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Frequently Asked Questions

Categories of Questions and Answers

Train Values and Selling My Trains

Unique and Valuable Lionel Trains

Parts and Service for My Trains

Operating My Trains

Sizes of Lionel Trains

Lionel Fastrack Layouts and Operation

LCCA Fastrack Modules and Standards

Lionel Customer Programs

Software - Inventory, Track Planning, etc.

Storage Conditions and Packaging of Trains

Train Values and Selling My Trains

Q: How and where can I sell my trains?
A: First off as a member of the LCCA you can advertise for FREE to other members of our club in our quarterly publication The Interchange Track. Another popular place is eBay which is an auction site and quite extensive but comes with costs associated with selling them. There are also national auction companies that specialize in selling trains. They typically advertise their auctions in magazines such as Classic Toy Trains and O Gauge Railroading. These national companies primarily deal in highly collectible trains and average run of the mill trains are of little interest to them, however. You could also check with local hobby shops in your area or you might also be able to get a table at a local train show and sell them there. Often these rent from $10-50 each. However, you will need to have done some research to do the pricing. Overprice them and you will take them home with you and be out the cost of the tables to boot. Lastly, you might try Craigslist or a for sale ad in your local newspaper to advertise them for sale.


Q. I have a "bunch" of Lionel trains and accessories. Some are in "good" condition and others are dirty or rusty. Is there a market for all of this and should I just throw the rusty stuff away?
A: Often times a "bunch" of old trains will include rusty or "oxidized" track. It is seldom of any value and may be better discarded with one exception and that is switches which can be worth cleaning up by a collector. In all cases NEVER use steel wool to try to clean these rusty or oxidized items. Also many smaller train sets came with small transformers which are seldom worth the cost to ship them anywhere. Otherwise, the most value will be in the engines of the set followed by any accessories and then the cars themselves. 

Do not discard any of the boxes or instructions that came with the trains. These are desired by collectors as well. Most of the engines and cars are identified by a number on the side of the car or engine which a collector can use to identify what you have. Pictures are most always needed to start to arrive at identifying and setting a value for the trains and a collector will most always request these.

Lastly, do not attempt to clean your trains with any abrasive, steel wool, or cleansing agent of any kind. Many of these will do more damage than good. A true collector will know what should be used and preserve the value of the trains.


Q: What are my trains worth?
A: Lionel has been making trains since 1900 and has a well deserved reputation for quality products. Many of the trains made in the early years right up through the present have kept their value and some are highly valued by collectors, while other more common ones, while worthy of running may not have a high collector value. The value of a particular set or piece is dependent on several factors such as condition, rarity, and the presence of the original box in good condition. Several companies have published price guides which list a value for most of Lionel's production. Two companies that publish respected guides include Kalmbach - www.kalmbach.com and TM Books and Videos - www.tmbv.com. Keep in mind that values listed in these guides are just that - a guide. Often when selling trains, they must by offered at a price below the listed value to sell quickly. 

Members of the LCCA can list trains for sale and purchase trains from other members in The Interchange Track. This magazine is issued four times a year and there is no charge to members to list items. In addition to the magazine, members also have access to an online listing service, eTrack - again at no charge. These listings also serves as a guide to exactly what items are selling for. Items are conveniently listed in numerical order, making it easy to find a particular item. 


Q: How should I classify the condition or grade of my trains?
A: The LCCA has established grading standards that can be used for both your trains and the boxes they came in. A seasoned train collector should be consulted to assist in grading your trains. Typically the average person over grades their items unless they are knowledgeable of these grading standards.


Unique and Valuable Lionel Trains

Q: I recently acquired what I understand is a rare Lionel set - the postwar Halloween General set. Why is is so rare?
A: The original set that became known as the Halloween set was made by Lionel as a promotional set for the Druggists’ Service Counsel, Inc. and offered to its member stores through their Gifts Galore catalog. According to John Schmid’s excellent resource, Authoritative Guide to Lionel’s Promotional Outfits 1960-1969, 7300 of these sets were produced in 1960. The orange and black loco and the blue passenger car make this set quite unique. The set did not have individual boxes, but was displayed in a single large box. The set included a Frontier set, made by Bachmann’s Plasticville, a small transformer and enough O27 track to make a figure 8 layout. It’s value is highest when the original large display box and the Frontier set in Lionel’s packaging are included. You can read more about it in the above mentioned book, available from Project Roar Publishing.

Sears also had a set numbered 79 N 09666. It was cataloged in the 1959 Sears Christmas Catalog. John Schmidt's excellent documentation of sets begins in the year 1960, so this set was not included. The catalog picture is in black & white, but the description describes the loco as " black, red and gold-color. " The set appears to be the usual General set with a yellow coach, a yellow baggage car and the short flatcar with fences and horses. I believe the flatcar might have been numbered differently than the standard one and may have been a different color, but I believe the loco and cars were the usual Lionel colors - not the Halloween colors. The set also came with an 18 piece plastic frontier outfit with windmill, building and animals. The picture also shows fence sections to coral the animals. The price was $25.89.


Q: I have given up trying to find information about my great grandfather’s boyhood train.  As you can see the military train has a tank locomotive with a flashing light at the end of the tank cannon which flashes like cannon fire as the turret sweeps from left to right.  In addition the train set as only two olive drab box cars “O” gauge.  I would very much appreciate any information, or location, email that might assist me in gathering more information.
A: The set you have was first listed in Lionel’s 1917 catalog, under the headline – Play War! Two sets were produced each with different cars. One set had the armored motor car and two no. 702 Supply cars. That set, outfit no.  215, sold in 1917 for $8.00. A complete set included in addition to the loco and cars, 8 sections of curved track and two sections of straight, along with a no. 88 controlling rheostat. The second set came with two no. 900 Ammunition cars. This set had no straight track, only the curved, and sold for $6.50. These sets were offered in the Lionel catalogs through 1919. Your photos match this second set. This set has been reproduced in recent years and the original is quite rare. Value depends on condition. Having the original box adds greatly to the value. Your set looks well worn, but due to its rarity, it is a desirable set. A scan of the 1917 catalog page on which this train was introduced is shown here.


Q: I recently bought  a post war navy set at a sale. The box is marked x646. I don’t think this is the right # as I think it could be x628. My biggest problem is the submarine car is missing. I would like to know the correct # car.  Is the correct car #3330 or #3830. They both have the 3830 Sub on them?
A: The X646 set and the X628 set are very similar. Both were produced in 1961. One of the major differences is that the items in the X646 set were individually boxed. This is indicated by the –25 in the part numbers. The two sets have similar cars except for the Submarine car. The X628 came with a boxed 3830 Submarine car. The X646 came instead with a 6062 unboxed black NYC gondola and three orange cable reels. The Helicopter car in both sets (3410) is the manual type which cannot be operated remotely. The one in the X628 set had a box.

If you collect promotional sets from the 60s, the best book around is, Authoritative Guide to Lionel’s Promotional Outfits 1960-1969. The book is almost 2 inches thick and has all the information you would need –even exactly how the items were packed in the box. The book was published by Project Roar Publications.


Q: I have a question about the history of the 6464-100 built in 1954-1955. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding these cars. Mine is an orange 6464-100 built in 3/54. But that does not jive with the explanation that these were built in 1955. It seems like the only ones built in 1954 were orange as well but only had a number 6464 and was a limited production run.
A: First, the 6464-100 in orange was made in 1954 – not 1955. The interesting thing about the orange car is that the correct box for it is actually labeled 6464-250. The car actually had the number 6464100 on it. This car is the most valuable of the Western Pacific 6464 boxcars. A much later version made in 1966 was numbered 6464250 on the car. The 1954-1955 version is the silver car with a larger yellow feather and was also numbered 6464100 on the car.  I am unaware of an orange version with only 6464 on the car.


Q: Are there any obvious differences between the 773 from 1950 and the one from 1964?
A: There are some very significant differences between the 1950 model and the 1964 model of the 773. When first introduced in 1950, the 773 was only offered for one year. It did not appear again until 1964, when it was offered through 1966. On the 1960s version, the slide valve guides on the rear of the steam chest were eliminated. The paint finish was a bit glossier and the cab numbers were slightly larger. The most pronounced difference was the tender. The 1950 version came with a die-cast metal tender. The 1960s version came with a plastic Pennsy style tender which in the 1964 was lettered for Pennsylvania. In 1965 and 66 it was lettered for New York Central. The tender is really too small for the scale sized loco and the trucks on the tender were plastic.


Parts and Service for My Trains

Q: I'd like to run my old Lionel Trains. Are parts and repair services still available?
A: Yes! Many parts for trains made throughout Lionel's history are still available. Reproductions of difficult to find parts are also available. Lionel still maintains Authorized Service Stations with trained specialists who can not only repair current production, but also older Lionel products. You can check for a local Service Station at Lionel's website - www.Lionel.com under the customer service tab. You might also check local hobby shops. Lionel's postwar service manual which details much of Lionel's post 1945 product is now available in digital form from www.hslinc.com. The service manual can help you identify parts which can then be purchased. For more current production, Lionel offers instruction manuals and exploded parts diagrams which are viewable on their website www.lionel.com.

Members of the LCCA receive The Lion Roars, five times a year. This magazine features layout photos, reviews of current products, and tips on running and repairing Lionel trains. Back issues of the magazine are also available to members online. 


Q: I have recently received a model train that has been sitting idle for over 35 years. It is a Lionel 2026, wheel configuration is 2-6-4. From what I can find, this is a post-war (51-53) manufactured train. My first problem is that the tracks (outside center to outside center of a 3 track rail) is 1.375". All I've read is that the O gauge should be 1.25". I am confused on what I actually have. I want to recondition this set for grandchildren. I have no info on the set. I need tech manuals and operator manuals. The transformer is a mess and I'm a little worried about replacing the cord and plugging in. Any info you may have to share would be appreciated. Any info on obtaining tech manuals would also be appreciated.
A: The track you have sounds right. The 1.25" dimension should be an inside measurement BETWEEN the two outer rails. There are several versions of Lionel's postwar service manual available. In reduced size printed format, it can be purchased from Kalmbach Publications - www.classictoytrains.com. An excellent digital version with full sized printable pages also available from www.hslinc.com. Be wary of some of other digital versions advertised online - they are grossly incomplete and hyped with deceptive ads. I would be cautious about repairing the transformer. Lionel doesn't even allow their service stations to repair them. It is the one spot where you have 110 volts. If you are qualified electrically, the cord can certainly be changed, but the transformer should be tested and assured safe before passing it on to your grandchildren. The service manuals listed above do give technical details on many of Lionel's transformers. If you have a hobby or train shop that sells Lionel, you may be able to purchased a use transformer for a reasonable price.


Q: I am "resurrecting" some of my 1950's Lionel collection and have a #3927 Cleaning Car. It requires a new brush and cleaning fluid and cotton swabs for wiping the rail. Do you know if these are still manufactured and if I could purchase replacement parts? Or should I contact Lionel directly?
A: The postwar 3927 was introduced by Lionel in 1956. The sponge ring and cotton swabs are still available from many Lionel parts dealers, but not directly from Lionel. I did a quick Google search and found them sold by at least one dealer. They are listed in the parts section under no. 3927. I'm sure other parts dealers also have them. Lionel cautioned back then to only use Lionel's cleaning fluid, which was a non-flammable detergent fluid. I have heard from others that the Life-Like track cleaning fluid is a good choice. The important thing is that you don't want to use anything flammable or anything that will attack plastic. I also understand that Lionel's postwar track cleaning car is not as efficient at cleaning as one might hope. It is certainly worth a try though.


Q: I have some lube grease from a 60+ year old 927 lubricating and maintenance kit. Can it still be used effectively to lubricate my Lionel trains? 
A: You should definitely NOT use the old Lionel Lubricant. Save the tube as a memory of postwar Lionel, but don’t use it on your trains. Today’s lithium lubricants are far superior than Lionel’s mix of oil and soap. Lionel’s lube will in time dry out leaving a hard and unsuitable residue that must be cleaned out. Some of Lionel’s postwar accessories which used this lube, i.e. No. 364 Lumber Loader, will function so much better if the old lube is removed, the gear case cleaned, and modern lithium grease added to replace the old lube. THe original Lionel Lube has not been offered by Lionel since the 1960s. Current Lionel Maintenance kits include a lithium based lube.


Q: I have The Prairie Type 2-6-2 Locomotive, No. 2025.  Last winter I decided to clean and oil it, since it looked like it needed it.  When I put it back together it would only go backwards.  I must have put some parts back together incorrectly, but I don't know which parts.  And when I move the direction switch behind the smoke stack, it makes no difference.  Also pressing the reverse button on the transformer makes no difference either.
A: It sounds like your e-unit is stuck in one position. First be sure that the e-unit lever is in the correct position. In one position it locks the e-unit. In the other position it allows the normal forward-neutral-reverse-neutral operation. Try the loco with that lever in each position. If that does not solve the problem, you’ll have to remove the boiler shell and inspect the e-unit. Check its operation with the boiler shell off and make sure the e-unit lever is making proper contact. In the position you want it in, it makes an electrical contact. If that lever is loose, that contact might not be being made. Also check that the plunger in the e-unit is able to move and not jammed.


Operating My Trains

Q: What kind of track is best for my Lionel trains?
A: Lionel trains run on 3-rail O gauge track. In recent years Lionel has introduced a new line of track called FasTrack. This new track system has proved to be quite popular and offers a wide range of track sections. The sections snap together and due to its unique construction, the mating pins at each end of the track never need to be removed, regardless of the track configuration. Other track options include Lionel's traditional tubular track, and track offered by such companies as Atlas and Gargraves.


Q: What Radius do I need?
A: Three rail track is available in a variety of radii. Both O and O27 track are the same gauge - meaning that the spacing of the three rails is the same. They differ however in height and radius. The smallest radius available with Lionel's O27 gauge tubular track provides a 27 inch diameter. Lionel's O gauge tubular track has a larger diameter of 31 inches. FasTrack sections begin at a 36 inch diameter. Today Lionel makes many scale locomotives which will not run on a diameter that small and therefore wider radius curved track is also available. FasTrack for example, is available in diameters of 36, 48, 60, 72, and 84 inches. It is best to choose the largest radius your space will allow.


Q: Just bought a Lionel 2055 steam loco with smoker that is supposed to work well. Please tell me what kind of smoke product to buy for it. Can I use fluid or pellets and are they all about the same?
A: The 2055 is a postwar loco made from 1953 to 1955. It used Lionel SP smoke pills. The pills were heated by a nichrome wire element. Often in an old locomotive this element may be broken. If broken, the loco will not smoke. If it is in good condition, you would need the pills to make smoke. These are hard to find today and often expensive when you do find them. You can however buy a conversion kit which replaces the original smoke unit with a more modern one that uses smoke fluid. The fluid is very available and at reasonable cost. Doing the conversion is not difficult, but does require soldering some connections. It is the best answer for an old steam loco.


Q: Can you operate Lionel trains in areas of the world where the electricity is other than 120V? What do I need to do that with?
A: According to Lionel's head of customer service, on the underside of their CW80 transformers, starting in late 2009, the vendor applied a sticker that states “QC50” on it. This signifies compatibility with 50 Hertz power. The customer will still need a step down transformer to get the 220V to 110V. The train, however, should only have a whistle or a horn or an electronic whistle. If it has TrainSounds it will not function properly on 50H. If it has Railsounds RTR it will also not function on 50Hz.


Q: I am restarting with my old Lionel trains. I have a Type R 110 Transformer, but I don`t have any manual. So I do not know how to connect it to the track. Can you help me, so I won't do a short circuit and possibly damage my locos.
A: I’ve attached a scan of the instructions for the Lionel Type R transformer. I do have a word of caution however. The R transformer is a pre world war II version that was manufactured through 1947. I would be cautious using a transformer that is over 60 years old. Chances are better than even that your cord should be changed. For safe operation, I would recommend that you purchase a modern transformer. You can purchase a new Lionel transformer. The CW-80 would be a current model and offers 80 watts. The Type R that you have was rated differently back then and did not really deliver the full 110 watts. Much of this was lost in heat. The current rating system is more accurate and the CW-80 would supply as much power as you R transformer. Another source for AC transformers is the MRC company.


Q: When operating my trains there are some spots in the track where the train either stops or slows up. What is wrong? Do I need a new transformer?
A: There could be several causes for this. First, I have a few questions. Does this always occur at the same place? And is that place opposite the place on your layout where he wires are connected from the transformer? If so, you may need an additional feed from the transformer to that portion of the layout. You don't need another transformer, just connect another set of wires to a place on the layout which is as far from the original connection as possible. This is especially necessary if your layout has been expanded with additional track. The larger the layout, the more feeders you might need.

Another thing to check is electrical continuity through the track. The best way to check this is with an Multi-meter. If you have one of these, set the meter to read Ohms - or resistance. In this mode, when the two leads of the meter are touched together, you will get a zero reading. A zero reading means that there is electrical continuity. Place one lead on one of the outside rails and then place the other lead on the same rail of the next track. You should get a zero reading. Continue around the layout checking each section of track with the one next to it. Repeat this with the center rail. If you get a situation with no reading, it means there is a break in electrical continuity and there is a problem with the connection between those two pieces of track.


Q: What is the Lionel number for a whistle controller that will activate the "whistle" on a newer Lionel locomotive when using a vintage 1033 transformer?
A: What you need is what Lionel calls a Sound Activation Button – No. 610-5906-001. It is specifically designed for transformers without a Bell or Whistle controller. I’ve located an instruction page that explains how to hook it up for either bell or whistle. To do both, you would need two of these buttons. Lionel sells these on their site in the parts section. Click here for Lionel's Service website with the button information and ordering. 


Q: I want to pull a long freights on a 072 Fastrack (box cars, intermodals, flat cars--loaded, gondolas--loaded) thusly what Lionel locomotives have the power to pull this load of 25 pieces or more of rolling stock? Do I need two engines pulling this set-up and how do you make both engines sync with each other to avoid one pulling to hard and the other lagging and dragging the other one down and causing undue wear on the engines in the locomotives?
A: The number of cars that a particular locomotive can pull involves many variables including number of motors, type of cars, weight of cars, whether postwar or modern era cars, etc. Twenty-five cars will probably require more than one locomotive. With postwar locos and conventionally operated locos, it is usually advisable to lock the E unit of each loco in the forward position. This prevents one of them from going into neutral or reverse if an unexpected interruption in power occurs. For best results, you would probably want to use two similar locos, i.e. two F3s. You shouldn't have any problem with small variances in speed. 

If you are running in Command Control, TMCC or Legacy, you can link more than one loco together and treat them as a single loco allowing very precise control over the loco's speed. In demonstrations, I have seen two locos linked in this way, but not coupled together - leaving 1/2 inch between them. When run, as a linked pair, they remained 1/2 inch apart as they went around the track. In practice of course you would couple them, but this demonstrated how well the two were controlled as one.


Q: Can I operate Bachmann (Williams) trains on my Lionel layout and track? Do I need a special transformer for them? Will the horn an bell operate on a Lionel transformer?
A: The Williams by Bachmann trains will work just fine on Lionel track. They are made to operate on Lionel layouts and you should have no problem. The Williams whistle and bell operate using a DC pulse - this is exactly as Lionel's do. Some older Lionel transformers will not have a bell button, but an auxiliary bell button can be purchased and will work fine with an older transformer. If you have a transformer with a bell button, it is important which wire goes to the center rail and which is ground. If you find the whistle button operates the bell, simply reverse the wires to the track. You should have no problems using a Lionel transformer to operate Williams locomotives.


Q: I read with interest recently about scale auto cars. You stated that the newly designed coupler was made in such a way to allow these cars to be used on non-prototypical radii. Does that mean they can be run on 027 track and/or 042 track? My layout consists of several 042 curves.
A: I’m afraid the the smallest radius that these new scale auto carrier cars will function is O54. O27, even with O42 curves is too tight a radius. I’ve not actually tried the cars on anything smaller than O54, but that is the recommendation for the cars. Even O72 curves are non-prototypical for real railroads which actually ride on larger radius curves.



Sizes of Lionel Trains

Q. I was recently told that Lionel box cars are shorter than actual O-gauge/O-scale (1/48). Can you clarify this for me?
A: Today Lionel makes several different size box cars. The traditional line cars, like the 6464 type boxcars are shorter than scale. These originally came out in the 1950s postwar period, when very little if anything Lionel made was true scale. The F-3 and the Trainmaster locos came close, but were not true scale by today’s standards. Today Lionel’s line does include scale cars and their catalog refers to this line as Scale cars. They do however retain the Lionel coupler which is much larger than a scale coupler would be.


Q: Did Lionel make HO trains? I have several including a Rock Island Husky and a Santa Fe engine which says made in Canada.
A: Yes, Lionel marketed and/or made HO trains at several points in their history. Lionel has not had much success in the HO market. Lionel first introduced an HO line in 1957. This ran through 1966. The Rock Island Husky you have was introduced in 1960 and was the least expensive loco offered. The HO trains from this era are more highly valued than those of Lionel’s second attempt under the General Mills era from 1973 to 1976. Your Santa Fe loco is from this second era, when Lionel trains were manufactured by Fundimensions, a division of General Mills. The best Lionel HO trains were those produced in 1957 as they were manufactured for Lionel by Rivorossi, a manufacturer of high quality HO trains. Lionel then manufactured its own line and the quality suffered. There are some collectors who value the first era of Lionel HO, but few who place any value on the those produced in the Fundimensions era. I would not consider either of your locos to be rare, but there is a small group who do collect Lionel HO. While there are some rare cars and locos which are especially collectable, most have a rather modest value.


Lionel Fastrack Layouts and Operation

Q: I have a FasTrack uncoupler that works with my UP #36811 unloading coal car but not my 'operating poultry car'? Do I need to purchase an operating track also or can I use my uncoupler tracks AUX. input and purchase a double switch remote control?
A: Just to be sure we’re both talking about the same thing – I am assuming that you have the FasTrack uncoupling section. This is a 5 inch long track with a magnet in the center and a single button to control it (No. 12020). This track should operate any car that has a central plunger that must be pulled down to operate. If the car has sliding shoes on its trucks, then you need the Operating Track (No. 12054).  The operating track has a two button controller – one button controls the inner control rails and the other controls the central magnet.

Some work with a central plunger and others work with the sliding shoes. The operating Poultry car uses the central plunger activated by the uncoupling magnet. The poultry car should work with either type of track. Use the uncouple button and the magnet should pull down the plunger under the poultry car. Move the car slightly to check that it is in the best position to be pulled by the magnet. On some cars the tolerance is quite close. If it still does not work, test that the magnet is energizing by holding a screwdriver blade over it when the button is pressed.


Q: On all my new O-gauge and FasTrack track I developed a black greasy film. What is the possible cause? It does remove easy with track cleaner. The track has been in service for 6 months. The track when purchased had an oil film. I cleaned it before placing it in service with track cleaner. Should I have used a "de-greaser" chemical? Can material come off the wheels of new engines or is it the traction tires? Does track cleaner deteriorate the traction tires? The film continues to come back. The film is always on the outer rails but still forms on the middle rail.
A: The black film you have noticed is quite common. Every time Lionel sets up their large display layout, they use denatured alcohol on a rag to wipe down the track and it takes several paper towels or rags as they become quite black. I believe this black comes from the wheels of the cars and loco. Most wheels today are made via the powder metallurgy process. On some of the display layouts, the loops are small and the trains run for many hours. On the towers that Lionel has on its largest layout, each has several circles of FasTrack and the trains run constantly on them and always in the same direction. On these, wear of the wheels can clearly be seen. Since the loop has no straight tracks the wear occurs faster and since the train is always going the same direction, the wheels on one side wear much faster. I’ve seen some of the wheels actually get sharp due to this wear.

Any track cleaner that you use, should be wiped off the track before running trains on it. I don’t know how different track cleaners effect the traction tires. Denatured alcohol works well and is quite inexpensive. I don’t think there is any way to prevent this build up if you run your trains. You are doing the right thing by cleaning it off when necessary.


Q: Need some help on Lionel FasTrack. Building a wall/ceiling set-up and want to run 2 tracks side by side. The room allows only a maximum .036 curve in the corners, especially since 2 curves will be through closets (tunnels). Now ,that said, I'll need a tighter radius inward of the .036. In "FasTrack" Lionel has a .031 curve as the tightest. Will this run nicely parallel to the .036? I plan on FasTrack throughout, so the old 3 rail, 3 tie .027 is out.
A: The FasTrack system was designed to run tracks as close as a center rail to center rail distance of 6 inches apart. The number designations, i.e. O36, O48 etc., refer to the center rail diameter of a circle made with the track. SO, an O36 circle will fit within an O48 circle with a distance of 6 inches from center rail to center rail. The new O31 track was made to better accommodate a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood and also to allow you to duplicate many previously published layouts originally designed for the traditional tubular track. BUT – an O31 curve will definitely NOT fit within an O36 curve. A circle made with O31 track is only 4 inches less in diameter than the O36 – which means that if an O31 circle is placed within an O36 circle, the center rail to center rail distance would be only 2 inches. If you butt two pieces of FasTrack together, the very closest you can come is 3 3/8 inches center to center. The O31 FasTrack curve was an accommodation to requests for a smaller radius, but it is not part of the regular FasTrack geometry that all other FasTrack sections were made to work within.


Q: Has anyone had any luck running prewar trains on Lionel's FasTrack? Or, should I just stick to tubular O?
A: Lionel prewar O gauge will run just fine on FasTrack. Lionel’s prewar Standard Gauge is too large. If you are operating Standard Gauge trains, MTH Trains has a FasTrack look alike in Standard Gauge.


Q: I have at least 16” in length for a new train set up. I would like to run two tracks of Lionel FasTrack, one of 060 degree and one of 036.Would you please advise how much width I will need to make the turns.
A: The number part of the radius designation, i.e. 36 for O36, indicates the measurement from the center rail to center rail of a circle made without straights. To figure the actual table space taken up by a particular radius of FasTrack, simply take the number in the designation, and add 3 3/8 inches. So for O36 track, a circle without straights will require 39 3/8 inches of width on the table. For the O60, the width of a circle would be 63 3/8 inches. FasTrack has been designed so that you can space track 6 inches on center apart. So if your inner track is O36, you could run an O48 loop of track 6 inches outside of the O36 loop, and an O60 loop 6 inches from that.

I’ve created a drawing which shows a half circle of O36, O48, and O60. The drawing is to scale and each square of the graph equals 12 inches. The width of each half circle is 39 3/8 inches, 51 3/8 inches and 63 3/8 inches. There is 6 inches from center rail to center rail between each loop.


LCCA Fastrack Modules and Standards


Q: Our train club bought the jig for the new LCCA module system. We have one other need which is the leg braces do you have a manufacture that you can buy these from we don't have a large budget and we really like the module system.
A: We've had several requests for the leg braces. We are currently working on putting together a hardware kit which will contain all of the hardware, including the electricals, Rotolocks, leg brackets etc., but no wood. this will be less expensive than the entire kit. We expect to finalize that soon. 

We've created an improved leg bracket we now use. This new design is better able to hold the wooden legs regardless of their exact size. These are custom fabricated for the kits and are not standard hardware. They will be included in the above kits. I also plan to detail a method of securing the legs which does not require the bracket, but uses a Tee Nut. Once completed, we will post a notice on the LCCA website.


Q: Just downloaded and read the LCCA module manual. I have a couple of questions. I see your 'Reversible Corner' does a flip flop on the radius of track. Using a 'L' Shape Module Plan the 084 track on the outside goes to a 072 on the outside when it hits the 'Reversible Corner'. Then the 072 on the inside hits a 084 on the 'Reversible Corner'. I understand this gets down to radius and geometry. My interest is that I have this layout in a single loop and am looking to do this with 4 to 5 loops. Not sure if this 'Reversible Corner' can be made with all these loops. My thinking is a stepping of corners and short straights.
A:  You are correct about the reversible module. The change in radius presents no problem as all of Lionel's locos will run on O72 track. You mention putting 4 or 5 loops. I don't believe that could be done with the module as we have it. Here is an illustration I prepared for an article showing how the different radius sections of Lionel's FasTrack work together. The FasTrack system was designed to allow the center rail to center rail distance between loops to be as close as 6 inches. The O31 track section was recently introduced and does not really fit with the other radii. It does however allow you to duplicate the many published layouts that were designed for Lionel's traditional tubular track.


Q: Our model railroad club purchased eight #6-37153 reversible corner modules. Today when we went to assemble the modules, it was determined that the plywood end table rails (2 per module) were too short.  They measure 11 1/2 inches.  The drawing shows 1 ft and 1/4 inches or 12 1/4 inches.  We have the plywood tops cut and they mach the template perfectly. The notch for the latch appears to be in the center so both ends are cut off too short.
A: I believe you have made a mistake in cutting the plywood. If you cut the plywood to match the template, you cut it too large. The template is to be used to assemble the frame – not the plywood. I’ve created a graphic from the drawing. The outside dimension of the end of the frame is  1’ 1”, or 13 inches. The correct size for the end plywood pieces is 11 1/2 inches. The end piece goes between the two 3/4” pine pieces – making a total width of 13 inches.When assembling the kit, the first thing to do is to assemble the frame – fitting it to the template. Once the frame is completed you can mark out the size of the plywood. This is shown on the video and I would recommend you watch that. Here’s a link to the video. Once there, scroll down to the video. And here’s a link to the manual.



Lionel Customer Programs

Q: One sees from time to time LIONEL Ambassador Rail cars for sale ( marked : Thank you ) These seem to be available on three levels / BRONZE / SILVER / GOLD. Most train collectors will tell you these are the "rarest" of the Lionel public offering. When and where were these cars awarded and what was (is?) the Lionel Ambassador program? What dates? What are the most (Most-est) "rare" of all the Lionel modern rolling stock?
A: To the best of my recollection, Lionel's Ambassador Program ran from from 1998 through 2000. Train enthusiasts could apply to become an Ambassador. Upon acceptance, you were given points for assisting Lionel in a variety of events. Some of theses included assisting at a Lionel event sponsored by a local Lionel dealer, helping Lionel set up for an event and so on. If you accumulated enough points you could earn a bronze, silver or gold level special Lionel car. Of these cars, the gold level ones were the most rare as few ambassadors earned enough points to qualify. In addition to the cars there were also awards of specially labeled Lionel Jackets. During the three year duration of the program, Lionel held two Ambassador conventions - the first in Durango, Colorado and the second at the Carnegie Science center. Awards were presented at these conventions. 

Choosing a particular car to label as the most rare of all is a difficult and subjective task. The most desirable items change over time and basically comes down to a question of just how important a particular piece is to you.


Software - Inventory, Track Planinng, etc.

Q: Can you recommend a collection inventory management software application? Looking for a Lionel product where I can put in the part number and the description comes up. Also price I paid and date bought.
A: Check TrainMinder to learn about the program and make a purchase if you feel it meets your needs. I have used this program and it has the capability that you are looking for. Also there is another that you might want to check out called E-Z Train Tracker.


Storage Conditions and Packaging of Trains

Q: Would it be inadvisable to store my engines and rolling stock in a garage where temperatures can drop below freezing for extended periods of time? 
A: Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold are best to stay away from. Freezing temperatures will certainly stiffen any grease and thicken oil. I can’t be sure if this would cause any permanent damage. The garage may also be subject to high humidity in the Summer and that will cause rust on steel parts. Ideally, you want to store the trains in a dry area and avoid extremes of temperature.