Frequently I have a problem with self-assemble furniture not holding together as well as I would like. The bolts back out over time the legs in our kitchen chairs get wobbly. Or a bolt from an office chair falls out completely and something that used to work stops working. If I don’t notice the mystery bolt on the floor and the malfunction on the same day, I get other problems.
The last time I got a wobbly chair, I had an idea. I wrapped the threads with PTFE tape. (Sometimes incorrectly called Teflon® tape. It’s the same chemical, but Dupont doesn’t make thread-sealing tape anymore.)
Normally you use thread-sealing tape on plumbing by wrapping the threads of pipes before assembling the parts. The tape makes the threads watertight and also helps you tighten them tighter.
In this application, I don’t need the threads to be watertight but I need to really cinch the bolts down, and the addition of a bit more material around the threads will, I hope, make the fit less sloppy and less prone to backing out.
It will also keep them from seizing, should you ever need to disassemble for any reason. You can use a thread locker, but this was Sunday night and the stores were closed and I didn’t have any. I had PTFE tape on hand, and it’s a lot cheaper.
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.
Some people try to fix rusty track, while others argue it isn’t worth the bother. But if you’re in the latter camp, you still have options besides trashing it: Make display shelves out of it.
My local train shop offers questionable track to his regular customers for free whenever he gets it, rather than trashing it or selling something that an unfamiliar customer might be unhappy with. I turned down a box of O31 track recently, then came to regret it a couple of weeks later when I remembered I could have used it. But that’s OK–he’ll probably have more next Saturday. Or the Saturday after that if not. I had plenty of disused track in a big tub under my layout anyway.
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.
Lionel transformers were built to last. Perhaps the most frequent issue with them is a messed-up power cord. But sometimes the cord is OK but it needs a new plug.
Replacing a power cord is easier than it sounds, but replacing just the plug is easier still.
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.
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.