive.
   As I said you will only need a few drops, so splash a few into the jar along with your sawdust. Close the lid and shake violently. The color  should begin to take effect. Now open the jar (mixing device) and with a pencil, a small 1/4 inch dowel rod or even a spoon, stir the sawdust till all the paint has been absorbed. You can adjust your color now by adding or mixing shades of paint. Continue the process till you have a jar full of colored sawdust. if you have done your job, all the sawdust will be colored to one depth or another. Remember that some wood bi-products (sawdust) reacts to this process better than others. As an example Pine will become deep colored and fluffy, while Oak will not "stain" as easily and will remain heavy or gritty. This allows you to adjust your material as needed. A green colored Pine dust will look great as grass, while a larger strain of Oak, stained black will add a nice touch to railroad bed.
TIP: You can use a large or medium sawdust for leaves (brown, green, red, yellow) on branches made of dried grape stems. Don't rule out those dried flower branches!!
   So now you simply poor the jar of colored sawdust back out onto that styrofoam plate. Spread it out evenly around the plate. Now place it into your micro-wave and, at high heat, give it about 15 seconds. Remove the plate let cool and spread the sawdust around one more time. Now repeat in the micro-wave for another 15 - 20 seconds. remove the plate and let stand for about half an hour. That is all there is to it. The process can save a lot of money and you can make a large freezer bag of the dust in about two hours. Fun part, let your family members join in. Everything cleans up with water and the dust is not chemically dangerous. Some of the commercial stuff can be toxic...yours is all generic and environment safe. Remember, the finished product is flammable, although the paint has increased the kindling point safe enough for train layout applications.
Tea Leaves and Grape Stems for Foilage.
   The real world does not look like a model, in fact the real world is a place of wonder and art, a place where treasure and trash co-exist. No two trees are alike, just as no two animals are alike. Even twins, as identical as they are, have some insignificant differences. These subtle differences may show up in personality traits, such as likes and dislikes. I am not going to get into genetics, I am no expert, not even close, but here are the basic facts. Twins are created from two basic principles. The first is the "egg that splites in two" and the second is the "single sperm that that fertilizes multiple eggs". Trees and plants form from one seed. An Apple tree cannot render an identical twin any more than a Rose. Animals like humans are often identical to some degree, but domestic animals like Dogs are rarely identical, even if their genetic makup is.
   Now that I have wasted your time, I want you to think about all those items you place on your diorama layout. Much of your layout looks the same because the items you use come from a bag, a mold or an assembly line. That is the problem. We either over-indulge in hobby shop essentials as we attempt to create a world of "perfect sense and being"...that is not art, that is not a painting, that is simply not life.
   I have seen hundreds of train platforms, many of them are based upon "collections". I might state, these layouts are amazing. One such layout exists here in Pittsburgh. The single greatest collection of "standard gauge" trains is here in my town. This long time collector is John DeSantis and he has a world reknown collection including Lionel, American Flyer, Ives, Dorfan and others. The collection is worth hundred's of thousands (perhaps more) and a few of the pieces are worth as much as $100,000.00 alone. The DeSantis display is not that of a diorama, it is a collection of "toy trains" dating back to 1900. All the pieces are original as they were when added to the museum. They have not been touched up or modified in any way. This is a real collectors dream.
Note: A link for more information.
   Other layouts are "fun-to-run displays" or "under-the-tree, Christmas layouts". Many of these stand out as models of the mind and are valued for visible operation and originality. There are several "club and organization" layouts that combine functional operation with detail and artistic value. These layouts offer several different approaches to "model railroading" and the theme is  a general adoption to a set of "by-laws" that can limit artistic value. Rules always get in the way of artistic interpretation.
   Then there are the "don't touch, don't run" layouts that are so scaled and detailed that "fun" is replaced with "political correctness". There is very little room for artist rendition, but a whole lot of "perfection", for the sake of "over-officuous transcendence". For instance "imperfection" comes in the form of "exact scale", If it ain't "scale perfect" it is inferior. Most of these layouts are displayed behind glass in a near perfect environment.
   Sorry...my layout is a combination of all...I am not a true collector. I like to buy older toy trains that have been discarded. I like rebuilding and modifying the original to fit my dream...my personal little world. I kit bash!!! I cut and paste!!! I make my world out of what is left over from so many others.
    In this section, I am going to show you how I generate a scene for my layout. I have chose to build the layout into a Fall setting. I like colors and I have always enjoyed the "Fall foilage' as seen here in Western Pennsylvania in October and early November. I have seen and priced some Fall foilage items available from hobby suppliers. They are drab in color and offer little Autumn excitement if any at all. In my case, they are priced out of my budget, it would cost hundreds of dollars to render one third of my display. I find no Autumn products that look like Fall...none!
   I want my Fall foilage to look like this, so I started to look for the best way to recreate this view without destroying my very limited budget. I began by looking for a natural tree like trunk with random branches I could trim to fit my style. I started with dried weed branches and some of these will be used, but the bext item I found that has strength and likeness, while measuring up to an "O" (1:48) gauge scale setting. My choice became dried grape stems. Yes I ate a lot of grapes last Summer and when they are reasonable in price, I eat them out-of-season as well. I carefully dry these vines and select individual stems for trimming and painting.
   As I said, I start with selection and trim. I use a small set of nail-clippers and carefully shape the fine. I then paint the vine (stem) using different browns and blacks. I use spray paint, but I have also hand brushed on some highlights when I feel artistic. Most "dead" trees will have a dark bark with gray stains when the bark has fallen off. These trees can be seen along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Somerset. In the Fall, this is one of the most amazing displays of nature. No two trees are alike and no two displays are the same...year to year!! You willl see dead, white/gray spears protruding through colored branches. Oak vines cling to these stems adding a blanket of green over yellows and reds. It is a natural wonder that only lasts a few weeks every year.
   To continue, I use a spray of Elmer's clear glue on the vine. Now I "flake" on my combination of "tea leaves" and dried "bay leaves". I have experimented with stained "cracker crumbs" and other dried seasonings. Yes they work as well. Most anything all organic will require clear coatings to keep the colors from fading. I apply thin coats of "yellow", "red", "orange" and "brown" enamel sprays. Very thin and very careful to maintain color on the tops as natural foilage would appear. Mixing colors is fun and the results are incredible. I sometimes go over and over alternating "spray glue" and "tea leaves" to increase the density of the foilage. The results are satisfying.
   You can use different adhesives as well. Some of the automotive sprays buy 3M will actually spray with a vine effect over the branches. This effect looks great after it has dried and painted. Perfect for those dead trees that no one ever seems to use in their diorama. Dead is a way of life and it should be part of the chaos. There is no such thing as a perfect world. The artist must remember that some portions of the scene are dense with trees and ground foilage thickets where animals live. There are open spaces too, but in diorama art, nature should not pre-determine your scale or vision...you do!!







Sand Stone for real Mountain Terrain.
  Organic landscape is the best...if you live in an area where "sand stone rock formations" can be found, you are in luck.

More to come...