Russ McFall's Standard Gauge Empire
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 2x4’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
To do all this the layout has over one mile of
wire underneath. That thought that alone is pretty amazing!
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
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@example.com