If you are interested in second hand items you want to be sure to check for a few things. As with all online purchases, purchases on EBay are subject to a picture and description. You can‟t hold the item in your hand and inspect it to ensure it‟s as good of quality as you‟d like it to be.
A good rule of thumb is purchasing only items that have a good description and several pictures. Close-up type pictures are best, but honestly some dealers just don‟t think of it, it doesn‟t automatically mean they are trying to hide something. You do want to deal with a dealer that will take multiple pictures from multiple angles. This will give you a full picture of your possible purchase.
Be sure to study these photos with extreme care. If you need better photos don‟t hesitate to contact the seller to see if more photos can be provided. There are some things you need to look at prior to making the purchase and additional photos might be the only way to tell. It‟s very important that you look the photos over for rust. Also check the collector roller and assembly. You need to see how warn it is in order to tell how much it‟s been used. If the seller is claiming the engine is 50 or more years old and has a shiny new collector roller that just means it‟s been replaced. You should look to see if there are any obvious repairs and if they look to be in good condition.
Check the wiring and electronics if possible. What you don‟t want to see on the engine is cracked wires, sloppy connections such as poor soldering, and disconnected wires. This means that the engine wasn‟t cared for properly. Make sure that the headlight socket is also well connected. If you can get a look at them, check the brush motors to ensure they are in good shape. Yes eventually all wiring goes bad, what you don‟t want to pay for is an engine that supposedly works but hasn‟t been taken care of. You might find repairs to the wiring during your inspection but that‟s okay as long as the repairs are good repairs.
You will also want to check the wheels. If you are looking for an engine that hasn‟t been run the wheels are where to check. Wear on these are an indication of usage. Even if you don‟t care if the engine has been run a lot you still need to check for rust, chips, and cracks. You can make a determination on how the engine has been cared for if you see chips and cracks. Check the axels to ensure they are not bent as well.
A few other things to check for before purchasing a used train are: is the engine dirty or just discolored? Dirty engines doesn‟t necessary mean that it hasn‟t been taken care of but sometimes it‟s hard to tell dirt from discoloration in a photo. If you‟re in doubt contact the seller to verify. You also need to know if the engine is a working engine or not. This is not a bad thing either. Many people buy non-working trains and fix them up themselves, it‟s part of the charm. That being said you don‟t want to do business with a seller that claims to have a working engine that actually doesn‟t work.
Also look for any burred or missing screws. Burred screws shows lack of care. Burred or missing screws generally mean someone that didn‟t really know what they were doing took the train apart. This is not a good thing.