Saturday, December 24, 2011

60 year old train works again

O those childhood years when one built the world from toy engines and plastic signs and buildo or minibrix (lego today) and gas pumps and thread strung on plastic telephone poles. I wondered if I could get our 60+ year old Lionel O-gauge train working again -  and it did for a moment - then all stopped.  Waited a while, worked again - but the couples come apart on the curves, then it stopped again.  Wait. Try the milk-car - unload button doesn't work, car comes off the rails on the special track. Glue applied to loose tracker under the milk car.  No more derail, but train stops again.  Check all connections.  Stumped.  Was it the track - off to wash it with 99% rubbing alcohol and scrubbies - no better.  Must be engine or transformer.

Off to the Railhead train store down the street. Always open when I get there, and testing the engine - tests out well - congratulations given on the emerald eyes still in place after 6 decades. But one of the steps on the front is missing - maybe from years ago... Then we test the transformer - definitely not working. Checked out a substitute - very few available and not quite compatible. While there are some parts inside the transformer that may be toast, it turns out when I removed the 4 screws, there was actually an anomaly inside - a 1/2 cubic centimeter accumulation of oxidized something or other on the circuit breaker.  It looked like an old capacitor but was clearly not supposed to be there, so I chipped it away with a screwdriver and it came off with patience and more alcohol (rubbing type). What fun - the transformer actually worked!

Got it home, set it up and it still works but the old tracks are a bit rickety so there are frequent derailments - must bank the corners. However, we have successfully rounded the bend several times without stopping because of an electrical malfunction.  Train does not uncouple on the curves unless I try and pull all rolling stock at once - too heavy.

Kudos to David Steele at Railhead for being there.  Now he may also be able to fix an identical transformer to mine that he had there with a similar accumulation of stuff on the inside.