In my first article I helped you select a starter train set for under your Christmas Tree. Now we're going to look at what you can add to that starter Lionel or Mike's Train House (MTH) train set to make it more fun to watch and run! There are many possibilities including:

  • More track for a larger layout
  • Buildings and Figures for scenery
  • Operating Cars & Accessories
  • Engines
  • Rolling Stock (aka cars)

I'll expand a bit on each in the following paragraphs:

Since your Lionel or MTH starter set came with just an oval of track adding some more will make your train more fun to run. You can stretch the oval by adding additional straight sections on two opposite sides. You can also buy a right hand or left hand switch to make a siding for parking spare cars or a pair of switches to make a passing siding (one you don't have to back out of). If you have the space you can run track around the perimeter of the room to form a really large loop with sidings along the way to park extra trains and cars.

If you are limited to the space under the tree you can expand the original loop a little and then place a second loop inside the first to allow for the running of two trains. The least expensive way to add the interior loop and second train is to purchase a second Lionel or MTH starter train set.

Your Lionel or MTH train set instruction booklet will have illustrations of a variety of expanded track layouts that you can build.

Buildings and figures add life and character to your layout. Using buildings and figures from Department 56 you can create your own Christmas village! Lionel and MTH also sell buildings, figures, and other track side scenery.

Operating cars and accessories add interest to your layout. They come in a wide variety from the simple search light car to fully working inter modal cranes! The best place to view your options is at your local hobby or train shop. Both Lionel and MTH make operating cars and accessories.

Adding an additional engine and more cars adds variety to your layout. If your starter set came with a diesel engine then look for a steam engine. If the set had passenger cars then add some freight cars.

TIP: Some of the larger engines and cars require a minimum curve size to run properly. To avoid disappointment make sure that whatever you buy is built to run on the smallest (tightest) curve on your layout.

When expanding your Christmas layout there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just take the time to plan your expansion. It can be done gradually and each year you can enjoy an even bigger and fancier Christmas train layout!