model train set on track

LEGO® Bricks and Lionel® Trains, Perfect Together (Part 1)

e*Train Issue: Oct 2019   |   Posted in:

By: John S. Halajko, TCA 84-20653; Jay Stuhl, TCA 70-3009; Michael D. Ramsey, TCA 90-32297 Fall 2019

For a very long time John and Joanie’s son, David, used to store his LEGO Collection on one of the shelves in the Train Room in Lawrenceville, NJ. We discovered that the buildings were the perfect size for an O-Gauge Layout or Train Garden and that the Little LEGO People can do some amazing things with engines, cars and accessories. Here are some ideas for you to study.


Above are two hard working people running a refurbished Lionel 773. 

Want to keep the LEGO People inside the cab or on the deck? Just use double sided tape on their feet or seated body. 
The handrails of a Lionel SW-2 are just the right height for those little hands to hold onto for a ride. For extra security you can add double sided tape.


The short LEGO people (herein call shorties, while Jay calls them, Da Kids) are the perfect size to conduct the train from the Lionel SP Style Caboose. Shorties can’t sit down but they are useful for other applications as you will learn later. All shorties have short legs that do not bend.

One of Jay’s Kids is the conductor. Look what he just bought from the local ice cream vendor!

Lego people as a crew.

The regular sized LEGO people (we’ll call them regulars) are the perfect size for the engine crew cabs or the bay window caboose. Classic sized Lionel Hudsons and Pacifics have a crew cab big enough for two or you can plant the fireman on the tender as shown above. They also work with the PreWar six-wheel drive 224, 225, and 226.

See, he likes the view from the rear!
Here is a shorty in an early American Flyer tin plate caboose. Hats off for clearance!

Boxcar Larry, That LEGO GUY:

Here is Larry (a shorty) in a smaller operating freight car.
And the door is closed!
The secret is to use a shorty with double sided tape on the
smaller boxcars to gain headroom.


We will talk about this class of LEGO People in the next issue, but here is a sneak preview.

You can use regulars for yard workers and inspectors, lots of headroom in bigger boxcars.
They also work on barrel cars with double sided tape.


First and foremost, kids relate to LEGO models. You don’t need to run electric to them, therefore, you can plant the building anywhere in the train garden in a just few seconds. Some buildings come with streets, lawns and sidewalks, and it makes for the Instant LEGO Community.

Train gardens have more play value than train layouts. What’s the difference? A train garden is like a real garden. Once planted in a train garden, the item will stay there for a year or two then the space is taken up by something else. A Train Garden always changes while most layout owners don’t practice change. Then there are few of us who put a sign at a Train Garden building that the building was condemned by the City Health Inspector and must be torn down. Construction equipment is called in and the site undergoes demolition. A “This Property for Sale” sign is erected with the square footage of the lot. A “SOLD” sign will follow. A construction crew is brought in and the new building is erected followed by a Grand Opening Date. 

Changing the Garden adds interest. As the Garden grows, make sure the LEGO buildings are placed so that little hands can reach and play with them. Train Gardens are so much better than a Static Train Layout. Why, because they change. Consider placing a sign at a building stating that it must be sold or torn down due to some reason like say Delinquent Taxes or Mercury Contamination. Have fun making the signs, demo stuff and building pieces.


And then there’s the LEGO Cinderella Castle as the Centerpiece of Your Amusement Park! Mickey and Donald both agree that any train made up of Lionel, MTH, K-Line, Atlas, Weaver, Williams and/or Flyer items will make more frequent stops to your Amusement Park when the Cinderella Castle is the Centerpiece.  Remember to let Donald and Mickey run the trains.

The Cinderella Castle is best located where you can see the front and rear of the building. See the pictures that follow. If you must put it against the wall, John recommends using a 12″ diameter Lazy Susan turntable to allow the unit to be easily turned on its base. There’s a picture of the turntable, too! The cost of the new unassembled LEGO Castle is about the same as a new Lionel or MTH accessory, so it is not too cost prohibitive. All the figures shown below are included in the Castle. Many thanks to Andy’s Brick Shop in the Oxford Valley Mall, Bensalem, PA for allowing the photo shoot that follows.

The FRONT VIEW of the Lego Castle with figures welcoming visitors.
The BACK VIEW of the Lego Castle.  This shows lots of the details that are in each room.
The Lazy Susan allows for movement.
A 12″ diameter Lazy Susan turntable allows the Castle to be rotated to show rear side. The above picture is the underside of John’s turntable.


The LEGO Group, makers of LEGO Bricks, had their major patent expire in 1978 which opened competition as noted in the link that follows. So now there are building blocks “compatible with leading building bricks.”

A new competitor has just entered the market. At Eastern Division’s April 2019 York, Coaster Dynamics displayed their new line of Roller Coasters.

Coaster Dynamics display at April, 2019 York Train Meet.
Here is what the Coaster Dynamics packaging looks like.

Here is a YouTube Link to Coaster Dynamics Ride as seen at April 2019 York Meet.


In the room where you plant your Christmas Tree, the furniture all around can make great tunnels and mountains. If you can’t get the train under the furniture move the furniture 8 to 10 inches from the wall and go around the entire room perimeter with a double track. Tubular O-31 track is our favorite to use for this because you can step on it and not damage it. And, it does not cost a lot! Pre-Owned O-Gauge track, in fair to rusty condition, can be acquired dirt cheap. Find a friend with a ½-hp grinder and install a wire wheel.  Use this to remove the surface rust in the rails and track pins. The O-27 style track can be put close to the wall or in other out of the way places where people will not step on it. Use a piece of cardboard to shim the tracks for proper height. Trains on the floor also work great on carpet. If the track pins are loose you can use rubber bands to hold the track together. We also recommend using conductive grease on the track pins after tightening the rails with needle nose plyers.

Put the LEGO buildings on the floor where others will not step on them. Then, invite families and friends over to run trains. Back when John lived in the Kingdom of Texas, he discovered that homes had no basements and garages were too hot most of the year. There the daughter of a Lionel Train Collector could play trains on the floor twice a year. They took all the furniture out of the dining room and played trains on the floor the month the kids got off for summer vacation and at Christmastime. Lots of families have lasting memories when they came over by invitation just to run their trains!


Come and join us as we make a change to our hobby to help kids relate to trains. Share the running of the trains along with the playing and building of LEGO Bricks with others make for lasting memories.

Did we mention that American Flyer S gauge trains can also use LEGO stuff? Very cool, right?
LEGO people can coordinate freight from the side of a Flyer GP9.
A shorty and the sawmill.

A Shorty can fit on the Flyer Sawmill. Lots of other opportunities are available with Flyer Accessories.

The Flyer Barrel Loader can be run by a LEGO shorty secured by double sided tape.The Flyer Barrel Loader can be run by a LEGO shorty secured by double sided tape.The Flyer Barrel Loader can be run by a LEGO shorty secured by double sided tape.
What other connections can you make?
You can use double sided tape to put a shorty on a switcher engine walkways.
LEGO figures and AMERICAN FLYER®, a match that Gilbert never thought possible. Can anyone figure out how to use a LEGO guy for the Lionel Fueling Station?

The title of this article was chosen to be catchy and to generate interest with younger readers. MTH, K-Line, MARX, Williams, Weaver or just about any O-Gauge or S-Gauge trainset and accessory can be used with LEGO bricks. The possibilities are almost endless. Can anyone figure out how to use LEGO bricks with other gauges?

So now we need to mention the TCA KIDS CLUB AND TCA TEENS CLUB CONTEST: TRAINSCAPING WITH CONSTRUCTION BRICKS 2020. See all the details in the Fall Kids and Teens Club Newsletters, on the web at  TCA Kids Club and TCA Teens Club or in the National Headquarters News.

Tune in next issue for LEGO® Bricks Meet Lionelville®.

LEGO Bricks and Lionel Trains are Perfect Together, because they both begin with L.

LEGO, the LEGO logo and the Minifigure are trademarks of the LEGO Group. 
Lionel, Lionelville and American Flyer are trademarks of Lionel Trademark LLC.