Train transformers have one pair of screws for each output, which is generally enough for a simple layout, but once you have more than one accessory or building with lights in it, you’ll find it’s difficult to attach all of the wires to the transformer posts.
You can get more on the cheap by repurposing ground bus bars, intended for circuit breaker panels, available at hardware stores and home improvement stores. Continue reading Get more transformer outputs by using a grounding bus bar
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.
Continue reading All about the Lionel 1033
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.
Continue reading Why to never use steel wool to clean electric train track
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.
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
Disassembling a Marx 490 locomotive isn’t too difficult, but it’s very different from other Marx locomotives.
Once you take one apart, though, you’ll see why it was designed how it was. It was Marx’s lowest-cost locomotive, and it could be assembled without tools, so the labor costs were minimal.
For that matter you only need one tool to take it apart, and since there’s so little in it that can break–not even a headlight–you can find anything you would need to service it at the nearest hardware store or auto parts store.
Continue reading How to disassemble a Marx 490 locomotive
You usually need at least two Lionel CTC lockons, but most Lionel O and O27 train sets came with a single CTC lockon connector.
If your train slows down as it gets farther away from the transformer, that’s the biggest tell-tale sign that you need at least one more lockon.
Continue reading How many Lionel CTC lockons you need
There are four posts on the Marx 1249 transformer, but don’t fret if you’ve lost the instructions. Connecting it is easy. But first, you’ll probably want to check it out for safety before plugging it in.
There are two sets of posts on the transformer, but don’t let that confuse you. One set of posts powers the train, and the other set powers any accessories you might have, such as a station. If you don’t have any accessories, you can simply ignore them.
Continue reading How the Marx 1249 transformer connects to track
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
Aficionados of old toys, particularly building kits like Erector and Meccano, or prewar tinplate trains made by companies like Lionel, American Flyer 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