The Lionel KW is the second most powerful, and second most popular Lionel transformer of the 1950s and 1960s. If the Lionel ZW was Lionel’s Cadillac, the KW was Lionel’s Buick. It was a 190-watt transformer and Lionel sold it from 1950 to 1965. It replaced Lionel’s 150-watt ZW lookalike, the VW.
Finding original KW instructions or an original KW manual online is a bit difficult, but there’s plenty the original instructions don’t mention.
The Lionel ZW is Lionel’s most iconic transformer of the 1950s and 1960s, and perhaps one of its most iconic products, period. Everyone wanted the two-handled, football-shaped, 275-watt powerhouse that was the ZW. It was one of Lionel’s more venerable postwar products, lasting on the market for 18 years from 1948 to 1966. It replaced Lionel’s former top-of-the-line transformer, the Z.
Finding original ZW instructions or an original ZW manual online is a bit difficult, but there’s plenty the original instructions don’t mention.
Vintage Lionel transformers activated the whistle using a rectifier disc. These discs tend to degrade over time. You can expect to pay about $5 for a replacement disc. But a modern diode is much cheaper, works better, and is more reliable. Here’s how to replace a Lionel RW rectifier disc with a diode.
The Hipwell Manufacturing Co. of Pittsburgh was the inventor of the single-cell battery and a venerable producer of flashlights. As recently as 2002, Hipwell produced 2 million flashlights in the United States.
Years ago, I decided I wanted to take a different approach with my trains. I heard about a guy in Springfield who has a traditional toy train layout with no plastic on it. I wanted to see if I could do something similar.
At the time, information about this approach was rare. So I’ve collected here what I know about tin buildings made prior to 1970 (the approximate end of the postwar era). You won’t find everything you want in pre-1970 buildings, so if you need something more modern to fill in the gaps, see my other post tin buildings for train layouts.
Comparing Bachmann vs Lionel is a contrast between two very old, established names in electric trains. Lionel, in one form or another, has been selling trains since 1900. Bachmann, the largest seller of trains in the world, was founded in 1833, though they started selling trains in 1966.
Ironically, it was Lionel that got Bachmann into the train business. In the 1940s and 1950s, when every kid wanted a Lionel or American Flyer train, Bachmann sold buildings under its Plasticville brand so kids and dads could build towns for those trains to run in. As the focus shifted to smaller scales in the 1960s, Bachmann moved with it, with greater success than the companies it once shared a symbiotic relationship with.
The last exit on I-255 in Missouri before the Illinois border is Koch Road. Turn right on Koch Road, in a community now known as Oakville, and you run into the curiously named Robert Koch Hospital Road, which runs through a residential area. But where’s the hospital? It turns out Robert Koch Hospital was demolished in 1989. But stories of this hospital, including rumors the site is haunted, spread through generations of St. Louisans, even those who don’t know the hospital’s name. Its presence explains why a 500-acre swath of land along the Mississippi River in a popular upper middle class suburb remains an isolated, lonely place. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the site seems cursed.
Robert Koch Hospital was established to help St. Louis deal with a cholera epidemic that killed 6 percent of its population. It survived for decades, mostly treating tuberculosis, until medical advancements alleviated the need for an isolated quarantine hospital in the area.
What scale are Matchbox cars, you ask? Unfortunately it varies a bit. Nominally they’re around 1:64 scale. But scale isn’t Matchbox’s objective. Fitting in the package is. That means the size of Matchbox cars is between 2.5 and 3 inches, depending on what looks right for the prototype model. So it can take some homework to figure out the actual scale of any given model.
Since I’ve covered other makes of trains, someone asked me how to sell Lionel trains. So I thought I would give similar advice on selling Lionel trains. Lionel is an iconic, legendary part of Americana, so there will always be some market for its products.
That said, don’t expect to get rich selling off your Lionel trains. But if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.
Plasticville buildings in less than stellar condition are dirt cheap, but restoring them is often possible. There is no need to be afraid of a dirty lot of Plasticville from a train show or Ebay–cleaning up Plasticville is easy.
Of course these tricks work for Plasticville-like buildings from the 1950s as well, such as Littletown, Skyline, Ideal, and Marx.