Year 2000 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2000 update - page bottom]

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January 2000 -- Preliminary work has begun on the lower level layout expansion. This will be the final lower level expansion short of knocking down a room wall! The train maintenance and repair station has been moved into the control panel area in the center of the layout room. It fit in fairly well after re-positioning the auxiliary transformer table. The layout expansion will go where the train repair station was moved from and will be approximately 4' x 4'. Plans for this new layout area call for a switching yard and display shelving under the table. This should enable me to display (either on the layout or shelves) the remainder of my collection still in boxes. Obtained a Lionel # 350 Engine Transfer Table to use either in the new yard area or in the smaller, original yard on the other side of the layout. Am in the process of cleaning and testing the Transfer Table.

February 2000 -- The # 350 Transfer Table was cleaned up and tested OK. The 4' x 4' layout table expansion has been constructed (table top and legs). Am figuring out how to do the shelves that will go underneath it. The table will be painted and tracks laid after the shelves are completed and installed. I unexpectedly picked up an original prewar # 300 Lionel Hell Gate Bridge at a train meet this month, so I am planning to extend the upper level of the layout to accommodate it.

March 2000 -- Completed work on the display shelving that will fit underneath two sides of the 4' x 4' layout expansion. I will have 5 shelves on each side that are almost 4' in length (20' of shelving on each side or 40' total). The third side of the expansion will have table skirting and the fourth side is connected to the present layout where the postwar # 182 Magnet Crane used to be. One shelf will have a display light as the room lighting does not shine directly on that spot. Also completed some peripheral table brace and trim work. Purchased some additional O gauge track for the expansion. The next step will be to paint the table to match the rest of the layout. Am exploring the switch (turnout) choices for the yard.

April 2000 -- The new layout table extension was painted green to match the layout. The under table shelving was permanently installed and a display light put in on the set of shelves that needed extra lighting. Have found the display light also illuminates the area under the layout, thus making it easier to see and work. The remaining table skirting was installed and the last of the trim pieces nailed in place. The only thing left to do on the table construction is to paint the trim pieces orange to match the rest of the layout trim. My whole collection is now out of the boxes and on display! It has been a few years since I could last say that. I've been trying out different track configurations to see what would work the best to link the older part of the layout with the new. Right now it looks like I will connect my existing 3 siding yard with the new yard via a 45 degree crossover of the O gauge main line. The # 350 Transfer Table will be installed in the 3 siding yard to shuttle locomotives and rolling stock between the tracks there. The new yard will area will be smaller than I originally envisioned. That is because I plan to extend the main line into the new extension. I am planning to use traditional Lionel 022 switches that I already had to make three different sidings in the new section. The postwar # 182 Magnet Crane will go between two of these sidings.

May 2000 -- With the arrival of summer-like weather and a back yard fence project demanding my attention, not a great deal of progress was made on the layout this month. The last of the table trim pieces was painted, so the table construction is complete. The track plan for the extension is still in flux. The 022 switches that I will be using needed some repair parts before they could be installed. These parts were obtained at a train meet this month and the switches now work correctly. I feel confident that the track plan will fall into place once I get some quality time to spend on it.

June 2000 -- This month's update is a tribute to my Dad, who died this month. Dad got me started in this hobby by giving me my first train set when I was three years old. He also built my first toy train layout. I have many memories of running and maintaining the trains with him in those early years. In later years he enjoyed seeing the growth of my collection and layout. His encouragement and wisdom helped me throughout my life. Thanks Dad, for everything.

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July 2000 -- The track plan for the layout table extension is firming up. I installed the # 350 Transfer Table into the existing three siding yard. The three siding yard was modified into a two siding yard to accomodate the Transfer Table. I then connected the two siding yard to the main line via a 45 degree crossover and O22 switch. I also added two sidings in the new layout extension. One siding has an operating track for the automatic merchandise and dump cars. The other siding will be for parking rolling stock and perhaps for a future accessory. For the moment, the postwar # 182 magnetic crane is stationed on the main line, but may be moved to a siding later. At the far end of the table extension there are three display tracks for locomotives and rolling stock. I will need to obtain a pair of O72 switches for the upper level track extension. Hope to obtain those in August at the Toy Train Operating Society national convention.

August 2000 -- Finished installing and wiring the three O22 switches and controllers in the new section of the layout. Also completed the wiring for the operating track and magnetic crane. The magnetic crane is stationed along a track curve so that it can load/unload two gondolas at a time without moving the train. Lighted bumpers were installed at the ends of the sidings where needed. Have started to add scenery (shrubs and trees) to the lower level expansion. I did obtain a pair of O72 switches for the upper level track extension, but have not installed them yet. Also obtained a replacement end cap for the Lionel # 300 prewar Hell Gate Bridge, which will be installed into the upper level expansion.

September 2000 -- I installed the O72 switches into the upper level track. The Hell Gate Bridge was placed into the upper level so that it spans the walkway going into the center of the layout. I made two rectangular wooden risers to support the bridge on either end and painted the wood gray to make it look like concrete. I may eventually change one or both of the risers into a mountain. The Hell Gate Bridge replacement end cap was spray painted and fitted into place on the bridge. I measured and cut the plywood road bed for the new upper level extension as well as the wood dowels that will support it. The upper level extension is now in place, but needs to be permanently attached to the layout with screws.

October 2000 -- I secured the upper level layout extension in place with a combination of wood glue and screws. The upper level track bed was painted gray to match the rest of the upper level. After the paint dried, I screwed down the track and attached track lockons to use for the wiring connections. I decided to use three different track power blocks in the upper level. This enables me to use either the full loop main line that crosses the Hell Gate Bridge or the shorter loop utilizing the gray trestle bridge. I can also leave one of my prewar streamliners that is not being used in a "dead" block for display. When I got to the big testing moment and powered up the upper level, my TrainMaster indicated that a short circuit was present. I turned off the power to the new upper level block to see if the original loop was still functioning. It was, so I knew the problem was somewhere in the new section. I started by checking for any errant metal that could have been left on track during construction that would cause the short. Finding none, I then checked each track section for any damaged or missing insulators for the center rail. I always use good used Lionel tubular track in my layout and have never had any problem with it. However, I purchased two new sections of 72" curve track from a local hobby shop since I just needed two sections to complete my project and didn't want to wait for the next train show to obtain used track. Well, guess what, one of the new sections I purchased had not one but two damaged insulators that was causing the short! After correcting this problem, my prewar Lionel # 250 Milwaukee Road Hiawatha streamliner was the first train to steam across the Hell Gate Bridge!! It was truly gratifying to watch after my last 10 months of efforts.

November 2000 -- I obtained and installed a Lionel # 12936 Southern Pacific intermodal crane into the new lower level section of my layout. The crane can load and unload intermodal containers and truck trailers from railroad flatcars or tractor trailers. This is an accessory with lots of play value. To make room for the intermodal crane I had to move the postwar Lionel # 182 Magnet Crane a bit further down the track. While I had the magnetic crane off the layout, I completely lubed the crane gears and oiled the motor. The magnetic crane can be a very noisy accessory when the lubrication wears off! I also cleaned the reversing unit of my Lionel prewar Hiawatha streamliner when it abruptly stopped working during an operating session. Now that the major part of the layout expansion is complete I will be concentrating on smaller layout details and maintenance of locomotives and rolling stock that I had put off during the expansion project.

December 2000 -- Added more trees and bushes to the new layout expansion. Enjoyed operating the trains this month after putting in all the work on the layout expansion this year. Happy New Year to one and all!

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