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Model railroading as fan fiction

Dan Bowman sent me this a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself agreeing with it: Model railroading is a form of fan fiction.

It seems like a good way to look at it. Every model railroad is a compromise. By my rough estimations, it’s 4.1 miles from Dupo, Illinois to Cahokia, but even if you model in Z scale, you’ll need 97 linear feet to model that line. I would think it would be very difficult to build a Z scale layout of that size–it would take a huge basement–and only put two towns on it. So, at the very least, people put their towns closer together and use a fast clock to make up for the compression. Some people compromise a lot more than that.Read More »Model railroading as fan fiction

Non-derailing Marx switches

The Marx 1590 is the best O27 switch ever made. It’s durable, works well with all makes of trains (just put a track pin in the center rail where the switch pivots so that Lionel trains can pass), and can run off accessory power without modification.

The only downside is that it (allegedly) can’t be set to automatically switch to a position to accommodate an approaching train like a Lionel 1122, which makes it unusable in a reverse loop. That’s true if you wire them the way Marx said to wire them.

Here’s how I wire them to get that coveted feature.

Read More »Non-derailing Marx switches

Questions from the logs

If one person uses a password, another will. That’s a popular hacking theory. If that’s true, then chances are if one person asks a question, another will. So here are three short questions (one completely unrelated to the others) I found in my logs over the weekend, and their answers.

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An easy DIY Lionel-compatible high-side gondola

My preschool-aged boys and I made train cars this weekend. Yes, I introduced my boys to the idea of making train cars from scratch–scratchbuilding.

They aren’t finescale models by any stretch. But the project was cheap–no more than $30 for the pair of cars, total–and it was fun.

Here’s how we made these simple train cars, so you can too.Read More »An easy DIY Lionel-compatible high-side gondola

How to attach trucks to Lionel train cars with screws

Frequently the trucks (the wheel/coupler assembly that sits under train cars) come unattached. Lionel trains from the 1970s and first half of the 1980s are especially prone to this, though other makes of trains aren’t immune either. And sometimes you just want to change the trucks–some Lionel and Marx O27 cars are just the right size for American Flyer S scale, for example, only the trucks are the wrong gauge.

It’s tempting to try to just re-attach them with a nut and bolt, but as the train runs in circles around the track, the nut loosens and eventually works its way out.

The key is all in the type of nut you use.

Read More »How to attach trucks to Lionel train cars with screws