Well, first stage of working with the trains is complete.. knowing what you got! A gallery of the O gauge pieces can be found here. I went through surveying what is there, and what appears salvagable. Looks like the most significant pieces are the Diesel locomotive and the Operating Water Tower. I hope to refurb those parts so the kids can play with them with their new set. We've already put the red top station and caboose on the Harry Potter set so they have more to play with.
This weekend we started opening the HO gauge sets, which were from my childhood (vs the O gauge which were assembled when my oldest Uncle was young). We made a first pass to look at what we had, and from the diligence of my father, most of the stuff is in steller condition. You can see a visual gallery of this stuff here.
Tonight I even setup a simple circle track so some of the gear could be tested. Most of the track is still in good to reasonable condition. Firing up the newest pieces which were trains I had bought myself when I was a teen.. they came right up! The steamer worked like a champ.. the blue Santa Fe Diesel went without a hiccup! The newer red Santa Fe Diesel took awhile before it worked out its cramps.. but after some assisted loops, it was going full steam on its own. The Chessle Diesel was dead, but I didn't persue repairs on it. I wonder if its been dead for awhile, as I don't remember playing with that one as a kid. The Spirit of 76 locomotive didn't fire up at first. But after spending some time on cleaning its wheels with an eraser.. he was flying around as usual! Unfortunately though, its last remaining coupler did not survive :( The plastic pin that holds the coupler in place was broken on the rear of the engine, and the front one broke off tonight as well. So its a speedy little engine that can't carry anyone :( But overall it was great to see most of the pieces fire up without any cleaning or tweaking at all. So with some TLC they should really improve.
I rigged up some wiring to make it easier to test some of the electric components, but the HO stuff is in good enough shape I think its probably better to just jump to trying to build a layout. I'll figure out gaps of what I have, and just order as needed. We'll build a track first, and then try to populate the buildings, etc and I'll clean them as I set each one up.
Now the question is.. stay legacy, or ponder one of these new control systems.. hrmmm.