Windup toy trains were popular at the dawn of the 20th century, when electricity was a luxury. But they remained on the market well into the 1960s as a cheaper and simpler option for young kids who liked trains. They retain a small but devoted following today because of their inherent challenges compared to electric-powered toy trains.
In 2014, Classic Toy Trains columnist Lou Palumbo wrote an opinion piece titled “Flyer Guys Are Different.” A lot of American Flyer fans took offense at the characterization. There are differences in Lionel vs American Flyer fans, but understanding why the two are different tends to lead to greater understanding than worrying about how they’re different, or what the specific differences are.
Marketers divide consumers into different groups, and the people who favor American Flyer tend to fall into a different group than the people who favor Lionel. That doesn’t make one better than the other, but it does mean they have different values from one another.
Enough has been written over the years about Lionel wiring to fill volumes. Not so much for American Flyer, though. Fortunately, when it comes to Lionel vs American Flyer wiring, there’s a lot of similarity. Most of the advice you find about Lionel wiring applies.
Lionel changed its coupler designs several times in the prewar era. That leads to a fair question. Are all Lionel prewar couplers compatible? Can you use the different types together? As always, the answer is, it depends.
The two most common types of Lionel prewar couplers are compatible with each other. But the two later types are not directly compatible with the tab-in-slot coupler, though there are a couple of tricks that can help you.
The Marx 994 was Marx’s largest tin-bodied locomotive. It dates to 1952. It wasn’t made for very long, but thanks to its size, collectors still like the Marx 994 locomotive.
Marx released the 994 in 1950 to compete with Unique Art, a rival maker of tin toys who had entered the market in 1949. Unique’s trains were priced like Marx’s and ran on the same O gauge track but were slightly larger, which made them appear to be a better value. Marx countered by introducing its own line of trains in a similar size.
Someone asked me the other day how to remove paint from toy trains without chemicals like paint stripper or oven cleaner. It can be done, but there’s a reason a lot of hobbyists like me use chemicals.
Without using chemicals, you have to use abrasive methods to remove paint. That usually means sandblasting or bead blasting.
Marx Trains, also variously known as New Marx, Modern Marx, and Ameritrains, was originally the brainchild of Jim and Debby Flynn, a husband and wife who collected Marx trains, especially the tin variants. They produced a line of tinplate trains in the same style of vintage Louis Marx tin trains. Marx stopped making trains out of tinplate in 1972.
Marx Trains had a run of about 15 years, from 1992 to around 2007, with a brief resumption in 2012. The trains had a small, dedicated following but did not achieve the market penetration of larger rivals like MTH.
The holes in the ties on American Flyer S gauge track are absurdly small, so fastening American Flyer track has been a mystery for ages. What size fasteners can you use?
American Flyer veterans recommend using #17 wire brad nails, 1 inch long. Drilling pilot holes helps if you have a small enough bit, a #56 or smaller.
What’s the maximum grade for Lionel trains? What’s the recommended grade for Lionel trains? The two are very different, and the first really depends on what compromises you are willing to make.
Generally speaking it’s best to go with a 2-2.5 percent grade on elevations with Lionel trains. But you can push it, if you’re feeling lucky. The shorter the trains you are willing to run and the more actively you are willing to adjust the throttle, the higher the grade you can get away with.
If you like long trains, you want them to roll as easily as possible. Lionel figured out a bunch of secrets to lower rolling resistance in the 1970s. If you like tin like me, Lionel’s needlepoint axles and delrin trucks won’t help you. But there are things that can. Here’s how I get lower rolling resistance for tin trains.