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Electroplating antique O-gauge Lionel model train track

(-----) 2006

Q. I have over two hundred pieces of Lionel train track that is losing its brilliance. Would the cost of trying to do the electroplating at home versus the cost of having this done professionally be any cost savings? Have witnessed some small electroplating done in a jewelry store. I know nothing more about the subject.

Thanks for your input,

John Briggs
audio visual specialist by trade - Winston Salem, North Carolina


A. Hi John,
If I remember correctly 0 gauge were nickel-silver plated? I think some were brass as well. By the time you purchase all the equipment you need which includes tanks, rectifiers, anodes, filter system, cleaners, activators, plating solutions, shipping costs, you will find having a qualified plating shop to do the job would cost much less. Home plating is a bad idea anyway, especially today with stringent EPA regulations. Homeowners can't acquire the proper permits needed for electroplating, and most reputable chemical suppliers will not ship to a home. What would happen if a parcel was accidentally dropped off at the wrong address and a child got into a box containing a hazardous chemical? Electroplating may look easy, but there is much more to it than meets the eye. Seek out a good plating shop in your area, for your safety and others as well. Good Luck!

Mark Baker
process engineer - Malone, New York


A. Not knowing what kind of plating you are talking about, I'd be hard pressed to give you an estimate on cost, but here goes:

If your plating can be legally done in your home (meaning you can get a hold of the chemicals easily) it is likely to be a fairly cheap process commercially as well. So, by the time you pay to get the chemicals and ship them to you the cost probably wouldn't be much cheaper at your house.

Cost aside - plating, as a rule, involves nasty and dangerous chemicals. There are a few exceptions, but they are EXCEPTIONS. Also making home-plating undesirable is that fact that to remove the old plating will require chemicals that may well damage your pieces if used incorrectly, come to think of it the same goes for the actual plating process itself. Finally, getting a good long-lasting coating requires careful control of a bunch of different variables; it is rare for a home plater to get a good finish on their first try.

So, IF you are plating a metal you can get proprietary solutions for cheaply, and IF you get fairly lucky in both cleaning and finishing, you MAY save a few dollars and you MAY be pleased with the result.

On the other hand, having them done professionally may not be as expensive as you think; and combined with the fact that it is an antique that you probably don't want to damage - I'd go with a pro every day.

Now, if you just wanted to de-rust them or something, that is a whole other ball of wax....

If you do decide to try it your self, use the search engine here to learn everything you can about the process and then make sure you are buying pre-mixed chemicals - trying to do it with raw chemicals makes everything more complicated. Also, check with BarrysRestoreItAll [a finishing.com supporting advertiser]sell a lot of nifty stuff that may shine your product back up without having to replate at all.

Good luck!

Jim Gorsich
Accurate Anodizing Inc.
supporting advertiser
Compton, California, USA
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