Tag Archives: lionel train

Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train

Every so often, some people start raging on the train forums, or even in the pages of the magazines, about modern electronics in modern O gauge trains. The modern electronics make the model trains sound just like real trains, but eventually heat and power surges take their toll, the board goes poof, and now that $2,000 toy train doesn’t work anymore and needs a $300 replacement circuit board.

And by the time that happens, that $300 replacement circuit board might be out of production, and no longer available at any price.

Which has led to countless calls for some enterprising hobbyist to become a multimillionaire by inventing a $50 replacement board that works on every train.

There are several reasons for the situation. Continue reading Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train

Model railroading as fan fiction

Dan Bowman sent me this a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself agreeing with it: Model railroading is a form of fan fiction.

It seems like a good way to look at it. Every model railroad is a compromise. By my rough estimations, it’s 4.1 miles from Dupo, Illinois to Cahokia, but even if you model in Z scale, you’ll need 97 linear feet to model that line. I would think it would be very difficult to build a Z scale layout of that size–it would take a huge basement–and only put two towns on it. So, at the very least, people put their towns closer together and use a fast clock to make up for the compression. Some people compromise a lot more than that. Continue reading Model railroading as fan fiction

Lionel in the non-hobby media

Cnet took a field trip to the official Lionel repair facility and wrote a feature story about it. It’s nice to see the attention outside of the hobby press, since it’s frequently news to people that Lionel is still around in any form. Continue reading Lionel in the non-hobby media

Non-derailing Marx switches

The Marx 1590 is the best O27 switch ever made. It’s durable, works well with all makes of trains (just put a track pin in the center rail where the switch pivots so that Lionel trains can pass), and can run off accessory power without modification.

The only downside is that it (allegedly) can’t be set to automatically switch to a position to accommodate an approaching train like a Lionel 1122, which makes it unusable in a reverse loop. That’s true if you wire them the way Marx said to wire them.

Here’s how I wire them to get that coveted feature.

Continue reading Non-derailing Marx switches

Questions from the logs

If one person uses a password, another will. That’s a popular hacking theory. If that’s true, then chances are if one person asks a question, another will. So here are three short questions (one completely unrelated to the others) I found in my logs over the weekend, and their answers.

Continue reading Questions from the logs

What to do when a Lionel train suddenly can’t pull as many cars as it could before

Last night, the Lionel train under our Christmas tree–a low-budget special, of course–started struggling. It had been able to pull five cars before, but suddenly could only pull four. Here’s how I fixed it.

Continue reading What to do when a Lionel train suddenly can’t pull as many cars as it could before

An easy DIY Lionel-compatible high-side gondola

My preschool-aged boys and I made train cars this weekend. Yes, I introduced my boys to the idea of making train cars from scratch–scratchbuilding.

They aren’t finescale models by any stretch. But the project was cheap–no more than $30 for the pair of cars, total–and it was fun.

Here’s how we made these simple train cars, so you can too. Continue reading An easy DIY Lionel-compatible high-side gondola

How to attach trucks to Lionel train cars with screws

Frequently the trucks (the wheel/coupler assembly that sits under train cars) come unattached. Lionel trains from the 1970s and first half of the 1980s are especially prone to this, though other makes of trains aren’t immune either. And sometimes you just want to change the trucks–some Lionel and Marx O27 cars are just the right size for American Flyer S scale, for example, only the trucks are the wrong gauge.

It’s tempting to try to just re-attach them with a nut and bolt, but as the train runs in circles around the track, the nut loosens and eventually works its way out.

The key is all in the type of nut you use.

Continue reading How to attach trucks to Lionel train cars with screws

Dvorak: The future of retail is search

This week in PC Magazine, John C Dvorak said the future of retail is search. He’s right.

Continue reading Dvorak: The future of retail is search

Saving memories

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story this week about vintage baking. It profiled Chris Leuther, an area baker with 30 years in the business who collects old bakery equipment and recipes from long-gone, but beloved and not-forgotten bakeries.

The money quote: “I’ve worked in a lot of bakeries and talked to a lot of bakers, and when it comes right down to it, so many of these places worked from almost exactly the same formula… A lot of times different places made exactly the same cake. It seemed special because it made a special memory — but that’s all it is, a memory.”

Continue reading Saving memories