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Layout Tour: Hidden Lionel Empire

October 16, 2009

Okay, who says a layout has to be accessed through a boring old door? How about searching for a rectangular portion of carpet, and uncovering a HIDDEN trap door to a magical LIONEL empire!

I witnessed just that, and I was impressed.

Trapdorr to Lionel Empire

Through the trapdoor at the foot of his youngest sons’ bed one of my friends has built an impressive empire, hidden away to all; except the invited. After descending a ladder, you are sitting in the middle of an around-the-walls three-rail O scale mainline operation. At least 4 mainlines and plenty of secondary trackage weave their way around the nicely sized room carved into the hillside below his home.

Postwar  Lionel Collection

He prides himself on collecting a vast majority of very rare LIONEL post-war equipment, like the SOO and Monon boxcars that were very realistic in appearance, but poor sellers thanks to their normal boxcar red color. Plenty of flawlessly operating 2-8-4’s, 4-6-4’s and first generation diesels ply the racetrack, the smell of ozone quickly fills the room as 3-5 trains loop around the layout creating the deafening roar of steel wheels on steel rail.

quardruple LIONEL bridges

The layout itself was based on a childhood memory of a friend of his. One of the richer kids on his block when growing up had the same fantastic set up, albeit a bit more crude. You entered through the middle of the kitchen floor, into a recently excavated series of tables dug out beneath his friend’s house. The memory stuck after all these years, and now the finished product is quite spectacular.

Lionel Yard

Plenty of operating accessories and other authentic and original postwar accessories dot the unscenicked layout. When asked about the scenery, he suggested that it’s perhaps more authentic scenery for a LIONEL layout to be on bare plywood than be dressed up with all sorts of scenery. After seeing this layout, I’m definitely inclined to agree, it’s playing with toy trains at its Zenith!

Lionel Trains

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2009 8:05 pm

    Curious – I notice there are windows etc. – is there an alternate entrance?

    • October 23, 2009 8:35 pm

      Oddly Enough No! You’re dropped into the center of the room of a 4 foot deep around-the-walls layout. It allows seamless operation and is actually quite an interesting concept that I’ve seen in some variation (most often using steps) but this purpose-built addition to the house was designed only to be accessed by ladder!

  2. U NO HOO permalink
    November 6, 2009 3:33 pm

    I don’t like to get serious but there is a fire and panic aspect to think about. Please tell your friend to consider some sort of “emergency” secondary exit in case the trap door becomes blocked from above. Perhaps the windows are already thought of as emergency exits.

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