Last Updated on October 22, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
Someone sent me a YouTube video talking about using vape fluid in Marx smoke units as an alternative to using mineral oil. Here’s why vape fluid in your smoke unit is a terrible idea in any train, whether Marx, Lionel, or modern.
Vape fluid is corrosive
Right around the time vape shops started opening up on every corner, I started seeing a tremendous amount of traffic around any of my content that dealt with copper contacts and corrosion. So I asked a co-worker who vapes if that is a common problem with vapers. I don’t vape, so I don’t have firsthand experience. He said it was, and he was very eager to hear about what tricks I might know.
So while I have no doubt that vape fluid works in a train smoke unit, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Just like Lionel’s first formula for smoke pellets wasn’t a good idea.
Sometimes an idea seems to work well at first, but then the longer term effects end up being undesirable. Using certain household cleaners on Lionel Fastrack was another example. A fairly well-known hobbyist tried it instead of alcohol or mineral spirits, really liked the results at first, but then he ruined all of his track and had to replace it, at significant cost and effort. We’re talking hundreds of dollars, possibly into four figures, given the size of his layout.
Way too many toy train YouTubers get an idea, try it once, and go and make a video about it, handing out bad advice, and not considering the long-term consequences. One in particular gets extremely defensive when someone points it out. But he’s not doing anyone any favors with his content. But part of our responsibility as content creators is to give advice that helps people.
The second problem with using vape fluid as smoke fluid
But there is a second problem with using vape fluid as smoke fluid. You don’t save any money. The cost of the vape fluid is comparable to commercial smoke fluid. If you’re going to use an alternative, use mineral oil from any pharmacy. The big bottle you can get for as little as $2 will last years. And it won’t corrode the contacts in your reverse unit or on the commutator in your motor.
All these things are fixable of course, but why ruin your stuff just because you enjoy fixing it. You can buy junkers cheap to fix if you’re bored.
I think some people are just so desperate to be unconventional or nonconformist that they sometimes act against their own interests. This is a good example.
One thought on “Don’t use vape fluid in your Marx smoke unit”
Some people say that modern smoke fluid is made of 10% glycerin and 90% distilled water, also available at the pharmacy.
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