Model train reversing loop units

We start today with Terry, who has been scratching his head over model train reversing loop units.

(His last post is here if you want to get up to speed.)

“Alastair: A few weeks ago I asked for help from the members here in creating an addition to the Damnit Railroad.

Thank you for publishing my plea and from the members who responded with numerous ideas.

I have tried most of them and have ended up taking a bit from each one to make what I think works best for me.

As you may remember I was trying to build a 24 inch radius car storage area for very long passenger cars.

Although several folks recommended a helix with the tracks below table level–that doesn’t work well for an old guy who would have to get down on his creaky knees and fumble around.

Many suggested a switch on the blue line near the word “up” but because that is the start of an elevation rise and the need for another crossover on the green line, it was just too complicated to build.

I also found out that because of all the loops on the original portion of the railroad I will now be able to turn the trains in opposite directions on the extension WITHOUT having to worry about rail polarity.

Although I’ve gone over the track several times, if someone happens to see a place where I need a model train reversing loop units please let me know.

The other good thing is that all of the track on the extension is at zero elevation so no worries about grades.

I added a 3 way switch to solve one of my problems and left an area for possible expansion of a shop/turntable section.

I’m attaching some photos–the first is my original extension that your members were asked to tweak. The second is my final solution to the problem and the last is the extension plus the existing track plan for the layout.

Thanks again to you and your readers…and to “Larry” who loves lots of switches–you should be very happy.

If and when I actually build it, I’ll send you some pictures if you like.


Terry/Idaho USA”

model train reversing loop units

model train reversing loop units

model train reversing loop units track plan.

“Hi, I’ve enjoyed your postings and have started to set up my old trains again after many years.

I’ve had some of these since I was a child, others have been bought more recently. These are American Flyer trains, mostly from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, though some are newer.

They are S Gauge, 1/64 scale, between O and HO.

Lots of issues to deal with, the bench work needs bracing, the older locomotives are not always willing to run, and the switches are causing problems. The stuff on the table is not in any real placement yet, and the lights and accessories need to be wired.

Lots of work to do, but that’s part of the fun. I like the idea of keeping these old toy trains running.


american flyer model train

american flyer model train

“Hi Al,

Simple easy-peasy way to connect track. I work in N scale but this could work in any scale.

Atlas makes a rather cheap looking bumper for and end of line stop and it’s not at all prototypical.

However, the use I found for mine was to use it to slide track connectors onto the rail.

First, take the bumper and file the base of the short rails just enough to make it easy to slide on a rail connector. Filing the shorter rails allows the connector enough room to slide it onto the track. Do this on both rails.

Now you can slide the connector easily onto your new “tool” and then slide it onto the rails of the track you are laying. Also if it’s a bit tight you can spread the connector with a small jeweler’s screwdriver, or what I do is simply run a file along the base of the rails to help it along.

This is the quickest way I know to attach the sliders without using needle-nose pliers or pressing them on with your fingertips. The latter seems to hurt after a while.

Remember to solder all connections for trouble-free running of your trains.

Next tip is how to build engine sheds, warehouses, barns, water towers and the like using bamboo reed on a cardboard frame using only wood glue

Hope this helps.

Keepin’ the Rhythm,


Roger’s mail made me smile – I get so many similar ones. It’s hard to throw away the memories of your childhood, and how much better if you can get them going again?

A big thanks to Terry for sharing his finding on his model train reversing loop units, and to Roger and Steve.

That’s all today folks.

Don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you more tips and tricks than you can shake a stick at.

And there’s also the brand spanking new ebay cheat sheet here.



PS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

27 Responses to Model train reversing loop units

  1. To says:


    Nice photos love the AF trains….keep the photos coming

  2. H Thomas Carley says:

    Al: I truly enjoy reading and viewing your email each morning. It is like reading the paper each day. Thank you

  3. John N Frye says:

    Hey Roger,
    Personally, I think S is the ideal guage to model, and was saddened by Amreican Flyer going out of business. There are still S gauge trains available, but are expensive and the selection is limited. All this led me to go with HO on my layout. Still, if you want the ideal size, detail, and ease of modeling (easier to build, trains weigh more and track better) S is the way to go. Good luck with the layout!


  4. Bob Shipley says:

    Terry- the new yard looks great. Should give you plenty of storage space and hours of fun building trains.
    Roger- I love the AF stuff. My cousin had several sets when we were kids. I was in HO then so the bigger trains were really cool. Now I’m modeling in O. go figure.

  5. Richard says:

    Terry, awesome job on your track plan. I do see one obvious area where polarity will be an issue, and that is your wye connection on the top mid-right side. Can’t wait to see all the track put together.


    Lionel bough American Flyer and are still making AF stuff. There are several other mfg. MTH and American Models. You should try some of there track I think that would solve some of your problems with running trains. You also need to join the NASG there magazine will provide you with a lot of current modeling information.

  7. wowwweee
    that 50s and 60s S gauge American Flyer gear is the stuff dreams are made of
    that one Locomotive must be a collectors item
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  8. Larry J Middleton says:

    Good job in solving your yard problem. Should be able to shuffle cars around fairly well. I have one question; The measurement for extra extension? The radius is listed as 24″ which would make the extra length about 50/52″
    Thanks, Larry M. NJ, USA.

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    Great track plan. It looks like it would have lots of flexibility. It looks fun to run as well.

  10. Colin Bentley says:

    Hi Terry,
    You will definitely need a reverse loop power connection for the triangle of track you have created at the ‘top’ of your layout, where your extension board joins your existing board.

  11. Cary Price says:

    How great to make a layout using the trains you played with as a kid. Wish I still had some of the lionel stuff I played with in the garage on those rainy saturdays. great stuff thanks for sharing Roger, hope your having fun! Cary in KY

  12. jim Sulkosky says:

    Track plan looks great,

  13. Barry hespenhide says:

    Hey, Terry
    On your railroad you called Dammit I can under stand. I also love switches and main lines. It looks very good. If you could what scale are you using, Ho , N, ?
    Would love to see more when done.

  14. Ian McDonald says:

    track plan is of great interest looks very serious stuff. photos are good remembering the good old days. interested in that very handy tip. thanks for sharing.

  15. Colin says:

    Great solution to your storage and reverse direction problem. Also like the possibility of another turntable at the new storage end.

  16. Robert Rolfe says:

    Terry or anyone, where would some one get a program to do the drawings he did? Doing ho for a while, however me and computers are not best friends, any help would be GREAT.
    NV Bob

  17. Roger,
    Good for you! I’ve been back into American Flyer now since 2012. These are awesome trains! After decades in storage, you can clean & oil them and they just start running again. I’ve decided to stick with the original Gilbert stuff and have a layout in work that takes place in the mid fifties, (when I had my first set). It’s a challenge, but I’ve managed to pick up a lot of good flyer via eBay and train swap-meets, but the set that got me going again was in an antique store. I see you are using the rubber roadbed. That’s what I’m using too, it makes the trains run real quiet. Have fun…I sure am.
    Dennis, Flyer4evr

  18. Bob in Virginia says:

    Great solution to the ension track plan but I think there is another polarity issue where the green track meets the other part of the layout to the left of the turntable. A Train traveling from left to right on the main at the bottom would meet a train traveling right to left on the extension when they reach the turnout by the 19 degree crossover.

  19. Bob in Virginia says:

    I stand corrected. I thought the green track on the main went to a switch but one green track goes over the other green track so there is no polarity issue.

  20. Terry Miller says:

    DAMIT 2 railroad update: Sad news friends, the railroad declared bankruptcy after the railroad commission investigated the activities. I will send a complete update soon.
    Incidentally, the final completed plan for the rr ended up looking nothing like the original drawings.
    For Robert: The track plan came from SCARM (Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeler) which I have had for years. It works better and simpler than anything ese I’ve seen and with a push of a button it will convert itself to a 3-D model!. Here’s the link.
    Stay tuned for the final backstory
    Terry/Idaho USA

  21. Franco428 says:

    I would love to see overhead images of your turntables and engine storage tracks and/or houses.

  22. George Zaky says:

    So great to see S layouts. I have an HO that is incomplete but planning an S layout to be started soon. I have newer engines but have converted some old ones to DC can motors that run at slow & scale speed and can be DCC. A 312 that sounds real – I died and went to heaven! Put that AF cattle station, logging unit and a working station and you put all the other scales to shame-(of course I’m prejudiced). Yes almost everything is scratch built but that makes us Real men! Our motto should be ” A pain in the S but we persevere !.”

  23. John Birch says:

    Steve, I like your idea very much. I may be dumb or perhaps it’s that being in England, I am not familiar with the Atlas bumpers. Please send a photo or two to show exactly what you have done. (It has set my brain ticking over, though!)

  24. Will in NM says:

    Your new version of the track plan extension looks a lot better. You’ll still need a polarity reverser because the new plan at the top of the extension includes both a wye and a reversing loop. Also, there seems to be something off in the scale of the extension table since the “72 inch long” horizontal portion looks much smaller than the “76 inches” in the vertical direction.

    Also, I don’t see the purpose of the new green 24-inch radius to the right at the 3-way switch since it creates the final leg of the wye, but you would already have a reverse loop in the new green line and the new red curve to the left at the 3-way switch. In fact, I would just make the 3-way switch a simple left-hand turnout and remove the right leg entirely. The yard area seems overly complicated with too many switches. Creating a simple ladder yard would probably give you more storage area with fewer turnouts. I see that you did add a run-around track or two so your engines can decouple from a train at the end of a run.

    Nice photos of the AF layout and equipment. I always liked S-scale too but settled on HO because there was so little available in S-scale back then. Now there seems to be a lot more off-the-shelf S-scale equipment available.

    Great idea and good use for those Atlas bumper tracks. I am definitely going to use your idea — I’m tired of the sore fingertips from adding rail joiners!

  25. Erick says:

    Looks great.? I hope mine comes out that good.

  26. Andrew Aves says:

    Hi Terry,
    I still think you have a reversing loop. Locomotives entering the storage loop by the points top centre and turning right at the points by the turntable and continuing through the 3 way points onto the middle red and black route it will arrive back at the points top centre travelling in the opposite direction.
    There are ways to fix this with DPDT switches, and if you are DCC I understand there are special switched available.
    Andrew in Oz

  27. Mark Grzan says:

    How do you solider your tracks? Love a video or directions. Thank you kindly!!

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