Too many people have a horde of O and 027 gauge trains stashed away for the day when they have room to build a layout. Too many others work in smaller scales, and secretly long for an occasion to run their old three-rail O gauge trains. The trains stay locked away, waiting for a day that might never come. Sadly, some great trains never see the light of day again.

What if we could get a group of people together to build an impromptu layout, using standard three-rail track, so that each could run his favorite old O scale trains?  Think about it: members show up with their track, trains and accessories. Together, they put up one heck of a layout on the floor, hook up the accessories, and start running those fine old trains. Figuring that a group could set up a decent, large floor layout in about an hour with the old hi-rail track, this would be a great way to enjoy the old O scale locomotives, trains and operating accessories. No scenery, no fancy wiring tricks - just set `em up and have fun.

This can be accomplished on several scales. Smaller, local groups of anywhere from two to ten individuals could get together for their own Train Runs. Larger events involving several groups could be staged in a large hall or gymnasium. With a little planning and practice, a gymnasium-sized layout could be up and running within an hour and a half. No, it doesn't have to be a spectator thing with public admissions. It can be nothing more than groups gathering to enjoy running their old Lionel, Marx, K-Line, MTH and Railking trains in a big way.

The Trollwise Crew has already started putting together the organization and standards. A manual will soon be printed for this purpose, groups can be created, and we can organize enough to allow folks to get together for Train Running. The key here is Train Running. This is not a competitive sport, hierarchical organization of "king of the hill" kind of thing. It is a vehicle for the opportunity to meet others who want to run their O gauge trains.

The Premise

How many of us own Lionel or other O/O27 trains? Many a railfan has a set stashed away. It might be a set he inherited, or one that was given to him, or even one he bought for himself in his early railfanning days, Now it rests idly in a closet, an attic, or under the bed. Most often, the railfan has gotten himself involved in HO or N scale modeling. He might even have a permanent layout. But deep within, he has a special feeling for the older trains and longs one day to run them again. When he has room for a layout....

What is he waiting for? A layout? Why? The whole premise behind those old trains was setting them up on the floor and running them all day long. Hey, this isn't SCALE model railroading. It's RUNNING TRAINS for FUN. That's why O gauge track has three metal "ties" and three oversized rails. Ever notice how many of the popular operating accessories aren't "scale"? Scale or not, most of us admire the big old trains and have a special reverence for some of the classic models.

Now for the good part:

Imagine what it would be like if five or six people who own O and O27 got together, each bringing track,, a couple of trains and an operating accessory or two. Imagine how much track there would be. Think of the layout that could be erected. (Remember - this is tinplate! A BIG layout can be erected in half an hour!) IMAGINE YOUR PRIZE LOCOMOTIVE RUNNING ON A LAYOUT THAT LARGE! Think of the possibilities!

We already did. We calculated and planned what could be done if four, six, or maybe even a dozen O/O27 fans got together and built a BIG layout. We saw the potential for running trains o0n a large scale. Imagine doing it in a whole gymnasium or large hall! The trains, the track, and all those neat operating accessories. People running their favorite old trains - especially some of the classics that we'd all like to see again!

We thought and we planned and did some testing, and what came out was TRAIN RUNNERS.


Okay, we all know two or three people who might get together with us to do this thing. Our vision was about getting even more people. Five, six - a dozen or more! To do it right, we need to find more people AND some way to coordinate things so everyone is working on the same wavelength. Thus came the club: Train Runners. Train Runners is our way of bringing participants together and giving them a framework in which they can successfully coordinate their gear and efforts so as to make smooth running! The club's main goal is twofold: to get people together, and to anticipate and solve any problems before they occur.

It works like this: the heart of the operation is the local group. A local group consists of people who live in the same general locale and are willing to meet and work together to run their trains. Each local group is its own thing. It is "autonomous," which means it is independent. Train Runners first goal is to help local groups by getting people together. We all know two or three people who would like train running and will certainly want to enlist them. Imagine having a vehicle that attracts the attention of other local folks - folks you might not know - who are just as eager to participate. Now you have five or six people, which means an even bigger event every time you get together: bigger layout, more trains, more accessories, more fun! Best of all, your local group is its own entity. You decide your own "rules" and protocols. Nobody tells you how to run yourselves. All we do is help you connect with other local people who are interested in running O/O27 trains like this.

What if all the local groups in a certain region got together, rented a big hall (a gymnasium? Airplane hangar? Other big space?) for the weekend, and pooled their efforts and resources to make an even BIGGER layout? Can you imagine the size layout that could be made if fifty guys and gals were involved? And if it were all coordinated by the groups, and planned well enough, everyone could run trains all weekend long. Wouldn't it be cool to see some of the classic trains and accessories that others might bring? Wouldn't it be great to participate in that kind of event?

Train Runners eventual goal is to help groups who want to come together to make a SUPER layout. Because this is tinplate, everything can be set up in under two hours, run all weekend, then quickly packed away when the event is over. Everyone get a piece of the action, a piece of the fun, and the thrill of getting some classic trains out of storage and onto the tracks where they can run proudly. The club would arrange for clubs to meet and have a simple, coordinated way of running things smoothly. If all the snags were thought out and taken out before anyone got together, the grand events would be marvelous.


We need a few things here. To get all these people together to form local groups, they have to be able to find each other. Okay, so we have a central place where anyone who wants to participate can register. Maybe some folks have already got themselves a rudimentary group. They register that, too. It's just a matter of matching registered folks with others in their area. Having a few people register as a group gives us a place to refer others. We know where everyone is located, and can hook them up with others in their area.

It is no problem for us to list all the groups and where they are located. As Train Runners grows, the list will help folks find groups in their area. It will allow groups to connect with others in their region. We can help various groups connect if they want to coordinate a big regional event, from citywide to countywide to statewide and maybe even wider. It works for people who want to run trains, and for us. Instead of operating as an authority, all we have to do is help others get together. The groups themselves take care of the rest.

To facilitate cooperation amidst, amongst and between groups, all we really need are a shared set of STANDARDS. When we are all doing things the same way and using compatible stuff, our efforts are rewarded with success. We're not talking about standards in the sense of rules and regulation, but in common ground.


Actually, this is the easiest part. We already know 90% of the standards: O and O27 gauge. The next thing is to somehow get within those standards so everyone can participate. Our first standard, then, is the O/O27 AC powered, hi-rail, three-rail electric trains. Our trains are already compatible. DC two-railers are excluded because they cannot run with AC three railers. Besides, the club is for running trains with the largest number of people, so that means AC three-railers. Our standard is the three-rail, hi-rail O/O27 track, trains and accessories.

Now comes our first problem: O or O27. We can have both, because they can connect with each other. However, there are some problems. O27 trains run on O, but some O trains can't handle O27. Some folks have O track, but most have O27. O27 has been the more common since 1960. If we make the standard O, a lot of people have to buy new track. And if we make it O27, about 30% of all locomotives out there won't run on it. Some accessories are either O or O27, so whichever one we chose, some would be left out.

Can we have both? Yes, provided we accept the fact that any mainlines on our layouts have to accomodate the vast majority of trains.  That means O radius track for mainlines. 31", 42', 54" and 42" are acceptable.  Some mainlines have to be at least 54" to accommodate some of the scale-sized trains.  For small industrial yards, etc. O27 is more then adequate.  Shortlines and other non-mainline properties can be O or O27.  Just like real railroads, therse areas will have restrictions which prevent some larger trains from using them.

The other standards would be how we coordinate large events. If four or five groups come together, certain officers would have to be appointed just to keep the event running smoothly. These are not permanent roles. If one group is sponsoring the event and all others are there by invitation, the sponsoring group would provide officers. If several groups are sponsoring it together, they would need to elect or otherwise appoint officers by general consensus.

Here are the officers which we think would help most in running a big event:

Stationmaster: the man who oversees the whole thing. He is there to work out snags, solve any immediate problems and make decisions that can't be handled by general consensus or ought to be resolved for good at a later date. Figure the Stationmaster would be someone with a good sense for handing events, and a good knowledge of O/O27.

Signalman: the man who checks everything to make sure the big layout is ready to run. He would have to know wiring and track, to look for potential problems, prevent unintentional shorts caused by wiring, and decide if a piece of equipment were in proper condition to participate. The signalman would have to be extremely good at working with O/O27.

Supply Guy: someone has to handle any supplies which are always necessary: extra pins, insulators, wire, lockons, etc. Yes, the groups would want to provide some extra supplies "just in case." It would help if the supply guy was also good at repairs, for obvious reasons.

We could go on into section gangs and all that neat stuff, but three guys are needed to run the event. (The signalman or overseer could even double as supply guy.) There are naturally going to be some persons who handle finding and renting space, and others who handle communications prior to the event. We don't need special titles for them. We're not setting up rulership, we're just getting the positions most needed for any large event to run.


The problem with standards is that even when you try to make it inclusive, somebody gets excluded. Well, that's what makes any gathering unique. Who is in and who is out. In this case, what is in and what is out. Obviously, S, HO and N are out. So is DC two-rail O. If Lionel track is the standard and we can make concessions to handle both O and O27, then most of the O gauge hi-rail track and accessories are acceptable. K-line track - both their plain hi-rail and their fancy stuff with ties, will connect with Lionel. Accessories by K-Line and Mike'sTrain House work with Lionel, and their trains run on Lionel track. The only things excluded are some obsolete forms of fancy rail with ties, some of the new fancy tracks, and the new track by Atlas.

I'm sure you all agree that certain individual items might have to be excluded. Anything that is in such disrepair it harms track, other equipment, or shorts out the layout. Any track that has corrosion or rust. Those things need to be excluded.

Then there's the other "what." That "what" is a who. It is the compulsive knucklehead whose big thrill is causing wrecks. He has to be shown the door, as does anyone who is prone to wreck people's track, trains or accessories. There's no room for Uncle Fester and Gomez Addams here.

Which leaves us with one other thing: what and what are in? We don't have space to address that. It would take an encyclopedia. The cool thing is that among the ins are men and women, young and old, all those great classic pre-War trains and accessories, all the neat postwar trains and accessories, all the different road names, etc. etc.


Now for the bottom line: what does it cost? Since we have incurred no expenses, there's no cost yet. If we start incurring expenses, the money will have to come from somewhere. And if we start sending out newsletters or doing any printing, there will be a cost. The only way to beat costs would be to get someone to sponsor the whole thing. (I'm working on that.)

For now, registration is merely an email here or a letter to our postbox with a name, address, phone number, and if on the Web, an email address. If a group wants to register, we need the name, plus a contact person and membership list so each person gets registered. This makes it easier in the future. If this thing ever gets very big, we will have to have newsletters and all that.


Email us your info and your ideas. Let's get this thing started!


We'd like to hear your opinion on them


The Trollwise Crew's position for now is to be a kind of "headquarters" - more like a clearing house of information than a leadership. All we do is coordinate with folks who would like to get together. The real nuts-and-bolts is the small, local group of two or more people who meet to run trains together. Each group is pretty much autonomous. Each does as it chooses. Our role is for the grand scale of regional and national cooperation.

We feel that each individual group ought to have someone to coordinate with other groups. That's the only required position. We're adults, so anything else can he handled reasonable by general consensus, discussion or, if need be, the flip of a coin. The Trollwise Crew will handle all the following:

1) Register groups and individuals

2) Facilitate contact between members and groups

3) Provide a manual of suggested practices, procedures and standards.

4) Keep the overall membership informed: newsletter, web site, etc.

5) Help arbitrate any difficulties by the most expedient and fairest way possible.

6) If a vote is necessary - and it will be - provide and count ballots and announce the results.

7) Collect any and all pertinent facts which affect Train Running, so as to make it easier for us all to enjoy it.

8) As a result of input and experience from the membership, revise standards and where necessary, introduce new ones.

What we will NOT do:

1) Tell individual groups how to run themselves

2) Install or reject the leaders and officials of these groups

3) Make rules for individual groups


The standard is made difficult by reason of two scales of O gauge three-rail trains: O and 027. Most of us have 027 track, and yet many have the standard O gauge track. We know that some O gauge trains cannot run on 027. Of course, it's an expense to replace all of your 027 track with O. This means a compromise has to be reached.

The problem of having two standards is obvious. We will have to work on this with individual groups, and changes can only be made as groups gain experience.

The current standards, then are 31" radius O track and 27" radius 027 track, three-rail, compatible with track made by Lionel. Track has to be capable of connecting to the Lionel track and of running standard 027 trains. Though we are loathe to use a single commercial entity as the standard, we have to be realistic. Lionel is the biggest and oldest producer of 027 / 0, and their standards are the ones which others try to meet.

Track must be serviceable and free of rust and corrosion. It should not cause a short circuit. Each piece should be able to take three pins snugly, be straight (or properly curved), and not cause derailments or a break in the flow of current.

We feel that each members ought to own at least 12 sections of standard curved track, twelve straights, two half-straights, a 90 degree crossover, a 45 degree crossover, a remote control section, and both a left hand and right hand switch / turnout. He ought to have one operating accessory and at least one locomotive and a transformer. All of these should be in good operating condition. Items that are unreliable or prone to cause damage are unacceptable. (With a club like this, however, it should be easy to get them repaired.) Of course, most members won't have this suggested stockpile - after all, it is only a suggestion.

Each member should mark his property so it is easily recognized. We have yet to develop a standard for doing this. Feedback would be appreciated.

The group ought to have a separate transformer that can handle up to 5 operating accessories.


Because many members will want to run older locomotives, the standard at this time is for transformer controlled engines. Locomotives need to be operable, and ought not be so damaged as to cause a short circuit or damage to track, trains, or accessories.

Rolling Stock

As with locomotives, rolling stock need to be serviceable and in good running condition. It must not cause damage to other cars, track, accessories or locomotives. The standard rolling stock must be able to couple to other O and 027 cars. Broken or missing couplers need to be replaced.


The same rules apply to accessories: that they operate safely and not cause harm to track, rolling stock, other accessories or locomotives. Each accessory is the responsibility of its owner - he must provide any additional supplies for its operation (special track, connections, objects, etc).


Because the whole idea of Train Runners is to get our trains and accessories operating, scenery is not an issue. A group may bring along structures and other items, provided they do not interfere with operation of trains or block access by operators.

Multi-Group Events

When two or more groups come together to build a big layout for the day, they need to coordinate among themselves to decide which size track will be dominant, who will occupy which area, and how operations are to be coordinated.

The groups must come together to appoint a person to oversee overall operations and a second individual to serve as the safety engineer. The overseer's role is to keep things moving in an orderly fashion.

The signalmanchecks all wiring, connections and equipment prior to beginning the run. He determines if an item is unsafe or too unreliable to include in the event. He will also ensure that all wiring is correct, so as to prevent short circuits and worse.

Settling Disputes

During an event, disputes are settled by the most expedient manner. Discussion, a vote or the flip of a coin - whichever works. Complete resolution of the matter can be done later. If the matter is just too big, it should be forwarded to us and we will bring it to the general membership for feedback and a vote.


What do you think?  Are we headed in the right direction here?  Your opinion counts!


The multi-group event requires having a pre-arranged layout. This layout is decided prior to the event, by the participating groups. If one group is hosting the event and inviting others to join, the host group determines the big layout. However, if the event is by mutual arrangement of all participants (in other words, they are ALL hosting it) then a previous meeting must be held to plan it.

Each group is given an area of floor for which it is responsible. Its primary goal is to complete its portion of the big layout. Secondly, in its space, it erects its own particular layout within the big layout. The big layout should be general enough to allow each group the means to produce a "sub-layout" which is connected to the main layout, yet follows the group's own design. This sub layout must not impede operation of the big layout. The sub-layout is where individual groups have the opportunity to place operating accessories and other special variations of their own.

For practical reasons, it is recommended that the Big layout have a wider radius curve, to allow operation of those locomotives which cannot handle standard) or 027 track. Individual group layouts will connect with it and work with it. However, the sub layouts will be according to the groups standards. Thus, it is possible to have an overall layout using a 54" radius as its standard, while sub layouts range from 027 to 072. Naturally, some larger locomotives and rolling stock will be unable to enter some sub-layouts. Well, real railroad have the same problem. Consider this one of our few concession to prototype.

Each sub layout should have two straight, eight-section sidings on the outside. These are the "staging area" for trains. It makes setting up a LOT easier. Consider it the Train Runner's version of being "on deck".

In some cases, the idea might be to build a big layout without the sub layouts. That has to be determined by the host and/or participating groups.

Tunnels, overpasses and other items overhanging track must be capable of allowing a standard train to pass. That means that those accessories - the "falling brakeman" and "giraffe" cars being notable - which cannot make clearances will either be restricted to their sub layouts or, if the operator is willing, has installed at all overheads the devices to make the too-high characters drop. If several people have accessories like this, they can coordinate placement of tell tales or other "duck" accessories.

Do you think we're covering all the bases?  You input is important here!

Sane Operation

Individual groups are responsible for ensuring that operators can work their trains properly. Person who cause frequent accidents, crashes or other bungles should not operate trains at larger gatherings. The overseer and signalman engineer both have the responsibility and authority to stop such persons and ban them from operating on the big layout. Individual groups have the authority to ban any operator from entering their cub-layout, should he or his equipment cause damage or impede operations.


The rule applies: who ever break it (whatever it is) must either arrange for its repair or replace it.

To Potential Members

We have posted these general guideline to give you an idea of the direction in which we are working. NOTHING is written in stone. Everything might, could, and probably will change as more people get involved. What we're proposing is nothing less than a continent-wide, loose organization which gives folks the opportunity to run their good old (and new) O and 027 gauge, three-rail AC powered trains on a grand scale, in the company of folks who like doing the same thing.


We are already signing people up to join, so that we can get folks together to run trains. There are no membership fees yet. (Fees will only cover operating costs like printing up membership cards and manuals, coordinating groups, and if it ever happens, a newsletter or other periodical.) If you want to join, email us. On the SUBJECT line, write Train Runners. Include your email address, your scale, and your location. Currently, we're doing it all online because of expenses. It will be a month before we can include snail mail and phone contact. (If some generous commercial entity wants to support us, we're willing to talk!)

Please - by all means - let us know what you think. We have something here than can work and work well only if we get the input and participation of people in the US and Canada.

Thank you

Thor Sheil, the Trollwise Crew

To join us:

Click here for Train Runner layouts

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