Year 2004 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2004 update - page bottom]

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January 2004 -- Celebrated the beginning of the new year in Hawaii. Other than the usual tourist attractions, I visited the Oahu Railway museum. This museum is dedicated to the historical preservation of the old sugar cane and military railroads that once operated on the island. Museum volunteers also operate the only active railroad on Oahu, taking passengers along the coast for an hour and a half scenic round-trip on Sundays. While in Hawaii, I also found a craft store that sold toy trains as a sideline business. I was able to procure three prewar passenger cars and some postwar Lionel billboards for my collection. It was nice to take home some toy train souvenirs from Hawaii! Back on the home front, I completed the platform for, and installation of, the Lionel prewar # 117 station on the upper level of my layout. Added a couple of Lionel gooseneck streetlamps (one on each side of the # 117 station). Combined with the illumination from the bulb in the station, the streetlamps really light up the scene at night. I plan to take some new layout photos in the next month or two to update the ones already on my website. This station scene will be in one of the new photos.

February 2004 -- I took some new toy train layout photos and posted them on my current layout web pages. I now have 3 web pages with 12 thumbnail photos each for a total of 36 layout photos. I shot the photos after I took my entire train collection off the layout and train shelves, dusted each item, and rearranged them back on the layout and shelves. It was a chore that was done over a span of three days. I also added some new items to the layout: a pre-war tinplate Marx Grand Central Station, Robert's Train Emporium (created using the drawing toolbar in Microsoft Word), Robert's Model Trains (was "Roger's" Model Trains when purchased at a local craft store, but modified by me to read "Robert's"), and a Marx block signal for the trolley line. One other item added after the photos were taken was a Lionel postwar # 282 Gantry Crane. After purchasing the crane last year, I stored it under my layout and forgot about it. Re-discovered it while I was doing some under layout wiring. Before placing it on my layout, I cleaned and oiled the motor, lubed the gears, and cleaned off accumulated gunk on the clutch shaft and spring. There were a couple of broken plastic cab pieces that I repaired using epoxy. I fashioned a track for the crane wheels to ride on from an extra long K-Line O27 track piece found in one of my track boxes. I pried up the middle track rail and then, using a metal cutting wheel in my Dremel Moto-Tool, I separated the two outer rails by cutting the connecting track ties in half. After smoothing off the metal burrs on the track ties with a file, I used the crane as a guide for placement of the rails in my Transfer Table yard. After getting the spacing of the rails correct, I attached them to my layout with small wood screws. The crane was placed on the rails and the crane controller mounted to the side of the train table. Wiring was completed and the crane was ready for action.

March 2004 -- Purchased a new price guide and proceeded to re-value my toy train collection for insurance purposes. Did this over a span of several days. The last time I updated the values for my entire collection was about 5 years ago. Overall, I found that values had not drastically changed during that time. I also obtained some new items that were added to the inventory list. These included a Lionel postwar # 623 Santa Fe diesel switcher, # 1615 steam switcher, # 6468 B&O Automobile boxcar, # 6343 Barrel Ramp Car, # 308 boxed Railroad Sign Set, and a modern era # 12782 operating Lift Bridge. Am in the process of servicing the switchers and rolling stock for use on the layout. Hope to have the Lift Bridge installed and operating in the next month or two, time permitting.

April 2004 -- Before testing the # 12782 Lift Bridge, I needed to clear my maintenance area of another project. I've had a Lionel postwar # 175 Rocket Launcher on the layout for several years with some broken/missing plastic posts and railings on the base and tower. Recently, the rocket launching mechanism in the base refused to fire, so I had to take it off the layout for service. I decided to repair the posts and railings at the same time. I looked over the existing posts and railings carefully and purchased some strips of styrene plastic from my local toy train hobby shop that were the same diameter and shape. Cutting the styrene to match the missing pieces, I glued the cut pieces into place over a period of several evenings, thus allowing the glue to dry before working on the next section. After the posts and railings were repaired, I painted them with Floquil's "SP Lettering Gray", which was a close match to the original color. Once this job was completed, I began preliminary testing and site work for the Lift Bridge. Next month I will describe the testing and installation process.

May 2004 -- My website hosted its 100,000th visitor this month. I had no idea when I first started this site in March 1999 that it would become so popular. Thanks to all who have visited. On the layout, I completed testing and installation of the Lionel # 12782 Operating Lift Bridge. One of the flashing strobe lights on top of the bridge superstructure was burned out, so I ordered a replacement from Lionel. On the initial test of the bridge, the center span raised but would not lower. Upon inspection of the mechanism inside the bridge tower, I found one of the lines that raised the center span of the bridge had come off its pulley. The line was reset and the bridge tested fine. I picked a straight section of the upper level layout to install the bridge. Existing track was removed and a piece of plywood track bed was cut out and removed. Wider sections of the plywood were installed at either end of the bridge to accomodate the bridge approaches. After setting the bridge in place, it was tested once again before final installation. I had to cut two special size pieces of track for the bridge approaches to get the track properly aligned. I also replaced a modern O72 switch on the upper level that had a cracked base with a vintage prewar Lionel # 711 O72 switch. When the bridge is raised, power is automatically cut to the track sections leading to the bridge to ensure trains stop well away from the edge. Overall, I'm very pleased with the bridge look and operation.

June 2004 -- Decided that "Robert's Train Emporium", which I wrote about in the February 2004 update, needed a parking lot for their customers. I had used black construction paper in the past for roads and parking areas, but it didn't look realistic enough to me. Poking around the garage, I came across some black sandpaper. Thought it would look like asphalt on the layout, so I cut a piece to fit. I was pleased with the look, so I created another parking area for the postwar Lionel # 132 passenger station. This station is located just across the trolley tracks from the "Emporium", so I also added a service road between the two parking lots. Now vehicles parked at these two facilities need not park on the grass anymore.

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July 2004 -- Converted the trolley line on the layout from traditional transformer control to Lionel's TMCC remote control. Trains on the lower level outer main line loop, in addition to the trolley line, are now controlled by my TMCC hand held. The upper level loop will stay under regular transformer control since it is powered by a "V" transformer and TMCC cannot be used on transformers that output more than 20 volts. The inner loop on the lower level will also stay on regular transformer control as TMCC interferes with Lionel's RailScope TV picture. I also had a problem with one of my 90 watt postwar transformers. Accessories wired to this transformer started powering on and then off again in rapid succession. Could not find a short in the accessory wiring, so I replaced the transformer with another 90 watt transformer and the problem went away. I suspect the problem transformer was weakened when I inadvertently overloaded it a year ago (see my July 2003 update).

August 2004 -- Made the annual trek to the Dollar Tree store to see what they had in the way of toy train-related Christmas merchandise. This year was pretty much the same as last: small battery powered plastic trains with track; ceramic buildings; miniature people and trees. I purchased a few trees to replace some bedraggled ones on the layout. Also found a blister pack of four railroad-themed signs and a battery-operated railroad crossing highway flasher. I'm planning to separate the highway flasher from its battery holder and wire it directly to one of my accessory transformers.

September 2004 -- Discovered that the remaining modern Lionel O72 switch on the upper level had a cracked base. I replaced it with a prewar Lionel # 711 O72 switch. Since I had to loosen the track leading up to the switch to replace it, I took this opportunity to realign the track on that side of the upper level to enable the trains to run more smoothly. Lubricated the Lionel # 140 banjo signal with one drop of oil, as it was operationally sluggish. Also replaced the elastic bands that held down loads on some of my flatcars with new ones. The old ones had lost their elasticity. I had some gray elastic band material used with old nametags and cut pieces of it to fit. I tied the elastic ends together with a square knot to make a circle. The circular band was then fitted around the flatcar and load. I made sure the knot was underneath the car so it wouldn't be seen.

October 2004 -- Stored under my layout for the last couple of years was a prewar # 43 windup Lionel Craft Pleasure Boat. A spring inside this boat can be wound with a key and, when released, the boat will run for approximately four minutes on a body of water. The reason I had been storing it was because the boat was missing its display stand and the rudder shaft had been inaccurately repainted. I first fashioned a display stand for it by bending a length of wire coat hanger into the approximate shape of an original Lionel stand and then epoxied the two coat hanger ends together to make a sturdy platform. I had an extra Pleasure Boat hull used for parts with an original "Lionel Craft" brass plate affixed to it. I removed this plate and added it to the viewer side of my newly fashioned stand. After completing the stand, I removed some excess paint on the boat's rudder shaft that had gotten there when the boat's bottom had been repainted. Lionel never painted the brass rudder shaft on their Pleasure Boats. I now have a very collectible windup boat that I can proudly display in my train room.

November 2004 -- Installed an LCCA (Lionel Collectors Club of America) boulevard street lamp to illuminate a portion of my control panel when the room lights are off. Also placed a Lionel prewar # 91 Circuit Breaker next to the mainline track. The circuit breaker looks like an electrical control box that you might see along a roadside. Since I didn't need a functional circuit breaker, I changed the bulb in the top of the circuit breaker from red to green and wired it so the green light stays on all the time. A Lionel postwar # 148 trackside dwarf signal was placed in between the two mainline tracks in front of the passenger station on the lower layout level. I wired this signal through a single-pole, double-throw switch, which manually changes the signal color from green to red and vice versa.

December 2004 -- Received some nice layout gifts for Christmas - a Lionel postwar # 602 Seaboard switcher, an assortment of trees and wildlife, some reindeer moss to make bushes, a Lemax brand luggage cart, and a Lemax bus stop. Will add these new items to the layout in January. At month end I visited Pasadena, CA, the home of the Rose Parade, and helped place flowers on the Honda-sponsored steam train float. At nearly 210 feet in length, this was the longest float to ever enter the Rose Parade. It was an impressive sight on parade day.

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