If you have an A.C. Gilbert-manufactured American Flyer steam locomotive made between 1939 and 1967 that still runs but has seen its better days appearance-wise, there’s an easy way to touch it up to make it look better.
Train transformers have one pair of screws for each output, which is generally enough for a simple layout, but once you have more than one accessory or building with lights in it, you’ll find it’s difficult to attach all of the wires to the transformer posts.
You can get more on the cheap by repurposing ground bus bars, intended for circuit breaker panels, available at hardware stores and home improvement stores. Continue reading Get more transformer outputs by using a grounding bus bar
The Lionel Multi-control 1033 is a 90 watt transformer produced from 1948 to 1956. They are reasonably durable and were popular in their day, which means there are still a lot of them floating around so they tend to be inexpensive. I paid $70 for one about 15 years ago but the price has come way down; today you can get a serviced 1033 for about half that, and an as-is one for $20-$25.
Even someone who has a larger transformer or multiple larger transformers for the layout might be interested in a 1033 for the test bench, as it has all of the functionality someone would need for testing locomotives and whistling tenders.
You may have heard to never use steel wool to clean electric train track, especially Lionel, but you may have never heard the reason why.
There is a good reason.
It took me 20 years to find out I was connecting the wires to my train transformer wrong–and this applies to American Flyer and Marx just as much as to Lionel–and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. I was making it far, far too difficult.
Modern transformers have a groove in the post to accept a wire, but vintage transformers don’t. If you’re having problems with the wires coming off your transformer while you try to cinch them down, here’s how to connect to a vintage transformer in three simple steps.
You usually need at least two Lionel CTC lockons, but most Lionel O and O27 train sets came with a single CTC lockon connector.
If your train slows down as it gets farther away from the transformer, that’s the biggest tell-tale sign that you need at least one more lockon.
An anonymous reader asked if American Flyer trains can run on Lionel track.
The answer, of course, is that it depends. Continue reading American Flyer trains and Lionel track
Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs in its O gauge electric trains in the postwar era, but in most cases–87% of catalog numbers, and a lot more than that in actual number of items produced–you can get by with two.
Lionel almost always specified 14 or 18 volts. Using an 18-volt bulb in place of a 14-volt original, or a 22-volt bulb in place of an 18-volt original results in longer service life. And there were two base types that Lionel used more than any other. Continue reading What size and voltage to use for Lionel train light sockets
If there’s one question I see over and over again, it’s what to use to fill in the gaps between the three ties that American Flyer, Lionel, and Marx put under their track.
I don’t recall anyone else ever suggesting what I do: I salvage the ties off discarded, rusty, or otherwise damaged and unusable track.
In the 1990s, there was a brand of collectible village called Liberty Falls Americana, made by a company called International Resource Services and sold in department stores. The figures are stamped “IRS” on the bottom. The product line consisted of porcelain buildings that are close to HO scale, but the figures are pretty close to 1:64 S scale. Made-to-be-collectibles tend not to hold their value very well, which means they’re still inexpensive today, and not hard to find on Ebay.
Set in the American West in the late 19th century, the figures are passable on a train layout even if your layout is set in a later era. Women in long, formal dresses won’t look out of place near a church, for example. Perhaps there’s a service or a wedding going on. Men in suits and hats work in that setting as well, and men tended to dress much more formally up to the 1950s than they typically do today, so the male figures in suits and hats wandering around the commercial district are perfectly believable on a traditional American Flyer toy train layout.
Then again, if you want Western figures to complement an American Flyer setup featuring a Casey Jones loco, the Liberty Falls figures are the very best thing you’ll find.
Sometimes the figures come painted and sometimes they’re just stained pewter. If you can score some painted figures, of course, they can go straight to the layout. Painting unpainted figures can be part of the fun too.