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  • Model Train Repair Bleg

    Posted by Dan from Madison on November 16th, 2012 (All posts by )

    I have inherited from my father his toy train set from when he was a kid. It is really, really cool. There are a lot of accessories, such as a watering tank with a spout that moves, a coal car that tilts and dumps out the “coal”, a lighted circus billboard, a cattle stockyard complete with eight head of cattle and car that they walk into, and more.

    The problem is that this set is so old that many of the wires for the controls are brittle and cracked (and hence unsafe) and the engine/tender needs a lot of love. It is a Gilbert American Flyer 3/16″ set. Pictured below is the engine and tender.

    Does anyone know of a guy who I could ship this stuff to for repairs because this is way out of my MO. Thanks.


    7 Responses to “Model Train Repair Bleg”

    1. Stan Says:

      This site may be helpful.
      With my dad’s Lionell trains, the issue was deteriorating cast parts, usually wheels. Replacements mostly seem to be available.
      The wiring is easily replaced if you know how to solder. Use stranded wire of similar gauge and color and take lots of photos .
      Lurk on various sites such as

      Note that running the trains will require a bit of fiddling and may start you down the slippery slope.
      As for safety, all of the trains of that era run on low voltage (~16V) AC or DC, so unless the transformer/ speed control is shorted, you may just get a tingle.

      Good luck and have fun.

    2. Dan from Madison Says:

      Thanks Stan. There was a transformer in there. Not quite sure how everything hooks up yet but working on it. Thanks for the links.

    3. Mike K Says:

      There used to be a great model train store in Culver City, near LA. The building it was in was a model of Union Station in LA. I used to hang out there but it moved to the Valley, probably due to a decline in model train enthusiasm. This is it. Too bad they gave up their other site. They do advertise repairs.

    4. Mitch Says:

      I have had good luck with Charles Ro ( They restored my childhood Lionel engine, and one of my boys indulged his HO fetish there for many happy years. They are local for me.

      There must be model train companies in WI. When I traveled there on business (Neenah area), there was a restaurant that had trains running under glass in the dining room tables. Surely they had someone nearby they could call.

    5. Dan from Madison Says:

      Mitch – I emailed a couple locals yesterday with no response. I will keep trying.

    6. Stu Says:

      I used to write repair articles for an American Flyer magazine. I’ll give you a copy of the articles (reprinted years ago in 32-page booklet form) for the price of media mail postage — probably about $3.

      Even brittle wire is NOT unsafe to you; but a short in, say, the locomotive or the track could trip the circuit breaker in the transformer (if it has one).

      Often long-stored locomotives will run just fine if they are given a generous bath of WD-40 — no disassembly required. Turn the locomotive upside down and spray everything you can see and everyplace the red WD-40 nozzle wil go. Ditto the tender (“coal car”) — which is where the reverse unit is located. Then place the loco and tender upright on a paper towel (to catch the WD-40 drips) and leave it for several hours or even overnight.

      If the loco does not work or has loose wires, you’ll need a soldering gun to repaid — just follow the wiring diagrams in my booklet.

      Oh, and get some fine (not coarse) sandpaper and clean the flat tops of your track sections to assure good flow of electricity from the transformer through the rails through the metal wheels on the tender to the motor (and headlight of your locomotive) and back.

      Glad to help via email — no charge — have fun.

    7. Stu Says:

      Also you might get Tom Barker’s book:

      Gilbert American Flyer S Gauge Operating and Repair Guide (Volume 1) [Paperback] Thomas B. Barker

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