the craziest, and most perilous, model-train power source of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was electro-chemical, involving glass jars, water, live direct-current electricity hot-wired from a lamp cord, sheets of toxic-to-the-touch lead cut into jar-size rectangles, and sulphuric acid, which had to be poured on top of the water in the lead-filled jars, but never the other way around because water poured into a container of sulphuric acid will bubble, hiss, and splatter in every direction, burning holes in clothing and flesh alike. “It was not recommended for the clumsy boy,” Souter says in his best deadpan.
Better were the dynamos, be they hand-cranked or water-powered. “Little Brother would usually be the Dynamo Man for a model-train session,” Souter says, “cranking until the evening express arrived at the station, or until he blacked out, whichever came first.” The Carlisle & Finch water-powered dynamo was a less labor-intensive power source, since it was simply hooked up to a kitchen faucet to generate 8-to-10 volts of electrical current. “It worked fine until Mom had to make dinner,” Souter says.
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