Year 2001 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2001 update - page bottom]

Updates by year:  2011     2010     2009     2008     2007     2006     2005     2004     2003     2002     2000

January 2001 -- More animals, people, road signs, vehicles, and trees were added to the layout this month. Most of these items were holiday presents. I had a couple of requests for weekend operating sessions from people who were interested in seeing the layout changes I made in the past year. I'm always happy to run the trains for anyone who asks! I am planning to build a small mountain complete with a tunnel for the trains somewhere on the layout. Right now I am putting the tunnel portals in various places on the layout to get a feel for where the mountain would look the best.

February 2001 -- I added a lighted garden arbor to the farm on the layout. It looks quite nice when lit up at night. Am still experimenting with the tunnel portals. I thought that either end of the Hell Gate Bridge would be perfect for a mountain, but there are track switches on the lower layout level that would be covered up and thus be inaccessible for any needed maintenance or repair.

March 2001 -- My website celebrated two milestones this month. My toy train layout has been featured on the web for 2 years and also had its 15,000th visitor! The number of people stopping by to view my cyberspace train layout has far exceeded my expectations. Thanks to all who've contributed to its success. Some time ago a neighbor's friend had given me a small mountain that had been on their son's train layout. I had forgotten about it until I was looking for something underneath the layout table and came across it. I put it on the layout where the reversing loop is located. I also shot a video clip of a postwar freight running on the lower layout level. This is the second layout video that I've posted to the website.  See my Video page for available videos.

April 2001 -- This month's update is late in getting posted because I was away touring the southwestern U.S. I did manage to stop into a train shop along the way and purchase a Lionel # 153IR infrared controller. I have many trackside crossing gates and signals that I haven't wired yet and would like activated when a train passes. Hopefully this will be the motivation I need to get them all wired. Before I left on my trip I did manage to install and wire a couple of boulevard lamps to illuminate the upper level switches.

May 2001 -- I wired the Lionel # 153IR controller into the O27 main line loop of the lower layout level. It now controls two postwar highway crossing gates - one on either side of the track. When the train goes by the infrared controller, which is located down the track from the crossing gates, the gates lower before the train arrives at the crossing. Because of the adjustable time delay feature in the controller the gates remain down until the end of the train is well past the road crossing. It works really well. So well that I visited my local train shop and purchased two more for other trackside signals! While installing the controller I noticed the main line tracks were in need of a good cleaning so I spent a couple of hours one night on this task. I don't purchase special track cleaning fluid to clean Lionel tinplate track. Many years ago I went to a train shop to purchase track cleaning fluid. The shop was out of fluid, but one of the employees there told me to use Windex glass cleaner. He stated that track cleaner was merely reformulated Windex. I don't know if this is true, but ever since that time I have used glass cleaner to keep my track clean.

June 2001 -- I connected a postwar Lionel # 151 Semaphore signal to the Lionel # 153IR infrared controller that controls the two crossing gates. Now when a train passes the controller it lowers the gates and changes the semaphore signal from green to red. I also wired another Lionel # 153IR into the upper level track of my layout. This # 153IR controls a postwar Lionel # 140 automatic banjo signal. I am planning to install a third # 153IR controller on the lower level to activate a postwar Lionel # 145 automatic gateman. This month I also examined my Lionel # 6448 Target Range Car. This boxcar has a spring inside that, when triggered by a projectile striking the side of the car, will cause the car to "explode." My boxcar was missing the lock-pin that slides through the roof of the car to prevent the spring from being accidentally triggered, such as when the car is in motion. I was able to fashion a lock pin out of a straight section of a vinyl coated metal coat hangar. The diameter of the coat hanger turned out to be a perfect fit and I can now move the car around the layout without having to worry about it "exploding" accidentally.

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July 2001 -- Operated my hybrid Lionel # 773 1964 postwar Hudson steam locomotive with the more desirable 1950 tender on the broad 72" diameter curves of the upper level track. I decided to test the pulling power of this engine by putting all 24 of my Lionel # 6464 post-war boxcars behind it along with a lighted caboose at the end of the train. Before starting I lubricated the rolling stock by putting a drop of oil between each wheel and axle. When all the cars were lubricated and on the track I slowly applied power. After a momentary slippage of the drivers the # 773 started pulling the boxcars around the layout. A couple of the boxcars had weak couplers that opened with the weight of the train. I put these two boxcars at the end of the train and that solved the problem. I added a few drops of liquid smoke to the smoke generator and that engine was smokin' around the layout with all those boxcars in tow! What a sight!! I also did a repair on my Lionel # 2332 Pennsylvania GG-1 electric locomotive. The e-unit (reversing unit) was not cycling properly so I disassembled the locomotive and found the e-unit drum and contacts to be dirty. I carefully cleaned these parts with cotton swabs saturated with denatured alcohol. After tightening some loose screws in the motor truck and some minor cleaning I put the locomotive back together. The locomotive went from forward to neutral to reverse as good as new after cycling the e-unit a few times.

August 2001 -- Took a summer break from the layout this month to catch up on non-train related things. I did manage to put together a "to do" list of future layout and maintenance projects. One of the things I am planning to do is add a dedicated track for my small motorized units, such as the Lionel # 52 Fire Car, # 54 Ballast Tamper, and the # 55 Tie-Jector. I also decided to make my first "pilgrimage" this October to the "Mecca" of toy train collecting - York, Pennsylvania. I've always wanted to attend this meet, but never felt the time was right. I recently received the York registration packet in the mail from the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division and just decided to finally go for it! Am really looking forward to the "York experience."

September 2001 -- I found toy trains to be good therapy and a great temporary escape from the coverage of our country's recent terrible events. With that in mind, I began working on the dedicated track for the small motorized units in my collection. After getting some track laid and hooked to a transformer, I found that most of the motorized units were in need of some maintenance as it had been awhile since they were run. Its easy to tell on most of these units when maintenance is needed as the gear noise becomes very loud and progress down the track seems strained. I completely disassembled and lubed the # 55 Tie-Jector. Before I could lube the other motorized units, a friend of mine who runs a local train shop called and said that he had gotten in a few items on consignment. After seeing what he had, I purchased a Lionel Civil War General set, # 2348 Minneapolis & St. Louis GP-9, and a pre-war # 262 steamer. All were in need of a good cleaning and some maintenance, but were in otherwise very good condition. Having a good relationship with your local train shop proprietor does pay dividends!

October 2001 -- One word can describe this month's update - "York." Those who have been to the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division twice yearly toy train meet in York, Pennsylvania know what I mean. It is trains, trains, and more trains. This was my first York meet, so I went with a list of things I "needed" for the layout and managed to find virtually everything on it. A couple of items I had been looking 20 years for!! It was also great to finally visit the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. Representatives from the major toy train manufacturers were there to talk about their latest offerings. And, of course, just hanging out for a time with other people that share the same interest in toy trains was really fun. All in all, it was a very memorable week. In future updates I'll talk about my specific acquisitions as they are added to the layout.

November 2001 -- Added a Lionel # 840 prewar Power Station and a postwar culvert loader and unloader set to the layout. These items were acquisitions I made at the York train meet. I installed the Power Station on the upper level of my layout by screwing an appropriately sized sheet of plywood to the top of four wood dowels that I had screwed into the lower layout level. By doing it this way, I did not have to disturb anything on the lower layout level to make room for this rather large accessory. Additionally, the Power Station matches up well with the Hell Gate Bridge that is also on the upper layout level. The culvert loader and unloader set fit in nicely at the end of the layout where I had installed the dedicated track for the small motorized units (see September 2001 update above). After a few minor adjustments, both the loader and unloader worked very well. I am in the process of taking new photos of my train layout and hope to have them on my web site by year end.

December 2001 -- The new photos of my toy train layout are now posted on this website. I will eventually be adding explanatory narrative to each photo. I enjoyed running the trains this month. December is a month that I traditionally do a lot of operating. I even set up amd ran a train near the Christmas tree in the living room this year. Wishing everyone an abundance of trains in the New Year!

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