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"Friend's Layouts" Installment#4, Plus a Lionel T-Rail Track Primer Bonus!

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Before my friend Nick B and I share his layout, I thought I'd provide some information on the track system that makes it a very interesting, and rare, one.

Lionel made and sold solid rail, realistic looking track, called T-rail (due to the rail's profile) only from 1937 through 1942. It was the recommended track for their scale Hudson, their scale switcher and scale cars. The curve tracks created a loop with a 72" diameter.

What makes this track system so unique is that the sections were held together with nuts, bolts and fish plates, just like real railroad track.

Here are some sample pictures of this track system.

A set of fish plates, center rail connectors, nuts, bolts and wrench:

A completed track joint:

Some sample straight track sections:

Rare boxed switch tracks:

On to Nick's T-Rail layout.

The lead photo is Nick himself pointing out one of its features.

The layout is approximately 12 x 13 feet in size, an around the room design.

Nick built it in 1989 and has not changed it much since then - why mess with a design that runs and looks great?

One major change Nick made recently was to motorize the layout's duck-under/lift off section (see the addendum at the end of this post to learn how he accomplished this). Here it is in the lower "run" position:

And here it is in the raised "walk under" position:

Nick is an expert repair person - here is a photo of where he makes his magic happen. It is located behind the Bascule Bridge show in one of the earlier photos.

Thanks for sharing, Nick!

ADDENDUM: I've received a number of inquiries about Nick's motorized "duck-under", so I asked him for more info. Turns out making one like his might not be as difficult or expensive as one might believe.

It all starts out as an adjustable standing up motorized desk frame such as this one made by a company called Costway:

It comes complete with internal dual motors and electronic controller. I found this one on Walmart's website on sale for less than $220.

Nick's layout is 41 inches high, the lowest level of most of these units is 31 inches, so, in his case, he made two pedestals (from 2x4's and plywood) to make up the difference to his platform level.

He attached his layout's existing removable "duck-under" section to the top, carefully lining it up and shimming it for a perfect track alignment. He also narrowed the top cross brackets to the width of his duck-under with a hacksaw.

Thanks, again, Nick

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