Should I switch to Fastrack?

A common question is whether to switch from traditional Lionel tubular track to Fastrack, or from traditional American Flyer track to the new S-gauge Fastrack.

If you make the switch, I stand to possibly make a couple of bucks from affiliate links. But my integrity is worth more than a couple of bucks, so let’s talk this through.

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Make display shelves out of rusty track

Make display shelves out of rusty track

Some people try to fix rusty track, while others argue it isn’t worth the bother. But if you’re in the latter camp, you still have options besides trashing it: Make display shelves out of it.

My local train shop offers questionable track to his regular customers for free whenever he gets it, rather than trashing it or selling something that an unfamiliar customer might be unhappy with. I turned down a box of O31 track recently, then came to regret it a couple of weeks later when I remembered I could have used it. But that’s OK–he’ll probably have more next Saturday. Or the Saturday after that if not. I had plenty of disused track in a big tub under my layout anyway.

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Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

Available diameters of tubular O and O27 track

A frequent question, especially for those who are just discovering or rediscovering vintage Lionel and Marx trains is what sizes of track are (or were) available, and how many pieces come to a circle.

Unlike other scales, Lionel marketed its track by diameter, not radius. As you undoubtedly remember from geometry class, radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge, while diameter is the distance from edge to edge. So a circle of O27 track is approximately 27 inches wide. O27 track stands about 7/16 of an inch tall, while higher end O gauge (also sometimes called O31) track stands about a quarter inch taller, at about 11/16 of an inch tall.

While we’re on the topic of track, here are some tips for connecting track if your new track isn’t going together as easily as it could, and some tips for screws to attach track to the table.

Here are the available sizes, in ascending order.

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Tips for connecting traditional tubular track

I saw a question earlier this week about working with Lionel tubular track. It doesn’t snap together quite as easily as modern Fastrack does, but it’s a lot cheaper, especially if you already have a bunch of it on hand.

I probably have 100 linear feet of tubular O27 track (Lionel, Marx, and K-Line) on my layout, so I’ll give some tips for working with it.

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Fixing track that gets hot at the track joints

I saw a question about a Fastrack layout getting hot at a track joint. That’s a conductivity issue causing voltage drop, which in turn causes the heat. While not likely to be dangerous, it’s a sign of inefficiency and can lead to other problems, such as the train slowing down at some parts of the layout. Poor conductivity also causes motors to run hotter than they should, which can eventually damage the armature.

I can think of two fixes, none of them especially expensive or time-consuming. And although this question was about Lionel Fastrack, it can happen with other makes of track too, and even other scales.
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How to clean inside Lionel tubular track

If the outside of your Lionel track is rusty or dirty, there’s a chance the inside is too. Here’s how to clean inside Lionel track.

The condition of the inside of the track is the standard reason people give for discarding old Lionel track rather than trying to fix it. But if you’re willing to put in some effort, this problem, too, is fixable.

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Lionel Super O track

If there was ever a cult following in Lionel-dom, Lionel Super O track has it. Super O was Lionel’s answer to American Flyer 2-rail track. Invented in 1951, patented in 1954 and finally introduced in 1957, it featured numerous plastic ties with a molded-in woodgrain, a 36″ diameter, and a thin copper center rail.

The people who liked it really liked it. But a new track system wasn’t enough to turn around a company past its prime. Super O was discontinued in 1966, three years before Lionel Corporation got out of the train business altogether and began a 20-year swan song as an operator of toy stores. But that’s another story.
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A Lionel Fastrack review

How Lionel Fastrack compares to traditional tubular track and competing O gauge track is a common question. I own both, so I can probably make a comparison.

For the most part, it’s not bad. But it’s not perfect. For some people, the drawbacks are easy enough to overlook. For others, they could be showstoppers. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

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Top posts of 2010: A retrospective

I don’t normally do this, but then again, I’ve never had these kinds of statistics at my disposal either. So I’m going to take a minute to look back at the most popular posts of 2010, and pontificate a little about what I think each one might mean.

I really only have good statistics since October, so it’s a little unfair, but incomplete stats are better than none. I see some interesting patterns in what people ended up reading, some of it surprising, some less so.

We’ll take it from the top, rather than like a DJ.

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