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Fight voltage drop with copper anti-seize lubricant

If you have issues with your trains slowing down on the far reaches of your layout–and judging from my website hits, many people do–there are a couple of things to do about it. The first thing is to run additional feeder wires. Going by the book, you should go every third track section. Do I push it a little? Sure. Sometimes I can get away with a little less than that, and sometimes every three sections isn’t quite enough.

But over time, the conductivity between track sections can wane a bit, as moisture and oxidation creep in. Coating track pins with copper anti-seize lubricant keeps the moisture out, which keeps oxidation out, which makes the layout more reliable, especially if the layout is outdoors, in the garage, or in the basement.Read More »Fight voltage drop with copper anti-seize lubricant

Tips for connecting traditional tubular track

I saw a question earlier this week about working with Lionel tubular track. It doesn’t snap together quite as easily as modern Fastrack does, but it’s a lot cheaper, especially if you already have a bunch of it on hand.

I probably have 100 linear feet of tubular O27 track (Lionel, Marx, and K-Line) on my layout, so I’ll give some tips for working with it.

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Fixing track that gets hot at the track joints

I saw a question about a Fastrack layout getting hot at a track joint. That’s a conductivity issue causing voltage drop, which in turn causes the heat. While not likely to be dangerous, it’s a sign of inefficiency and can lead to other problems, such as the train slowing down at some parts of the layout. Poor conductivity also causes motors to run hotter than they should, which can eventually damage the armature.

I can think of two fixes, none of them especially expensive or time-consuming. And although this question was about Lionel Fastrack, it can happen with other makes of track too, and even other scales.
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Lionel Fastrack review

How Lionel Fastrack compares to traditional tubular track and competing O gauge track is a common question. I own both, so I can probably make a comparison. Here is my Lionel Fastrack review.

For the most part, it’s not bad. But it’s not perfect. For some people, the drawbacks are easy enough to overlook. For others, they could be showstoppers. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

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Cleaning and storing Lionel track

Cleaning and storing Lionel track is another common question when the subject of trains comes up. Now that you’re getting the electric train track out for Christmas duty, there are some things you need to do to get it ready. And when the time comes to put it away until next year, a little preparation then will leave it in better shape for next year.

First, a note: Since writing this piece, I discovered a miracle. I treated my track with a conductivity enhancer, and the difference is unbelievable. I haven’t needed to clean my track in two years.

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How to fix old Marx locomotives

I’ve been noticing that a post I made several years ago about my experiments fixing a Marx 490 train locomotive has been getting a disconcerting number of hits. Disconcerting, because I repeated some advice on how to fix old Marx locomotives from another web site that I later found, by experience, wasn’t all that good.

Here’s how I go about doing simple repairs on Marx trains today, now that I’ve done a few.

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Fix or restore Lionel track

It’s that time of year again. Time to get that old Lionel (or Marx or American Flyer) electric train running before the holidays sneak up. More often than not, the track isn’t in the best of shape. Fortunately, it’s not all that hard to fix or restore Lionel track.

Believe it or not, you can effectively remove rust from old Lionel track with a ball of aluminum foil. A small ball of aluminum foil plundered from your kitchen and five minutes of your time is likely to be enough to restore a loop of Lionel track from rusty, unusable junk to reliable operation.

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Integrated components vs discrete

Integrated components vs discrete is an old argument. I distinctly remember setting up a server for a new big-shot in 2004. I opened the server up to put memory in, and found its PCI slots filled with cards that duplicated all of the on-board components.

I asked my boss about this, and he said the guy had insisted on doing this, because “discrete components are better.”

I’ve been making jokes at the guy’s expense ever since.

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