Year 2007 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2007 update - page bottom]

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January 2007 -- Did some repairs to start off the new year. The biggest repair project was for someone who works in my office building. Actually, it was his Dad's train set headed up with postwar # 2343 Santa Fe F3 ABA units. The powered locomotive's two motors didn't need much attention - they ran like new after being stored 50 years! Unfortunately, some moisture had made it into the storage bags, and many of the metal parts in the set had mildewed or rusted. The mildew came off pretty well, but the rust could only be neutralized. I spent several hours over a period of three weekends working on them. I didn't attempt to clean up the track, as there were varying degrees of rust on each piece and I was afraid it would give future problems. I advised him to buy new track or some good, used track. I cleaned the rolling stock as well as I could, did a bit of rewiring on a Marx floodlight tower, cleaned up a Marx Ringing Signal, fixed a faulty circuit breaker in a KW transformer, and cleaned and rewired an operating/uncoupling track. They were very happy to get back their old train set in good operating condition. I also had time for a small repair project for myself. For the past several months, I've been searching the eBay auction website for "KTM". KTM, or Katsumi, was a Japanese maker of toy trains in the 1960's. It's rare when one of their trains comes up for auction, and they are usually bid sky high by collectors. I wasn't looking for a KTM train, but for a pair of pantographs to fit a KTM electric engine of mine that I bought at a street fair years ago. It's a neat looking engine, but looked a little bare without pantographs. This month, I finally found a seller auctioning off a set of KTM pantographs. I was even more excited after I emailed the seller asking for the mounting hole dimensions and found they would fit my engine perfectly! Of course, I managed to be the high bidder. When I received the pantographs, I had to somehow attach them to the engine, since the original mounting hardware and insulators were long gone. While at a local train show, I asked the Lionel parts guy about them. He suggested trying Lionel insulators made for the postwar Lionel GG-1, since I could be looking forever for KTM insulators. I purchased eight of the Lionel white plastic insulators and, using an X-Acto knife, whittled just a bit of plastic from the top and bottom tabs of each insulator. This enabled the top tab of the insulators to firmly slide into the four mounting holes of each pantograph and the bottom tab of the insulators to be pushed into the corresponding holes in the engine roof. When I finished installing the pantographs, the little Japanese engine looked complete.

February 2007 -- Spent time getting an interesting mix of items ready for the layout. The list included a postwar Lionel # 410 Billboard Blinker, American Flyer # 23791 Cow-On-Track accessory, AMT # 3160 Rail Diesel Car, Hafner prewar clockwork locomotive and an LR French-made prewar automatic crossing gate. After some minor cleaning and repair, all of the items work well and are awaiting operation/placement on my layout.

March 2007 -- Attended the Spring Cal-Stewart train meet in Santa Clara, CA. This meet was jointly sponsored by the TCA and TTOS toy train clubs. There were a good variety of trains offered for sale at this meet. For my layout, I obtained some Plasticville automobiles and a postwar Lionel # 6827 P&H Power Shovel flatcar. The # 6827 complimented the # 6828 P&H Construction Crane flatcar I had purchased on eBay a couple weeks before. Also at this meet, I was excited to find someone selling a Hallmark dealer display from 1988. This store display is 18" in diameter and made to look like a Christmas tree ornament. Inside the ornament there is a train that moves around a circle when under power. The power was originally supplied by two "D" cell batteries. After deciding to hang it in a corner of my train room, I ran a lamp cord from the display's can motor to a 3 volt Lemax wall transformer. I wired it through an on-off switch on my layout's control panel, so I can power it up whenever I choose. The display really adds to the decor in the train room.

April 2007 -- Cleared part of a wooded area on my layout to make room the for the American Flyer Cow On Track and LR prewar automatic crossing gate accessories mentioned in the February 2007 update. The cow is grazing next to the O27 inner loop and swings out over the track at the touch of a control button. A second button returns the cow to its original position safely off the track. The LR crossing gate was placed between the O and O27 tracks, next to the pre-war #1045 Operating Watchman. I found out that LR stands for the initials of the company's founder, Louis Roussy. LR was also known as "Le Rapide" because of their fast trains. I added an HO gauge Lionel Engine House with diesel horn back to the layout after earlier removing it to make way for a siding. It supplies a diesel horn sound for the many postwar battery-powered diesels in my collection with bad horns. So rather than going to the trouble and expense of fixing all the bad diesel horns, I will instead use the horn in the Engine House.

May 2007 -- A medical problem made it physically difficult for me to get around my train room, so I had time to move my website to a hosting provider and register a domain name. I wanted an easier to remember domain name and settled on www.robertstrains.com. Since the beginning of my site in March 1999, I have been using the free web space provided by my Internet service provider to host my site. Getting a domain name and having my website hosted by a hosting service provides a number of advantages. My web address is easier to remember, I have over 10 times the amount of web space that I had previously, and, should I ever change Internet service providers, I need not worry about moving the website or changing my email address.

June 2007 -- After last month's hiatus from the layout, I was finally better able to move around the train room. I finished rearranging the trains displayed on the room shelves that I had begun before my accident. Then I finished a few repair projects with some parts I had ordered. I rebuilt a postwar Cooper-Jarrett piggyback trailer van that was missing most of its parts; added guy wires to and restrung the P&H Power Shovel and Construction Crane mentioned in my March update; refurbished a postwar # 470 Missile Launch Platform; and repaired a Plasticville Frosty Bar and Railroad Signal Bridge. The Plasticville repairs led to an inventory of the Plasticville items on my layout. I was surprised at how many different Plasticville items I had. Not just buildings, but people, animals, automobiles, farm implements, fences, trees and even a wishing well. It felt great to be active in the train room again.

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July 2007 -- Obtained three military/space train sets for my collection. The first is a Kusan Atomic Train set via an online auction. This set is olive drab in color and consists of a U.S. Army Sylvania locomotive, atomic reactor car with red lights that represent fissionable material, cannon firing car, guided missile car and Master Control Center caboose. The second and third sets I obtained were from a local toy train dealer. One of these two sets is a Williams Nasa Space Shuttle Transporter set. This set has an industrial diesel switcher, radar tracking car, space shuttle carrying depressed center flatcar, Space Supply boxcar and Launch Control Center caboose. This set is interesting because it was made by Williams from Kusan molds purchased from Kris Model Trains in the early 1980's. The third set I got is a postwar Marx military train. It is actually more than a single set, as there were a couple of add-ons to it over the years. This set is headed up by an olive drab steam locomotive and tender that pull two flatcars with military loads, missile launcher gondola, a custom painted diesel fuel tank car and a U.S. Army caboose.

August 2007 -- Summer months typically provide more economical toy train buying opportunities on the major Internet auction site. This is because interest from the toy train buying public is lower, so the trains that are offered for sale don't command as high a price. Continuing the train buying theme from last month, I purchased a Lionel postwar Canadian Pacific passenger train set for my layout. This set is headed up by a pair of F-3 AA diesel units which pull three Vista Dome cars and an observation car. The set needs some cleaning and a few replacement parts, but should be one of the "prides of the fleet" after servicing. I also won an auction lot of eight Kris Model Trains boxcars. These close-to-scale boxcars were made by Kris in the 1970's from the old AMT/Kusan molds. Initially, I only wanted one boxcar in the lot, # 6204 Wickes Lumber & Building Supplies, because I had memories of visiting a Wickes lumberyard when I was growing up. My plan was to sell the other seven boxcars individually and recoup my auction costs. However, after receiving the boxcars, I have decided to keep all of them since they look good on the layout. Sometimes, best laid plans just don't work out. :-)

September 2007 -- I began servicing the Lionel Canadian Pacific passenger set that I mentioned in last month's update. Some of the nameplates on the passenger cars were missing. I removed the old nameplate adhesive left on the cars by soaking it in Goo Gone and then scrubbing with a clean white rag. The passenger cars cleaned up nicely and are ready for new, reproduction nameplates. All of the lights in the passenger coaches worked, so I didn't have to replace any bulbs. One pickup roller on the observation car was missing, so I will obtain a replacement. I disassembled the powered F-3 diesel unit and serviced the motors and gears. The old gear grease had hardened and needed to be scraped out. New grease was applied to the gears before reassembly. After servicing I was satisfied with the operation of the locomotive, with one exception. The metal pilot covers on both the powered and dummy units sag down and occasionally touch the center rail of the track, causing an electrical short. I will need to investigate this problem further before placing the units in operation. I also started work on another project. I picked up a 4' x 8' board at a local lumberyard for a planned Kusan two-rail O-gauge layout. This layout board will be placed on a futon in a spare bedroom. The board was cut to 73" in length, so it would fit in between the arms of the futon and also be able to slide underneath the futon for storage. I then primed and painted the board green. I have come up with a tentative track plan for the two-rail layout. I also plan to use a childhood Marx Battleground Set for scenery on this layout, so I will be able to display and operate my Kusan two-rail trains as well as the Marx set.

October 2007 -- Tentatively arranged the track for the Kusan two-rail layout based on my original track plan. Then, after mulling it over, I decided to change the tentative plan and go with a different one. The new plan will maximize the mainline track along the outside edges of the board and have a small yard, utilizing three switches, in the interior. I haven't permanently attached the track yet. I also did a little more work on the Lionel Canadian Pacific passenger cars. After carefully measuring and cutting reproduction nameplates to fit, I applied the new nameplates to the cars that were missing them. It's hard to tell the replacement nameplates from the originals. This month I also visited a local toy train hobby shop that I stop into semi-regularly. The owner was in a dealing mood, so who could resist? I came away with a nice set of Lionel postwar #205 Missouri Pacific Alco AA units, a Kusan Burlington boxcar, a couple of Kusan DC power supplies and a December 1955 issue of Model Trains magazine. To go with my Williams NASA Space Shuttle Transporter set, which I wrote about in the July update, I obtained an MTH NASA rounded roof power generator boxcar. The colors of this boxcar go very well with the Williams set. The shop owner also had a model of the space shuttle Challenger that he let me have for my set. The Challenger model was made in 1987 and is the right size to fit on the depressed center flatcar in the Williams set. The Challenger also came with a launch pad, external fuel tank and two booster rockets. There are a few loose pieces that will need to be re-glued before the Challenger is placed into service on my layout.

November 2007 -- I finished laying the mainline two-rail track for the Kusan layout. Picked through the track I had to in order to use the best pieces. The Kusan track is not as sturdy as Lionel's, as the little tabs that hold the metal rail to the plastic ties have a tendency to break off, especially on the curved sections. I used a Dremel polishing wheel to clean up some tarnish on the switch tracks. I also used a hacksaw to cut a straight track section in half, so I could extend the mainline by a half track more. I ran the Kusan Atomic and Satellite Trains on it to ensure smooth operation. One switch is in place on the mainline for connecting to the future interior yard. I also finished servicing the Lionel Canadian Pacific F-3 locomotives. The front truck pilot on the dummy unit needed a new Centering Plunger and Spring. The powered unit pilot had been bent down at some point in the past and just needed to be re-bent back into its original position. I still need to obtain a pair of Banff Park nameplates and a pickup roller assembly for the observation car. Once those items have been obtained and installed, the Canadian Pacific passenger set will be complete and fully operational.

December 2007 -- Finished up the interior yard track work for the Kusan layout and created a web page that shows the finished product. I will eventually add some scenery to this layout. I'm fairly satisfied with the way the layout turned out. The original Kusan track has O42 curves and these larger diameter curves limit what can be done in the small space I had available. I also re-glued the loose pieces of the space shuttle Challenger model that I mentioned in my October update. After the glue dried, I added the Challenger to the long depressed center flatcar in my Williams NASA Space Shuttle Transporter set. I set up an O27 track loop on the carpet underneath my train table for this set. I put the NASA set on this separate track because it operates on three-rail DC rather than AC. I wired a 1970's era Lionel three-rail DC power pack to the track and applied power. The little locomotive moved the set with ease, even with the addition of an MTH NASA boxcar. It was fun sitting on the floor watching this little set go around the track oval.

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