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How to fix diecast toys

I’ve told you about the best way to fix plastic toys, but it dawned on me the other day I’ve never mentioned how to fix diecast toys. Diecast toys don’t break as often as plastic, but it can happen. The good news is that you can fix them too.

In my example I will be fixing a Lionel 671 train from 1946, but the same technique works with anything made of diecast metal of any age.

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How to attach wires to the posts of a Lionel train transformer

It took me 20 years to find out I was connecting the wires to my train transformer wrong–and this applies to American Flyer and Marx just as much as to Lionel–and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. I was making it far, far too difficult to attach wires to the posts of a Lionel train transformer.

Modern transformers have a groove in the post to accept a wire, but vintage transformers don’t. If you’re having problems with the wires coming off your transformer while you try to cinch them down, here’s how to connect to a vintage transformer in three simple steps.

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Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

A frequent question, especially for those who are just discovering or rediscovering vintage Lionel and Marx trains is what sizes of track are (or were) available, and how many pieces come to a circle.

Unlike other scales, Lionel marketed its track by diameter, not radius. As you undoubtedly remember from geometry class, radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge, while diameter is the distance from edge to edge. So a circle of O27 track is approximately 27 inches wide. O27 track stands about 7/16 of an inch tall, while higher end O gauge (also sometimes called O31) track stands about a quarter inch taller, at about 11/16 of an inch tall.

While we’re on the topic of track, here are some tips for connecting track if your new track isn’t going together as easily as it could, and some tips for screws to attach track to the table.

Here are the available sizes, in ascending order.

Read More »Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

Nostalgia can make you younger

This month’s Social Engineer podcast featured psychology professor Dr. Ellen Langer, whose specialty is mindfulness. Dr. Langer brought up a lot of important things, including the idea of work-life integration rather than the more difficult work-life balance, but another thing she briefly touched on really resonated with me. She brought up a study, originally done in the late 1970s, where a group of 80-somethings were immersed in 1959 for a week. At the end of the week, they didn’t act like 80-somethings anymore. It seems nostalgia can make you younger.

That got me thinking about the power of nostalgia.

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Lionel train light bulb chart

Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs in its O gauge electric trains in the postwar era, but in most cases–87% of catalog numbers, and a lot more than that in actual number of items produced–you can get by with two. Since knowing when can be difficult, here’s a Lionel train light bulb chart.

Lionel almost always specified 14 or 18 volts. Using an 18-volt bulb in place of a 14-volt original, or a 22-volt bulb in place of an 18-volt original results in longer service life. And there were two base types that Lionel used more than any other.Read More »Lionel train light bulb chart

Lessons from my son’s first Pinewood Derby

One of my coworkers, a guy with an infectious laugh named Jamaal, organized a get-together on Friday. My boss asked me if I was going.

“Sorry, it’s my son’s first Pinewood Derby,” I said. I had to explain to my boss what that was–I don’t think he was ever a Cub Scout or Boy Scout–but he was intrigued.

For whatever reason, when I was a kid my dad didn’t take the opportunity to teach me as much as he could have when we built Pinewood Derby cars, but I told my boss the only good physics lesson I ever got in my life was when Dad explained to me how a Lionel train worked. Here’s something cool you can do with math and science, and I never had a teacher show me anything cool you can do with those two things.Read More »Lessons from my son’s first Pinewood Derby

Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train

Every so often, some people start raging on the train forums, or even in the pages of the magazines, about modern electronics in modern O gauge trains. The modern electronics make the model trains sound just like real trains, but eventually heat and power surges take their toll, the board goes poof, and now that $2,000 toy train doesn’t work anymore and needs a $300 replacement circuit board.

And by the time that happens, that $300 replacement circuit board might be out of production, and no longer available at any price.

Which has led to countless calls for some enterprising hobbyist to become a multimillionaire by inventing a $50 replacement board that works on every train.

There are several reasons for the situation.Read More »Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train