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Get more transformer outputs by using a grounding bus bar

Train transformers have one pair of screws for each output, which is generally enough for a simple layout, but once you have more than one accessory or building with lights in it, you’ll find it’s difficult to attach all of the wires to the transformer posts.

You can get more on the cheap by repurposing ground bus bars, intended for circuit breaker panels. Read More »Get more transformer outputs by using a grounding bus bar

How to build a simple, inexpensive train table

Building a train table doesn’t have to be a difficult or expensive proposition, but I realized this week I’ve never talked about how to go about doing it. Here’s how to build a simple, inexpensive train table.

I built my tables in an evening with a knowledgeable friend helping me, at a time when I knew little or nothing about tools and hardware. With the plans I’ll outline, someone with little or no knowledge could replicate those efforts in a couple of hours with no more tools than a saw, a drill, and a vehicle large enough to haul the materials.

Costs will vary, but this 4×8 table I’m describing would cost about $32 to build, using materials from your nearest home improvement center. If you’re lucky enough to live near a locally owned lumberyard, you could source materials from there as well, and probably get better quality.Read More »How to build a simple, inexpensive train table

How to light the underside of your train table

There are few things worse than fumbling around in the dark under a train layout. So I mounted a ceiling-mount light socket underneath my train table to create a work light so that I could see when I’m working on my wiring. It’s another one of my 15-minute projects, one that pays dividends by making future 15-minute sessions more productive.

I did most of the work with stuff I had on hand. If you want to duplicate my project, you’ll be able to get everything you need at your nearest hardware or home improvement store, and the materials will cost less than $10. I provided Amazon links for everything, so you can see what these items are. Some people know what a wire nut is before they know how to read, and some people may be well into adulthood before they undertake any kind of electrical project. Yes, this is an electrical project. As long as you check and double-check all your connections and don’t plug it into an outlet until after it’s done, it’s safe. Respect electricity, and you’ll find there’s less reason to be afraid of it.

Read More »How to light the underside of your train table

Finding a connection to my Dad in a suburban St. Louis estate

Yesterday I wrote about my greatest estate sale find ever. Well, the very same month as that one, I found another estate sale featuring a Lionel 1110 locomotive, which happened to be my Dad’s first train. So of course I put that sale on my list. The 1110 wasn’t among Lionel’s finest moments, but I’ll note that in 1986 when Dad and I pulled his postwar Lionels out of storage, it was the first of Dad’s locomotives that we got running, and in 2003 when I got them out again, it was the only one that still ran.

Well, this 1110 didn’t run. The motor assembly was cracked and it wasn’t worth the asking price. But behind the locomotive, I found some paperwork. “Build these realistic models!” it urged. It was marked $4. The tag warned it was very delicate. I took it out of the plastic bag it was in, decided against trying to unfold it, and bought it unseen.Read More »Finding a connection to my Dad in a suburban St. Louis estate

How to move a train table on an unfinished, concrete basement floor

I had to move my train table recently. No, I didn’t have the foresight to put wheels on it. So I had to resort to using furniture movers.

After putting the fuzzy protectors on them, they glide fine on the concrete, without fear of damaging the plastic sliding surface. They might slide alone on concrete too, but I don’t want to scratch the movers up, because I intend to use them elsewhere too. Some online reviewers reported that scratched movers scratch wood floors.

I just lifted each leg of the table, kicked a mover under it, then went around to the next leg. A pair of 4×8 tables is still awkward for one person to move, but if you’re not moving too far, you can do it. If you have help, you can get more ambitious.

How to lower your train accessories into your table

One of the first articles I remember reading in a train magazine (I don’t remember if it was Classic Toy Trains or a competing rag) was titled “Put your accessories in pockets.” Basically, it advocated cutting holes in your table, putting a board beneath the hole, and putting the accessory in the hole to even it up with the ground level on your layout.

It’s a great idea–more on that in a minute–but it really didn’t go into much detail about how to do the cutting part.

Read More »How to lower your train accessories into your table

Buy wooden trains cheap

My son likes wooden trains. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since I like the bigger metal (and sometimes plastic) trains that run on O gauge track. The downside to Brio and Learning Curve (Thomas) trains is that sometimes they seem to cost nearly as much as Lionel, even though they’re essentially carved blocks of wood. But I learned how to buy wooden trains cheap.

There are several ways to save money on them, it turns out.

Read More »Buy wooden trains cheap