Lionel Train Layout an O-Gauge Layout


Lionel Train Layout Goals, Planning and Construction Log



1) Started with favorite track plan from November 1999 Classic Toy Trains magazine. Reversed and modified size to fit actual area available.
2) Needed to add 42 inch or larger curves on at least one route for passenger cars.
3) Wanted multiple clear paths to run trains unattended
4) lots of switching action and reversing loops
5) design table and wiring in sections so it can be taken apart in future


Purchased RR-track software to expedite layout work.
3/2004 Originally entered plan from magazine using standard Lionel track. Lost when hard drive failed.
Increased original plan to 9 x 16 feet to accommodate goal 2 of a 42 inch minimum radius outer track for passenger cars.

12/2004 Started again using Atlas track
Added 2 pairs of O54 and O72 switch to provide a 42" minimum radius siding for outer passenger train loop.
Added two more revesing loops and one 90 degree crossover. Used one custom curve section to fit crossover.

1/3/05 Reversed layout to improve access to sections agains't walls

1/05 Decided to shrink size to 9 X15 ¼ feet to provide needed access to left side of layout

2/05 Ordered track 2/5/05

Used RR-track to enter the plans for the benchwork.

When ordering plywood found 4 x 10 foot standard so increased part of table to 10 foot and added a small yard with extra space.
Updated the yard to have three through routes and one single ended siding

Table construction

Ordered 4 sheets of 4/ 10 foot good one side plywood. Had one sheet cut to 39" width and one to 9 foot length.

Decided on 5 legs per table 3 on one side and 2 offset 2 feet from outside for left side.
Started table construction on 2/28/05
Built table 1 4x10 feet with spacing to have access hole

3/6/05 Added 6 legs to table 1 after much debate with myself. Far north legs have a 1 x 4 screwed to a 2 x 4. The three legs to be shared between tables are 2 2x4's. these will both allow the use of 2 ½ inch casters on bottom. Flipped first table up on all six legs. Garage floor not level so unknown how well this will work. Started on 1x4 frame for second table. Made two mistakes. Had to flip over 1 x 4 that mates to table 1. Also width of cut plywood from lumber yard is 39 ¼ " so I am off by ¼ inch. Decided to make up for it with washers or ¼ inch spacer between tables 2 and 3.

3/11/05 Added new siding for coal loader 397 revised track list given to retailer.

3/12/05 Work on table two continues. Check for 3456 coal cars sent and coal ramp 456 and coal loader 397 purchased along with switch tower 24153.
Found another coal car and culvert car and 3461 lionel log dump car
Discovered that lumber yard cut at angle of ¼" on 39 inch width.
Cut extra off of width with circular saw. Remains to be seen how well table matches.

3/22/05 Cars arrive. Coal cars, culvert cars, and log car.

3/23/05 Picked up track today. Missing 3 pkgs. of 1 ¼" straights. Two mistakes, 6 pkgs instead of 6 pieces of 36" section 15 degrees. Also, 12 bumpers instead of 6..
Also rotary beacon and two illuminated station platforms arrive.

3/25/05 Adjust siding trackage on 397 loader siding and lionel sawmill siding.

4/9 Table 3 contruction. Decided on 30 degree angle. Cut plywood first then built frame. Cut angled piece last. This went better than expected.

4/14/05 Checked out MTH book at library and started reading about DCS. Sounds interesting. Need to explore incompatibilities with TMCC.

4/15/05 Received phone call that the 6 SC-2 controllers were in at Grand Central Limited. Great to have a major mail order supplier only 3 miles away.

4/16/05 Table 3 legs built. Table 4 frame assembled. Sunday glued top on frame. Added screws in place of nails in top of table 1. Measured location of access hole in table 1.

4/19/05 Won Ebay auction of Rotary coal tipple. Redesigned layout to include tipple by putting it in 4 different locations.
Favorite current placement is near front lowered into cutout in layout.
Decided to go for DCS with 3 AIU's.

4/24/05 Cut access holes in tables, added cross braces to frame them and moved cross brace near front of table 3 to allow for possible front table 3 tipple location.

5/1/05 Painting completed. Primed on both top and bottom. Painted green on top and sides.

5/4/05 Order 1.25 inch straights from Virginia train store.

5/8/05 Moved tables to upstairs.

5/10/05 Picked up track for dual upper path for rotary coal tipple. Returned extra pieces of track and extra TMCC system. Picked up DCS system and 0-8-0 Burlington engine. Still waiting on AIU's. Still waiting on 1.25 inch straights.

5/11/05 Modified elevated path to allow future addition of elevated loop. Stain and polyurethane for legs are purchased.

5/15/05 Applied stain and polyurethane to the 15 table legs.

5/21/05 Assemble legs on table 1. 40 inch seems very high. Considering lowering table to 36 inches. Problem is head will hit 1x4's when sitting under table.

6/5/05 Completed in place assembly of all four tables at 40 inches height. Clamped 2x4's to legs make slides to move tables into place so I could do assembly without any help. Finally ready to lay track after 4 months!

Track assembly begins

6/6/05 A red letter day! Initial unwrapping and laying track on table starts. Decided to go back to SC-2 and AMC's to control everything since DCS will not control the command control culvert loader and the AMC/ARC Gantry crane that I have already purchased.

6/11/05 Outer loop assembly completed. First train run! Some switch issues to check.

6/17/05 ZW transformer arrives.

6/19/05 Father's Day. Two new cars Morton Salt and BN hopper. Initial assembly of second loop completed and tested using Lionel 0-8-0 Burlington engine.

6/21/05 Rear passing segment for outer loop assembled and first train run on it.

6/25/05 to 7/10/05 On vacation. No progress

7/11/05 to 7/31/05 No progress due to arm pain. Physical Therapy in progress.

8/13/05 Trip to Kansas City netted new UPS Packaging Station at Halls in Crown Center

8/14/05 Testing accessories for track spacing. 397 Coaling tower is bigger than RR Track library part so needed 2.5 more inches between tracks.

8/20/05 Continue to place accessories on layout to check clearances. Had to swap locations of Culvert loader/unloader and station/platforms due to switch interference. Unpacked all cars and other engines to check clearances.

8/27/05 #38 Water tank, UPS freight car, added Lionel 1/2 O straight to fit 456 coal ramp to Atlas track, 2 more uncoupler track sections to operate accessories. Swapped gantry crane and horse loader car since horse car will probably be left in place most of time.

9/5/05 Glued Atlas Pratt Truss bridge. Started assembly of K-Line trestles. Will have to go higher than 6 inches since bridge is 1 5/8" from bottom to top of track. and should have 5 1/2 inch clearance under bridge.

10/15/05 Bought bridge piers for Atlas bridge. Checked clearance with passenger car. One end at 5 inch and the other raised by a 3/4" board should do it. Need a way to support the elevated track especially where it is directly over the lower track. Everyone I talk to about the layout asks about a tunnel so.... this elevated area on the upper right is a good candidate.

10/29/05 Cut 1 x 6 boards to go on front edge. Angles hard to do with just a skill saw. Staining started. Need to finish this soon since winter is on the way.

11/5/05 The AIU's ordered in April finally arrived. Plan is now to parallel the switch connections with the TMCC SC-2. Need to find 3 conductor ribbon cable. Got a 24112 oilfield but one bubble tube is empty so will have to call. Second coat of stain applied to front edge boards.

11/19/05 1x4x10ft and 34xz36"plywood to mount electronics on. Will hinge down from table 2. Primed white paint.

Roadbed installation

11/25/05 Started laying down roadbed. Started by gluing and then removing nails but switched to just nailing with 1/2" #18 nails. This takes a long time.

12/14/05 Roadbed installation completed. Now to reassemble all the track sections and clean up the mess!!

12/23/05 Basic operation restored for Christmas. Stained trim boards intalled. Vacuum cleaner used to clean up from roadbed installation

12/24/05 Christmas arrives. Two new accessories, train orders building and diesel fueling station. Three new cars, MTH McDonald's and Lionel Comet tank cars and MTH UP Box car.

12/26/05 Discover conflict when passenger train on curve for middle passing track in lower left of layout hit by 0-8-0 on loop near the sawmill. Could also be an issue in upper right corner so will need to test clearance.

12/28/05 Worked on possible changes to upper level. Moved rear upward trestles closer to back of layout.

12/31/05 With move of track above made room for another passing track for the outer track loop (new trackage shown in RED on main page. This will allow storage of an additional train. Have all the needed track except the O54L and 045R switches.

1/7/06 Added passing track. Still need to put down roadbed under this new track. Work continues on add-on upper level track. This addition would allow a 4th train to be running continuously on upper level.

1/14/06 Added burning switch tower. Found several older action accessories I did not know about. The 12767 Steam Clean and Wheel Grind, WLLC radio station, Heliport, and an American Flier Gabe the lamplighter.


1/19/06 Started layout of electrical panel. Will hinge down from near front of table 2. 1x4 placed across under table provide support. Wires from other tables will pass through holes in 1 x 4 to keep grouped together in case layout needs to be dissassembled in future. This will save putting in connectors now between tables.

1/22/06 Added webpage showing future expansion of layout. Need to stay focused on finishing the wiring first. Decided on name for layout Great Plains and Western (GP&W).

1/28/06 Started insulating sections and added electrical connections to track. Soldering directly to the rail for sensing working OK. Soldered directly to underside of uncoupling tracks. This will take quite a while to finish. Need to remember to mark where holes need to be drilled before moving track.

2/4/06 Birthday arrived yesterday with 12767 Steam Clean and Wheel Grind Shop, 497 Coaler, 787 log loader, dispatching station, 789 baggage smasher, MTH 60' Burlington passenger 4 car set, and 29812 SanteFe Hot Box Refer.

2/7/06 Bought Airplane Pylon on Ebay. Work on soldering wires to tracks continues. Purchased wire staples and wire ties with place for mounting screw. Plan is to use wire nuts to connect all wires from track to cables to connect to wiring panel.

2/11/06 Bought Lionel Heliport. Some 4.5 and 5.5" track sections to redo siding for #497 Coaling station.

2/13/06 Adding links page to website so I can get site added to model railroad webring.

2/15/06 Airplane Pylon arrives. Work on soldering wires to track continues about 45 min to 1 hr a day. Running out of insulating joints. Used about 160 so far. Downloaded PDF about atlas switch issues. Becoming concerned about Atlas switches. May have to solder wires on all switches. Interested to see Lionel announcement about taking over K-line. Local train show this weekend.

2/19/06 Soldered jumpers on all switches to connect outside rails. Started reassembly of track. Just about ready to start the under the table wiring work. Will leave about a foot of wire coiled underneath so track can be pulled back up easily if needed. Added counter to main page.

2/27/06 Added page with photo of engines. Bought UP Intermodel Crane. Now to find the right spot for such a large unit.

3/4/2006 Placed crane where station and platforms were in lower left of layout. Mounted 1 x 4 for wiring under layout. Mounted SC-2 controllers on plywood panel. Bought spacers for MTH terminal strip boards. Trying to figure out best place for ZW transformer. Almost ready to start running wires.

3/18/06 Mounted AIU on front of panel. Put TIU and terminal strips on back. Green lights for each channel of DCS mounted on front. Wiring channel attached. Panel attached to gate hinges on 1x4 under layout.

3/24/06 Intermodel Crane returned. The accessories were missing (ladders, handrails, and simulated lights). Will keep looking for another. Bought radar dish and animated newsstand on Ebay.

4/1/06 Connecting wires to back of control panel (unpainted side). After several hits to the noggin started wearing winter hat. It works! No more lumps and blood. Also bifocals do not work well looking up. Working with your arms above your head gets tiring pretty quickly when you are not used to it.

4/2/06 Success outer loop (green route) works again. First time trains have run since January. Tried DCS and signals vary but control was maintained around outer loop.

4/9/06 All three loops now working again. Train was stopping in switch #11 so swapped one from siding. Have not found problem yet. Need to start wiring switches.

4/29/06 Switch wiring almost complete. Only 4 switches to go. Need more #3 terminals. Upper level track next along with wiring accessories.

5/7/06 Switch wiring completed for lower track.

Time out for Daughters wedding and vacation

7/21/06 New Lionel engine 28860 UP GP30 and capacitive discharge unit to enhance and protect Altas switch operation after reading online where people have switch coils overheat if powered for too long.

8/1/06 Trying to decide which way to wire accessories. To work with DCS AUI and TMCC accessory units or to put switches along front of layout. Will have to think about this for awhile.

2/3/07 New log dump car. Started replacing 3 uncoupler tracks with accessory tracks. The log dump cars use the accessory rails to activate not the magnetic uncoupler tracks.

3/3/07 New train set #6-31753 Post War Celebration Great Northern EP-5 set with 6 cars. First time running trains for a while. Need to find out best way to clean track as engine is stopping at low speed.

3/21/07 Discovered barrel car gets power from only one accessory rail and uses outer rail of track for other connection so only installed on accessory rail on track section to operate this car.

6/5/07 Track and switches for expanded upper level arrive. Another SC-2 so will have 42 switches when this level is complete. Still trying to decide how to support this level. Present thinking is still using 1/2 plywood under track, maybe roadbed?, and then putting 1/8" thick paneling along sides to look supportive. Have 50 maximum height K-line tresles to support. Still not convinced that this is best approach but something must go under track to support it because of the many track joints. Indecision will promote inaction until I feel comfortable with plan. Maybe a test section needs to be created to test the feasibility.

11/26/07 Track cleaning with scotchbrite pad and GooGone.

12/25/07 Christmas gifts include new Lionel Legacy TMCC control system and UP Operating car paint shop. Can't find reverse switch on new controller.

2/3/08 Added MTH 30-11009 cantilevered signal bridge. Worked on wiring. Added 12 gauge ground wire to center of each of the 4 tables. This way only need to run a minimum of 1 wire back to DCS controllers for accessory control.

2/9/08 Added new 6-27535 UP piggy back trailer car and refurbished 3462 milk platform from train show in Council Bluffs this weekend. Worked on changes to upper level to better fit over main layout.

2/16/08 Train show purchases of 16308 BN Flatcar/trailer, 12763 single signal bridge and 22973 Lionel travel trailer

3/1/08 Added MTH 90022 U.P rapid discharge hopper car

4/5/08 Added 26335 Domino Sugar trailer car and 36834 SF test car

4/23/08 Five OL&B "Big Red" sand cars, an MTH flat car with 2 mini-motorhomes, and MTH flat car with two John Deere tractors.

6/15/08 Father's day #6262 Flat wood car and 3 under table Atlas switch machines.

7/12/08 New engine 28263 Legacy KATY SD-70ACE. New Lionel Lines Aquarium Car 36859. Received back Legacy controller with version 1.2 upgrade from Lionel

7/19/08 Exchanged the 36859 Lionel lines Aqurium car with picture of train inside for Celebration 36732 Aquarium car with fish inside. Silly me, I thought an Aquarium car would have fish in it.

6/21/09 Received LionMaster UP Big Boy for Father's Day after about 1 1/2 year wait.

9/16/09 Started work on new siding on route 3. This will store another shorter train. Purchased track, roadbed, and switches.

12/20/09 Finished nailing roadbed for new siding and installed track.

1/24/10 Wired new siding.

2/3/10 Birthday received 3 wind turbines, Katy Heritage hopper car, and last switches needed for expanded upper level.

2/10/10 New Atlas Santa Fe A-B-A consist.

2/19/10 New Atlas Santa Fe Caboose. Working on wiring new switches for siding on route 3.

4/15/10 MTH Sante Fe passenger car set and post office car.

8/3/10 Lionel Legacy TMCC upgrade arrives by mail.


Last updated 8/4/10

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