1938 Clover Street Railroad


In 2008, when the newpapers began to fill with stories about foreclosures, bankruptcies, and unemployment, I decided to turn the clock back on my layout, to an earlier, happier time... a year when a Democratic President, who rode into office after a world-wide economic collapse, was challenged by a conservatives in Congress after midterm elections... a year when a militaristic Asian nation attacked a neighboring country, threatening to set off a world war... a year that saw the birth of the man who would come to symbolize Wall Street, Bernard L. Madoff... Yes, it was time to go back to 1938!

I sold my Fastrack and many of my modern era cars and accessories (thanks, Ebay!), studied David Doyle’s catalog of prewar Lionel trains, and slowly (and frugally!) began to buy tinplate. The theme of my little (4’ x 8’) layout is the part of model railroading that I always found most fascinating - playing with electricity! The design is intended to suggest a (rich) kid’s layout, rather than that of an adult collector. Cloth-covered wire runs helter-skelter over a green felt table. An O31 main line can run two trains simultaneously, with a third on an elevated O27 loop. A 250W Z transformer provides plenty of power. My one concession to modern technology is a low-voltage surge suppressor, which, together with a fuse block, makes the layout safe for delicate modern engines.

Photo Album

Track Design


Lionel 124 Station (Type I) (1920-1930) - restored Ebay $180
Lionel Flying Yankee Set (Type III) - C5+ NETTE $240
Marx Union Pacific Litho Articulated Passenger Set (Windup) Stout Auctions $50
Lionel Freight Set 181E 262E 262T 812 814 817 - restored Stout Auctions $190
Lionel 165 Magnetic Crane - C6 Stout Auctions $250
Lionel No. 293 O-Gauge Passenger Set - Original Excellent+ Morphy Auctions $150
Lionel 48W Whistle Station Ebay $35
Lionel 250W Z Transformer - Refurbished Ebay $185
5 Lionel O22 Switches (prewar and postwar) Trainz.com $165
Cloth Covered 18g Wire (8 50' spools) Radio Daze $99
4 SPDT Knife Switches Sargent-Welch $15
Lionel 92 Floodlight (Type I) - C7 Ebay $160
Lionel 45 Automatic Gateman Ebay $50
Transient Voltage Suppressor Scott's Odds 'n Ends $50
Fuse Block Scott's Odds 'n Ends $9
Lionel O31 Track Pack Trainz.com $100
TOTAL   $1928
TOTAL in 1938 Dollars   $129


You can learn more about prewar model trains from these recommended books:

Trains from Grandfather's Attic: Layout Construction and Operating Techniques for the Prewar Toy Train Enthusiast, Peter Riddle, Greenberg Publishing, 1991. Although out of print, you can order used copies on Amazon for about $20.

Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains 1900-1942, David Doyle, Krause Publications, 2005. Discounted on Amazon for about $20.

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