Tag Archives: lionel train

Lionel train won’t slow down? Here’s the fix.

Someone asked me recently why their Lionel train won’t slow down, and when I asked for elaboration, I learned the train wasn’t responding to the throttle on the transformer.

Usually I see the opposite problem, but this one is an easy mistake to make. Fortunately the fix for it is also easy.

Continue reading Lionel train won’t slow down? Here’s the fix.

How to fix diecast toys

I’ve told you about the best way to fix plastic toys, but it dawned on me the other day I’ve never mentioned how to fix diecast toys. Diecast toys don’t break as often as plastic, but it can happen. The good news is that you can fix them too.

In my example I will be fixing a Lionel 671 train from 1946, but the same technique works with anything made of diecast metal of any age.

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Why to never use steel wool to clean electric train track

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.

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How to attach wires to the posts of a Lionel train transformer

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 to attach wires to the posts of a Lionel train transformer.

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

Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

A frequent question, especially for those who are just discovering or rediscovering vintage Lionel and Marx trains is what sizes of track are (or were) available, and how many pieces come to a circle.

Unlike other scales, Lionel marketed its track by diameter, not radius. As you undoubtedly remember from geometry class, radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge, while diameter is the distance from edge to edge. So a circle of O27 track is approximately 27 inches wide. O27 track stands about 7/16 of an inch tall, while higher end O gauge (also sometimes called O31) track stands about a quarter inch taller, at about 11/16 of an inch tall.

While we’re on the topic of track, here are some tips for connecting track if your new track isn’t going together as easily as it could.

Here are the available sizes, in ascending order.

Continue reading Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

Nostalgia can make you younger

This month’s Social Engineer podcast featured psychology professor Dr. Ellen Langer, whose specialty is mindfulness. Dr. Langer brought up a lot of important things, including the idea of work-life integration rather than the more difficult work-life balance, but another thing she briefly touched on really resonated with me. She brought up a study, originally done in the late 1970s, where a group of 80-somethings were immersed in 1959 for a week. At the end of the week, they didn’t act like 80-somethings anymore. It seems nostalgia can make you younger.

That got me thinking about the power of nostalgia.

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What size and voltage to use for Lionel train light sockets

Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs in its O gauge electric trains in the postwar era, but in most cases–87% of catalog numbers, and a lot more than that in actual number of items produced–you can get by with two.

Lionel almost always specified 14 or 18 volts. Using an 18-volt bulb in place of a 14-volt original, or a 22-volt bulb in place of an 18-volt original results in longer service life. And there were two base types that Lionel used more than any other. Continue reading What size and voltage to use for Lionel train light sockets

Don’t use lamp oil as smoke fluid in Lionel trains

Every so often, the topic of lamp oil as a cheap substitute for smoke fluid in Lionel and Marx trains comes up.

The topic has been beaten to death on many closed message groups, but finding the answer isn’t always that easy. But, in short, it’s not a safe thing to do.

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Lessons from my son’s first Pinewood Derby

One of my coworkers, a guy with an infectious laugh named Jamaal, organized a get-together on Friday. My boss asked me if I was going.

“Sorry, it’s my son’s first Pinewood Derby,” I said. I had to explain to my boss what that was–I don’t think he was ever a Cub Scout or Boy Scout–but he was intrigued.

For whatever reason, when I was a kid my dad didn’t take the opportunity to teach me as much as he could have when we built Pinewood Derby cars, but I told my boss the only good physics lesson I ever got in my life was when Dad explained to me how a Lionel train worked. Here’s something cool you can do with math and science, and I never had a teacher show me anything cool you can do with those two things. Continue reading Lessons from my son’s first Pinewood Derby