IndianaRog and the Temple of Steam

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A little something about merging steam and electrics

This part of the website shows I do have some diversity of thought when it comes to hobbies . The Temple of Steam is an "inclusive" sort of place where I like to hang out with my ALL of my toys.

To a pure steam engine/steam train collector, the thought of Lionel electric trains is a bit of me it brings back fond memories of my youth where Lionel actually preceeded my interest in steam.  It's all mechanical and I love mechanical things, so we'll mix it up a bit just to keep things fresh.

A bit of history:  I had my first Lionel electric trains in the late 1950's, a wonderful Santa Fe F3 pair of diesel engines with freight train.  My brother and I got them for Christmas in 1957.  We moved a few years later to a bigger house that enabled us to expand our 0 gauge Lionel set, adding a used Seaboard NW-2 Switcher engine, more cars and more accessories.  What a grand time we had with it. 

I lugged those trains for 30 years thru 5 house moves of my own and finally set them up for a young son, but by 1995 other demands forced a selloff of the Lionel set of my youth. 

Fast forward to 2004 when I retired.  I re-acquired a better example of every single Lionel piece I had as a child thru the wonder of eBay.  At the time I was busy building a toy/model stationary steam collection and really had no floor space to erect a Lionel the trains went into storage for "someday".

In Nov. 2009 I purchased and restored my first true "live steam" O gauge Bowman loco & tender which required a modest/temporary layout to run it.  I enjoyed that experience so much I got out a few of the stored Lionels which run on the same O track gauge...oooohh, that opened Pandora's box. 

By April 2010, I built a 70 linear foot elevated railway 6 1/2 feet above the floor of my workshop, traversing the airspace over my steam collection and pretty much wrapping around the basement.  It takes ZERO floor space, provides me with endless hours of enjoyment and brings back lots of good memories of my youth.  Who says you need a lot of floor space to enjoy electric trains!!!

A "few" more locos and cars were purchased in 2010, and the
Temple of Steam Elevated Railway is here to stay.  Given the derailment risk of a flame fired live steam loco, the elevated railway will be for electrics alone.  The live steam Bowman loco and tender however still get regular workouts on the removable benchtop layout described below.  I have the best of both worlds and I'm having a ball.


In Dec. 2010 steam friend Dean held a drawing/giveaway on our steam forum...I was thrilled to be the winner of a Lionel 100th Anniversary "ornament" replica of Lionel's famous model 700E seen above.  Thank you Dean, this won't go on the Christmas's on display with my other engines!

Electric & Live Steam 0 Gauge Trains

Lionel #675 Prairie, 2-6-2 Loco/#2466WX Tender (USA, 1948-49)

Lionel based their #675 on Pennsylvania Railroad's Baldwin built Class K-4 Pacific Loco. 

Baldwin built a total of 425 of the K-4's between 1914 and 1928, but only two remain today.  One of them is #3750 in photo below, preserved at the Railroad Museum of PA.   Photo credit to Matt Willard.

Lionel took a bit of license with the K-4 design, changing the real thing's 4-6-2 wheel arrangement to 2-6-2, a modification called the "Prairie" version, but otherwise it's a reasonable rendition of the real thing. 

This example is variation "C"...most desired of 7 variations of the #675, with #5960 in gold on the diecast boiler's front red keystone and bearing a black smoke stack.  This #675 has the correct #2466WX streamlined whistling tender designated for it. 

If you enlarge and look closely at the photo below, the wheels are nickel rimmed and have the words "Baldwin disc" in raised letters...nice detail!

Further Lionel details include main rod, side rod, eccentric, smoke generation and front light.  The #675 just preceded introduction of Magne-Traction, so lack of that feature requires some speed control on curves. 

Although the #675 is a bit shorter than the #2055, it's about 20% heavier, weighing 4 pounds 8 oz. vs. the #2055's weight at 3 pounds 10 oz.  Despite lacking Magna-Traction, the #675's weight compensates pretty well in the traction dept.!  

Lionel #2055 Santa Fe style Hudson, 4-6-4 Loco/#6026W Tender (USA, 1953-55)

Lionel's #2055 was based on the Santa Fe style of Hudson loco made famous by New York Central beginning in the mid 1920's.  Built by American Locomotive Co. for NYC, the class was named for the Hudson river and designed to haul ever increasing numbers of passenger cars.


Photo above is of NYC5384, a Hudson style loco.

Click here for a sound clip of an actual Hudson loco:   


The #2055 pictured below featured a diecast boiler similar to the #675 but slightly longer, it's biggest practical differences vs. the #675, are four vs. two wheel front and rear bogies and Magne-Traction, compensating for it's lighter weight vs. the #675.  The standard #6026W whistling tender makes a very cool wailing sound when activated. 


Like the #675, it has main rod, side rod, valve gear, a smoke unit and a working front headlight. 

                                                                                                                                                                     Overall, the #2055 is a superb engine and a classic Postwar Lionel, it runs great and looks the part of a quality piece of American craftsmanship at it's best.

A 2nd #2055 and tender rides the rails here as well, a $68 beater set bought off eBay.  I restored the set mechanically and cosmetically to represent the Polar Express, appealing to my young grandson. 

This one now runs great and gets a LOT of use by my train buddy.   It's good to be a grandpa!

CLICK HERE for an instant video

Lionel #736 Berkshire 2-8-4 Loco/#2046W Tender, (USA 1953)

The first 2-8-4, Lima Locomotive Works A-1, inaugurated the superpower era in 1925. A four-wheel trailing truck allowed the A-1 to have a larger firebox and boiler, producing a combination of power and speed never seen before in a steam locomotive. 


photo credit to Norman Hechtkoff


Initially tested on the Boston and Albany Railroad, the new wheel arrangement was named the "Berkshire" for the Berkshire hills where it was tested extensively.  B&A liked what they saw and between 1925 and 1930 ordered a total of 55 Berkshires.  All 55 remained within the B&A system, but none survive today. 


Lima went on to build 36 near identical 2-8-4's for Pere Marquette Railroad beginning in 1937 and the Nickel Plate Road in the 1940's.  NPR ordered 65 of the 2-8-4's with the last delivered in 1949, coincidentally the last steam loco to be built by Lima.


Today, only six Nickel Plate and two Pere Marquette Berkshires have survived into preservation.


Nickel Plate 765, built in 1944, completed it's second full restoration in 2005 done by Fort Wayne, IN Railroad Historical Society.  765 was restored to it's condition and appearance of the mid 1940's.


Sister engine Pere Marquette 1225, built in 1941, completed it's most recent restoration in 1995, done by a group of Michigan State Univ. students.  1225 achieved fame as the prototype used for the loco in the movie Polar Express.  1225 is again undergoing a 15 year FRA mandated overhaul begun in 2010.                                                             


A year after the last real "Berkshire" was made, Lionel introduced the #736 Berkshire in 1950 and it remained in production for 18 years with many minor iterations during that period...a testament to it's popularity. 

I've dated my example as 1953 given the following features:

  • smaller stamped white cab no. replaced silver in '53
  • support wedges under headlight added in '53
  • diecast trailing trucks used 1950-'54, stamped after
  • #2046W tender w/water scoop, used in 1951 & 1953-'60

In my personal opinion, the #736 Berkshire was perhaps the finest postwar "steam" loco design Lionel ever rendered in both looks and functionality.  The 8 driving wheel array simply looks beautiful to me.  Others have their favorites, but this is definitely mine.

The #736 features the heftier, worm gear style 681 motor, 5 1/2 lb engine weight and Magna-Traction, all contributing to superior pulling ability.  The Magna-Traction will pick up and hold a 10" section of steel track as I found when photographing this engine!

I want to make a note that this engine set was purchased from eBay seller: "lionelpostwardoctor".  This is a gentleman named Tony Maietta and I have been extremely pleased with engines and service from him.  You can also reach Tony by email at:


Lionel got it right with this one!   The 736 can haul plenty and do it in style!...check out the 2 videos below:

CLICK HERE for an instant video


CLICK HERE for an instant video

Lionel #2343 Santa Fe F3 A-B-A three unit set (USA, 1950-51)

The real life F3 was made by GM's Electromotive Division (EMD) and introduced in 1945.  Production of the 1500 horsepower F3's ended in 1949 after 1,111 A units and 696 B units had been built.  Additional "F" iterations followed in the 1950's. 

The Santa Fe F3 set in the following photo was cab #26 built in 1948 and served as the example Lionel used to build their model version.  Pretty darned close in my opinion!


Click here for a sound clip of an actual F3 EMD diesel

The very first Lionel F3 iteration of many was the #2333 introduced in Feb. 1949 without the desirable feature of Magna-Traction and had some initial paint problems. The #2333 quickly gave way to the #2343 in 1950.

The #2343 as seen below, started the train lover's affair with the F3 in earnest, adding Magna-Traction and a better paint finish, becoming one of the most popular Lionel model trains in the Post War period. 

My set was made in 1950-'51 making it 60 years old as of this writing (Dec. 2010).

It's kept it's looks a bit better than me! 

The size of the relatively small GM logo on the rear of the A units differentiated which year the #2343 was made.  The "large" GM logo version as seen on my set, confirms this set was made in 1950 or '51.  A smaller GM logo was used only in 1952. 

The Lionel model #2343 designation was used only for 1950-'52 and except for the logo size difference they were virtually the same for all 3 years. 

Dual Pullmor horizontal worm gear motors in the powered "A" unit plus Magne-Traction helped ensure the wheels stayed in contact with the track on sharp turns, didn't spinout under load and could haul most anything hooked up as a consist! 

Lionel continued to make the popular F3's for 18 years spanning multiple cab numbers, flags and minor modifications over that period.  The Santa Fe "War Bonnet" red/silver and yellow color scheme/design was an icon of the 1950's and became instantly recognizable by most any boy. 

My brother and I were fortunate boys indeed.  Christmas 1957 brought a set of F3's and assorted freight cars...we were the envy of the neighborhood kids for sure.  Those worm gear motors made a growl characteristic of the breed and much loved by owners, a sound that takes me back 50+ years in an instant! 

My three unit set consists of paired "A" units, one motorized and one a dummy, plus a dummy "B" unit in between, measures 40 inches end to end. 

I purchased the "A" units from eBay seller Tony Maietta "postwarlioneldoctor".  Tony reconditioned their inner workings to like new condition and they run perfectly.  You can reach him by email at: TONYMAIETTA@VERIZON.NET.  

CLICK HERE for an instant video

Lionel #6250 Seaboard NW-2 Yard Switcher (USA, 1954)

GM's, Electromotive Division (EMD), built the real switcher, class NW-2 from 1939-'49.  The "N" stood for Nine hundred horsepower and the "W" for their Welded frame.  

Photo of an actual Seaboard Coast Line NW-2 circa 1968. photo credit Warren Calloway 


Click here for a sound clip of an actual NW-2 diesel:

Click here for a video of an actual NW-2 diesel in action:

Lionel introduced their very accurate looking, near scale #6250 Seaboard version in 1954 and ensured the engine was familiar to almost any boy who grew up in the 1950's (like this boy!) 

This one year (1954) #6250 NW-2 is considered the last of Lionel's quality die-cast switchers before they changed to sheet metal frames in 1955.

My Lionel #6250 is the most common of 3 variations produced, with the Seaboard name in fragile DECAL vs. imprint form; Seaboard medallion decal on cab side, blue & orange painted body with unpainted blue smokestacks, blue heat-stamped 6250 cab number and blue-painted die-cast frame with wire handrail detail,  Magne-Traction was standard. 

I've looked to see if there was an actual Seaboard NW-2 that used the blue/orange color which Lionel used for the 6250.  Apparently Lionel dreamed up that color combination themselves, it was never used by Seaboard.  Lionel later introduced a Seaboard #602 NW-2 switcher in correct Seaboard red and black.

Like my Santa Fe F3's, I'm very fond of this engine because I had one exactly like it as a kid in the late 1950's.  From the prices they fetch on eBay, this engine is very popular with collectors and runners alike.

In May 2010, my engine had some mechanical problems I couldn't solve.  I had it serviced by Tony Maietta , the "postwarlioneldoctor" on eBay.  You can also reach him by email:  TONYMAIETTA@VERIZON.NET . My engine came back from a visit to the "doctor" running better than ever.  I highly recommend his work for any postwar Lionel loco that needs attention. 

M.T.H. #8152, Santa Fe C30-7 (Korea, 1994-?)

G.E. (General Electric) Locomotive built the real C30-7, powered by a 3000 H.P. 16 cylinder diesel.

I believe cab #8152 was the last of 157 C30-7's purchased by Santa Fe and it was built in June-July 1981. 

Below is a photo of real cab #8027, taken in Texas in the late 1980's.  She must have been freshly painted to be so perfect! 

Click here for a neat video of three C30-7's still hauling as recently as August 2007:

M.T.H. (Mike's Train House) introduced their very accurate model version of the C30-7 in 1994 with their "Premier" level of detail, cab #8152 and in Santa Fe Line's "Blue Bonnet" livery of the '70's & '80's. 

While I prefer U.S. built model trains of the postwar period, I must give credit where due. M.T.H. seems to have excellent quality control of their Asian manufacturing operations, as this Korean made loco and my M.T.H. Chinese made passenger cars are absolutely perfect in every way.

Although the actual loco this example is based on debuted 30 years ago, the design still looks very modern to me and really stands apart from my otherwise 50-60 year old loco fleet.  I love the contrast!

In my opinion M.T.H. did a beautiful job replicating the original G.E. C30-7 design in an engine weighing a hefty 6 pounds.  It's as long as a Lionel #2055 PLUS tender, heavier than that pair and rides very quietly on 3 axles in each truck. 

The twin motors equipped with flywheels enable incremental speed increases from a dead crawl to cannonball. With rubber traction tires, this engine is quite a bit quieter in operation than any others I have. This feature is a real strong point of modern M.T.H. vs. my postwar Lionel locos. 

I use this engine when I want a train trundling overhead at a really slow pace...this one can do it all day at a scale 3 mph and exceeds even my Santa Fe F3 set in pulling power...that is saying something!

Here are the MTH specs on this one...

  • 1/4" scale detail & dimensions
  • Measures 17-1/2" long
  • Weighs almost six pounds
  • Will operate on O-31 track
  • 2 strong DC can motors w/flywheels for slow scale running
  • Directional constant voltage lighting
  • Flashing yellow beacon on cab roof
  • Metal handrails, ornamental horn & realistic paint scheme
  • Metal wheels, axles and gears
  • Heavy duty die-cast truck sides, pilots & fuel tanks
  • Operating die-cast knuckle couplers & die-cast trucks

Though 16 years old upon purchase, it was NOS and with a bit of lubrication ran great from day 1.

This particular example was built before M.T.H. Protosound and I am quite happy that is the case, as I am not fond of all the supposedly realistic "noise" generated in the newer models by both Lionel and M.T.H.  I prefer to imagine how they would sound for real and simply enjoy the sound of an engine and cars without all the synthesized bells, whistles and crew talk.  

Lionel #50 Gang Cars (USA, 1954-64)

The #50 gang car was the first 4 wheel powered unit Lionel produced.  It was not based on an actual gang car, but was very popular and enjoyed a 10 year production run from 1954-'64. 

The gang car featured an orange body, black frame, blue bumpers and 3 seated workmen, one of which would swivel to match the direction of travel.  At a price of only $7.95, the Gang Car was easily Lionel's best selling motorized unit.

I'm fortunate to have two good examples and enjoy running BOTH cars at the same time on a dedicated section of track with spring loaded bumpers at each end...this way they bounce off the bumpers AND each other enroute, creating a random, somewhat "Keystone Cops" effect.  Realistic??  Heck no, but it makes the grandson howl with laughter!

CLICK HERE for an instant video

Rolling Stock

While locos tend to reproduce occasionally, rolling stock growth seems almost viral by comparison. 

At the moment (1/12/11), not counting loco tenders, the Temple now houses 34 pieces of rolling stock and another 6 pieces I have gifted to my Grandson, and I've only been at this a year! 

Here is a photo of most of my railroad stuff occupying one end of my workshop/steam collection display area.  The top shelf is two rows of cars deep from left to right ends of the photo and there are nine Monon coal hoppers located elsewhere! 

My model steam and model railroading hobbies are now well intermingled and I enjoy them both to the fullest.

My rolling stock railroad names (flags), are pretty diverse...I have Monon, Long Island, NYC, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, Santa Fe, Maine Central, Rio Grande, Lionel, Altoona and B&O.  

I specifically sought out the Monon Hoppers given they hailed from my home state Indiana...all the rest were driven mostly by cars that appealed to me regardless of flag.  My consists are very colorful !!

You will notice I have a mix of Lionel cars from the postwar period (1945-69), Lionel from their reborn 1990's era and MTH, a strong modern brand made in the last 20 years or so.  Every loco and car I own must have steel wheels, steel axles, diecast trucks and diecast couplers...I just can't stand plastic in these critical wear locations. 

ABS plastic is fine for car bodies where it enables superb detailing...just keep it out of the moving parts beneath!  For this reason, I have avoided anything from Lionel made in the 1970's-'80's when they lost their way and quality went out the window.  I'm really glad Lionel is back with quality products now! 


Lionel Diecast Offset Coal Hopper Cars

Monon...The Hoosier Line Flag

I was a very good boy in 2010 and Santa brought me these NINE hoppers for Christmas as a reward!

They were made in 1999 and are all diecast metal except for the plastic coal load.  Each car weighs 2 pounds and measures about 10 inches in length.  With each axle having needle bearings on the ends reducing friction, they roll like a Cadillac...solid and not a rattle in the bunch !

Pictured below is my 1953 Lionel #736 Berkshire and tender easily hauling the 9 Monon hoppers.

These cars are the nicest made rolling stock I have ever seen and being from Indiana, I have a warm spot for the now gone Monon...also called The Hoosier Line which used to connect Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

MTH Premier 64' Woodsided Passenger Cars

Long Island Flag

I love this set of six passenger cars modern made by M.T.H. (Mike's Train House). They are modeled after early 64 foot woodsided passenger cars typically seen from the 1890's on for 30+ years in U.S. passenger service.  Some can still be found in service on small tourist lines today.  

Pictured above is the observation car from this set, replete with interior detail, passengers and overhead lighting.  The detail is incredible right down to the undersides. 

My set of 6 includes 1 baggage car, 1 combination baggage/passenger car, 3 passenger cars and 1 observation car.  I especially enjoy running them in the dark where the interior car illumination literally lights up everything it passes. 

I initially got these as they looked good behind my live steam 1930'ish Bowman 234 loco and tender.  BUT, I found they look equally nice behind any of my locos...the illumination and realistic detail sets them apart from any other passenger cars I've considered. These are keepers for sure.

Tanker Cars

Lionel Sunoco tankers of the 1950's to the left, modern MTH Esso and Shell tankers to the right.

Though both makes are "O" gauge (wheel spacing), Lionel made their 1950's era cars slightly smaller than "O" scale to accomodate smaller layouts popular then.  The 3 Sunoco tankers are identical to one I had as a kid and I might just collect a bunch of them as a consist of their own given they are plentiful on eBay and not that expensive.

MTH cars are both "0" in gauge and "0" scale, so compared to the Lionel stock of the 1950's, they are a little larger.  I space both my early Lionel and later MTH cars apart in my consists and the size difference is no longer apparent.

Floodlight Cars

To the rear is a Lionel floodlight car from the 1950's with operating, motorized floodlight.  Another example like I had as a kid.

To the front are two modern MTH operating, motorized floodlight cars which bear more and better detailing than the early Lionels...just look at the six wheel trucks!  The Lionel vs. MTH car size difference noted under the tanker section is again apparent here with the Lionel about 1.5 inches shorter end to end. 

I like floodlight cars since they look great cruising in the dark on my elevated railway...I space the three of these a few cars apart and literally light up the night.

Box Cars

All three of these cars are 1990's era Lionel when quality again reappeared in their offerings after 15-20 years of less than stellar stuff. 

The red, white and blue State of Maine car to the rear is a 1990's re-make of that popular car from the 1950's updated with sprung diecast trucks...this was part of a series known as the 6464 cars and they offer the benefits of postwar era quality without the collector markup...great for "runners" like me.

The center, yellow car is a Maine Central car from the 6565 series which followed the 6464 series in the late 1990's and featured a heavy diecast floor structure vs. sheet metal of the 6464 type.  This diecast series called "the heavies" are wonderfully hand filling cars that ride very smoothly on sprung diecast trucks.  I'm fond of these Maine cars having lived 6 years in the "great" state of Maine as we called it. 

The orange Rio Grande car to the front is another 6565 series car with the heavy diecast base.  I understand there are 20 of these "heavies" in the 6565 series...I see more in my future!

Coal Hopper Cars

Both of these Lehigh Valley coal cars are 1950s' Lionel stock.  They are a little beat up from a rough life before I got them...but I sort of like that, reminds me of exactly the same cars I had as a kid. 

Who knows, maybe my old cars have made it back to me!

Gondola Cars

Like my Lehigh Valley coal cars above, these two NYC gondola cars are stock Lionel from the 1950's.  A bit of play wear, but still good looking enough to ride the rails here. 


Dump/Barrel and Caboose Cars

The last of my car roster for now, are three "other" cars.  

Once again a blend of old Lionel and new MTH.  The black operating dump car to the rear is classic 1950's Lionel and a fun "operating" car which will dump coal, rocks, toy soldiers or whatever you load into it when positioned over a magnet triggering section of remote track controlled by pushbutton.

The Lionel Santa Fe barrel car up front is likewise an "operating" car from the 1950's, working by same piece of specialized track causing barrels to vibrate up the car's ramp and off to the side (or to a barrel reloader).  I had the exact same type car on my childhood it was a must have here.

The center car is modern MTH "woodsided" caboose in the Pennsylvania flag, it's just a nicely detailed, illuminated car that brings up the end of virtually any consist I put together.







Live Steam Locomotives

Bowman #234, 4-4-0 Loco/Tender (England, 1930)

In Nov. '09 I took the plunge into a completely new branch of toy/model steam collecting (at least for me), that of the live steam locomotive (no electricity here...burning alcohol heats a boiler of water and makes steam...just like the real things did). 

I purchased an English made, "O" gauge, Bowman model 234 loco and model 250 tender off eBay in solid mechanical shape and likely made around 1930 as the fluted con rod design seen on this one was first shown in Bowman's 1930 catalog. 

Below is how they looked upon receipt off eBay in Nov. 2009:

Manufacture was in Dereham-Norfolk, England and this old gal is now 80 or so years old!!

The original engine was painted in maroon L M S 13000 livery (London Midland Scottish railway, one of four major railways in England in the 1920's, but no longer in existence).

Unfortunately years of flame heat had deteriorated the loco's paint especially, the tender had undergone a few coats of after market varnish and more than one swan dive had taken their toll.  This grand old dame was crying out for a Temple of Steam style, off the chassis, full blown restoration.  I was happy to comply. 

Advance apologies to Bowman purists who probably wouldn't restore such a piece to start with, let alone change the look completely. 

I'm a nit picking perfectionist and usually restore to equal or better condition than an engine left the factory, including closely matched paint...but in this case the factory color paints just don't last.  I opted instead for quality, VHT (Very High Temp) paint protection that should ensure this loco and tender are around for another 80 years. 

Here's the refinished loco with tender in it's new T.O.S. livery!

If Harry Potter can have a "Hogwarts Express", surely I can have a

               Temple of steam express

I chose a VHT black and red combination paint scheme with faux brass boiler bands and left the stack, steam dome and cylinders in their natural brass state for contrast.  Red and gold pinstriping was kept simple and new Bowman Models decals for both sides of the loco cab and the rear of the tender were made.

A few more pictures (proud papa syndrome)

Below is the refinished tender with weighted coal load and modified coupler added to the rear so it could be connected to standard American Lionel or M.T.H. type passenger cars.


The alcohol fuel tank and burner assembly seen below right hangs under the rear of the loco with the 6 upright burner tips extending between the wheel axles to span the length of the boiler.  It will hold about 90 ml of alcohol, plenty for runs in excess of 30 minutes when starting with 220 ml of distilled water in the boiler.  Running as loco and tender alone, mine went way too fast for comfort.

To slow down a Bowman 234 to acceptable speed:

1) I blanked off one of six burner tips using a spent .22 caliber brass casing with a screw soldered on for easy removal.  The casing compresses INSIDE the burner perfectly and doesn't let vapors escape and ignite.

2) I added weight to the tender AND 4 M.T.H. passenger cars that are period correct and a good match sizewise.  The total weight of the tender and 4 cars = 8.5 pounds. 

Choice of alcohol for fuel is a bit more complicated than it would seem at first.  I found burning my usual SLX brand of commercial denatured alcohol (stuff you get at the paint store) produced a lot of nasty combustion by-products like formaldehyde, that bother the nose and eyes.

I usually run my stationary engines that use denatured alcohol, inside my exhaust fan equipped paint hood which makes the smelly exhaust a non factor...but that isn't an option with a locomotive on a 7 x 9 foot layout.

My locomotive fuel of choice???

Everclear 190 proof/95% grain alcohol

...obtained from a local liquor store, it produces a hot, blue flame and safer, tolerable combustion byproducts.  Yes, more expensive than SLX, but definitely worth it.


Restoration Process...

After complete dis-assembly, I used chemical stripper, a Dremel rotary sander and steel wool to remove 95% of the original paint and all rust that had attacked the bare steel frame where paint had been scorched off.  The simple and robust design genius of Jeffrey Bowman is evident when you really study this piece.

The 234 loco disassembled, stripped, sanded and ready for paint:

The 250 tender disassembled, stripped, sanded and ready for paint:

Bowman Loco Advertising...

In it's heyday, Bowman heavily advertised the model 234, selling it in several configurations.  The 234 loco and 250 tender could be purchased separately, as a standalone set or in combination with freight or passenger cars.  I bought the loco and tender as originals, then started searching for proper size passenger cars.

Finding the right passenger cars...

While the Bowman 234 was designed for "0" gauge track and runs fine on my tubular Lionel track of that type...the overall physical dimensions of loco, tender and cars were closer to "1" gauge in scale.  Bowman explains their "oversize gauge" in ads as follows:

"The new oversize gauge gives "1" gauge appearance on standard "0" gauge track"

Finding a pair of original Bowman passenger coaches as seen in the advertisement above is almost impossible and very expensive if you are lucky to find them.  I have found a good alternative available from M.T.H. (Mike's Train House)

M.T.H. makes a line they call their "Premier" featuring top quality and accurate O gauge scale.  These cars are based on early 1900's 64 foot wood sided type common on US railways.  I added a set of six new cars via eBay, for much less than quoted prices on the M.T.H. website. 

Quality and detailing is superb, MUCH better than any train car I have ever seen.  Couplers and trucks are diecast metal AND have functional springs within.  Steel wheels ride on steel axles with needle point bearings...these cars are robust, functional works of art in and of themselves.

The following picture captures the six MTH cars, from left to right: baggage car, baggage/passenger combination car, three passenger cars and an observation car to the far right.  All are illuminated and feature miniature people inside...very realistic.

Here's several shots of the observation car close up...

Here's a video of the Bowman 234 with tender and four MTH passenger cars in tow:

CLICK HERE for an instant video

Bassett-Lowke Mogul, 2-6-0 Loco/Tender (England, mid 1940's?)

Received summer 2010...restoration now underway.  BL first made these in 1934, but features on this one date it to just after WWII, mid 1940's? 



Building a Removable O gauge layout

Unlike steaming any other engine, you have to do some preparation to run a locomotive.  I decided early on I was not going to dedicate a permanent table layout for this, as it takes up too much room.  My goal was to simply provide a "space" for some that could be made into a secure layout quickly and just as quickly removed. 

I settled on using my horseshoe shaped workshop which is about 10 feet on each of three sides with a five foot entry that would have to be bridged.  Here is the final layout which ended up being a 7 foot wide x 9 foot long oval of Lionel O gauge track:

Note the derailment "fences" on both sides of the bridge and a protective "fence" that wraps around two sides of the Jensen 51 replica to the left.  Should the Bowman go orbital, I want to prevent collateral damage to a valuable stationary engine as well as minimize any damage to the loco and tender.

Here's a closeup of the "bridge" I built across the entry...this can be quickly removed by pulling 3 pins and lifting straight up.  Track is permanently mounted on the bridge section only and track is cut where it meets the benchtop...cut track ends line up perfectly (they have to or you will have a wreck!). 

The SS fastener set shown below is the trick to rapid track placement and removal.  Track pieces are first joined from beneath in 4-6 piece segments using small cable ties to keep the joints tight...these multi-piece segments remain together on or off the bench.

The multi-piece segments are laid down over the SS fasteners which are permanently set flush into the bench top.

The large SS bolt is passed thru a designated, drilled "tie" in each multi-piece segment and serves to keep the overall track stable after the bolt is tightened down.  There are just 7 of these fasteners in use on my layout and when track is removed, they are hardly noticeable.  I found them at ACE Hardware by the way!

The SS bolt can be quickly put in or removed with a power screwdriver and Allen key bit.  Track setup including inserting the "bridge" takes no more than 10 minutes, even less to remove and stow it away.  I highly recommend this approach to anyone wanting to conserve space.

Here's my Bowman 234 loco, tender and MTH cars giving the new layout a good run.  For safety sake, I plan to keep live steam (live flames) at this track level vs. my other, elevated railway.

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Elevated Electric Railway

Given limited space in my basement/workshop area, I quickly realized I could not expand the removable benchtop layout shown in the previous section.  That caused me to look up and see if it was possible to suspend a railway from the ceiling and walls of my basement such that it kind of enveloped my workshop, yet let the floorspace remain.

The pic just below captures about half of the finished railway (can't get it all in one photo) on for more!

The following schematic shows the finished layout in 0 gauge using all 072 curves (072 curves if made into a complete circle would have a 6 foot diameter).  Trackbed is suspended 15 inches down from the floor joists, just clearing airducts, support beams and an exit door in the basement:

This layout used 70 linear feet of new Lionel 3 rail/tubular track and four K line remote track switches placed as you see above.  All curved pieces of trackbed are 6 inches in width and cut from a single sheet of 3/4" thick plywood.  Straight sections are 4 inch pine board 3/4" thick.

The K-line switches enable the train to alternate direction on it's own once all 4 switches are set to Red (turn) position.  I can literally leave it for hours while doing something else, with it trundling along above me seemingly changing direction on it's own. Only one left and one right hand switch (the pair shown in bottom of schematic above) is needed to enable reversing from either direction. 

The other left and right switch pair enable the train to be routed along another path through a "tunnel" built into an existing storage shelf. 

1/4 inch diameter threaded rod, 3/4 inch aluminum angle stock and blocks of wood suspend the track sections that couldn't be attached to the walls (basically the reversing loops).  The photo to the right below shows one of sixteen such supports used.  The finished track with supports in place is very solid.

One advantage of using threaded rod was that I could level the trackbed as needed just by tightening nuts on either the top or bottom ends of the threaded rods.

Rods, aluminum, wood blocks and underside of track were painted flat black to help them "disappear". Edges of the trackbed were trimmed with 3/4 inch natural wood trim on both sides all the way around, for contrast and to hold the sections of plexiglass in place. 

The following photos show the finished, operating layout from several angles, hopefully you can match things up with the schematic above.

Pictured below is the "North" end of the layout traveling over my steam engine collection and benchtop areas, note train passing over the straight suspension "bridge" which is part of one reversing loop.  Reversing loops are highly recommended for visual interest...I used two, allowing train to be reversed from either direction of travel.

Next pic is taken towards the "South" end of the room with my back to the end with the window seen above.  Train is now positioned on the other reversing loop.  Clearance under the main support beam for the house and ductwork is tight, but everything clears.

Next pic below shows the "tunnel" built into the back of a large shelving unit.  Track has to jog a bit as it enters the tunnel, given I had to go around two 4x4" upright shelf supporting posts and a vertical 4" drain line. Tunnel is fully boxed in to protect train from "stuff" on the shelf. 

Next pic shows the other end of the four foot long tunnel with the train exiting.  I had to create a unique swervy section of trackbed here to still allow for an outside door to swing in, with 1/4" of clearance to spare.

Simple "Command Central below.

An early 1950's Lionel ZW, 275 watt transformer powers the elevated railway using the right main handle.  The left main handle powers the benchtop level "test track" and paired Lionel #50 gang cars on a dedicated section of track.  The ZW is a wonderful transformer that can run up to four trains simultaneously. 

Mounted just to the left of the ZW are four separate switches that control the four K-line SuperSnap remote directional switches on the elevated railway...they work perfectly. 

Green light = straight away, Red light = turn.

The transformer and controls mount to a removable baseboard with brackets that slip into small holes in the bench edge.  Just to the right of the baseboard is a 115 volt AC outlet and wall switch that the transformer plugs into...allowing complete on/off with one switch.  The baseboard is wired with quick disconnect plugs so it can be removed in a minute or less should I want to free up the space temporarily.

I love my steam stuff, but it's been wonderful taking a step back to the late fifties when electrically powered Lionel "steam" locos and diesels were the best thing an American kid could own.  This "kid" is livin' the dream again, 50 years later and lovin' it !!!!

Take an engine's eye "trip" on the Temple of Steam Elevated Railway...filmed Jan. 2011:

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Making a heavy train transformer disappear

When I built my elevated railway in 2011, I mounted a heavy Lionel transformer to a shelf attached to the side of my workbench/display area for my steam engine hobby.  I also wired up the switches to this same shelf and I was in business. 

Just one problem that has annoyed me ever since.  I can't easily reach my steam engines on the shelves behind the transformer, either straining to reach over it or getting a ladder to do it

Now it's Feb. 2013 and I came up with a great idea...adapt a device intended for kitchens to make heavy appliances like mixers disappear when not wanted into a cupboard below, but have them reappear on a moment's notice ready to operate at countertop level. 

Device is one I found on, called a "Rev-A-Shelf" made of heavy chromed steel.  I had to build a shelf between the left and right sides of the mechanism, but in a couple of hours I had a working device that solved the problem perfectly.

CLICK HERE...The Video explains it all


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