hi everyone trainfam here,

I am in the midst of restoring a Marx 416 light tower, I have found matching paint, but still have a question about preparing the repaint. Will I have to prime the metal before putting on the paint? I am questioning this because when I removed the paint, I did not see any primer underneath the paint. So that being said I just wanted to make sure that I should prime the signal and what primer to use.


Original Post

I would recommend that you prime the item before painting.  Although the originals were not primed, adding primer to a repaint will help the paint adhere to the metal.  

What did you use to strip the old paint? That’s the million dollar question. Painting any object is 99% prep and 1% painting. If you used a chemical stripper, clean & prepare the raw metal. Wash with alcohol first, then use scotchbrite to abate the metal. Then clean once again with alcohol. Prime, and topcoat as per paint mfr. instructions.......what primer you need to use will depend on the topcoat being applied. Not all paints play well together.......Pat

The Water Level Route.......You Can Sleep

Last edited by harmonyards

Thank you for the help and info harmony and nation. To answer your question “What did you use to strip the old paint?” I used vinegar to strip the old paint, as odd as it sounds. 


TrainFam posted:

Thank you for the help and info harmony and nation. To answer your question “What did you use to strip the old paint?” I used vinegar to strip the old paint, as odd as it sounds. 


Old time trick! Way cool!...old lacquers don’t stand a chance against vinegar or vinegar spirits....what top coat are you using? rattle can enamel? If so, just use an appropriate rattle can primer and follow the directions on the can....biggest part, have fun doing it.......Pat

The Water Level Route.......You Can Sleep

Hi harmony, thank you for the help. Yes, I will be using rattle can enamel (specifically rust oleum) just seems to work better than with any type of brush on enamel. Easier to use without the finished product looking sloppy. I will try to post pictures of the finished project as soon as possible. But with the weather here you never know when the repaint process will be possible.


                                        Thanks, trainfam 


@TrainFam are you working on a red/black or green version? Are you concerned with getting the inside portion of the tower girders completely covered without excessive outside coverage or drips? Sounds like a fun project....enjoy and post some pics.




TCA 82-17718

Intracoastal Model Railroad Club Member


Lionel Trains’s the hobby that gets better with age!!!

Last edited by Rich Wiemann

Hi Rich. Regarding the colors of the signal, it’s the red/black variant which I am working with. I am not too concerned with dripping or outside excessive coverage. I suppose that the only thing that I am worried about is the weather and painting the parts that don’t need to be painted I.E. the light fixtures. Also, if anyone could tell me how to rewire this piece without access solder? But thankfully I was able to disassemble the whole piece so that overlapping of different colors does not occur. I have done some research about this piece and how to restore so I have some knowledge when the actual restoration happens. 



I love these, and have about a dozen on my layout.

 Some things I’ve noticed in restoring the ones that required a respray...

The tower’s individual components rely on conductivity between all the metal parts to supply the grounding circuit.  I’ve restored several that a repaint was applied too thick, and were sold to me as ‘non-functional.’  Simple removal (or reduction) of the paint between sections remedied this.

I believe Marx’s choice not to prime was intentional for this reason.  While I’d agree in nearly every instance that priming before paint is the best way to go, for this particular job, no.  Giving the metal a “key” by scuffing it with fine sandpaper & insuring it’s oil free with acetone, will give the paint all the adherence it needs.  

I assume this is for an indoor layout, and won’t be subjected to weather.  If it is going to be outside and you want the utmost paint protection, you can run a ground wire down from the lights internally,  to the common thumb screw.  




Last edited by FlyPlanes-PlayTrains

Ok, thank you for the information, I know that certain items produced by Marx are tricky to get to work properly than others. And yes, this is for an indoor layout.


Every time I have done a tinplate restoration, I have never used primer. I do however sometimes bake the pieces for a harder finish.



Clean metal is key .  

For best adhesion and better metal protection than average, look at etching primers. They bond to metal chemically and don't have topcoat compatibility issues I've ever seen.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Glad to see very good advice from everyone! Updates will be coming soon...



Hi everyone, sorry for the untimely update. Just got done with the repainting process, now The paint is drying. Photos will be coming...



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