Restoring Tootsietoys can be a fun and satisfying way to enjoy old toy vehicles. Whether you want your childhood toys to look nice again or just enjoy bringing new life to neglected examples, it can be as easy and as affordable as you want it to be.
I’ll talk specifically about Tootsietoys here, but the principles apply to other vintage diecast cars of the same era like Hubley or Midgetoy.
Lionel transformers use a selenium rectifier disc to produce a jolt of DC voltage to activate their train whistle. These discs degrade over time, so a decades-old transformer often produces a pretty anemic whistle–even one of the bigger transformers like the 190-watt Lionel KW. Replace the disc with a diode for a cost effective and reliable fix for that wimpy whistle. Here’s a step by step guide to a Lionel KW diode upgrade.
If your Lionel ZW or VW transformer lights up and hums but doesn’t output any voltage on one or more of its pairs of binding posts, there’s a good chance one or more of the binding posts is bad. It’s possible to repair Lionel ZW binding posts cheaply.
By far the most failure prone part of the Lionel ZW and VW is the binding posts where the wires connect to your track. Fortunately, there’s a workaround that works sometimes. But if you want something better than a workaround, a proper repair is cheap and not difficult.
Marx’s most popular locomotive might be the 999, because it can pull anything Marx made–6-inch tin, 7-inch tin, 3/16-scale tin, 4-wheel plastic, and 8-wheel plastic–without looking out of place. It really only has one problem: The front trucks on many 999s are prone to derailments.
Counterintuitively, the fix for a 999 is the opposite of how you fix the same problem on many other O gauge electric trains.
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.
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.
I hear two complaints about Lionel/American Flyer/Marx electric train layouts (besides the common complaints from uptight scale modelers, that is). One is the amount of space they take up, and the other is the noise.
Let’s tackle the noise. While we’re at it, we’ll tackle reliability.