Testing electric train track

Testing electric train track

I have a method of testing electric train track from Lionel, American Flyer, Marx or any other brand. The key is to test it one piece at a time, so you know any problem you found is isolated to a single piece of track.

Here are a couple of different ways to test, depending on what tools you have available.

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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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Cleaning Lionel Fastrack

Lionel Fastrack has some advantages, but after a decade or so of using it under a Christmas tree, I have to say staying clean isn’t one of them. Here are the secrets of cleaning Lionel Fastrack safely.

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How many Lionel CTC lockons you need

How many Lionel CTC lockons you need

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.

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Where the red wire goes in a light fixture

Where the red wire goes in a light fixture

A friend was replacing a light fixture in his bathroom and ran into something confusing–a red wire in the electrical box along with the usual black and white wires. And when he hooked up his new light fixture, he did what I would expect the majority of homeowners to do–he connected the white wire on the fixture to the white wires in the box, and the black wire on the fixture to the black wires in the box. And then his light switch wouldn’t work–the light stayed on all the time.

He was on the right track when he asked what the red wire is for. That was the key to solving his problem.

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Using a computer power cord on a garbage disposal

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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Windows 10 is out. I say you should upgrade, just not necessarily right now.

Windows 10 is out today. Of course I’ve been getting questions about whether to upgrade from Windows 7 to 10, and I’ve been seeing mixed advice on upgrading, though some of that mixed advice is regarding Microsoft history that isn’t completely relevant today.

My advice is to upgrade immediately if you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1, and to wait, perhaps six months, if you’re running Windows 7, but I still think you should do it. I’ll explain.

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Using a router as a switch

Using a router as a switch

Most of us have an old router like a Linksys WRT54G laying around, or if we don’t, it’s very easy to find one–the nearest garage sale or thrift store is a good bet–but sometimes all we need is a switch, to hook up a couple more computers or other devices to a wired connection. Using a router as a switch wastes some of its capabilities, but it’s easy to do.

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SSDs, data loss, electricity, and hype

I’m not particularly worried about this, but under the very worst case scenario, certain solid-state disks can theoretically lose data in a week or two if they’re left without power. But that doesn’t instill panic and get clicks when you say it like that.

But you knew I was going to write about it. Let me tell you why I’m not worried.

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