A frequent question I read is how to attach tin accessories, such as Marx light posts and light towers, to a layout in a semi-permanent but reversible manner. I have found a way to do this, and as a bonus, it also makes it easy to hide the wires that are feeding the lights and makes the wiring simpler.
Some people try to fix rusty track, while others argue it isn’t worth the bother. But if you’re in the latter camp, you still have options besides trashing it: Make display shelves out of it.
My local train shop offers questionable track to his regular customers for free whenever he gets it, rather than trashing it or selling something that an unfamiliar customer might be unhappy with. I turned down a box of O31 track recently, then came to regret it a couple of weeks later when I remembered I could have used it. But that’s OK–he’ll probably have more next Saturday. Or the Saturday after that if not. I had plenty of disused track in a big tub under my layout anyway.
If you want to save money on appliances, I have some unconventional advice: Buy used. Yes, really. Here’s how to buy used (or refurbished) appliances and save big money without getting ripped off.
I’ve had a number of friends get hit recently with appliance breakdowns they couldn’t afford, and since I’m a landlord, I’ve probably bought a lifetime’s worth of appliances in the last seven years. A dead appliance doesn’t have to turn into a financial catastrophe.
The Lionel LW Trainmaster is a 125 watt transformer that Lionel produced from 1955 to 1966. They are reasonably durable and Lionel made them for a long time. That means you can find them easily on the secondary market. They can be expensive if they have their original box and paperwork. But if you just want to run a train and don’t care about the paper, you can get a serviced LW for $50-$60, and an as-is one for under $40. At 125 watts, it’s the most powerful single-handle transformer of the postwar era.
The LW is a quirky transformer so there are some things about if you need to be aware of if you have other Lionel transformers, but as long as you keep those in mind, it’s a fine transformer that will serve you well. The quirks have nothing at all to do with reliability. Lionel just designed its layout a bit differently than many of their other models. In some ways it’s the ideal accessory transformer. We’ll cover that later.
One thing to keep in mind: Unplug the LW when you’re not using it. It doesn’t have its own power switch. I plug my transformers into a power strip and turn all of them on and off with the strip’s on/off switch.
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.
As I write, I’m installing self-stick vinyl tiles in an old basement as part of a project to modernize a ’70s man cave. It’s possible to run into a few problems when installing vinyl, so I thought I’d run through them, along with the solutions. When vinyl tiles won’t stick, there are ways to prevent and fix the problem.
Last year I didn’t winterize my lawnmower at the end of the season. Shame on me. So I took some extra precautions this year to avoid a $50 lawn mower repair, and got away with it. Here’s what I did.
So I took the plunge and bought a package of the Ecosmart 40w equivalent soft white LED bulbs last week. As long as you’re aware that it’s not dimmable–let me repeat that, it’s not dimmable–it’s a really good bulb, especially at $10 for a package of two, assuming no local subsidies.
For $5 each, you get 450 lumens of soft white light while consuming only 6 watts of power.
Now that I’ve had a couple of LED bulbs burn out, I can actually give an LED bulb longevity report.
I’ve been buying LED bulbs since 2010, and now I’ve lost three of them. It’s a little disappointing, but two of the bulbs were Philips 420240 bulbs, which are no longer on the market. The first 420240 failed completely within a couple of weeks of getting it, and I exchanged it for a Cree. The second 420240 lasted a shade over two years. Clearly the 420240 just wasn’t a very good bulb, and it accounted for my first LED bulb mortality.
My other failed bulb is one of the early 40W equivalents I bought at either Lowe’s or Home Depot in 2010 or early 2011. So I got about four years out of that one, which is better than Philips at least.
I tried to remove black marks from wood floors with Bar Keeper’s Friend recently, and I’m happy to report it worked pretty well.
Here’s the story: I had some mysterious black ring-shaped marks on my hardwood floors. I traced them to metal ends of furniture legs. The long-term solution is to put the furniture on leg cups, but one still has to contend with the damage.
The pros use a floor bleach whose active ingredient is oxalic acid, but finding it is hard, and finding it in household quantities is harder. But there’s a cheap, readily available household alternative: Bar Keeper’s Friend. It costs a couple of dollars and you can buy it at big-box stores like Home Depot, grocery stores, and even some discount stores. It’s usually in the cleaning aisle next to the Comet. It’s good stuff to have on hand anyway, because it does a great job of cleaning up pretty much anything you’d use Comet on, but it literally eats rust spots for lunch so it’ll take care of chores Comet doesn’t.