When I learned our 4-year-old granddaughter was visiting my wife Diana and me for Christmas, I was determined to make the holiday extra special by building an O gauge Christmas tree train layout – and I knew where to turn for help.
My brother Norman has been a model railroader for as long as I can remember. Growing up we shared a big layout at the top of a flight of stairs. (I can recall many instances of derailed trains tumbling all the way to the bottom of the steps!)
As I knew he would, Norman was quick to offer assistance in planning my Christmas layout. He showed me an O gauge folded figure-8 track plan from the December 2010 issue of Classic Toy Trains. He said it looked easy and further suggested elevating the track on a sheet of plywood supported by five-gallon plastic buckets. This would keep my dogs from walking on the railroad and give us a place under the table to tuck away presents.
That summer I had purchased a Lionel no. 30161 Boy Scouts of America train set and a Lionel no. 30069 Thomas and Friends set. Both sets included an oval of Lionel FasTrack and between them I figured I could just about build the CTT folded figure-8. I knew I had to purchase a 45-degree crossing and some five-inch straights, and I guessed I could probably assemble the CTT plan’s custom-cut 31/2-inch section by combining short sections of FasTrack.
From setback to success
The original plan fit in a 4 x 6-foot space, so I cut a piece of plywood to those dimensions and started to place track. It was at this point I realized my FasTrack curves were O-36, while the CTT plan used Lionel O-31 tubular track.
Consequently, my track didn’t fit on the table and it didn’t go together like the diagram. Also, my neighbors had dropped by to watch the construction.
After giving the matter some thought, I figured my table had to be 41/2 x 6 feet. Also, I would need FasTrack fitter sections of varying lengths to complete the plan.
I made a hurried trip to my local hobby shop and found it closed for the evening. That night we ran trains on a simple oval.
The next day I was there when the store opened and purchased two or three of every short section I could find so I could try out different track arrangements when I returned home.
After some trial and error, I finally built the FasTrack folded figure-8 shown in the track plan on this page and added the Christmas tree.
When neighbors across the street saw the train table, they contributed Department 56 porcelain buildings and figures.
Neighbor Laurie Hoyle suggested we raise some of the buildings on blocks to give the village landscape a little variety and add cotton-batting “snow.”
My wife thought a railing around the table would be nice, so I made one from half-round wood trim pieces, which I painted a rusty brown.
Kenny Lythgoe, owner of Royal Hobby in Rockford, Ill., helped us locate additional rolling stock and accessories.
Witnessing the excitement of our granddaughter, nieces and nephews, and neighbors enjoying the trains made it all worthwhile. We can’t wait for next year!