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Lionel O-gauge train platform - under Christmas tree

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Joful, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    So, the last year or two, I've been talking about pulling out some of my old O-gauge stuff, and setting it up under the Christmas tree for my son. I always think of it too late in the season to do anything about it, and may be in the same boat again this year... but at least I'll kick it around, so that I can be ready for next year, should I not get it done this year.

    We get a large tree each year, roughly 10 feet tall x 6 feet diameter, so I could fit a small platform under the tree. Also, since we're putting the tree stand on an old wood floor, there's always concerns with a tree pan leak or spill ruining the floor (can't get under there to wipe up any water that does spill), so the platform will double as floor protection.

    Here's the rough layout I'm considering, with four tracks (two loops + two sidings), for control from my vintage Lionel Trainmaster (4 channel) controller. The tree is placed in the corner of a room, which is why have the platform squared on three corners, and radius'd on the corner facing out into the room.

    lionel_tree_platform_20131107_1401.gif

    Construction will be 3/4" Baltic Birch ply (comes in 60" x 60" sheets), and the tree will be elevated on a smaller platform a few inches above the main platform, with the track passing under the tree stand plataeu, as tunnels. The big green "+" represents the legs of the tree stand, whereas the green circle is the rough placement of the plateau on which the stand will sit. I'm hoping to use fake stone walls or build hills up to this plateau, sitting maybe 5" higher than the main platform.

    Ideas? Criticisms? It's been a long time since I laid out a train platform (I was probably 12 - 13, last time I played with these things), so I don't even remember how I used to synchronize speed control circuits at the switches.

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  2. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Looks great, and it's a great thing for the young!
    I'd make sure you can get at the rear of the setup, because that's where your derailments are going to be - just ask Murphy!
    I keep wanting to drag out my American Flyers, and maybe I will this year!
    Joful likes this.
  3. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't have any of my train stuff anymore, (except my first locomotive, tender, and caboose). My dad & I had quite a layout back in the day.

    This was Christmas morning 1954, the little set that started it all:

    Lionel.jpg
    oldspark, Jags and Joful like this.
  4. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    We get a live (burlap balled) tree every year so we can plant it on the property. Trouble is the things are dang heavy.
    We struggled with them for years and now put them in a large pan (actually a round horse trough) on top of a furniture dolly with non-marring wheels.
    This allows us to access the tree easily to set up lights etc. and then push it back into position in a corner. Makes the tree look bigger than it really is too.
    I'm thinking you might be able to put wheels under the platform to allow you to move the whole thing for access, tree and all.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Hey fossil, I have that set!

    I like the wheels idea, semipro. I had planned on a felt backing for the platform, but you've got my gears turning. (anyone smell smoke?)

    Anyone have any experience with terrain? If the tree stand is going to sit on a platform a few inches above the track, I need either stone walls or hills skirting that plateau. I've never done that.
  6. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    How did those old multi channel train controllers work?

    I've never seen one!

    -SF
  7. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    kids will love it. there is a liquor store here in town that sets up a train i'm not sure of the gauge but the cars are over a foot long and 5 inches wide. my son asks to go see it every year. i had the same train set when i was a kid. we had the smoke drops for the smoke stack. you have to post some pictures.
  8. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Maybe a tunnel? Looks like maybe you have one planned.
    Even as an adult I get a thrill seeing the locomotive headlight coming through the tunnel just before the train pops out.
    Joful likes this.
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Using various thickness of foam and cutting it at a harsh angle with a knife can setup the foundation for "mountains". My parents did this several years ago - and the results can be pretty cool. Just one example:

    My father had a large collection of American Flyer.
    Joful likes this.
  10. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    ZW_1956.gif d_8121.jpg 9582475_2_l.jpg

    Outer levers are one channel each, dials just inside those are each another variable voltage channel, although now I can't remember if the direction switch also reverses them, or only the outer channels. Will need to check that out, as I planned to use the outer pair for the two loops, and the inner pair for the two sidings.

    Lionel intended this controller to be used for two tracks + two accessories, but it can be used for four tracks, as well. Also, this thing is fairly big... will try to find a photo that shows scale:

    maxresdefault.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013
  11. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I remember those - they were soooo kool when I was a kid.==c
  12. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    my dad and I did the HO scale stuff, we added on to the scene a bit every year. we did terrain stuff with cardboard form, paper machet, and paint. now they have the cool faux stone paints/ fleeck stone type stuff to make everything look all professional like.
  13. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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  14. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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  15. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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  16. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Thanks Jags! Makes me sad I threw away several very large (like crib mattress size) blocks of white styrofoam just a few years back.
  17. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    I'll have you know... This thread caused me to start researching Lionel O gauge trains and layouts.

    Holy crap!!!

    I didn't need another expensive hobby, but now I can't wait until my kids get a little older. We are totally going to get into this.

    BTW, there are a bunch of great videos on YouTube. Check out the Eric's trains channel.

    -SF
    Joful likes this.
  18. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Look at all of your options before you leap into the hobby. HO scale has its advantages and appeal (purportedly the most popular model train scale in the world), and even the little Z scale can be a lot of fun, though it has limited (but loyal) appeal. Check 'em all out and go to lots of shows and demos and train club layouts and whatever you can find, and read a bunch before you commit to a scale. Rick
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  19. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Ditto that, fossil. Lionel has a certain nostalgic coolness, and I hang onto them because they were my father's (and grandfather's) favorite toys... but if starting fresh today, it would be HO or smaller.
  20. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    I have some HO trains from when I was a kid.... Somewhere...

    I was blown away by the level of detail and working accessories on O gauge.

    I suppose being able to do a more elaborate layout in less space would be nice too.

    -SF
  21. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I forgot to mention, I also have a ton of late 1940's - early 1950's HO, all my father's. I added a bunch to that collection in the 1980's, and had a few 8' x 12' layouts. You can do a lot with HO ("Half O-gauge"), that you can't do with O-gauge (Lionel), but nothing suits a set around a Christmas tree like Lionel.
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I had American Flyer trains as I was growing up. The 3 rail system of Lionel didn't match my vision or real railroads which had 2 tracks.
    Joful and Iembalm4aLiving like this.
  23. Iembalm4aLiving

    Iembalm4aLiving Feeling the Heat

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    I'm a 'Flyer man myself.....I started collecting them a few years ago, only setting up when the tree is up. Here is a quick shot from last year:



    For me, dragging it out during Christmas time keeps it special for me and my 8 year old son.......
    heat seeker likes this.
  24. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    My dad had a large AF collection. My uncle had virtually every machine and bits and pieces that American Flyer made. He was a collector extraordinaire. When he passed, his collection was drooled over by collectors across the planet.
  25. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I agree, but AF did not yet have any electric trains at the time Lionel became popular (WW1-era). Sometimes you just need to be first to own the market, not necessarily better!

    Not sure how much you've read on the history of O-gauge, but AF was a big maker of O-gauge trains. In fact, I believe that most of their revenue came from manufacturing O-gauge trains for the 3-rail Lionel system, while they were trying to market their own (far less profitable) 2-rail system. They were just too late to the party, with an entire generation having already adopted O-gauge... it seems they needed to wait for the baby-boomer generation to really gain any popularity.

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