I came across the Lionel Fastrack Book in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. The mark-down price was $8.00 and change. I bought it. I had read a couple of other books by the author, Robert Schleicher. They were reviewed here a few months ago.
The original list price of The Lionel Fastrack Book was over $25. In my opinion, it was not worth the list price. This was mostly a book about building layouts. Many of the track plans were cribbed from older Lionel publications such as The Manual for Model Builders. Most layouts used wider radius track. Obviously, the preferred audience is people who have a lot of space to build a very large layout.
Large layouts by hobbyists were used for illustrations. These were basic green tables with a little scenery and a few operating accessories. The impression I got was that the layouts could be changed on a whim. The book took the time to discuss TMCC far better than Schleicher’s prior work, the Big Book of Lionel. In that book, mention was also made of Fastrack but no layout plans were offered.
Not bad for a beginner to use, but he would still have to learn to use TMCC or Legacy as well as get a handle on the track system. Though conventional blocks were discussed and illustrated, the author pushed TMCC and Legacy.
The talk on scenery, accessories and other accompaniments was all too brief and lacking. For the most part, scenery was stuff just placed on the table. There was little reference to serious scenic effects. The emphasis was on temporary or quick-change layouts rather than realism.
Frankly, the book lacked that indefinable quality that would have given it weight. It did not make me enthusiastic about making a layout or using Fastrack. Almost all of the information could have been gotten from Lionel’s own manuals and instruction sheets.
Not bad for $8.00 and change. Not worth $25. Aside from the emphasis on Fastrack and a but more detail on TMCC, there was really nothing new here. It does not do for Fastrack what the old K-Line Track and Accessory manual did for tubular rail and conventionally-operated trains.
The emphasis on large layouts using wider radius curves means that layouts will have to be bigger, and that requires having the space and the money to do it. The author claims that wider curves allow operators to use Lionel’s largest locomotives.
I run my trains conventionally and use O and O27 tubular rail. I have a lot of it and see no point buying other track. These new systems do not offer me enough of an incentive to change. Ditto for TMCC. I had tried it a few times and found it was not as much fun. The price of a TMCC or Legacy or even DCS system is daunting. So are the prices of locomotives equipped for them. The Lionel Fastrack book reminded me, by comparison, that it’s all about enjoying the trains. For me, that means transformer control and tubular rail.