I’ve talked before about replacing a power cord on a transformer, but for whatever reason, I forgot to mention a cheap source of replacement power cords that also provide a safety improvement.
Use a 3-prong computer power cord.
A frequent question I see is why the Lionel bulbs in any given accessory burn out quickly. I can sum up both the problem and the solution in a single word: voltage.
When you have too much voltage, bulbs burn out quickly–sometimes in minutes. When you have too little voltage, the bulbs will last decades.
Disassembling a Lionel 1001, 1060, 8902 or 8302 locomotive isn’t too difficult. The biggest problem is knowing where the three screws are that you have to remove.
These particular locomotives weren’t really designed to be repaired, but there’s some basic work you can do on them with household tools. The 8902 and 8302 locomotives can be cheap sources of a motor for other projects.
A frequent question I read is how to attach tin accessories, such as Marx light posts and light towers, to a layout in a semi-permanent but reversible manner. I have found a way to do this, and as a bonus, it also makes it easy to hide the wires that are feeding the lights and makes the wiring simpler.
The Marx 408 street lights are difficult to disassemble. They aren’t difficult because they’re complicated, because they’re not. But it takes a bit of coordination and more than a lot of brawn to get them apart.
But if you need to rewire or repaint one, you don’t have a lot of choice, so here’s how it’s done.
Tin train cars had a variety of methods to couple them together, but by far the most common method was a coupler commonly called tab-in-slot. The tab from one car mated with a slot in the next. All of the train manufacturers used a variant of this method at one point or another, and all of them would be able to couple together, if not for one nagging detail: height.
For most of the 1930s and 1940s, Lionel used a latch coupler that was incompatible with the others–Lionel liked doing things like that–but they made a combination coupler for a while that had a slot in it to accommodate tab-in-slot couplers. Reproductions are available on Ebay. Get one of those for this car, and something that couples with the other cars you like to run, whether that’s an Ives snakehead coupler if you’re lucky enough to have a spare one, a generic tab-in-slot coupler, or another Lionel combination coupler.
But even when you change the couplers on the car, you’re still likely to have height issues. Here are some approaches to solving the height problem so you can run various brands of vintage trains together almost as effortlessly as people pick and choose between all brands of modern trains today.
I had a Marx 999 that didn’t run well when I pulled it out of storage. When pushing it along the track a few times didn’t yield any measurable improvement, I decided I’d better take it apart and give it a thorough cleaning.
In this case, I worked on a Marx 999, but everything I did applies to any other O gauge train Marx made except for the very late 490 locomotives, whose motors don’t seem to have been designed to let you do any more than replace the brushes.
The Lionel 2034 with the bent cab had another problem. It would run, but only in super slow-mo, and that was when it would run at all. If I was really patient, sometimes I could get it to run a little after a few minutes, but it had minimal pulling power even then.
The motor needed some maintenance, but it didn’t need any parts. Here’s how I fixed it in less than an hour.
I don’t come across burned-out light bulbs in Marx trains very often, but it can happen. When you need to replace a missing or dead bulb, you have some options.
Marx, like its competitors, used a standard E10 screw base in all of its trains and accessories that I know of. It’s best to never say never with Marx, but standardizing on E10 was cost-effective so I doubt there’s any variance. The question is what voltage.
In the 1970s and early 1980s when Lionel was part of General Mills, one cost-cutting measure they took was to attach trucks to car bodies with a plastic doohickey. It’s not really a rivet, but more like a clip, and it doesn’t exactly hold the trucks steady.
Removing them isn’t difficult but the method may not be immediately obvious. And sometimes these Lionel cars really did use rivets. I can explain how to remove those as well.