Year 2008 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2008 update - page bottom]

Updates by year:  2011     2010     2009     2007     2006     2005     2004     2003     2002     2001     2000

January 2008 -- Received the remaining parts I needed to finish up repairs on the Lionel postwar Canadian Pacific passenger set. Hope to have them installed in time for next month's update. Shot a photo of the Williams Space Shuttle Transporter set and posted a link to it on my Kusan Layout page, since this set was made from the old Kusan molds. I also shot a video of the Kusan Satellite Train, which shows the action of this set. The link to the video may also be found on the Kusan Layout page. I staffed the Lionel Operating Train Society (LOTS) booth for a couple of hours at The World's Greatest Hobby on Tour show. The show was geared toward families, so there was a steady stream of children who stopped by the booth to operate Thomas the Tank and other train accessories. Needless to say, it was a fast and busy couple of hours. It was gratifying to see so many children interested in the trains.

February 2008 -- This month's update is dedicated to my Mom, who passed away this month. Besides being the greatest Mom in the world, she made the buildings and scenery for my first toy train layout when I was just three years old. I still use the hand-decorated box board buildings she created for that layout on my present day pike. In later years when Mom came for a visit, she would look at the layout when she first arrived and then again right before leaving. She felt the layout needed two viewings in case she missed something the first time. She would usually make a helpful suggestion or two on how to improve the scenery. Thanks Mom, for always being there for me.

March 2008 -- Purchased some things for my Lionel and Kusan layouts while at a local toy train show and also from eBay. The list of items included a postwar # 6413 Lionel Mercury Project Cape Canaveral flatcar with two original capsules; two postwar Lionel HO gauge Cooper-Jarrett trailers that were originally a flatcar load; KMT Frank's Roundhouse Pennsylvania flatcar with trailer; Kris Wickes boxcar with different style doors than the one I purchased last year; Kusan Rock Island "Route of the Rockets" boxcar; Kusan hopper car kit that had never been assembled and; a 1950's era Kusan toy train catalog. Repair-wise, I replaced two damaged containers on a postwar Lionel # 6805 Atomic Disposal flatcar with two unbroken originals. The repair process entailed removing the two broken containers from the rails of the flatcar. The lamp assemblies were removed from the damaged containers and placed into the unbroken ones. Then the good original equipment containers were placed back onto the flatcar rails. I always try to use original repair parts wherever possible.

April 2008 -- Finally, I finished up the Lionel postwar Canadian Pacific passenger set repairs. I added Banff Park nameplates and a pickup roller assembly to the observation car. The set looks really sharp when all the passenger cars are fully lit as the train moves around the layout. I also installed an original door on a postwar # 6434 Poultry Dispatch boxcar. Using a small jeweler's screwdriver, I carefully pried up one of the pins holding the bottom door guide in place and then loosened the remaining pin. I was then able to swing the door guide down enough to remove the incorrect door that had been installed at some point in the past. The correct door was slipped into the place, the door guide put into its original position and the door guide pins pushed back into place. I spent the last part of the month in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaiian Railway offers train rides every Sunday, so I decided that would be something fun and different to do while there. I arrived early, so I would have time to look at the old railway equipment they have on site. There was an eclectic mix of old sugar mill and military railroad locomotives and rolling stock. Due to construction, the train ride was only forty-five minutes instead of the usual ninety minutes, but still very enjoyable in the open air coaches. After the ride, I was talking to the train ride volunteers for a few minutes when one of them asked if I would like to ride in the locomotive. Of course, I said yes! The locomotive was an old military diesel switcher. The engineer fired the engine up and we proceeded down the track past a yard switch. A volunteer in the rear of the train hopped down and changed the switch so the train could be backed into the yard and parked until the following Sunday. After the train was parked, I thanked the engineer for the ride invitation as I hopped down from the locomotive. The locomotive ride capped a memorable visit to Hawaii for me.

May 2008 -- Cleared a couple more repair projects from the workbench. I recently obtained a nice-looking Lionel postwar # 2363 Illinois Central F-3 dual-motored locomotive that had no power going to the motors when track power was applied. Upon removing the engine's shell, I discovered the three-wire cable going from one motor to the other had come loose. It looked like it had been replaced at some point in the past with a cable that was too short in length. The cable eventually pulled loose as the motors swiveled and took up the cable slack while the engine went around layout track curves. If there is not enough slack in the cable, the stress from the motor swiveling would eventually cause the cable to fail. So I removed the too short cable and replaced it with one of the correct length and soldered the wire connections into place. I placed a drop of oil on each motor armature wick and then put the engine on the track. The engine hesitated as I applied power, but eventually smoothed out. It had probably been several years since it was last run. After satisfying myself that the locomotive was running properly, I reinstalled the engine shell and tested the engine once again pulling a string of freight cars. The locomotive pulled them like a champ. Another repair project this month was a two-rail Kusan Dynamic Injection Compressortron flatcar. This interesting car keeps a polystyrene foam "satellite" suspended in the air as it travels around the layout. Upon testing, the compressortron motor did not run when DC power was applied. Upon disassembly, I found the motor commutator in need of a good cleaning. I saturated a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol and applied it to the motor commutator while manually spinning it with my finger. Eventually, the commutator changed color from black to copper. I applied one drop of oil to each end of the motor armature shaft. I also replaced the wires that connect the compressortron motor to the locomotive, as they were in bad shape. After this maintenance, the compressortron motor ran strong and quiet when tested. The car was reassembled and will be tested behind a locomotive after I obtain a replacement electrical connector for a wire that was missing one.

June 2008 -- Obtained and installed a replacement female "flag" electrical connector on one wire of the Kusan two-rail Dynamic Injection Compressortron flatcar mentioned in last month's update. On my two-rail layout, I coupled the flatcar behind a Kusan U.S. 135 satellite train Alco and electrically connected the Compressortron's two wires to the engine. I placed a foam satellite on top of the Compressortron and applied current to the track via a DC power pack. The satellite went aloft and then the train started moving. The satellite stayed aloft above the flatcar as the train traveled around the track loop. It was gratifying to see this car once again in action after years of disuse. On my Lionel three-rail layout, I had a great operating session using the following as motive power on three track loops: postwar # 773 Hudson scale steam engine, postwar # 2363 Illinois Central F-3 AB diesel units and a modern era RailScope locomotive with built-in video camera. In addition, I ran a postwar # 60 trolley on the trolley line and a modern battery-powered Walt Disney World monorail on an elevated monorail track. It took a bit of juggling to keep all five of these pieces operating at the same time. During the session, I detected a squeaking noise emanating from the Hudson steam engine. I stopped the layout action and placed the Hudson on my repair bench. I applied two drops of oil to the motor armature wick inside the engine cab. I also removed the three small bolts underneath the engine which are access points for adding grease to the gears. I added some white lithium grease into all three openings and replaced the bolts. I placed the Hudson back on the track, put a smoke pellet down the stack and started it up. The squeak was gone and the engine ran and smoked flawlessly the rest of the operating session.

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July 2008 -- Installed a postwar Lionel # 464 Operating Lumber Mill along a straight section of the O27 main line track. Had to relocate the Plasticville Fruit Stand to another location and remove a Plasticville Service Station from the layout to make enough room. The plastic of the Lumber Mill fits in well with the other Plasticville buildings around it. Unfinished logs are dumped, via a log dump car, into a tray at one end of the accessory and, at the touch of a button, move inside the Lumber Mill building. Finished lumber magically comes out the other end of the Mill. While the accessory is in operation, the motor inside the Mill sounds like a saw buzzing. It is a very convincing looking and sounding accessory. I added another postwar Lionel # 410 Billboard Blinker to the layout. The blinker fits behind a Lionel # 310 Billboard Frame and illuminates the billboard with a light from above. There is a set screw in the Billboard Blinker that allows the light bulb to flash at different intervals or not flash at all. I also repaired some broken railings on the towers of my postwar Lionel # 175 Rocket Launcher and # 197 Rotating Radar Antenna. The railings on these two accessories are fragile and usually have some breaks when obtained in "played with" condition. For the repair, I used some original railings cut and fit from two junker towers that I found in an online auction. I used a small amount of five-minute epoxy to glue the replacement railings in place. These two accessories now appear to have unbroken railings unless one examines them very closely.

August 2008 -- On my Kusan layout, I added some two-rail track sections in order to display the locomotives and rolling stock that I've added to the roster this year. I also placed some trees, bushes, a station and tractor trailer truck on the layout. Updated layout photos were taken and can be seen on the Kusan layout page. I also took some new photos of various scenes on my Lionel layout. The updated photos show layout accessories paired with their respective rolling stock, what's new on the Rail Rax display shelving, a couple new layout accessories and a few photos were retaken because I wasn't satisfied with some aspect of the old photo. On another subject, it's rare when I purchase a modern-era locomotive, but the attractive Northern Pacific "Main Street of the Northwest" freight-scheme was not offered by an O-gauge train maker during the postwar era. So I decided to bid on a Lionel Northern Pacific A and B unit diesel set in an online auction. These diesel units were originally made in 1997. After perusing a couple of auctions where these units were offered, I bid and won a set that, with the exception of being tested for correct operation, was still new in the box. Upon receiving the set, I oiled the motor armature shafts and wheel bearings. Grease was added to the drive gears and, per the instructions, a nine volt battery was installed in the B unit for the Railsounds. Upon testing, the Northern Pacific locomotive A and B units performed admirably and will complement the other diesels in my fleet.

September 2008 -- Added a postwar Lionel # 163 Single Target Block Signal, across from the # 164 Log Loader, on the lower level outer mainline loop. Green or red illumination for the signal is controlled by the position of a nearby postwar O22 switch. I also went to my first toy train show of the fall season. It was fairly well attended with plenty of O-gauge goodies offered for sale. I came home with postwar Lionel # 6415 Sunoco and # 6425 Gulf three-dome tank cars. These tank cars stand out from the single and double-dome tankers that are more commonly seen. Also found a couple of parts for a future repair project. Regarding repairs, I have a postwar Lionel # 3562-50 operating barrel car where the vibration of the barrels up the ramp for unloading would sometimes work and sometimes not. It finally quit operating completely, so I figured this was a good time for an overhaul. I removed the yellow plastic body and decided to clean it. Using an old soft-bristle toothbrush, I gently scrubbed it in warm water and dishwashing soap. After patting it dry with a paper towel, I set it aside to thoroughly dry. I next turned my attention to the mechanism itself. I noted the insulation on the two wires which ran from the power pickups on the trucks to the vibrating coil had hardened, so I replaced the wires. I tested the coil, but it didn't work. I removed the coil housing from the chassis frame and then the coil from its housing. There was some oxidation between the coil housing and chassis frame that was preventing a proper ground connection. I cleaned up the oxidation, checked the coil wiring, reinstalled the coil into the housing and reattached it to the chassis frame. The coil worked when tested, so I finished reassembling the barrel car and tested it again. The barrels now smoothly vibrate up the ramp before being unloaded from the car.

October 2008 -- Time to reorganize the train room! Or, more specifically, the space beneath the train layout table. I pulled out the boxes and miscellaneous train items stored under there. The train boxes were sorted into two groups - those having contents and the empties. Each group was then organized by era - prewar, postwar and modern. When putting them back under the table, I made sure the number on each box could be seen at a glance. This way, there would be no more extended hunting around to find a particular box. I went through the miscellaneous train items and found some extraneous pieces. I offered these for auction on eBay in order to let someone else make use of them. I also had too many trains parked on the layout, so I decided to build some additional below layout level wood display shelves. I had previously built two similar shelving sections, so construction was fairly straightforward. It took me parts of two days to put the shelves together and install them. When finished, I was able to display a number of locomotives and rolling stock on the shelves, thus freeing up some needed track space on my layout.

November 2008 -- The below layout level wood display shelving, which I built last month, turned out so well that I decided to build one more section to display my passenger car collection. I installed these shelves just around the corner from the ones built last month. All my Lionel and AMT Budd Rail Diesel Cars and extruded aluminum passenger cars are now displayed together. To my layout, I added a 2008 TTOS Convention blinking billboard. The billboard faces the door coming into the train room. I also added a barrel ramp clip to the # 362 Barrel Loader. This clip, along with an OTC track contactor and # 96C controller, enable an operating barrel car to work with the barrel loader accessory. The barrel car can now automatically unload its barrels directly onto the Barrel Loader's ramp. Finally, on my website, I converted my existing video clips into YouTube videos. I found that streaming the videos from YouTube into my website makes them available for viewing faster and provides an overall better viewing experience. I also added a new video of a prewar Flying Yankee streamliner traversing the upper level of my layout.

December 2008 -- December is traditionally a big operating time for me, and this month was no exception. During this time, I swapped locomotives and rolling stock on the tracks a number of times with those displayed on shelves. With the exception of a broken coupler, oiling wheel axles and cleaning built up gunk off some wheels, operation was relatively incident free. I also obtained a couple of 1960's postwar sets that were for sale locally. I kept some of the items for my collection and will auction the remainder on eBay. To continue with the theme from the last two updates, I built yet another below layout level section of wood display shelving. This shelving section, like the previous ones, has five shelves. However, rather than four foot long shelves, this section has shelves which are seven feet long. I relocated the four foot shelving section I built last month to another side of the layout and replaced it with the longer shelving unit. I reorganized locomotives and rolling stock so that similar items would be grouped together on the shelves. Now, finding where I shelved a particular train is much easier.

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