Tag Archives: american flyer

When Lionel bulbs burn out too fast

A frequent question I see is why the Lionel bulbs in any given accessory burn out quickly. I can sum up both the problem and the solution in a single word: voltage.

When you have too much voltage, bulbs burn out quickly–sometimes in minutes. When you have too little voltage, the bulbs will last decades.

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Selling Marx trains

Since my advice on selling Tyco trains was well received, I thought I would give similar advice on selling Marx trains. Marx never got the respect that its competitors got, but its trains have built up a following over the years, and in the last decade as I’ve watched prices on competing trains slide, Marx has held its value.

Don’t expect to get rich selling off your Marx trains, but if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.

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Selling Tyco trains

I got an inquiry last week about selling Tyco trains. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I certainly remember Tyco, and in recent years Tyco has gained a bit of a following.

If you’re looking to sell some Tyco gear, you certainly can do it, but you have to keep your expectations realistic. You’ll probably be able to sell it, but don’t expect to get rich off it.

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Restoring lithographed train cars

If you have vintage tin lithographed train cars made by American Flyer, Bing, Dorfan, Ives, Lionel, Marx, or another make I’m forgetting and some of them are worse for wear, there are a few things you can do to improve their appearance.

Keep in mind these won’t make them new, and they won’t fool anyone. One reason collectors like lithography is because they can easily recognize a touchup. But you can make beat-up cars look better, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

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The common post on the Lionel 1025 transformer

Lionel produced several 35- and 45-watt transformers through the years, including the 1010, 1025, 1015, and 1016. Lionel MPC produced a similar 4045 transformer in the 1970s. They’re small, but cheap when you can find them, and can be useful when you string them together with other transformers. The problem is the markings don’t tell you what you need to know in order to do that.

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The common post on a Marx transformer

When you want to phase transformers, it’s good to know the common (in Lionel terms) or base (in American Flyer terms) post. It’s a shame that Marx didn’t label which of its posts was common.

But it’s easy enough to figure it out. That’s a good thing, because Marx transformers are dirt cheap. I bought one for exactly one dollar at the last train show I attended, and the vendor wanted to sell me a box full of them for $5.

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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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“Super utility” tinplate train cars

Tin train cars had a variety of methods to couple them together, but by far the most common method was a coupler commonly called tab-in-slot. The tab from one car mated with a slot in the next. All of the train manufacturers used a variant of this method at one point or another, and all of them would be able to couple together, if not for one nagging detail: height.

For most of the 1930s and 1940s, Lionel used a latch coupler that was incompatible with the others–Lionel liked doing things like that–but they made a combination coupler for a while that had a slot in it to accommodate tab-in-slot couplers. Reproductions are available on Ebay. Get one of those for this car, and something that couples with the other cars you like to run, whether that’s an Ives snakehead coupler if you’re lucky enough to have a spare one, a generic tab-in-slot coupler, or another Lionel combination coupler.

But even when you change the couplers on the car, you’re still likely to have height issues. Here are some approaches to solving the height problem so you can run various brands of vintage trains together almost as effortlessly as people pick and choose between all brands of modern trains today.

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How to install American Flyer track locks

To keep tracks from being separated when not nailed down permanently, such as when you’re setting up a floor layout, AC Gilbert marketed its #694 track locks (also sometimes called track clips). The locks are a u-shaped pieces of tin that were sold in a brown envelope with instructions printed on the front. If you’ve lost the instructions, or bought the clips secondhand and never got them, here’s how to use them.

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