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.
Continue reading When Lionel bulbs burn out too fast
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.
Continue reading The common post on the Lionel 1025 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.
Continue reading The common post on a Marx transformer
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.
Continue reading How to install American Flyer track locks
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.
Continue reading Touch up American Flyer paint
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.
Continue reading All about the Lionel 1033
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.
Continue reading Why to never use steel wool to clean electric train track
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.
Continue reading How to attach wires to the posts of a Lionel train transformer
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.
Continue reading How many Lionel CTC lockons you need