January 2005 -- To the layout I added some trees and shrubbery received as holiday gifts. Seems like there is always room for more trees and bushes. The Lemax bus stop was placed near "Robert's Model Trains" in the winter section of my layout since there is "snow" on the roof of the bus stop's shelter. Now the layout people can conveniently take public transit to the model train shop. Also installed a couple of Lemax spotlights into a dark area of the layout. Spent some time spot dusting the layout with a portable Dust Buster vacuum. I've found that a painted layout board collects far less dust than an unpainted one. I am also fortunate that my train room is fairly well sealed, so dust accumulation is minimal.
February 2005 -- Had an operational problem with the Lionel # 60 trolley on my trolley line. The power to the track would sporadically go out while the trolley was in operation. Cleaned the track and tried it again with a # 50 Gang Car, but no improvement. Thought the problem might be a loose wiring connection and found that if I jiggled the inline fuse holder in the PowerMaster Power Adapter Cable that runs between the trolley line transformer and the PowerMaster Power Distribution Center, power would be restored for awhile. I replaced the fuse, thinking the old one was going bad, but still no change. I pulled the adapter cable and fuse holder out for a closer examination. Found that the fuse was not able to make good electrical contact in the fuse holder. This was because the metal contact plate that the fuse rested on had, over time, sunk down and become embedded in the plastic. I used a Dremel motor tool to clear away the excess plastic around the metal contact plate. After doing this, the fuse made good metallic contact and there was no more problem with the trolley line. Another project this month involved my prewar Lionel # 439 Panel Board that controls the # 440 Signal Bridge lights. When I originally purchased the panel board, two of the six original Lionel electrical knife switches were missing. I had previously searched on the eBay auction website for original Lionel knife switches to no avail. Finally, this month I came across an auction for a # 439 Panel Board that someone was selling for parts. Their panel board was missing quite a few parts, but did have two complete knife switches, which was the number that I needed. Thus, I was able to purchase their panel board, at a very reasonable cost, and then transfer the two knife switches over to my now complete panel board.
March 2005 -- Obtained a few new accessories for the layout. I placed a Lionel prewar # 157 Hand Truck near the prewar Lionel City Station on the upper level of my layout. They look good together since they are the same scale and vintage. Additionally, I found a very nice prewar Lionel # 191 illuminated Villa on eBay. This villa or mansion has an attached bonus room that can be used as a train room for the occupants. For my birthday, I was given a Lionel postwar # 155 Ringing Signal. The # 155 has flashing lights and a bell to alert crossing automobile traffic of a coming train. Will add this item to the layout next month.
April 2005 -- Added the Lionel # 155 Ringing Signal to my layout near the # 445 Operating Switch Tower. Wired it through a knife switch on my control panel so that I could manually control its operation. Had to adjust one of the leaf switches inside the signal so the bell would sound louder. Also devoted some time to another small project. Awhile ago, I had obtained an original Lionel automobile for the # 6414 Evans Auto Loader. Someone had painted the roof silver, added a silver pinstripe on the sides, and even tried their hand at putting silver hubcaps on the rubber tires. To strip off the silver paint, I added a cup of Tide laundry detergent to a gallon of hot water and dropped the car in for about 10 minutes. When I removed the car from the bucket, the silver paint was literally falling off the car. I used a fingernail to scrape off a few remaining splotches of the paint. Unfortunately, the Tide also stripped the chrome off the bumpers. I hadn't thought about that. Visited a local hobby shop that specialized in die-cast vehicles to ask about re-chroming the bumpers. The proprietor suggested either chrome spray paint or chrome foil. He thought the foil might be too difficult to use with the small grill detail on the front of the car. I purchased both the paint and foil to experiment with. Decided to try the paint first, but had to figure a way to get the bumpers off the car. Turned out the front bumper was easy to take off, as someone had previously pried open the front of the car by breaking the body tab that was glued to the chassis. In the process, the axle retainer for the front axle had also partially broken. This was why the front wheels of the car rolled forward fine, but locked up when rolled backwards. So I broke the rear body to chassis tab to get the back bumper out. I spray painted both bumpers and then repaired the front axle retainer with epoxy and some spare red plastic. After letting the repair and paint cure for a couple days, I reassembled the car and compared the look of the bumpers to my other original Lionel autos. I could barely discern any difference in the color or sheen of the chrome, so I was happy with the result.
May 2005 -- Purchased a Lionel # 6414 Evans Auto Loader and four original automobiles that needed repair. Two of the autos were missing a tire, which was an easy fix. Another green auto was missing a rear bumper, two rear tires, and the rear axle. Additionally, the rear axle retainers had broken. I did a repair to the axle retainers similar to the one I wrote about in last month's update, using epoxy and some spare plastic. The repair parts for the first three cars were scavenged from the fourth auto. The fourth white car was in the worst shape of the bunch. Almost all of the axle retainers had broken and someone had painted it yellow in spots. I used a cup of Tide laundry detergent in a gallon of hot water to try soaking off the paint. The yellow paint was more stubborn than the silver paint I removed from the red auto last month. Had to do more scrubbing and there is still some yellow paint adhering to the body. Will continue the repair of this auto next month when the repair parts arrive. The Auto Loader itself was disassembled and cleaned. I found the trucks coated with a white powdery mildew, which dissolved by rubbing it with a little Crisco vegetable shortening on a toothbrush. Rusty spots were cleaned up to the extent possible by applying a light oil. The metal superstructure was gently bent back into its original shape. Wheel axles were oiled and the car was reassembled. It's now ready to haul automobiles once again.
June 2005 -- I revisited the white Lionel automobile with the yellow spotted paint job that I wrote about last month. I decided to try scrubbing the paint with a little Lionel oil applied to a paper towel. This did the trick! After several passes with the paper towel, the remaining yellow paint went away. I then set to work repairing the broken axle retainers with epoxy and spare plastic pieces. The repair parts for the auto arrived in the mail: front and rear chrome bumpers, one axle, and four new tires. Upon reassembly, the auto looked really sharp with all its new parts. I also ordered and received in the mail Lionel's new # 24111 Swing Bridge. Upon examination of the bridge, I discovered it would not fit on my layout where I originally planned to put it. As a result, I am redoing a section of the upper layout level. The prewar # 117 Lionel City Station was removed from the upper level and will either be relocated or sold. I moved the # 213 Lift Bridge over to where the City Station was located. Am in the process of installing the Swing Bridge where the Lift Bridge was originally. The Swing Bridge supports have been installed and painted to match the upper level. Moving things around on the upper level caused some changes to the lower layout level as well. For instance, I had to move the # 350 Engine Transfer Table over so it would fit in between the # 213 Lift Bridge supports. A layout rework like this affects scenery, track, trackside signals, wiring and other accessories.To Page Top To Page Bottom
July 2005 -- Completed the installation of the # 24111 Swing Bridge and ran some trains on the upper layout level. I like the new layout look and the Swing Bridge operation is fantastic! It took a little doing to get the trains running. Before permanently installing the # 213 Lift Bridge in its new location, it needed some maintenance. The bridge light on top of the non-motorized tower had a bad case of the "flickers". Unable to find anything obvious on the outside of the bridge tower that would cause the flickering, I downloaded the exploded parts list and wiring schematic for the bridge from the Lionel website. Discovered the light atop the non-motorized bridge tower received its power from the motorized tower through the two stationary steel rods connecting the two bridge towers. I decided to disassemble the top of the non-motorized bridge tower to check the power connections. The disassembly was fairly straightforward and easier than I thought it would be. Inside the tower, I found a pair of pinched wires and two dirty electrical contacts. Also, the screws on the outside of the bridge holding the connecting rods to the tower had worked loose. After cleaning and tightening things up in the non-motorized tower, I decided to check the connections in the other tower. Found the two connecting rods going into this tower were not firmly seated either. After tightening up the rods in the motorized tower, I put everything back together and bench tested the bridge. The problem light now burned steadily! The Lift Bridge was placed back on the layout. Both the Lift Bridge and Swing Bridge were tested again before permanent installation to the layout. The remaining loose track sections were secured with track screws and insulated blocks were wired at the approaches to both bridges to ensure trains would not operate while the bridges were open. Still have some wiring to do on the lower layout level for a few accessories that had to be moved for the upper level remodel.
August 2005 -- Added a new siding to the inner O27 track loop in the area just below where the Swing Bridge is now installed. In order to make room for this siding, I removed the Lionel postwar automatic stop station and an HO gauge Lionel # 0114 Engine House from the layout. I am planning to use the new siding as part of an auto loading/unloading area to showcase the Lionel automobiles that I have. I am also in the process of drawing a track plan for my layout. Have never done one of these before, so it has been an interesting learning experience. I asked an Internet buddy of mine who is good with graphics for advice. Following his directions, I first laid the track plan out on graph paper. Then, I traced the plan from the graph paper onto a piece of white tracing paper. The plan on the tracing paper was scanned into my computer and made into a "jpeg" image file. I sent the file to my friend, who then added colors to differentiate the individual track loops and layout border. It looks great so far! I am now adding the locations of my major layout accessories to the plan and hope to have it posted on my website next month.
September 2005 -- I took some new layout photos, since it had been over a year since they were last updated. Originally, I shot over 100 new digital photos, but eventually pared the number down to 48. This is 12 more than I had previously posted. Each photo is on a web page containing explanatory narrative of what is pictured. I also completed my Track Plan and the accompanying Accessory List that I started last month. I was very pleased with the final result. A link to the Track Plan is on Current Layout page 1. On the layout, I finished adding trees and lichen (for bushes) to the areas that I changed due to installation of the new Swing Bridge. The newly changed areas now blend in with adjoining sections of the layout.
October 2005 -- Decided to organize my paper collection. This entailed gathering instruction sheets and service manual pages that had accumulated in a filing cabinet and in various locations around the train layout. I had organized my toy train catalogs a couple of years ago, so I didn't have to concern myself with those. Once everything was gathered, the instruction sheets and service manual pages were organized by item number. Once organized, each paper item was input into a computer spreadsheet for future reference. For me, it's easier to refer to a single spreadsheet to ascertain whether I have a particular instruction sheet, rather than thumbing through paper stacks looking for something I may or may not have. After the paper inventory was completed, I placed the instruction sheets and service manual pages in a sturdy cardboard box underneath the layout. Hopefully, I will now be able to more easily locate an instruction sheet or service manual page when I need it.
November 2005 -- I finalized the auto loading/unloading area mentioned in my August update. Using small sheets of black sandpaper, I created parking areas on either side of the track. Several Lionel automobiles, unloaded from Lionel # 6414 Evans Auto Loaders, are parked in the lots along the track. Another layout project entailed electrifying the track between the # 465 Sound Dispatching Station and # 356 Operating Freight Station. I had been using this non-powered track to display extra rolling stock. After running power to the track, I located a Lionel # 3530 Electro Mobile Power boxcar there. This boxcar has a lighted generator and simulated fan that turns inside the car. Additionally, there is an external floodlight and light pole with wires that connect into the roof of the boxcar for power. I also placed a Lionel # 6557 smoking caboose onto this track. This caboose has a smoke generator that, when smoke fluid is added and track power applied, drifts smoke out of the caboose chimney.
December 2005 -- Layout operation took center stage during the holidays. I rotated a number of locomotives and rolling stock from the display shelves to the track and visa-versa. Whenever postwar trains are placed on the track after an extended shelf stay, they invariably need some lubrication for top performance. A drop of oil on wheel axles and motor armatures does wonders for operation. For Christmas, I received a postwar Lionel Chesapeake and Ohio GP-7 diesel locomotive, an MTH auto carrier with four '57 Chevy's onboard, and some Scenic Express railroad people for the layout. The GP-7's motor commutator and e-unit needed cleaning before it would operate reliably. I have always enjoyed this kind of maintenance - there is nothing like bringing back to life a 50 year old locomotive!
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