by Joseph Stachler

Once you add switches to your layout, you wonder how you ever lived without them. Switches create far more interesting layouts even in the tightest spaces. Due to the benefits of Lionel 3-rail track (or any 3-rail track for that matter), there are possibilities most operators do not realize. Switches made by MTH Electric Trains can also be used for many of the suggestions below.

For any 90 degree crossing, a pair of switches may be used to create bypass routes.

This small track plan pretty simple. But because the two switches are wired together, they are activated simultaneously. This automatically directs the train to each line alternately.

Here is a bigger version of the above idea. By connecting two pairs of switches to one another, the train automatically is routed to every line. The train repeatedly reverses directions, goes through the crossing section and passes over every section of track. This creates a more animated layout.

If your switches don't seem to activate by an on-coming train fast enough, you can use an insulated track section to extend the non-derailing feature of the switch. An insulated track section also works to create non-derailing switches out of versions like the 1121 for O-27 which don't normally incorporate this feature.

O and Super O type switches allow operators to hook up a block signal to indicate the switches' position.

1122 switches for O-27 track can't be used to activate block signals but they can be used to activate a 1045 Flagman. Connect the two posts of the accessory to the two outer posts of the automatic switch.


Postwar manual switches (1022 for O-27 gauge and 142 for Super O) also have a non-derailing feature. Just insert insulating fiber pins/bus connectors as shown. If you connect a line from each of the insulated middle rails to a traditional block signal, the signal will indicate which position the switch is in.