Introduction to Lionel Accessories

Lionel’s accessories are almost as popular and as much fun as the trains themselves! From the classic operating gateman to culvert loaders and burning switch towers, there is an accessory out there for every taste and imagination. Although there is a great variety in accessories, there are only a few different things you need to know to install and enjoy them on your layout.

We’ll present a basic overview of the different types of accessories we offer here in this page, and go into greater detail on how to hook up each of the activation controls in additional articles and videos.

Semaphore manLionel accessories fall into one of five categories:

  1. On / Off
  2. Single-Animation
  3. Double Animation
  4. Illuminated and Animated
  5. Motorized

On / Off accessories are just that – they turn on or off. This includes things like lights, lighted buildings, etc. These accessories can be controlled by passing trains, but most often are more economically and realistically controlled by simply wiring a toggle switch.

burning switch towerSingle Animation include crossing signals, gates, etc. Dual animation would include multi-colored signals – the light is green for one function and red for another. Illuminated and Animated are accessories that have both a light and an animation function – like the gateman. These can be controlled together or independently. All of these generally need some means of control.

Motorized accessories, like amusement rides, saw mills, etc. generally have their own controls and simply need power supplied.


All of these accessories will operate best on a fixed 14 volt AC power source – a separate power source from the train power. For more on this, see our Fixed / Variable AC page.

Activating Accessories

Yard LightsThere are two means of activating our accessories by the trains themselves. These include the outside-insulated rail track and the 153 family of switches. There are several types of 153 (153C, 153E, 153IR). Each does the same thing just in a different way. Most of our accessories can be operated by either of these means. See the video for more guidance on what we recommend, but ultimately the switch you use is up to you.

For specific hook-up instructions, you can jump right to the following pages:

For a quick review of which method is best for each different type, just watch this brief video: [youtube=]

0 thoughts on “Introduction to Lionel Accessories

  1. I am trying to wire in a three wire diner. Thought I would use track power. But there are three wires! Have train book and Greenbergs but can’t find answer. Suggestions please?

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