Maximum grade for Lionel trains

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.

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Silver frame Marx cars

Silver frame Marx cars

In 1938 and possibly 1939, Marx produced its 6-inch cars with plain tin-plated frames, rather than lithographing or painting them. But these silver frame Marx cars were short lived. As such they provide a challenge for collectors today.

Silver frame Marx cars are a bit difficult to find because of their short production time but are also easy to fake. Don’t pay a heavy premium for a frame that looks too good.

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Lionel TW transformer

Lionel TW transformer

The Lionel TW transformer is an easy to overlook, easily misunderstood transformer from the postwar era. It was designed for single-train layouts with lots of accessories. It contains two transformers in the case, one for the train and one for the accessories.

The Lionel TW provides 175 watts of power and variable voltage of up to 20 volts on its A-U posts, but its main source of appeal is its large number of fixed voltage circuits at varying levels.

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Marx 897 locomotive

Marx 897 locomotive

The Marx 897 was a tin lithographed steam locomotive produced prior to World War II. It depicts a much more common steam locomotive than the Commodore Vanderbilt or Canadian Pacific and came in both clockwork and electric variations.

The Marx 897 looks like what a classic Marx locomotive ought to look like, made of pressed tin with lithographed detail. But it only stayed on the market a few years because of World War II, and the emergence of newer technologies. But if you like tin lithography and you like Marx, you probably like the 897.

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Buying trains at estate sales

Buying trains at estate sales

I think estate sales are an underrated place to buy trains. While some things have changed from 15 years ago when I started, there are still good finds out there. Here are my tips for buying trains at estate sales.

There are lots of places to find trains, including train stores, antique shops, train shows, and placing want ads. But buying trains straight out of people’s estates is surprisingly effective, and can be economical too.

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Marx 1829 locomotive

Marx 1829 locomotive

The Marx 1829 was arguably the largest, nicest plastic steam locomotive of the postwar era. It was a plastic locomotive with a 4-6-4 Hudson configuration, a type of locomotive usually reserved for higher-end diecast models.

The 1829 wasn’t just a plastic Marx 333. The design of the casting differs from the diecast 333, and it used a different trailing truck, since the 333 was a 4-6-2 Pacific. The motor was similar, and like the 333, it came in both smoking and non-smoking versions.

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How do Lionel trains work?

How do Lionel trains work?

Lionel trains entertained kids for generations, and inspired some to become engineers. And not just train engineers. Sometimes it inspired them to electrical or mechanical engineering. But how do Lionel trains work? Let’s step through it.

A Lionel train is just a flow of electrons. The hot wire from your electrical box goes through a transformer to the center rail, then through the motor and out to the wheels, through the outer rails and back to the transformer and finally, back to the outlet and out of your house back through the panel.

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Marx Commodore Vanderbilt

Marx Commodore Vanderbilt

The Marx Commodore Vanderbilt was one of Marx’s most enduring and beloved locomotives, produced from 1934-1942 and again from 1946-1952. It remains popular with collectors and operators today.

Based loosely on the New York Central’s streamlined Art Deco-style Hudson locomotive introduced in late 1934, Marx typically packed the Commodore Vanderbilt into sets with its six-inch cars. The sets were available anywhere toys were sold, and came in windup and electric versions.

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Do Lionel trains have lead paint?

Do Lionel trains have lead paint?

Do Lionel trains have lead paint? Lionel LLC says to the best of their knowledge, no. But Lionel LLC didn’t make those vintage trains. Some Lionel trains do, indeed have lead paint in them. Here’s what to do about that.

One has to assume that any Lionel train made prior to 1978, and certainly prior to 1970, would have been painted with lead paint. Not every paint Lionel used necessarily had lead in it. This means you must take precautions when running vintage Lionel trains. Namely, wash your hands afterward, and ensure children who participate in the session wash theirs.

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