model train set on track

Layout Disasters

e*Train Issue: Apr 2002   |   Posted in:

compiled by Bob LeBras from the archives of the TTML

Disasters Down Under
by Colin Duthie Here are a couple I have experienced:

  1. My layout has a lifting section, the inevitable happened, I sent a train around with no bridge in place. Under the tracks is a shelf, the loco oddly ended up on the shelf below, although there is no shelf under the open section. The 10 cars made 10 successive crashing sounds, and all being tinplate some sustained minor dents.
  2. I had a layout at a height of six feet above a bare concrete floor. A Hornby Dublo diecast loco made the grand dive, due to an error of mine. It suffered no damage!!
  3. I won’t mention at this stage the time I started a fire (with real flames) on our layout at a public train exhibition.

Boiler Shear & More Than Box Rub
by Paul Olekson Back about 1970 an 022 switch on the edge of my layout malfunctioned and sent my 773 Hudson 40 inches to the floor. No bends or scratches but every screw holding the boiler to the chasis was severed.

Recently, I spilled 90% alcohol on a 2445 Elizabeth car. Took some of the silver paint off! DANG!

Peril On The Gallitzin Western
by Bob LeBras When I first started laying the trackplan and installing accessories, being very much the novice, I must have wired my modern issue Bascule Bridge incorrectly. I fired it up (literally) and smoke started pouring out of the mechanical shed. Discovering that I had wired it backwards (not thinking backwards because I was lying down under the layout), I switched it around and seem to have suffered no damage.

As with any zealous layout builder, once you get the track down, you want to see some trains run. I have a grade built on a trestle set that ends in my own version of Horseshoe Curve. Putting my K4s on the mainline, I cranked up the ZW to watch it zip around the rails. Again, being new to operating on this scale, the loco climbed the hill quickly and picked up considerable speed on the downgrade. Instead of rounding the bend, the K4s sailed off the edge onto the (thankfully) carpeted floor like a diecast ground dart. The steamer was fine but the tender suffered a not-so-nice gouge along with a bent rear step. Today, the pair work perfectly and lead my Pennsy passenger train.

Throttle That Throttle
by Mike Duncan My cousin wanted to run my L646 Hudson. We decided to uncouple the loco on the trestle (5% grade). I told her to reduce throttle when I pressed the uncouple button, but she increased the throttle. The hudson flew off the O-31 curve and fell 3 1/2 ft. to the hardwood floor. It knocked a .25 inch deep chip out of the floor and bent the cab roof. Dad straighten the roof and it runs and looks fine to this day.

A Bridge Too Far
by Barb Jones A friend was in the center of my layout with me. When the outer train was stopped, but the middle train still running, I lifted the bridge and got out while the train was at the other end of the layout. I soon heard a ferocious crash. The friend had decided to follow me, not realizing the train was bearing down on the bridge. He caught the entire train just after the #8 went head first onto the hardwood floor. The body did not suffer much damage, but the armature bearings were crushed and the motor had to be rebuilt. Fortunately, the #8 and its cars are about the scroungiest of all my standard gauge trains, and are now running happily again on the middle track. My husband has offered to make me an interlock for the bridge, but so far I am not sure I want one. In four years that is the only incident that has occurred.

American Flyer Learns To Fly
by David “Two Rails” Dewey Time for an AF version!

Back in the early 70s my layout was put up each winter in one of my family’s resort’s summer cabins (closed all winter while it snowed, etc. ).

My layout filled a bedroom (8′ x 12′ foot table–the tables unbolted into 2′ x 8′ sections for storage the rest of the year); the tables were 40″ high. This one winter my layout featured a big mountain scene with trains on 4 levels, the upper two were only loops that disappeared in and out of tunnels for “effect”, but the main layout was two levels. My cousins (hmm, relatives again!) were visiting and wanted to run the trains. Well, my beloved 336 was on the outside loop, which climbed a trestle along the back edge of the table. I had to go adjust something, leaving my cousins “in charge” of the throttle. Uh oh! FULL THROTTLE! the 336 hit the high, rear curve and sailed off to the floor, some 4 feet below! Thank God for 1920s construction with some dry rot! It made a nice dent in the floor (which fortunately would be hidden by the bed when I put the cabin back together!) and only bent a number board. WHEW!! My 336 still runs fine. And my cousins don’t get to run the trains unmoderated!!

E-Unit Woes
by John Marganski Running my Flyer 5-digit Hudson, with an increasing load of freight, I was showing off all my hard to find Flyer rollingstock (or trying to) by adding another car after each lap. Gotta see how much that big motor can do, right?

When cars 16 and 17 had been added (State of Maine, LTI and Gilbert), the e-unit popped into reverse just as the loco hit max voltage–BAM!!!!

Entire train derails, smashing the center of town like a tornado through a trailer park-and the loco rolled over and off the table-fortunately, onto a deep pile carpet. However, it and the consist took a healthy devaluation as a result of that experiment.

Your Brother’s Keeper
by Frank Duszczak One of my disasters happened to me when I was a teenager back in mid 50’s.

I had an older and younger brother, but was the only one interested in toytrains so my father gave me the Christmas train sets (a prewar L 1666 with freight cars and a Marx CP with freight cars).

By the mid 50’s I had purchased a bunch of postwar L and had a nice layout in the basement about 6′ x 10′. (Note: concrete floor) A few weeks before, I had taken my prewar L 1666 to Spoonley The Train Man for service and replacing one of the green jewel running lights. He did a good service job and it ran great. I bought a new tender for it with the knuckle coupler on it so it could pull my postwar cars. The Marx CP got the 1666 prewar tender to pull those tinplate cars.

So my wiseguy older brother (4 1/2 yrs older) (hummm relatives) comes by one day and decides he wants to run my trains. So he cranks up the ZW and gets the 1666 going on the outside loop (027 track) and ran it right off the layout at the curve onto the concrete floor. All messed up. Took it back to Spoonley and my father made my brother pay me for the costs to get it fixed.

Never let him near them again.

Granny Can’t Drive
by Les Mathis In 1946, when I was 8 years old, I informed my mother I wanted the 671 Turbine work train set. It was was listed at $60. My mother, a single parent, told me that was almost twice her weekly salary and she just couldn’t afford it. She said that I should save my nickels and dimes from running errands and from my 25 cent-a-week allowance and maybe she could add to it.

By late 1948, I had managed to save $80 and she agreed to add $5 so I could get a $25 ZW with it. We went to the Train Center of America in Orange, NJ to purchase the train and transformer. Would you believe they didn’t have the set. They were sold out. I was really down. My mother’s boss said he knew the people further up Main St. at Orange Electric. Maybe they had the set. Not only did they have the set but they threw in a ZW as a favor to him. For the extra $25 I was able to get a pair of 022 switches, track and some lumber to build a layout. The layout was built on two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and scrap 2 x 4s. I was so proud of that setup. It was my heaven come true.

One day in 1949, the boy next door wanted to see the trains run. Not being home, my grandmother thought she could run them for him. Well, she learned she couldn’t. When I came home from scouts that afternoon, she took me downstairs and sadly showed me the error of her ways. The train had left the track needless to say and descended 3 feet to the concrete floor. The 671 suffered lost rear steps and a bent flange on one wheel. The tender suffered a broken plastic side truck frame and the 2420 wrecker caboose roof was broken off at the ladder. Everything else seemed to have survived. Well I’m sure they heard me wail 20 miles away. My grandmother accompanied me to the Train Center of America and the wrecker caboose got a new housing. The rear steps of the Loco were glued in place. The bent flange and missing side frame can still be seen today on the set which occupies a place of great honor amongst my purchases of the last 53 years. I survived the trauma and my grandmother went near the trains again.

Naked Train 2-1/2
by Stirling Woodin A friend of mine’s father was very much into HO trains in the late 1960’s, and had an extensive collection of brass equipment.

One day, several of us ankle biters from the neighborhood were visiting Jon’s dad, and he was running a CB&Q passenger train; I seem to remember it as an ABA set with maybe 6-7 cars, all custom painted and detailed. Jon’s dad was backing it into a dead end siding, and handed the tethered throttle over to one of the kids with the instructions to bring it to a slow stop before hitting the track bumper.

Well……..kid got confused about which way was off and which way was full on. He pegs the throttle at full power, and the train promptly smashes through the end stop, and proceeds to march off the end of the layout at ~90SMPH.

I will never forget Jon’s dad leaping across the room in a vain attempt to save the train cars as they cascaded off of the table. If you ever saw the Naked Gun movie where Leslie Nielson is in Ricardo Montalban’s office and is trying to catch the priceless vases as they fell to the floor, that’s EXACTLY what the scene looked like.

Mr. Sodaro could use four letter words just as an artist uses fine oils on a painting. He had a knack of combining phrases and words in a manner that I had never heard before, and have never heard since.

We lit out of there like the house was afire, and never looked back.