Year 2010 Toy Train Layout Update  [December 2010 update - page bottom]

Updates by year:  2011     2009     2008     2007     2006     2005     2004     2003     2002     2001     2000

January 2010 -- Attended three toy train shows and added several new items to my collection. Among them were some postwar Lionel # 6454 boxcars: AT&SF, Erie, NYC (brown), NYC (tan), Pennsylvania, and Southern Pacific. I also found two postwar AMT stock cars (CB&Q and M-K-T); two Frank's Roundhouse cars (Barnum's Animals Crackers yellow refrigerator car and UPS boxcar); postwar Lionel # 2458 PRR Automobile boxcar, # 3460 flatcar with Lionel Trains piggy-back vans, # 6112 white gondola and; a 2008 Lionel Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade boxcar. Many of the postwar wheels needed cleaning on the older cars. This entailed scraping the worst of the black gunk off the surface of the wheels with a small screwdriver blade. A generous drop of 3-In-One oil was applied to each wheel surface and spread around with a paper towel. The oil was then wiped off with a clean paper towel section, leaving the wheels gunk-free. This method removed not only the gunk, but also some surface rust which had formed. Finally, each wheel got a drop of Labelle # 107 oil where they rode on the axles. This enabled the postwar wheels to roll more freely and put less strain on a locomotive pulling them. Speaking of locomotives, I finalized repairs on Kusan # 6755 Southern Railway F-7 Duo-Trac AA units. The Duo-Trac system enables them to operate on either two or three-rail track. When I first received the engines, I completely disassembled them for cleaning and lubrication. During disassembly, I noticed some original parts which attached the trucks to the engine frames were missing. Fortunately, a Kusan parts and repair source had what I needed. After receiving the parts, I cleaned and lubed/oiled the gear train/motor, and reassembled everything. I found that the powered unit ran well in forward, but kept tripping the e-unit when in reverse. I noticed the pickup roller wires were periodically touching the engine frame when the engine was operating in reverse, so I applied two small pieces of electrical tape to the engine frame where the pickup roller wires were touching to solve this problem. For best electrical contact, I also thoroughly cleaned the wheel surfaces of the front trucks on the powered unit, since all four of the rear truck wheels have rubber traction tires, and thus cannot make electrical contact with the track. After trying the powered unit under load, I found that the engine could not pull more than four freight cars before the wheels would start slipping. I consulted my Kusan repair source about this, and he thought the rubber traction tires were slipping on the wheels. He suggested using superglue to secure the traction tires in place. After applying a small amount of superglue in several spots between the traction tires and wheels, I found the locomotive set could easily pull over twice as many cars as before with no wheel slip.

February 2010 -- Added another 16 feet of below layout level wood shelving. They were assembled the same way as my previous below layout shelving units. These wood shelves enabled me to display some miscellaneous odd train items I had stashed under the layout. I prefer to have as many trains out for display as possible. Another task accomplished was an updating of my toy train collection inventory values. It had been six years since I purchased a new price guide, so I decided now was a good time for an update. It was interesting to see which trains had gone up, and which had gone down, in worth. I find keeping an inventory to be a necessity, as I'll occasionally forget that I have something in my collection. No need in buying something I already have!

March 2010 -- Attended the spring Cal-Stewart meet held in Santa Clara, CA. Arrived in time for the 9:00 A.M. opening on Saturday and joined the crowd flowing into the trading hall when the doors opened. There were a nice variety of trains offered for sale and layouts to see. For my layout, I found an MTH hot metal car and a # 6014 white Baby Ruth boxcar, which upgraded one in my collection with a cracked body shell. I was also able to obtain most of the items I had on my repair parts list. I thought the meet was a good one for buyers, as there were plenty of trains for sale and not as many people browsing as in previous years. I also obtained a collection of postwar trains from someone inquiring through my website. There were a few items in this collection which I needed for my collection: a scarce orange # 6464-100 Western Pacific boxcar with blue feather; # 3472 Milk Car with aluminum doors and; a gray # 6456-25 Lehigh Valley short hopper. On the major Internet auction website, I won two harder to find items: a postwar # 6014 Chun King Orient Express boxcar and a # 6464-1971 TCA Disneyland National Convention boxcar. It turned out to be a good month for toy train acquisitions.

April 2010 -- Started repairs on the collection I obtained last month. I installed a replacement aluminum door and spring on the # 3472 Milk Car. With the car body off, I noticed one of the small round head screws, which hold the coil assembly in place, was absent. I added it to my list of repair parts needed. Setting the Milk Car aside, I turned my attention to the # 1655 steam locomotive. After looking it over, I decided on a complete disassembly and cleaning. After taking it apart, I used many cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean the black gunk from the engine parts. During this cleaning I noted one of the shoe contacts, which picks up power from the center track rail, was missing. This was also added to my parts list, along with a drive rod and crosshead assembly. I set the steam locomotive aside, pending receipt of the necessary parts before reassembly. I cleaned up the balance of the collection and oiled the rolling stock wheel axles for better rolling. On my website, I posted a number of new Frank's Roundhouse photos. These were sent to me from other toy train enthusiasts who were willing to share pictures of items in their collections. As a result of this generosity, I was able to add a page of hoppers and several pages of passenger cars, along with a few more box and refrigerator cars.

May 2010 -- Received the parts I needed to complete the train repairs started last month. I added the small round head screw, which secured the # 3472 Milk Car coil assembly in place. The coil worked well when tested. I added a small drop of oil to the pivot points of the Milk Car mechanism and a bit of graphite lubricant to the friction points on the car floor. This enabled the mechanism to really pop out the milk cans on demand. Next, I turned my attention back to the # 1655 steam engine. I added the shoe contact to the bottom of the engine and reassembled the already cleaned up parts of the locomotive. When tested, the engine took off like a shot once power was applied. For the final touch, I glued two replacement green, jeweled running lights to the front of the engine. I found that the whistle in the # 6654W sheet metal tender did not work, so I removed the tender shell by straightening the six tabs holding it in place. I found the wiring to be in need of replacement and the motor brushes and commutator appeared to be soaked in oil. I unsoldered and removed the old wiring, and soldered new wires in place. The brush plate was disassembled from the motor and the brushes, brush wells and motor commutator face were cleaned using cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol. After reassembly, the whistle motor tested strong and made a nice whistling sound. I fastened the tender shell onto the chassis and put it behind the # 1655. I added 14 newly acquired Frank's Roundhouse trailers on flatcars behind the engine and tender. This little postwar engine had no problem pulling those cars around my O31 main line. I shot a YouTube video of it, which may be seen here. On my website, I posted three new pages of recently acquired postwar Kusan-Auburn toy train production. These pages showcase a Texas Special F-7 "duo-trac" diesel A unit with matching passenger cars, and an assortment of refrigerator and boxcars. The links to these photos may be found on my main Kusan layout page.

June 2010 -- While on an east coast vacation, I attended the Train Collectors Association (TCA) national convention in Baltimore, Maryland. The convention center was located near Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which is a great area to sightsee and eat crab cakes. I arrived in time for the opening of the trading pits on Friday. The trading hall was modest in size, but full of trains for sale. The first day I acquired a box of 18 Kusan-Auburn rolling stock body shells, which had never been mounted on a chassis. Guess I will need to find some chassis for them now. There were several operating layouts to view and Lionel, MTH and Weaver had display booths set up. During the day, I had some good conversations with other toy train enthusiasts. On Saturday, I strolled through the trading hall again and noticed some postwar Lionel aluminum passenger cars for sale from the same seller I had dealt with the day before. So I struck a deal for a Pennsylvania Railroad # 2544 Molly Pitcher Pullman, # 2542 Betsy Ross Vista-Dome and # 2541 Alexander Hamilton observation car. It's a good thing UPS was conveniently located in the trading hall. Saturday night was the TCA banquet, which marked the official end of the convention. Good food, spirits and conversation were the order of the evening. Each table was adorned with prizes, including the grand prize of an MTH Baltimore American Beer banquet car. At the end of the festivities, a drawing was held to distribute the prizes among the eight people at each table. I was the lucky one at my table to walk away with the banquet car! It was a great ending for a very memorable convention.

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July 2010 -- Began collecting the parts I needed to complete the 18 Kusan-Auburn body shells obtained at the convention last month. Was able to find brakewheels and complete chassis to make up four Gerber's refrigerator cars. Additionally, chassis, brakewheels and doors were added to Baltimore & Ohio Sentinel and Nickel Plate Road boxcar shells. Atlantic Coast Line, Chicago Burlington & Quincy and Missouri-Kansas-Texas stock cars were also completed with chassis, brakewheels and doors. So I was able to complete nine of the 18 body shells. I have additional parts on order, to finish the other nine, with a couple of parts suppliers. I also ordered some repair parts for two of the three PRR postwar passenger cars purchased at the convention. The Molly Pitcher Pullman was only missing a pick-up roller spring. However, the Alexander Hamilton observation car was in the worst shape. There was rust and mildew on the trucks and underneath the chassis. The bottom frame with contact roller had broken off the rear truck. Also, it was missing a rear door and both red marker lights. While waiting for the repair parts, I completely disassembled and cleaned the observation car. The white mildew was removed by brushing on some Crisco vegetable shortening and wiping off. Most of the rust was removed from the chassis, trucks and wheels by saturating it in oil and scraping/wiping off. Any rust left was neutralized by applying additional oil. I cleaned the wheel surfaces by using a small wire brush attachment in a Dremel Moto-Tool. The plastic window strips and aluminum body were cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth. The observation car parts are ready to be reassembled once the repair parts arrive.

August 2010 -- Repair parts arrived for the two passenger cars mentioned in the July update. I had to disassemble the truck on the Molly Pitcher Pullman in order to replace the missing pick-up roller spring. Once the spring was replaced, the Contact Eyelet made a firm electrical connection with the chassis Contact Assembly to illuminate the lamp inside. For the Alexander Hamilton observation car, I added the Bottom Frame and pick-up roller assembly to the rear truck and reinstalled it on the chassis. Then I installed two Marker Lights into the Roof Assembly, added an original Rear Door with glass insert and reassembled the rear of the observation car with a Tie Bolt and Nut. After testing the car for proper operation, I noticed the body was leaning excessively when rounding a curve. I solved this problem by adding a large fiber washer between the chassis and rear truck. All three of the PRR Congressional series passenger cars are now ready for service on my pike. I also received additional parts to complete four more of the Kusan-Auburn rolling stock shells: a Louisville & Nashville gondola, a New York Central Pacemaker boxcar and two more Baltimore & Ohio Sentinel boxcars. Lastly, I came into possession of a postwar Kusan Gravy Train promotional set. The set consisted of a battery-operated four-wheel switcher or "Beep" locomotive, Gravy Train boxcar, gondola, caboose and 16 sections of curved plastic clip-together track. The Beep was missing a drive wheel and gear when I received it. Fortunately, I had some spare parts from a Kusan Alco engine which fit into the Beep's drive train perfectly. Upon testing, the little locomotive pulled the set very nicely around the track with two fresh C-sized batteries installed.

September 2010 -- It was time to begin dusting the train collection. My train room is sealed fairly well when not in use, so I only have to do a comprehensive dusting every few years. I started with the space and military items on the Rail Rax wall shelves. I removed the rolling stock from one shelf at a time and dusted them with either a paint or cosmetic brush, depending on the fragility and size of the item. After dusting, I took photos of each to update some older photos on my Lionel Postwar Trains page. I took the new photos without camera flash, opting instead to use the natural light filtering into the room. I think the non-flash photos look better than the old flash photos. During the dusting process, I noted anything which was in need of service. For example, my # 6464-100 Western Pacific boxcar had quite a bit of rust on the metal chassis. This boxcar was purchased at a flea market 30 years ago for a dollar, so I never paid it much attention. I decided to try sprucing it up by using Birchwood Casey Blue & Rust Remover to dissolve the rust and prepare the chassis for re-bluing. It took several applications before the rust was removed to my satisfaction. I washed the chassis with soap and water and then thoroughly dried it. Next, using a cotton swab, I applied Birchwood Casey Perma Blue liquid gun blue to the bare metal spots on the chassis. Several coats of gun blue were needed to darken the bare spots to approximately match the rest of the chassis. I was fairly pleased with the results, as the boxcar looked better without a rusty chassis. I am about 75 percent finished with the dusting/picture taking of the items displayed on my train room walls.

October 2010 -- The dusting and picture taking of the trains on the wall shelves is near completion. There is one shelf of trailer on flatcars left to do. I was temporarily sidetracked from the dusting of the wall items when I decided to reorganize, dust and take pictures of the steam engines displayed on the below layout level wood shelving. The steam engines and their tenders were scattered in three different locations, so I wanted to place them together as much as possible. To better accomplish this I added a fifth, four-foot long, wood shelf to the below layout level shelves mentioned in the February 2010 update above. After adding this additional shelf, I was able to display two of the larger steam engines, plus a caboose, on each shelf for a total of 10 engines and tenders, and five cabooses, displayed together in the shelving unit. I am planning to add another section of below layout shelving, just around the corner from these shelves, where I will eventually display the balance of the steam engines in my collection.

November 2010 -- My plans from last month became reality this month, as I put together another section of below layout level wood shelves. This new unit has 20 feet of display space, and is the same size as the unit I wrote about last month, having five shelves four feet in length. This is the last below layout level shelving unit that I will construct, as I have run out of available space. I placed the balance of my steam engine collection on the new shelves, plus some Lionel and MTH rolling stock. I am now displaying some Kusan-Auburn freight cars on the shelves where the steam engines were originally. On another topic, I attended the Cal-Stewart toy train meet in Pasadena. This is billed as the largest meet in the western U.S. It began with a dinner/welcome party for meet registrants on Friday night. The meet formally opened Saturday morning and ran for two days. There were lots of toy trains for sale, layouts to view, auctions, a demolition derby and train races. The meet ended with a raffle on Sunday, and I was lucky enough to win two prizes! After Cal-Stewart, I ventured over to Mesa, AZ and celebrated Thanksgiving with relatives. During my stay I attended the TCA Desert Division's Toy Train Expo. This used to be called the Turkey Meet, but the name was recently changed. I attended the Expo on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and observed a nice selection of toy trains for sale and layouts in operation. In addition to buying a couple of items for my train collection, I found a nice old television light in the shape of a train. That's the fun in attending toy train meets - one never knows what will be offered for sale. Before I left Mesa for home, my uncle, who used to work for Procter & Gamble, stopped by to give me a blanket which had been given him by P&G as a Christmas premium one year. The blanket has a picture of a P&G steam locomotive, with freight cars, pulling into the "Ivorydale" station. This blanket looks great draped over the couch in my living room.

December 2010 -- A couple months ago, I had acquired American Model Toys (AMT) Pennsylvania F-7 diesel AA units. After examining them, I noted several parts were missing. I ordered and received the necessary repair parts in November and had time this month to fix them. I worked on the non-powered A-unit first. I completely disassembled and cleaned the locomotive body shell, chassis, trucks and wheels. The trucks and wheels were coated with years of old lubricant and had to be cleaned using cotton swabs saturated in isopropyl alcohol. The wheels rolled freely after reassembly and application of light oil to the wheel axles. Two new number boards were spray-painted black and fitted into the body shell once they were dry. A new set of rear frame steps was affixed to the chassis and then all parts reassembled. The powered A-unit was next. A similar disassembly and cleaning was performed on this unit. Additionally, two new pick-up roller assemblies were added, as the old ones had broken off and were missing. New wires were soldered from the pick-up rollers to the appropriate points inside the engine, where a little rewiring was necessary. The motor commutator and brushes were cleaned using cotton swabs dipped in the isopropyl alcohol. A headlight bulb was installed and the engine was ready for testing. The reverse unit did not function reliably upon testing. I noticed a wire was getting in the way of the reverse mechanism, so it was rerouted. The AA engine pair ran fine upon further testing. All told, I spent approximately 12 hours over a three day period in cleaning, repairing and troubleshooting these engines. I was so pleased with the end result, that I ran them on my beneath the Christmas tree layout instead of the usual Polar Express train. With the addition of these AMT engines, an AMT Chesapeake & Ohio caboose and an AMT Pennsylvania Merchandise Service boxcar, I revamped and updated the AMT section of my website.

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