model train set on track

Russ McFall’s Standard Gauge Empire

e*Train Issue: Sep 2002   |   Posted in:

by Mike Spanier
Photos by Russ McFall

In 1996, 2 years before retiring after 33 years in industry, Russ McFall decided to start a new hobby! I’ll bet you can’t guess what it was!

At that time, before retiring, Russ decided that if he is going to get into this hobby he had better become a knowledgeable collector / buyer. With this in mind Russ joined TCA, TTOS and LCCA . He also purchased reference books and began the process of getting a grip on items of which he would be interested. His initial interest was prewar Lionel trains with emphasis on standard gauge.

Upon retirement in 1998, Russ became a serious collector and continued his education by going to trains shows, auctions and conventions. As his collection started to grow, he decided it would be nice to operate standard gauge trains.

In 2000, Russ started planning his standard gauge layout. During this planning period, he visited several TCA member layouts and continually revised his planning. Visiting Dave Linton’s (TCA member) layout, several times, in particular, really helped with the planning process. Seeing Dave’s layout and his many excellent suggestions really helped to crystallize the thought process for Russ about what he really wanted from his layout.

The planning period covered six months including a trial track layout before he started mounting final track and then accessories. The layout pictures throughout this article illustrate the results of two years of planning, building, painting, mounting, wiring and arranging.

The layout is “L” shaped with the outside dimensions being 26 ft by 16 ft. Inside is 16 ft by 6 ft.with an overall table height of 3ft. One half inch plywood over 2×4’s and then covered with homasote to reduce the noise and has worked reasonably well. The layout sure as heck won’t fall down!

Within the layout are 24 switches (20 Lionel #222 and #223 that are hot wired to transformers and wide radius MTH switches). All accessories and lights are wired to the transformers. The layout is powered with six Lionel transformers (two 275 watt ZW’s and four 250 watt Z’s). Three trains can be operated simultaneously.

All tracks are interconnected; this includes sidings, inner loop (figure “8”), middle loop and outer loop. Any train can be moved any place on the layout. Russ can also reverse trains for all loops provided the consists are not too long.

To do all this the layout has over one mile of wire underneath. That thought that alone is pretty amazing!

The outside loop is currently running a MTH 400E with thirteen 200 series freight cars (Lionel and MTH mix). The inner loop has an original Lionel maroon 380 with three passenger cars. The middle loop has an original Lionel 385E with six 500 series freight cars.

Russ collects what he likes. Most of the collection is standard gauge (Lionel, Ives, MTH, JAD, AF). Russ also collects stations and the layout contains Lionel, Ives, Bing, Fandor, Pride Line and T-Reproductions examples.

Lionel prewar O gauge is also a significant interest. Russ is planning an O gauge layout to operate his newer MTH and Lionel trains. The heart of Russ’s collecting efforts, continues to focus on standard gauge, while he is starting to search for #1 gauge manufactured around 1900 to 1920 by Bing, Marklin and Fandor. Any leads, by the way, would be appreciated by Russ.

Hope you enjoyed this tour. No doubt that Russ would look forward to hearing from you via e-mail where mutual interests are shared. His e-mail address is: [email protected]