Disassemble a Marx 408 street light

The Marx 408 street lights are difficult to disassemble. They aren’t difficult because they’re complicated, because they’re not. But it takes a bit of coordination and more than a lot of brawn to get them apart.

But if you need to rewire or repaint one, you don’t have a lot of choice, so here’s how it’s done.

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Repair a Marx 1209 transformer

Want to repair a Marx 1209 transformer? There are two schools of thought. One is that small, sub-75 watt transformers aren’t worth fixing because they are so cheap. The other is that since they are so cheap, you have nothing to lose by trying.

Marx didn’t design its transformers to be fixed, but the design is extremely simple. The hardest part really is getting the case apart and then getting it back together. If Marx had designed them to be serviced, like its competitors did, they would have cost more, so we wouldn’t have as many Marx trains to enjoy today. So it’s easy enough to forgive Marx for this.

Let’s dive in.

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A reverse lockout switch for Marx trains

The only thing I don’t like about Marx trains is that most of them don’t have a switch to lock the locomotive in one direction. Fortunately it’s not hard to add a reverse lockout switch for Marx.

It’s a cheap project–all you need is about a foot of wire, a toggle switch, some heat shrink tubing (1/4 inch or smaller) or electrical tape, and your soldering iron.

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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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How to replace an AC power cord

A damaged power cord doesn’t have to mean the end of life for a tool or appliance. Power cords are usually replaceable with simple tools and minimal expense. Here’s how to replace an AC power cord.

If you can open up the device, open it up, snip the bad cord off, tie a knot in the replacement cord and splice it onto what’s left of the old cord.

If you can’t open the device, snip the cord off above the defect, splice the replacement cord onto what’s left and insulate it well with heat-shrink tubing.

Here’s how.

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I replaced an outlet with a GFCI and my light switch quit working

I once had an electrical outlet with a light switch next to it, in a bathroom. When I replaced the outlet with a GFCI, the light switch quit working.

When you have a GFCI and a light switch is involved, you have to wire things a bit differently so it all works.

Here’s how I fixed it, using a length of wire (use black, or if you only have white wire, put some electrical tape on it) and a wire nut.

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Using PC ATX power supplies on a train layout

PC power supplies are exceptionally cheap and plentiful these days. If you’ve noticed and wondered whether you can use PC ATX power supplies on a train layout, wonder no more. You can.

Thanks to the miracle of mass production, even the cheapest, nastiest PC power supply gives far more power output per dollar than any train transformer. So if the lights and accessories on your electric train layout can run on 12 volts DC, which is a fairly good bet, you can get a lot of wattage for very little money by repurposing an inexpensive ATX power supply, whether new or secondhand. And on a wattage-per-dollar basis, they’re about twice as cost-effective as outdoor lighting transformers, which are another popular option for hobbyists.

All it takes to use these cost-effective ATX power supplies is a bit of rewiring.

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Using a computer power cord on a garbage disposal

When I replace garbage disposals, I prefer to use a power cord rather than hardwire them straight into the wall. The thing is, I don’t like paying $12 for the official power cord, which is chintzy looking and, frankly, looks under spec’ed. Instead, I prefer to use a computer power cord on a garbage disposal.

The label on a 1/3 HP Insinkerator Badger says it’s rated for 5.8 amps at 125 volts. I found a computer power cord in my stash that was rated for 10 amps at 125 volts. It’s overkill, but when it comes to electricity, overkill is good. Best of all, it let me repurpose something I’d already paid for and was probably never going to use.

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Fixing a sink that quit working

My mother in law bought a foreclosed condo, and I helped her get the water turned back on, but one sink just wouldn’t work no matter what I did. I finally found an answer, and since there wasn’t much information online, I thought I’d share what I learned about fixing a sink that quit working suddenly, to save someone else some hassle.

The problem occurred in one of the bathrooms. The shutoff valves under the sink were extremely sticky and didn’t want to turn on. Eventually I got them to turn on, and then I ran the sink, and it worked. Then I turned the valves off and back on a couple of times to loosen them, in case she ever had to turn off the water. They loosened up to the point where they were usable again, but then the sink, which had been working fine a minute before, didn’t work anymore. If I turned the sink all the way up, the best I got was a slow drip. If someone else hadn’t been there with me and seen it, I would have thought I’d gone crazy.

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