Tag Archives: marx

Aluminum paint is a cheap alternative to replating

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

What size and voltage to use for Lionel train light sockets

Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs 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

Preventing front or rear truck derailment on Lionel locomotives

Years ago, I brought a Lionel 2026 locomotive in for repair that had belonged to my dad. It ran poorly, and either dad or his kid brother had taken it apart at some point and lost some of the parts, including the front truck.

And then, when I got the locomotive back and I put it on the track for a test run, it derailed constantly. The front truck just wouldn’t stay on the track, no matter what I did.

Continue reading Preventing front or rear truck derailment on Lionel locomotives

Extra ties for Marx, Lionel, and/or American Flyer train track

If there’s one question I see over and over again, it’s what to use to fill in the gaps between the three ties that American Flyer, Lionel, and Marx put under their track.

I don’t recall anyone else ever suggesting what I do: I salvage the ties off discarded, rusty, or otherwise damaged and unusable track.

Continue reading Extra ties for Marx, Lionel, and/or American Flyer train track

Creative sourcing for O and S scale train layout figures

Hobby shops frequently carry a decent selection of figures for O and S gauge layouts, but if you look at the magazines long enough, you start to see almost all of them have the same figures–and they’re probably the same figures the shop near you sells as well.

There are ways to get a better variety of figures so your layout can have something distinctive about it–and the good news is you can save some money doing it as well.

Continue reading Creative sourcing for O and S scale train layout figures

Tips for using Dept. 56 and Lemax-type buildings with Lionel trains

A frequent question I see regards the proper scale of snow village-type buildings, like Department 56 and Lemax, and whether they’re suitable for use with Lionel trains.

The answer is that their scale varies, but the buildings work very effectively with traditional Lionel trains, or, for that matter, 1:64 S scale American Flyer trains. Many hobbyists have built elaborate winter-themed layouts using these buildings. Typically the scale runs from anywhere from 1:64 to 1:48, with lots of selective compression to make the buildings fit an approximate footprint. The very same thing is true of the Lionel trains of the 1950s, so, intentional or not, they end up being a pretty good match.

The figures sold with these buildings, on the other hand, tend to be much larger–very close to 1:24 scale. This discrepancy bothers some people more than others.

Continue reading Tips for using Dept. 56 and Lemax-type buildings with Lionel trains

How to check a train transformer for safety

In spite of what a certain O gauge magazine tells you, vintage toy train transformers aren’t inherently unsafe to use. Age can take their toll on them, so you want to give them a good safety inspection, but as long as they pass the safety inspection, they can give you a long, productive service life.

All of my train transformers are at least 50 years old, and I expect my sons to inherit them in workable condition. Continue reading How to check a train transformer for safety

How to repair a Marx electrical pickup shoe

Unlike most of its competitors, Marx trains don’t use rollers to engage the center rail for electrical pickup. Instead, Marx utilized a copper shoe that slides along the center rail. It was cheap and effective, but the increased friction means the shoes wear out much more quickly than rollers do. Indeed, the shoe usually is the first part of the train to wear out.

The fix is easy, if non-obvious.

Continue reading How to repair a Marx electrical pickup shoe

Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Continue reading Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem