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Prewar Lionel

Re-attaching prewar Lionel trucks

This past weekend I scored a poorly repainted Lionel #602 baggage car (made from 1915-1923) and an Ives #71 passenger car (made 1923-25) at an estate sale. The Ives was in good shape and original, but one of the Lionel’s trucks was detached and one of the hook couplers was broken. Fortunately I was able to find the loose truck, and the repair was as simple as you can get.Read More »Re-attaching prewar Lionel trucks

Installing trucks on junker train cars

Sometimes a train car breaks, and sometimes you get a good deal on a train car that’s missing its running gear. Whatever the reason, sooner or later most hobbyists find themselves needing to attach trucks to the underside of their train cars, and if they’re like me, they soon find that using a regular nut and bolt doesn’t cut it–the nut works itself loose after a few times around the track, which leads to wobbly running, which leads to derailments.

There’s a solution other than expensive riveting tools, if you’re just interested in making cars run well, rather than restorations that are as historically accurate as possible. For about 15 bucks, you can get enough parts to do 50 cars.

Read More »Installing trucks on junker train cars

An easy coupler height fix for prewar American Flyer

So I picked up this oddball car at Marty’s Model Railroads a couple of weeks ago. It’s a Lionel/American Flyer hybrid: A Lionel 807 cattle car on a prewar American Flyer 8-wheel frame. It has the awful prewar Lionel latch coupler on one side and the oddball AF hook coupler (with the funny-shaped tab) on the other. It’s compatible with everyone else’s hook coupler, fortunately. The Lionel coupler is compatible with nothing.

It was intended as a conversion car, but it rides too high, so the Lionel coupler won’t connect with a Lionel car. Bummer.Marty and I came up with a couple of possible remedies. I could replace the Lionel coupler with one that has a longer shank. I could replace the Lionel coupler with one that attaches with a screw or rivet, and make a bearing with a piece of brass tube to lower the coupler, and attach all of it with a long bolt.

I came up with another solution that doesn’t require any disassembly of the car. That’s good, because these prewar cars weren’t intended to be disassembled, and generally you can only disassemble and reassemble once. Obviously, this car got its second disassembly and reassembly when it was put on the Flyer frame. I could probably get by with just removing the roof, but the paint’s in pretty good shape and I’d rather not mar it.

American Flyer copied Ives’ oversized wheels. I happened to have the car close to a 6-wheel Marx car, and noticed the difference the smaller Marx wheels made in the car height.

So I pulled out some spare Marx wheels and swapped them in for the Flyer wheels. As I suspected, the car started riding lower. It wasn’t quite a perfect match for the height of a Lionel, but it was close enough. The Lionel latch couplers have enough play in them to make a secure connection.

Of course, the height was no longer a perfect match for American Flyer either. But these couplers have lots of play in them too, and that oddball AF design gives a more secure connection than the more traditional tab-in-slot couplers used by everyone else, so the cars connect and stay connected there too.

Marx wheels are cheap, because the standard Marx wheel stayed in production for almost 40 years, and Marx sold millions of train sets. So lots of parts survive to this day.