Skyline tin buildings

Skyline tin brick house

In the 1940s and 1950s, Skyline of Philadelphia manufactured and marketed a line of toy train-oriented building kits. Actually, there were two lines: One was a line of building kits made of cardstock and wood, and one was a smaller line of lithographed tin buildings, similar to the inexpensive toys made by the likes of Louis Marx, Wyandotte, and countless others in the days before ubiquitous plastics.

I’ve long suspected the two product lines came from the same company, but had no evidence to prove it until Ed “Ice” Berg produced scans of a Skyline catalog containing both paper/wood and tin litho buildings, side by side.

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LEDs for American Flyer, Lionel, and Marx trains

LED bulbs for American Flyer, Marx, and Lionel

A frequent, sometimes heated topic of debate is upgrading to LED lighting in the headlight of vintage American Flyer, Lionel, or Marx trains. It shows how sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. You have several options for LEDs in old electric trains, and not all of them are expensive or difficult.

Specialty retailers like Town and Country Hobbies sell screw-in replacement LED bulbs with an E10 base for vintage trains. It’s also possible to wire up your own circuit. You can also take your chances on cheap 12V E10 LED bulbs from Ebay.

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K-Line trains

K-Line trains

K-Line was a manufacturer of O gauge electric trains and accessories from approximately 1980 to 2010. Its scrappy, value-oriented approach to the hobby endeared K-Line trains to many of its customers.

K-Line Electric Trains and Lionel tended to target one another in their advertisements. They referred to one another as “Brand K” and “Brand L.” In 2005, the rivalry turned to litigation, which eventually resulted in K-Line admitting wrongdoing, going out of business, and Lionel licensing and selling products under the K-Line name from 2006 to 2010.

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Cleaning NES games and consoles

clean Nintendo NES console and games

Anyone old enough to have played with an original Nintendo NES knows the problem: You plug in the cartridge, turn on the system, and get a blank screen and the power light blinks at you. The schoolyard fix is to take out the cartridge, blow into it, then put it back into the system. Then, with a little luck, you can play your game. The trouble is, that’s just a short-term fix. In the long run, it makes the problem worse and eventually the system can’t play games at all. The solution is to clean them. Here’s a process for cleaning NES games.

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Where to buy Lionel trains in St. Louis

The 1957 catalog featured Lionel Super O track

If you want to know where to buy Lionel trains in St. Louis, you have a lot of choices. It’s more than possible to make a day of train shopping in St. Louis.

I’ve never seen a comprehensive list of shops, so I made my own. If you know of any place I missed, I apologize. Please leave a comment and I will add it.

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The Lionel KW transformer

Lionel KW transformer

The Lionel KW transformer was the second largest transformer Lionel made in the postwar era. It delivered 190 watts of power and provided two handles to control two trains. Internally, the design is very similar to the ZW. If the ZW was Lionel’s Cadillac transformer, the KW was the Buick. I always thought Lionels were overrated until I ran a 675 locomotive with a KW.

There was a time when nobody made modern transformers the size of a KW or ZW. Now that they do, the ZW and especially the KW cost a lot less. I remember when a reconditioned KW cost $200. Today you can get one for under $100. An as-is KW with minor issues will cost half that. These days, the KW is a bargain.

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What happened to Tyco RC and trains?

Tyco is a name I certainly remember from my childhood. If you’re wondering what happened to Tyco, or what happened to Tyco RC, Tyco trains, or Tyco slot cars, read on.

When I think of Tyco, I think of slot cars and trains. Tyco went out with a bang with one last huge Christmas in 1996, and it had nothing at all to do with trains or slot cars.

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Why have Marx toys dropped in value?

“Why have Marx toys dropped in value?” you ask? Blame Millennials. Well, actually, my generation bears more of the blame for this one. Blame Gen X. The value of vintage toys tends to follow trends, and those trends don’t necessarily pass from generation to generation.

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