Why do Lionel trains have three rails? After all, real trains usually have two. This unrealistic feature is a legitimate drawback for Lionel and other makes of O gauge trains, but the decision made sense at the time.
At the last train show I attended, I bought a Marx locomotive that lacked a reverse unit. I found a mess of wires in its place, and of course it didn’t run. So I had to figure out how to wire a Marx motor without a reverse unit. When I wired it up to run correctly, it surprised me. It ran really nicely.
When it comes to trains, I prefer older ones made of tin, rather than plastic. And I like tin buildings too. Any time I open a magazine featuring someone’s train layouts, the buildings all look the same. I want something a little different, so I look for tin buildings to go with my tin trains.
Many companies through the years made food containers with printing on them that look like buildings. The tins tend to be about six inches wide, around 8 inches tall, and two inches deep. They tend to resemble the two-story commercial buildings you used to see in downtowns, with a storefront on the first story and offices or apartments on the second floor.
You can use these tins to put together a very timeless commercial district for your train layout. If you know what to look for, you can find coffee shops, bakeries, candy stores, florists, and plenty of other stores to make your town a nice place to live and work. And the buildings usually aren’t terribly expensive, either.
Years ago, I decided I wanted to take a different approach with my trains. I heard about a guy in Springfield who has a traditional toy train layout with no plastic on it. I wanted to see if I could do something similar.
At the time, information about this approach was rare. So I’ve collected here what I know about tin buildings made prior to 1970 (the approximate end of the postwar era). You won’t find everything you want in pre-1970 buildings, so if you need something more modern to fill in the gaps, see my other post tin buildings for train layouts.
The biggest problem with Lionel Fastrack is that it is much louder than tubular and other types of O gauge track. So people frequently ask how to quiet Lionel Fastrack. There are a few things you can do to make Fastrack quieter.
Since I’ve covered other makes of trains, someone asked me how to sell Lionel trains. So I thought I would give similar advice on selling Lionel trains. Lionel is an iconic, legendary part of Americana, so there will always be some market for its products.
That said, don’t expect to get rich selling off your Lionel trains. But if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.
Someone asked me recently for a cost comparison of MTH Realtrax vs. Lionel Fastrack. Both are similar O gauge track systems with plastic roadbed. MTH’s system has been on the market a few years longer, but Lionel’s is more popular, in spite of being more expensive.
Let’s figure out just how much more expensive it is.
Since my advice on selling other makes of trains was popular, I thought I would give similar advice on selling Marx trains. Marx never got the respect that its competitors got, but its trains have built up a following over the years, and in the last decade as I’ve watched prices on competing trains slide, Marx has held its value.
Don’t expect to get rich selling off your Marx trains, but if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.