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How to Repair a Model Train Transformer

Model Train Transformer

Things You'll Need:

  • Wire strippers
  • Tweezers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Oxidation remover
  • Spare wire

The holidays are a special time, and one of my favorite events is the setup of the family train set below the Christmas tree. There's something about the smell of that old Lionel train chugging along the track with the plume of smoke trailing behind that just brings back good memories.

But over the spring, summer and fall, that model train set may have been exposed to some unpleasant conditions like a dank basement or a humid attic. When this happens, you may find that your model train doesn't chug the way it used to. In fact, when you turn the dial on the transformer it may fail to move at all! Here's how to troubleshoot and repair your model train transformer so you can have it up and running for the holidays.

Set up your model train set as you normally would, including the transformer to track hookups. Once that is completed, plug the transformer and slowly turn the dial.

Listen closely to the transformer to determine if you hear any buzzing sounds emanating from it. If you hear buzzing from the transformer, but not the train, then the track's contacts probably need to cleaned.

If you do not hear anything coming from the transformer, or you cleaned all of the contacts and the train still doesn't work, then we need to look at the transformer. Before you do anything, UNPLUG the transformer.

Make sure you are properly grounded and use the screwdriver to carefully open the transformer case by removing the screws.

Locate the capacitor inside the housing and use the screwdriver to discharge any stored voltage.

Inspect all of the wiring within the unit, making sure to search for loose connections, frayed wires or oxidized connections. If you find any broken wires, clean them up and use the soldering iron to replace them to their proper terminals.

If a wire is oxidized, use the soldering iron to remove the solder from the wire. Then, clean the oxidation from the wires by dipping them in the oxidation remover. Keep the wire in the solution until all of the oxidization is removed. Make sure it is completely dry before resoldering the wire back into place.

Once everything has been inspected and repaired, put the transformer back together and reconnect it to the track. Plug it back in and give it another test. If all goes well, the train should begin to move. If it doesn't, then the transformer may be unrepairable and should be replaced.

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