How can I get an old train set running good?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by chronister, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. chronister

    chronister New Member

    Hello. I have a Lionel train set that's about 50 years old. The 15 VAC transformer works, and the train runs, but it's very slow and seems like it's having trouble. It seems to almost stop at certain places in the track (especially on turns). There is a strong ozone smell when the train is running.

    I've tried cleaning the track with alcohol, and even Brasso since I thought maybe tarnish (rather than dirt) was the problem. Maybe helped a little but not much.

    Do you have any suggestions as to what might be wrong, and how I can get this old train running like new again?


  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Hi, and welcome to the Gauge.

    There are several things required to make your train run, One is adiquate and consistant voltage along the tracks. Second is good electrical contact between the tracks and engine, and between the wheels and the motor. Thirdly is good mechanical operation.

    You can assure constant voltage by wiring your power pack to several locations along the tracks. You can be assured of good contact between the tracks and wheels by cleaning both. Tracks get dirty and corrode, so do the wheels. Most of all, you probably need to clean and lubricate your engine. I'm not the Lionel type, but I'm sure there are those here that can help you with advice on how to do just that.

    The ozone that you smell is probably coming from the motor arcing because the rotor is dirty and not making good contact with the brushes.

    Good luck and come on back, there's bunches of people here that can help you, no matter what type of train you run. I just can't be of help on specific Lionel problems.
  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge :wave:

    Having just finished a whirlwind cleaning session with all my Christmas equipment, I'll tell you how I do it and you can modify it for your Lionel as they all pretty much are the same in this regard.

    First thing I do is clean all my wheel surfaces with a Q-Tip dipped in alcohol. Do this 'till it comes up clean. Then I open up the gear train as much as possible---the cheaper the loco, the less likely it is able to be disassembled---and clean the gears with an old toothbrush and alcohol, scrubbing 'til the goop is gone. Then I replace the grease with a good, plastic compatible light grease. Some fishing reel greases are good for this, just make sure they are plastic compatible. Around the motor I take and add motor bearing oil (again, plastic compatible) to each end of the motor. Finally, I place Wahl Hair Clipper Oil, just a drop, right on the commutator and brushes of the motor. I then reassemble and run it in forward, then reverse, for about 10 minutes each way.

    BTW, the ozone smell is pure heaven to a tinplater, my Marklin just wouldn't be the same without it :thumb:
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Another problem that develops over half a century is that the rails open up at the joints. You can tighten them up with a pair of long nose pliers applied just below the pin, or where the pin goes in at the other end. There may be dirt/rust/tarnish on the pins and inside the rail ends; I've no idea how to get the insides clean.
  5. chronister

    chronister New Member

    Thanks for all your advice. The suggestion to go inside the locomotive was what did it. Once I took the lid off, I found two spots in the motor where it said "OIL" and when I put oil there, as well as some other obvious spots like the gears, it completely solved the problem!!!

    When I was a kid I had HO trains that all ran on DC. This AC system is a complete mystery to me. I remember reading once that the 3-rail system is intended to allow the locomotive to turn around and I understand that. But how does the mechanism work that determines the direction in which the train will run? On mine, the train reverses direction when I turn the throttle off and back on again. (I know some newer units have a forward/stop/reverse button on the controller.) Plus there is a switch on top of the locomotive but I'm not sure what that does. Sometimes it seems to prevent changing the direction at all. The switch connects internally to some sketchy coil type of device with unknown function.
  6. lionelfan

    lionelfan Member

    The switch you are refering to is to lock the direction of the locomotive and to prevent the switching of direction when you turn the transformer off and on.

    As far a the track, you can use either Scotch scouring pad or Bright Boy to clean the track. As mentioned earlier, clean track and good electrical connections are essential for proper operation. Also as you have done, cleaning and oiling the locomotive is important.

    Enjoy your Lionel train!!! By the way, what number this locomotive? I assume it is a steam engine.
  7. chronister

    chronister New Member

    It's a Diesel Switcher #225. Dark blue with Chesapeake & Ohio markings. Scouring pad seems like a good idea since it still hits some slow spots on the track. It goes fine if it's above half throttle, but at half throttle it still wants to stop in certain places. Do you know when these were made? My father in law said it was around 1960 but he wasn't sure. Thanks for the scouring pad tip.
  8. lionelfan

    lionelfan Member

    #225 is an Alco which was an A-B-A setup. It believe it was made around 1959 to about 1961 era and could be gotten seperate. A friend of mine had one and it came in a set with the exploding box car, and he got the set around 1960.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    chronister: that coil device is the E unit. It is a contraption (my wife's word) that has a DPDT switch function.
    If you know how a DC motor works, picture the motor with an electromagnet instead of a permanent magnet for the field. Because the AC changes direction 60 times a second, the fields in the field magnet and the armature flip at the same rate, keeping them in sync. If you put a reversing switch on the field magnet, you can change its field relative to the armature and the motor runs the other way.
    The E unit does this field reversing. I've seen it explained, but I don't remember the details.
    So the loco direction is entirely determined internally. You can have a lot of fun trying to match up 2 diesels to run back-to-back.
  10. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Hey Nathan, nice to see another member of the family here at the Gauge!

    One more thought (I collect prewar Lionel myself). You've had good advice here and figured out the oiling the motor thing for yourself too. However, the fellow that tied the ozone smell to arcing is right, and oiling is unlikely to fix that. The problem is that if you continue to run it that way, you're likely to end up ruining the brushes, commutators, etc. and then you have a real salvage job on your hands.

    If you continue to get that smell, the solution is easy and near-infallible, though it sounds drastic.

    Remove the motor from the loco. Soak it in a bucket of paint thinner overnight, take it out and let it dry thoroughly. IMPORTANT: RE-lubricate it. ALL lube will have been removed along with the dirt, gunk, etc.

    This will generally make it run far, far better - often just like new. I've done this to Lionel motors that I thought unsalvageable and it works like a charm.

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