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O gauge nuclear power Plant from Menards

O gauge nuclear power plant from Menards

Price: $99.99  (no. 279-4433)
Features: Nuclear reactor building, revolving light, two illuminated power transformers, employee and canine figures, cooling tower.
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Behold the no. 279-4433 Oak Point Nuclear Power Facility. While I suppose that nothing should surprise me when I open a large box from Menards, I can assure you the “Wow” factor is still in play when I take out the box opener.

I would not have thought of a new structure to harness the power of the atom for your O gauge layout. But why not?

A nuclear power plant is a great idea. I mean, all those telephone poles on your layout have to get their juice from somewhere, right?

The setup

When you think of a nuclear power plant, you think of an enormous facility with half a dozen cooling towers, dozens of power transmission lines, and vast cooling ponds. In the real world, you can have a nuclear power plant with a fairly modest footprint with a building or two and a lone cooling tower. But you are still talking acres and acres and acres. There are smaller nuclear plants though.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., for example, owns one that was built in 1954 by Alco (yes, that Alco) and was transferred to the college as a research reactor. It is an exceptionally low power unit (much less than 100 watts) but it does sit on a tight footprint that mirrors the Menards structure as a compact two-story square box (minus the cooling tower) with a tall metal smokestack).

The base of the Menards nuclear plant has a footprint of approximately 18 x 10 inches. The single structure sits in the center of the base and passes for a combination control center and reactor pile. There are front and rear doors and a loading dock door in the rear. Jack the dog and two nuclear technicians are out front.

A very sturdy chain link security fence surrounds the building with access only through the front and rear doors. The fence bears a number of signs advising no trespassing and danger; there’s also the popular icon for radioactive material. These signs are stickers, so you may wish to apply a dab of glue to them if they dry and fall off.

The transparent red plastic upper level is where the nuclear magic happens.

Peering through the walls of the building I could see a large round bulb surrounded by yellow safety rails. Hmmm. Out came the wall plug – I had to see this work before it was even out of the plastic packaging.

I plugged it in and, depending on your frame of reference it was “Core meltdown time!” or “Saturday Night Fever!”

The reactor core has a terrific rotating, and constantly changing light show that suggests something big is happening. Oh, if it only had a sound chip repeating, “Meltdown in progress. You have seven minutes to get to a safe distance.”

My whimsy meter was pegged out, and everyone who saw the accessory in action soon had a smile on his or her face.

On the left you’ll find a pair of power transformers with flashing red lights. This, of course, would be a natural spot to “connect” with your railroad village’s power grid.

The left side of the structure is home to the cooling tower. It seemed to me to be a pretty good rendition of a real tower. I suspected it was from a re-purposed vase mold, but it looked all right to me.

There is a recess in the top. You can use this to keep spare change,  but I suspect an adventurous hobbyist or two will sketch out a way to install a smoke unit in it for that cooling steam look. Even a waft of cotton material makes a nice billowing tower of steam.

The composite base is landscaped with artificial grass.

Working it in

The Oak Point Nuclear Power Facility is a natural fit with many O gauge operations. In the postwar years, Lionel created many atomic-themed pieces of equipment. The firm even had a prototype nuclear reactor, but it wasn’t actually produced until 2000.

Lionel’s no. 463 reactor has a disco lightshow via windows around a reactor capsule. It also picks up and dumps “nuclear pellets” into a gondola.

As for modern O gauge railroads, there are many nuclear-related locomotives and cars available, such as atomic waste cars, and missile/rocket launching cars. Heck, this is an accessory that begs for its own two- or three-track yard.

And if you don’t want a nuke plant on your layout, I suggest you use the Oak Point Nuclear Power Facility to model “Johnny Nuclio’s Top of the Reactor Lounge” from the old SCTV television show. It would make a heck of a disco, too!

This is a neat and certainly a unique building. Add it to your railroad and you can have an oil well, coal mine, wind turbine, and a nuke plant or an “all of the above” energy strategy for your Train town.


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