History – Models That Don’t Just Sit There – Trains Were First
I have always been fascinated with scale models, particularly those that are powered. My earliest operating models, starting about 1943, were electric trains. One of my favorites was the O27 Lionel C&O switcher shown below. More railroad details are shown HERE.

My First Powered Car
In about 1949 I began building model cars, but since the kits available at the time were static models, my need for an operating model was filled by wind-up toy cars, not scale models. Finally, I decided to power one of my static models, so I retrofitted a 1:24 scale Ace wooden 1947 Jeep model with batteries, a motor and gears. It ran but didn’t steer. Check out this engineering marvel HERE.

A Static Power Plant
A few years later, I convinced my folks that I needed an operating model steam engine. It only lasted until I left it running and went out to play. When the boiler ran dry, the heat melted the boiler solder. It never ran well after that but at least I didn’t burn down our house. I thought about trading it for a solid fuel powered one, but my paper route funds wouldn’t cover it, particularly since I planned to convert it to power a car.


Jet Powered Car
Later in the ’50’s, my need for speed sent me to the hobby shop looking for a fast car. It showed up in the form of a CO2 cartridge powered ‘Mono-Jet’ wooden model of an Indy car. This is what I found for $1.00:
And this was my version, complete with a custom dual exhaust and a custom hood scoop (I thought the headrest looked better as a scoop):
I don’t remember what I paid for the CO2 cartridges and the spring-loaded device that pierced the rear seal to allow the car to blast down the track:
This car was fast (depending on how the piercing device was adjusted to make a bigger hole). It was not steered but had front and rear screw eyes underneath so it could follow a string anchored by a brick at each end. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

Slot Cars
In the 1960’s, I got interested in 1:32 scale Slot Cars, more HERE. Below is my 75′, 4-lane wood routed track. They were fun to race and were the first powered cars that I had that were ‘steered’ around corners (by the slot). But I was still looking for a better idea.

 Radio Controlled Cars
In the late ’60’s, I got very involved with 1:8 scale, internal combustion engine R/C cars. They seemed like the ultimate in powered and steered model cars, and they were great for racing. I later changed to 1:10 scale, battery powered cars (below) that I could race or just run in our cul de sac with family and friends.
2012-09-01 10.19.55w
These cars are great to drive but way too big for closed spaces. More R/C HERE.

Then Came Mag Steer
Even though I had tried a big variety of powered models, I had come to the conclusion that I am chasing too many hobbies. I was looking for a way to combine as many models as possible in a single hobby, so I decided to convert everything possible to 1:24 scale. I had a 1:24 scale railroad and a large collection of 1:24 (and 1:25) scale display cars and trucks. I wondered if there was a way to combine them into an operating layout with trains and cars. This is when I discovered the Faller Car System. Below is a Faller 1:87 scale sedan; it has a battery powered motor and it follows a buried metal wire guided by the magnet on an arm attached to the front steering. You can see more HERE.

Mag Steer Test Car
I wondered how the Faller type system, that I called, generically, ‘Mag Steer’, would work on a bigger scale car so I built a 1:24 scale, mag steer Cadillac, shown below with 1:24 scale railroad and people models. More about the Cadillac HERE.

Other Mag Steer Links

Some radio control/mag steer racing ideas, showing that mag steer scales larger than 1:87 are feasible.







A successful, but now defunct, mag steer car in a garden railroad.

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Mag Steer Index — 2 Comments

  1. The purpose of this mag steer project is to provide motion on a model railroad. Lane change is not as important but would be a nice option.
    Thanks, David

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