From the Basement of John Warren

My friends also have some amazing layouts, I just want to show them off here as well!

Permissions given.

Karen's Escape from Work:

Who wouldn’t want a train layout at work? What’s better than watching the little engine chug around and around the track? Karen has a wonderful little layout on her desk, and when the going gets rough, the train gets going. Even the My Little Pony figures enjoy a trip!

Granted, it is not a Lionel Toy Train, or even an HO, it’s Fun World’s Christmas Train. I feel it’s spectacular enough to place here on the Friends’ Layout page! Hope you enjoy it!

Mike and Ronnie's Professionally Built Layout:

While Mike with the help of his father in law built two prior layouts, when he expanded the second story train room he decided to enlist the aid of professional set designer Clarke Dunham. Over the years Mike and Ronnie have redesigned areas of his empire and added their personal touches.

Climb up a spiral staircase and you’ll find yourself surrounded by this masterpiece of a layout.


Controlled by both MTH’s and Lionel’s command control systems.

Mike can operate modern MTH or Lionel trains, as well as conventionally operated Lionel Post War trains.


A good part of the layout represents Long Island and surrounding areas.

Being Yankee fans Ronnie and Mike they made sure it included Yankee Stadium, as well as a large animated ballpark representing the Little League team Mike coached.

They further personalized the layout by replacing scenes, or adding scenes, based on some of their favorite movies and TV shows, and local places that have meaning to them. Ronnie added the bar where she and Mike met, various stores and businesses pertaining to family and friends are seen throughout. She also added scenes with Sanford and Son,

Elvis, Wizard of Oz,Casablanca, etc - neat touches.

There is even a car show consisting of 1969 Camaros. This came about when Mike kept buying '69 Camaro models similar to the one he owned. Ronnie decided to put them all together and have a car show.

Clarke carved an Indian face into one of the mountains and Mike took up on the idea, called it Onondaga Mountain (after the Indian Reservation in Syracuse) and placed a replica of the Carrier Dome on top, honoring his son's team winning the National Lacrosse Championship at SU.

Ronnie and Mike: Thanks for sharing - the following pictures don’t do the layout justice!

Dennis' Retirement Pike

What do you do when you sell your house with a big basement layout and retire to a home in Florida without a basement? You make use of a spare 12 x 12 bedroom and build a new layout. That is exactly what my buddy Dennis did.

Dennis' new layout is around the room with a lift-out at the door. Trackage is the rare T-rail on cork roadbed painted with black latex, over coated with a speckle spray paint. I think it looks great!

Dennis uses Lionel's conventional and TMCC control and operates Pre War, Postwar and Modern Lionel. You wouldn't expect many operating accessories on an around the wall layout, but his includes most of the Pre and Post War favorites, including the bascule bridge, coal loader, log loader, barrel loader, magnetic crane and more.

The pictures he selected are below. Dennis, thanks for sharing.

Bruce Vincelette's Metacomet Central RailRoad

Some people are good friends even though you’ve never personally met them. That is the case with Bruce, I know him, online, for at least 5 years now. Bruce owns and moderates the online TCA Members Group ( ). This is a group of fun loving toy and model train guys (and a few gals) who like to discuss and tease about this wonderful hobby. You do not need to be a TCA member to join, and I highly recommend that you consider joining.

Bruce is also the proprietor of the Metacomet Central Railroad, and shares the following pictures and information with us:

“Bench work is open grid to allow for some 2 to 3% grades. I used .75 in plywood for the underpayment which is topped with .5 in Homasote. The layout is measures about 300 square feet and is approximately 17ft x 18ft. Track and switches are ATLAS O, 21st Century Track System, the switch motors are Z-10000s, which I find to be more reliable than the Atlas. There is also a Ross High Speed crossover connecting the double main lines, and a Ross 4-way leading into the yard.

There is one reverse loop. I didn’t have room for 2, but 1 is better than none. The curves are all super elevated. Minimum curves are O-54, the rest are O-72”

Thanks for sharing Bruce!

A Magical Garden Layout

I'm guessing that everyone considers Walt Disney to be a friend, and that he would want the EPCOT, Germany pavillion, garden layout to be featured here.

The trains are LGB, "G" gauge (approximatly the size of Lionel's Pre-war Standard Gauge). The layout is 50 x 130 feet in size. When I was there they were running only engines without consists of cars. I'm guessing that this is to reduce the chance of derailments. The trains to run all day long without noticible supervision, a tribute to German engineering.

One other neat thing I found amusing; There are many little 3 inch lizards on the Disney grounds. These were sitting on buildings, hiding in tunnels, etc. Baby Godzillas waiting to grow up and attack the trains!


The following pictures were taken on my visit to EPCOT, May 2012.


My good friend, Tony Zagarino, shares article and pictures with us:

I am pleased to provide a few pictures for John's website.

Like most Lionel collectors and operators, my obsession started with childhood, went into hibernation during the testosterone filled adolescent years, and then returned after I settled down with wife and children. You know the story -boy meets train, boy meets girl, boy wants both. No need to elaborate. As I contemplate the pictures I've sent to John for posting, just about everything on the layout or on the shelf evokes a childhood memory. And if the memory is strong enough, you've got to have more than one of the item; you've got to have several! Take for example the magnificent 71 Lamp Post. Growing up, I had two. Now, I have about twenty on the layout. And let us not forget the 153 Block Signal. I probably have way too many of those on the website. (Once, my wife accompanied me to a local train show... big mistake! I spotted a 153 in decent condition. When I began to negotiate with the dealer, my wife quickly said, "Jeez... You don't need another block signal, do you?" Whereupon the dealer quickly responded, "Miss, you can never have too many block signals!" How true. And I gave the dealer an agreeable look which he immediately understood. I even paid his sticker price just to thank him!)

My favorite Lionel story involves a cheap locomotive, Madison Hardware, and a whole bunch of memories. Growing up in lower Manhattan, we didn't have much room for a layout. But at Christmas, mom and dad would always sacrifice a large chunk of their living room for a temporary holiday 4 x 8 around the tree. We had one little locomotive that I inherited from my brother, a 1655 Scout. There was no accompanying Scout tender. In the carelessness of childhood, my brother destroyed it. This locomotive to me represented Lionel trains. We couldn't afford anything better and this thing just kept running and running, year after year. You could't kill it. Well, at some point in my early adolescence, my brother and I sold our trains. What a mistake. But then again, the testosterone kicked in and trains were the last thing on my mind. When I got back into the hobby, I wanted that 1655. In the mid 1980s, before Madison Hardware closed, I paid them a visit with my oldest daughter in tow, who was two at the time. Carl Shaw greeted us and immediately gave my daughter a lollypop. Say what you want to about Lou and Carl. They could be quite surly at times. But that's why I xalways took one of my kids with me. They melted whenever they were around little kids. Anyway, I told Lou Shur what I was looking for.. .a 1655. He scratched his head, told me to wait a minute and disappeared through the back door. He came back about 15 minutes later with a familiar looking Lionel corrugated locomotive box still sealed. He sliced the box open at the top and there popped out a brand spanking new 1655, in hibernation since it came into this world in the mid 1940s. No matter how big my collection gets with Berkshires, F-3s, and Steam Turbines, the 1655 will always have a special place in the display case.

Thanks to John for allowing me to share one of my train stories. Best of luck with the website!

Nick Balsamo's T-Rail Layout

In the late 1930's and early 1940's Lionel's state of the art track system was as close to scale as possible - Lionel called this innovation "T-Rail". Lionel's famous 1938 New York City Showroom layout featured T-Rail track.

T-Rail is unique in that it has multi track ties, solid steel rail (not tubular as most track systems are today) and each track section is held together with "fishplates" (small, flat, pieces of metal with holes on each end). These fishplates are placed on each side of every rail connection, and attached with mini nuts

and bolts.

Over 80 years later no track system matches it for realism. T-Rail track is very hard to find today, especially in quantities large enough to build a layout using it.

I am lucky to know someone who has built such a layout, and am happy that he agreed to share these pictures with you. The layout you'll see in the following pictures was built by, and is owned by, my friend Nick Balsamo.

Nick is an expert in Pre-War (Pre World War II) trains and they run great on his T-Rail masterpiece.

Thanks for sharing Nick!

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