Sakai trains: The “Japanese Marx”

Sakai trains were made in HO and O gauge by a Tokyo-based manufacturer and sold abroad, particularly in the United States and Australia after World War II. Sakai’s O gauge product bore a curious resemblance to Marx. I have read speculation that Marx once used Sakai as a subcontractor, and Sakai used the tooling to make its own trains rather than returning it to Marx, but there are enough differences that I don’t think that’s the case.

What I do know is that Sakai’s O gauge product was a curious blend of cues from Lionel and Marx and the trains worked pretty well. They’re hard to find today, but not especially valuable since few people know what they are. They turn up on Ebay occasionally.

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The low-effort fix for a Marx motor

I had a Marx motor that wouldn’t run, and I fixed it with almost no effort. If you need to get a Marx motor running again but can’t put a lot of time and effort into it, I’ve developed a quick fix. It’s only temporary, but if you want to run trains today instead of fixing them, it can get you out of a pinch.

You need a screwdriver and one drop of Rail-Zip.

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The indestructible Marx motor

Want to hear a Marx story? Of course you do. Early this month I bought an early basket-case Marx 999 and some scale cars that obviously were stored for decades in a garage or attic exposed to humidity and temperature extremes. There was rust all over the place, to the point where the rust had bound some parts together. Paint was flaking off.

The locomotive itself had all of those problems too. Plus two driver wheels, their bearings and axle, and a gear were missing. What was left of the motor felt seized up. I spun the armature with some pliers to free it, and then I put a bit of oil on the parched, dried-out felt wick around the armature. You know what I was thinking.

Of course this poor, neglected motor wasn’t going to run. Motors this neglected and abused never do. But still, I had to see if it had any life left in it. I got out my spare transformer and clipped two test leads to it. I clipped the black terminal to the frame of the motor and the red terminal to the pickup shoe. I applied power, and that motor proved me wrong. It ran really well.

It doesn’t happen this way every time, but it does more often than not.

So what did I do with this motor? I had another 999 motor that was missing some parts, so I was able to combine the two to get one working motor.

Fix a Marx 999 that derails a lot

Marx’s most popular locomotive might be the 999, because it can pull anything Marx made–6-inch tin, 7-inch tin, 3/16-scale tin, 4-wheel plastic, and 8-wheel plastic–without looking out of place. It really only has one problem: The front trucks on many 999s are prone to derailments.

Counterintuitively, the fix for a 999 is the opposite of how you fix the same problem on many other O gauge electric trains.

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Marx 999 repair and service

I had a Marx 999 that didn’t run well when I pulled it out of storage. When pushing it along the track a few times didn’t yield any measurable improvement, I decided I’d better take it apart and give it a thorough cleaning.

In this case, I worked on a Marx 999, but everything I did applies to any other O gauge train Marx made except for the very late 490 locomotives, whose motors don’t seem to have been designed to let you do any more than replace the brushes.

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How to disassemble a Marx 490 locomotive

Disassembling a Marx 490 locomotive isn’t too difficult, but it’s very different from other Marx locomotives.

Once you take one apart, though, you’ll see why it was designed how it was. It was Marx’s lowest-cost locomotive, and it could be assembled without tools, so the labor costs were minimal.

For that matter you only need one tool to take it apart, and since there’s so little in it that can break–not even a headlight–you can find anything you would need to service it at the nearest hardware store or auto parts store.

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How to disassemble a Marx 999 locomotive

Disassembling a Marx 999 locomotive isn’t too difficult, and it’s easier than the Marx 666, but it helps to have some instructions.

The nice thing about the 999 is that if you can disassemble it, there’s a long, long list of Marx locomotives that disassemble in pretty much the same way: the Commodore Vanderbilt, the Mercury, the tin Canadian Pacific 391, and the tin steamers 592, 593, 594, 833, 897, 898, and 994.

Marx designed its trains so that a father or older brother could service them, so it comes apart with simple household tools, and you can get most of what you’ll need to service it at the nearest hardware store, with the probable exception of the bulb for the headlight.

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How to disassemble a Marx 666 locomotive

Disassembling a postwar Marx 666 locomotive, or its plastic counterpart the 1666, isn’t too difficult, but it helps to have some instructions.

Marx designed its trains so that a father or older brother could service them, so it comes apart with simple household tools, and you can get most of what you’ll need to service it at the nearest hardware or auto parts store, with the exception of the bulb for the headlight.

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Microsoft looks back at MS08-067

The most infamous Microsoft patch of all time, in security circles at least, is MS08-067. As the name suggests, it was the 67th security update that Microsoft released in 2008. Less obviously, it fixed a huge problem in a file called netapi32.dll. Of course, 2008 was a long time ago in computing circles, but not far enough. I still hear stories about production servers that are missing MS08-067.

Last week, Microsoft took a look back at MS08-067, sharing some of its own war stories, including how they uncovered the vulnerability, developed a fix, and deployed it quickly. It’s unclear who besides Microsoft knew about the problem at the time, but one must assume others were aware of it and using it. They certainly were after the fall of 2008.

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Deconstructing my conversation with “Computer Maintenance Department”

My tell-all about my encounter with “Computer Maintenance Department” was a little heavy on the jargon yesterday. It occurs to me that explaining what some of the terminology means, and the problem with their reasoning, may be helpful. I’ve also heard a few questions through various channels, and I think those are worth answering. Read more