One of the things Lionel did that set its electric trains apart from its competitors was integrating a whistle in the tender that was included with its steam locomotives. Because of the added play value and charm, the whistling tender is a sought-after feature, even in this era when electronic sounds are so inexpensive that even dollar store toys sometimes have them.
Here’s how to quickly tell if a Lionel tender has a whistle.
Continue reading How to tell if a Lionel tender has a whistle
A common question is whether Marx trains will work with Lionel crossovers, or vice versa. The answer is not well, but with a caveat. A big caveat.
Continue reading Lionel crossovers and Marx trains
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
Here’s a question that came in recently: Can you replace Lionel O gauge track pins with nails?
Yes, but with a caveat. Continue reading Replacing Lionel track pins with nails
An anonymous reader asked if American Flyer trains can run on Lionel track.
The answer, of course, is that it depends. Continue reading American Flyer trains and Lionel track
Bakelite was the world’s first synthetic plastic, invented in 1907 and was commonly used for everyday objects in the mid 20th century. Lionel used it for transformer cases well into the 1960s. As a general rule, if a vintage Lionel transformer case isn’t made of metal, it’s probably Bakelite. For example, the highly desirable Lionel ZW and KW transformers used Bakelite casing.
Today, Bakelite is a specialty material. Although it’s generally a strong material, there are other plastics that tend to be more durable in everyday use, and they are cheaper. Another problem with Bakelite is that it is difficult to repair, although it’s not impossible.
Continue reading Repairing Lionel transformer cases made of Bakelite
“I know this will sound crazy,” my boss said. “But I miss the sound of a modem connecting.”
I don’t think it’s crazy at all. That chirping was the sound of a hard-won victory, at least if you’re of a certain age.
Continue reading I miss the sound of a modem carrier
Aficionados of old toys, particularly building kits like Erector and Meccano, or prewar tinplate trains made by companies like Lionel and Marx, know all too well that the tin plating on unpainted parts can wear off with time, and with it, bring unsightly rust.
When restoring a piece, they’ll often use a replating kit to apply a new coat of tin. But sometimes you want a piece to look better but can’t justify the expense of a replating kit, or the piece is too badly pitted to replate well and need an alternative.
Continue reading Aluminum paint is a cheap alternative to replating
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.
That got me thinking about the power of nostalgia.
Continue reading Nostalgia can make you younger
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