I did not invent this technique. Last week Al Osterud, a veteran Marx collector of many decades, shared a technique for removing and installing Marx coupler springs without the skills and steady hand of a microsurgeon.
All you need is a piece of 1/8-inch K&S square tube, which resembles the tool Marx used to install them at the factory, and a toothpick or a straightened paper clip. Marx wouldn’t make anything that wasn’t easy to put together, which made its couplers so maddening to work on. Why was it easy in the factory and nearly impossible at home? With the right tools, it is indeed easy.
The Lionel 675, 2025 and 2035 locomotives are three of the most iconic and sought-after engines Lionel produced in the postwar era. They depicted the Pennsylvania K-5, an ill-fated 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive that was intended to replace the iconic K-4, a popular locomotive that had roamed the rails for one of the largest railroads in the United States since 1911, and was later recognized as the official state locomotive of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the K-5 proved less successful and only two were ever made, although the PRR did run both of them into the 1950s.
Some documents identify the 675/2025/2035 as a K-4, but Lionel’s own service literature from the period says it was a K-5.
Lionel’s version proved far, far more successful than the real thing, almost becoming an icon itself. The first edition of Krause’s Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains, 1945-1969 featured a Lionel 675 from 1946 on its cover.
When fixing up a house or changing things around, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to patch some holes in the wall. Small nail holes are easy to fill with a bit of spackle applied with your fingertip, but bigger holes can be tougher, unless you know a couple of tricks that make hole in wall repair easy.
Train transformers have one pair of screws for each output, which is generally enough for a simple layout, but once you have more than one accessory or building with lights in it, you’ll find it’s difficult to attach all of the wires to the transformer posts.
Aficionados of old toys, particularly building kits like Erector and Meccano, or prewar tinplate trains made by companies like Lionel, American Flyer and Marx, know all too well that the tin plating on unpainted parts can wear off with time, and with it, bring unsightly rust.
When restoring a piece, they’ll often use a replating kit to apply a new coat of tin. But sometimes you want a piece to look better but can’t justify the expense of a replating kit, or the piece is too badly pitted to replate well and need an alternative.
There are a lot of good plans for DIY antennas on the web that you can make for less than $10 worth of parts, which is good considering the flood of $50 antennas on the market that are little more than hype.
A couple of years ago I made a Gray-Hoverman antenna. I had no complaints about how it worked, but it wasn’t very durable. And in St. Louis it was overkill–it picked up everything tvfool.com said I could get indoors and nothing more. No SIUC PBS station for me. A Gray-Hoverman is probably more useful along the eastern seaboard where the cities and TV stations are closer together.
Rather than fix the Gray-Howerman yet again, or build something else, I bought a basic, traditional-looking RCA ANT111F for $6. Even the simplest DIY antenna, made primarily of a cardboard box with aluminum foil, costs $3-$4 in materials to make and my time is worth more than the difference. If my kids were a bit older, a DIY antenna would be a great science experiment to do with them, but they aren’t.
I did find my reception in the basement, below ground level, was pretty abysmal. The range seemed to be less than five miles, and I could only get about five channels. But on the first floor, with the antenna about seven feet above ground level, my range is 10-12 miles, depending on the strength of the distant signal, and I could get 30 channels. To improve reception in the basement, I connected a longer cable to the antenna (using a cheap keystone jack as a coupler) so I could put it up in the ceiling, closer to ground level. When I did that, I could get 24 channels, though the signal strength wasn’t all that good.
One thing to remember when changing or repositioning an antenna: always scan for new channels afterward.
It’s fun to customize Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars. I tend to buy representations of pre-1950 cars and un-hotrod them so they’ll look like they belong on my O27 (1:64-ish) train layout; others buy them, paint them differently and put different wheels on them to make something different from what Mattel sells.
It’s a job you can do with simple tools and materials, at least at first. But like many things, you can keep it as simple or get as advanced as you like. And while you won’t do your first car in 15 minutes, it’s easy to divide a car project into 15-minute-per-day steps, especially if you work on two or three of them at once, and at the end of a week you’ll have a few nice cars to show for your time and effort.
My latest lighting experiment is a 900-lumen bulb from G7, which is rated at 9 watts and priced at around $16. It’s advertised as equivalent to a 65W incandescent. I’ve had two of them for about two months now, and my initial impressions are favorable overall.