When Lionel bulbs won’t light

They don’t make light bulbs like they used to. Well, at least they don’t make miniature light bulbs that work every time anymore, assuming they ever did. Here’s what to do when your brand new Lionel bulbs won’t light.

Lionel bulb won't light
This brand new Lionel bulb would only light intermittently. The solution was to add a touch of solder to the silvery gray tip of the bulb. Just a touch.

Here’s the scenario: I bought a 90-year-old house. A 90-year-old tin house, that is. A Lionel 184 bungalow. It came with a light inside, but no bulb of course. And when I put a new, made-this-year 1447 bulb in it, it didn’t work reliably. Some days it worked. Some days it didn’t.

The trick when a Lionel bulb lights intermittently is to take the bulb and add just a little bit of solder to the tip of the bulb so it makes better contact in the old socket.

Usually that’s enough to give the bulb a nice, secure connection so it lights up properly.

Replacing the socket with one that’s less worn works too, but it’s usually easier to modify a bulb than it is to replace a socket. I also feel better about modifying a 50-cent bulb than I feel about modifying a 90-year-old train accessory. It’s nice to keep things original when you can.

And of course this problem can theoretically happen to Marx and American Flyer as well, and the same trick works there too.

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