Rob starts again


I have been following your site for a while now and I enjoy all of the posts and tips.

As with many of your readers, I have gotten the “BUG” again after many many years thinking about it.

I had a large HO layout in my parents house as a boy but after college, marriage, etc, I never had the time to start another layout.

Well, my in-laws came across a box of Lionel Tin plates (Pre-war). For those who are not familiar with Lionel grading, they made all of their trains out of metal until WW II. After that they started using plastics.

I was always fond of Lionel trains but HO was the popular scale in the 70’s so that’s what we built. Well, I jumped in with both feet, started with a small 2-4-2 steam engine and some track.

I recently negotiated for some space in the basement for a 4 X 8 table and began construction.

I have always been more interested in running trains than scenery so I have jammed in as much as I could fit. The track it all O27. I have just about finished laying the track and will be wiring next.

I have done some test runs and so far so good. I will work on the scenery last, but I will do it this time.

I have a mix of steam and diesel, passenger and freight so I can keep changing as I like.

No particular line or theme to the plan as of now.

I got my 11 year old son the Lionel Polar Express set for Christmas and he is anxious to see it run.

The detail that Lionel put into the set is amazing, one of the best Berkshires I’ve seen.

I have attached a few progress photos and a short video.


Bob S,

Long Island, NY, USA”

2016-01-31 13.24.32

2016-01-31 16.05.16

2016-02-07 16.59.12

model train track plan

“For me the important part is to get as much out of my hobby as I can without spending too much money.

To that end I go to flea markets, garage sales and train shows to find good deals on collections of old Tyco rolling stock. For not much money I can detail, repaint, add knuckle couplers and steel wheels, and other minor items and get a nice looking and nice rolling fleet of cars for not much money, but a bit of time and work.


“I signed up for your emails about a week ago. One of them mentioned what you do with oddball things you find that you can use in your train layout. Was laying in the hospital bed a couple years ago and was looking at this breathing machine that was supposed to blow into to see if I had enough strength in my lungs. I said you know that looks like a silo. So here it is!



“I have just made a requested video showing the pulling power of a couple of diesels pulling a long rake of coaches, bit of fun, but not realistic on a model railway.



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

Thanks to everyone – enjoyed Rob’s narrative, it’s all about getting started! And Roger proves a point – it really is amazing what you can make use of if you keep your eyes open.

Lots more like this in the Beginner’s Guide.

Keep ’em coming folks.



33 Responses to Rob starts again

  1. loved the video /the scenery was great and well laid out / keep it up al the commitary

    was very readable and interesting p.s and I am one of the worst spellers in this world

  2. Dave makes some good videos
    Thanks again very very good

  3. Don Kadunc says:


    Do the lower and upper levels connect some where?

  4. Steve Hudacko says:

    I could have written your post. About a year and half ago I started my Lionel 027 layout with my 65 year old trains. I do the same thing by going to flee markets and train shows and getting the old stuff and rebuilding it. To me that is a big part of the fun. You really have packed a lot into a small space but it looks good. Nice to have your son as a helper, I have my grandson helping me and it is priceless. Have fun and enjoy.
    Steve from Toms River

  5. Ken Goldenbeg says:

    Rob, love your story and work, but I would love to see closeup photos of these vintage Lionel trains! Thanks.

  6. Steve Masters says:

    Always watch the videos and always entertaining Dave. Great to see a scale length train, your layout can accommodate it without looking silly! lucky you! However, as you say from a practical point of view unrealistic on most layouts and unless you have a 40″ radius or better they will de rail under their own weight or drag etc. I decided a while ago to have a maximum of 6 coaches which fit into the stations with an engine at each end etc. A compromise but a necessary one and less frustration! I do have a high level part on my layout and it is amazing how recent advances now produce engines which can pull scale length trains while being smooth and almost silent. It is a great time to re enter the model railway world the detail and efficiency are a million time better than the models we used to have! keep up the inspiration to others sir!

  7. God bless ‘im! Judging by all that rolling stock I see, Dave’s got money to burn! Wish I had some! A wee bit of his skills would help, too! Keep up the good work, Sir!!

  8. Norman Roy says:

    Just before Thanks giving, I got out my two old trains… a 1949 Lionel Scout that my dad bought for me when I was 3 years old and a 1932 Louis Marx that has been passed down through the family. Neither had been out of their boxes since I dated the box in 1966. A friend has helped me build two tables in an “L” position and I have since added two more new trains with two elevated rails. Looking forward when time permits to start some Styrofoam mountain landscaping. It makes me feel almost like a kid again. 🙂 The internet has been great for some creative new ideas.

  9. Nathan Perreira says:

    Thanks for sharing Bob, Your layout it is starting to take shape I look forward to seeing more in the future.

    Thank you David, for video of your entire layout it was refreshing to see the size and the scope of your attic. Your past videos shows a lot of detail and it was just amazing and creative. But for me I was hoping to see this type of video so I could get an idea of the scope. Having an addict myself and wondering what to do with it that was a big question although I don’t see my attic looking like yours but it’s giving me a lot of good ideas.

    Maui Hawaii

  10. Lee Barry, CEO LZPMRR says:

    the comment where Rick states “the most important thing to me is to no spend any more money than he has too. I think starting out in O/Lionel/MTH is an awfully expensive way to begin.

  11. Wayne says:

    I had same problem with ‘Sledging’ with long trains (14+) wagons, sorted this out by placing a weight 1/3 and 2/3 length back from loco

  12. Jerry Truax says:

    I just love Dave’s video’s. I have one question. What is that thing mounted on the back wall just to the left of the big bridge. It reminds me of a wooden record turntable. Keep the videos coming.

    Have A Blessed Day,
    Jerry in Pennsylvania

  13. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great story on how people get back or start up in this hobby. would like to see more on the track build as it progresses I am just about to start my up hill climb track. it is always good viewing when there is a video, love seeing trains moving.

  14. Mike Kaludjer says:

    Did I missed the mentioned video? Praise to the HO-er’s layout building skills in twice the size; it’s looks stable. HOORAY! It isn’t roadbedded and it’s O-27 – forgotten, flexible for cut & shape, and terrific in tight turns. I hope that he keeps us informed of his progress if only to be an inspiration to new O-gaugers like myself. Also, I’ld like to see the layout in operation. Congrats to the man who thinks of scenery as secondary; we need more meat-and-potato hobbyists.

  15. paul Otway says:

    I also like tinplate trains too.

    Paul from ozzie

  16. Andrew says:

    When it was my first job in 1972, I traveled from Newport , Essex to London Liverpool Street daily. The trains were 12 coaches, pull usually but Class 37s and occasionally class 25s and were to long for most stations, in fact at Stansted Mountfitchet, to get off you had to be in the first four coaches. They were always a mixture of Blue & Grey and Maroon, with mainly Green engines with Yellow heads. The line is now Electrified.

  17. John Reynolds says:

    Great 07 layout… Looks like a lot of fun….
    The video was great also… 12 car rake… Very nice.

  18. Joe says:

    Great layout wih I had the room to do something like that. Looks like you put a lot of work into it. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    Dave, realistically you wouldn’t have that long a passenger train pulling that many coaches right ? Now on freight trains that might happen but I don’t know the number you would have in that situation.

  20. Rod Mackay says:

    Trains of 12 cars were common, and during the war they would run longer still. I was guard on a Severn Valley train just yesterday with a GWR Manor class and nine on for 306 tons, and some of our intermediate stops only hold five. On the national network nowadays you can’t call at NEW stations that are shorter than the train but you can at places where it’s been done before the regs changed, provided you can select door opening or take other precautions. When we had HSTs diverted over the Golden Valley route, they had to cancel the local trains to release paths, so you could even see a 10 car 125mph train calling at the 2-car Stonehouse halt, just the guard’s door being released.

  21. Alan Marriott says:

    Next challenge for Dave is a tug of war to find which is his most powerful loco with the best traction.

  22. Dangerous Dave says:

    Thank you all again for your coments , back in the early days we would regular see trains with 10 -11 -12 carriages and just the one loco pulling , but on steep inclines they did put a banker on the rear , seem to remember they did this coming out of Manchester heading towards Yorkshire , as for the box on the wall its an old dynamis command station I used to use , not used now due to having the ECOS controler , but may come in handy if the ecos stops working for some reason , I have made another video showing me adding the rust which Al is posting on Sunday ..hope this answer the questions in the comments …Dave

  23. Don gator Henry says:

    I’m into ho but I like all trains. thanks gator

  24. John Reynolds says:

    Like the layout idea… Nice work on the tinplate..

  25. Ian Schoeman says:

    Very, very VERY inspiring. Thank you

  26. jeff says:

    like the table. i am trien to start a train layout

  27. Jim Aspin says:

    Rick, really sweet arrangement of your track! You’ve designed a lot of fun into your available area! Thanks for taking the time to share your pics!!
    Roger, what a dandy recycling! Looks wonderful!!

  28. Lon Giland Bob, nice compact layout. Our layouts as a youth were O and O-27, in a U shape. It filled 2/3 of a large attic room. One mountain was plaster of Paris, but the other was a sheet that me mum (for you British folks) starched the heck out of. It held it’s shape for over a decade when I left home and the room reverted to a guest room. Dad already had plans for the train room in their retirement home.
    Mike – yes we do have to save our dollars wherever we can. I have taken some stabs at Facebook based sales, and so far they have been more than satisfactory.
    Dave – Glad you stopped at 12 cars…13 would have been too risky.

  29. THOMAS says:

    Thanks Dave … Real nice of you to show your trains running !

  30. Back in the days of the Big Four, trains often had 12 coaches which didn’t fit many stations. Where this happened on the GWR the loco pulled up just beyond the front end of the platform so those passengers in coaches at the platform could leave. Then the guard signalled to the driver to pull forward until the remaining coaches were in the platform. To a young lad it was fun to watch though life was more leisurely then if more risky without the necessary health and safety rules.
    Just building a ‘recycled’ N gauge layout on a cardboard frame using reused stuff.
    Another David.

  31. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Rob, Nice looking layout, good luck with your project!! Have Lionel postwar myself. Did you ever think of joining OGRForum, look into it Its a nice site.

  32. Tim says:

    Rob. If you look at your 027 turnouts, you can remove the solenoid on top by putting the opposite hand turnout solenoid directly underneath.the one you take off. You might have to drill out 2 rivets to open too from bottom half of switch base. The solenoid and mechanical mechanism have 1 or 2 rivets holding it on. Carefully cut open the bottom where mechanical lever needs to go. Again just turn it upside down to connect to solenoid gearing mech. Reattach wires with solder. Rivet it back together. NOW the top of switch is absolutely clear of all obstacles except where the 3 control wires attach. This allows you to use larger engines or cars that would otherwise hit the solenoid cover and derail.
    I used 1 inch foam board under track so no problem cutting out foam to accommodate the mechanism under the switch.

  33. Douglas Macfie says:

    Lots of nice O27 information being extracted from boxes that many of us had put away for a while i had begun to think i was the only one around

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