Using PC ATX power supplies on a train layout

PC power supplies are exceptionally cheap and plentiful these days. If you’ve noticed and wondered whether you can use PC ATX power supplies on a train layout, wonder no more. You can.

Thanks to the miracle of mass production, even the cheapest, nastiest PC power supply gives far more power output per dollar than any train transformer. So if the lights and accessories on your electric train layout can run on 12 volts DC, which is a fairly good bet, you can get a lot of wattage for very little money by repurposing an inexpensive ATX power supply, whether new or secondhand. And on a wattage-per-dollar basis, they’re about twice as cost-effective as outdoor lighting transformers, which are another popular option for hobbyists.

All it takes to use these cost-effective ATX power supplies is a bit of rewiring.

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How to replace a Lionel transformer power cord

When using vintage Lionel transformers, it’s important to make sure the power cord isn’t broken or frayed to avoid the risk of electric shock or starting a fire. If yours is, here’s how to replace a Lionel transformer power cord.

Replacing a power cord safely is a lot easier than most people make it sound. It’s possible to do the job safely with simple tools and a few dollars’ worth of parts from the nearest hardware store.

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The legacy lamp

About 35, or maybe even 40 years ago, my dad went through a phase. Or perhaps I should say a craze–he made lamps out of anything that didn’t move. And I’m sure if anyone had pointed that out to him, he would have made a lamp out of something that did, just to prove them wrong. Then, at some point, he stopped. I don’t know why and I never asked him. He kept one on his bedside table, and a couple in the room in the basement where he watched football. But it’s funny. I associate his lamps with him more than probably anything else, but I can’t recall ever watching him make one.

A number of years ago, I asked Mom if any of Dad’s old lamps were still around, and she gave me two of them. They both happened to be made of pieces of wood that he probably found somewhere. Read more