Reviving a Lionel FM Trainmaster?

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Muddy Creek, Aug 29, 2004.

  1. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    My father's loco & three "Lionel Lines" passenger cars have been sitting on my shelves for all my adult life. Last run in the early to mid-1960's.

    Just had an urge to want to see them moving under their own power again. Been thinking about a small Christmas layout in my front window.

    Need a transformer & track, & most of all need to know if disassembling & cleaning this big guy is something someone with my average mechanical skills should try. I doubt it would do much more than sit and scowl at me like an old plow horse if I tried to make it move.

    Re: transformers: Looked on eBay and spotted a number of ZW models like we had but for pretty hefty prices. (Never should have traded ours for that early N scale loco!) I see lots of others of various wattages but not sure how low (and how cheap) I can go. Track looks like it is pretty easy to find.

  2. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Wayne, track is very easy to find. No sweat there. And the full-size O31 tubular track held up really well. I just bought a box of assorted track this weekend at an estate sale. I paid $15 for it and must have gotten 50 sections. The September issue of Classic Toy Trains (still on newsstands but won't be much longer) had an article on cleaning up track.

    As far as transformers, it depends how many trains you want to run. I've been getting by with two transformers, a 1033 and a 1034 (90 and 75 watts, respectively) to run an L-shaped layout of two 4x8 boards. The 1034 was my dad's way back when, and I bought the 1033 used but refurbed at a local train shop for about $70.

    I just got an RW transformer (110 watt) at an estate sale for $30. It works except for the whistling portion. Now that I have a whistling tender, I care about that so I may have to look into fixing it.

    If you don't care about the whistling portion, you can buy an American Flyer or a Marx transformer and use it. Those are cheaper than Lionels of comparable wattage.

    As far as tearing into the loco, it'll be much easier to gain access to the motor and gearing on yours than it is on the small, cheap steamers Lionel made. I'd get one of the many books on repairing Lionel locos before trying it (Ray L. Plummer has written some, and there's another one titled "Dr. Tinker Repairs Toy Trains"). They might be hard to find in bookstores, but a good hobby shop is likely to have one, and my library has several so yours might too. If worse comes to worse, there's always

    Most likely all you'll really need to get the loco going again is a box of cotton swabs, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, some other all-purpose cleaner, some paper towels, some light grease, some light machine oil (3-in-1 will do; whatever you do, don't use WD-40), and some contact/TV tuner cleaner (try an auto parts store first, and if they don't have it, Radio Shack will but it's more expensive at Radio Shack).

    There's actually a decent chance that the loco will still run, but if the grease has hardened, you could burn out the motor trying to get it running. It's safer to clean it up and lube it before trying to run it again.

    Oh, and another book you'll want to get is one of Peter H. Riddle's books on wiring. If you want anything more complicated than a circle of track, his books have tons and tons of tricks. He'll walk you through setting up a 4x8 layout with three trains running independently.
  3. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Dave, Thanks for all the info. I'm probably going to build nothing more than a small, portable dog-bone loop so a smaller transformer should be enough. I had forgotten about the whistle function of the transformer.

    I just found a couple of used copies of "Beginner's Guide to Repairing Lionel Trains" by Ray L. Plummer so I'll start by ordering that. This should be a fun little project.

    Thanks again for your help. I hope to have the old Trainmaster pulling into the Lionelville Station on Christmas morning.

  4. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member


    That is neat that you have your father’s old Lionel train still. I think you will find those trains are real simple in the wiring department. If you have done any wiring on HO DC/DCC you should be fine here. Just remember that this unit will have a mechanical e unit. It should be a three position e unit, which is a barrel on its side. It will have ratchet teeth and turn in one direction. The contacts may need cleaning, although through the years of my Lionel train operation, those haven't been the problem. What I found to be the biggest problem was the comutater brushes on the motor. I used TV tub cleaner which is plastic compatible to clean the contacts on the motor where the brushes rub. Like Dave said check the grease on the truck gears and be sure they can turn. The way I do it is remove the motor, should be a screw under the truck, and then spray the cleaner in and on the gear area. I found that using WD-40 used sparingly will help loosen things up too. Good luck.

  5. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member


    Another thing I forgot to mention is these engines were AC. Hence the need for the e unit to change direction. You can use a DC transformer to run it, but it will only run in one direction.

    As an addition, a three position e unit will have (forward-neutral -reverse-neutral) and then start over again.

  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Very cool that you're getting your Pop's trains running again. These old engines are really easy to work on. The parts are big, relative to HO or N, and they are very open in nature compared to todays sealed "can" motors. Getting the "How to" book is a real plus.

    For your layout i see no reason to get more than a 100 watt transformer. 75 will probably do ok. Flyer, Marx or Lionel will all work but only Lionel will have the whistle function if that is important to you. Use a 14 or 16 gauge wire to get juice run around the track and use at least two track feeds, at opposite ends of course, to power up your layout.

    Have fun.
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Is this one of the units that used a battery for the horn? I remember that a lot of those had problems when the battery leaked in storage. (Boy, am I a wet blanket.)
  8. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Thanks to all for the encouragement and info. I have to limit the size of the layout and make it a portable for storage. An N scale layout is already starting to snake around the living area and real estate is at a premium.

    That's exactly the case and it has already happened long ago. After 40 years or so, I've forgotten exactly what I did to neutralize the battery acid way back when, but nothing seems to be eating through the bottom of the unit. anymore.

  9. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    A trainmaster and 3 lighted passenger cars draw a healthy sum of amps. An LW 125 watt is probably the smallest you should go. They can be had for around $75 or $100 for a good rebuilt. Buy a good rebuilt since you'll be taxing it. Plus old transformers are dangerous in their virgin state because insulation gets brittle causing shorts and foul smells.

    Try to get the widest diameter track you can fit. Trainmasters and aluminum cars are large and need open curves. Plus they are a blast to run the piss out of.

    For cleaning and tuning a trainmaster, start by removing the shell by unscrewing the two screws on the ends of the cab.

    If the hand rails are dirty stained and/or corroded, use automotive buffing compound and buff them with a soft rag followed by chrome wax. Be careful not to swipe the shell too badly if at all, especially the FM decals when doing this. Wash the shell with warm water, Dawn dish detergent, and a very soft cloth or dish mop. Be very careful around the FM decals, they scrub off easily when wet. Just dab around them. Use a soft toothbrush for crevices. Dry the shell by dabbing it with a towel the best you can and let the rest air dry. I prefer Dawn because it does not leave a film and I couldn't care less what Madge thinks about my wrinkles.

    Start disassembling the mechanicals with the motor brushplates. With a curved pick, pull the brushsprings back out of the brushholes and rest them beside the brush holes. The brushes should fall out by turning the chassis up. Remove the brushplate screws and pull the brushplates back (if the brushes didn't fall out, they should now). Inspect the brushes for wear. They should be not less than 1/4" long. New ones are available from most parts dealers.

    Unscrew the trucks from the motors by removing the screws under the trucks. The screws are counter set in the bottom of the truck frames. Desolder the pickup roller wires so you can completely remove the trucks. If you are careful, you can skip this step. It just makes cleaning the truck gears easier. next remove the truck side frames by unscrewing the screws where they attach to the top of the truck frames. With a stiff toothbrush, scrub and rinse the sideframes with Dawn and dry. Squirt the sideframes with WD-40 and let them air dry. Using mineral sprits in a 3 LB coffee tin (or similar tub), scrub and rinse the old grease off the gears and truck frame. Wipe frame and dab the gears with a cloth and let the rest air dry. After they are dry, using light oil in a needle oilier, put a shot on the axles where they enter the truck frame bushings. Also a shot where the spur gear shaft enters the frame (the spur gear is the middle gear). Spin the wheels and watch for excess oil and wipe it off the backside of the wheels. With a toothpick, dab white lithium wheel bearing grease on the spur gear. Lithium grease is good for this because it sticks to the gears well. Speed shops sell even better stuff. Spin the wheels again and wipe excess grease off the backsides of the wheels. Dab the worm gear inside the truck frames with a generous supply of grease.

    Back to the motor. First remove the E clip that holds the armature shaft to the neck of the motor frame using a curved pick. Pull the motor armature and shaft from the frame. As you do this, there are thrust washers and thrust bearings inside and outside the neck. These may drop out and/or you can pull them out with a curved pick. Note their position as you remove them. There should be a total of four thrust washers and two thrust bearings for each motor. Sometimes old oil will cause thrust washers to stick to the motor bushings. Just poke at them with a curved pick to get them out. On a rare occasion, I have found more than two thrust bearings for each bearing. This was to shim a bushing that was machined too thin. Scrub and rinse the thrust bearings and washers with mineral spirits and stiff brush. Also scrub the old grease off the motor shaft worm gear with mineral spirits. Squirt tuner cleaner in the brushplate holes and scrub them with a Q tip. Buff the motor armature face with a track cleaning eraser (a stiff white ink eraser works but not as well). Wipe armature face with tuner cleaner. When everything is dry, give the thrust bearings a shot of light oil and reassemble motor. A thrust washer goes on each side of the bearings. I prefer to position the thrust bearings so the ball side faces the motor frame. This is so the balls ride on the washers that take the most thrust and helps keep the oil contained. Keep the brush springs held back when doing this. Use a small screwdriver to carefully reinsert the E clip that holds the motor shaft to the motor neck. Install the brushes and reset the brush springs. Spin the motor shaft with your fingers to make sure it spins freely. Wipe off excess oil. using a toothpick, put a bead of grease across the shaft worm gear.

    Reassemble the truck sideframes, resolder the pickup roller wires, and reattach the trucks to the motors. If the screws become difficult to tighten, STOP. You may have jammed the gears and could damage them. Start over if this the case. Using the palm of your hand, spin the wheels. They should spin freely but there should be some resistance. Feel for any binding as you spin them. Wipe off any excess oil or grease. As one poster noted, squirt the moving parts and the solenoid shaft of the reverse unit with plastic compatible tuner cleaner. Energize the reverse unit a few times and squirt again.

    With the shell still removed, give the engine a few laps both forward and reverse. Stop the engine and feel the motors and trucks for heat. They should be warm but not hot. Do this about three times until you are confident there is no overheating. You'll find the aroma of hot grease is rewarding when doing this.

    Wipe any excess grease off the bottom of the truck frames and reattach the shell. Do not over tighten the shell screws or you can crack the shell. Your trainmaster should be ready to highball for years to come. Beyond this, a little grease on the truck gears and light oil on the axles is all that is needed every fifteen hours or so of running.

    A few people have reservations using mineral spirts on motor and gear parts. It is the cleaner of choice with several train mechanics and I've used it for years with no harm to bakelite or plastics used during the postwar days. I do not like alcohol. It does not clean as well and leaves a haze on some plastics. Especially postwar. Use plastic compaitible tuner cleaner on electrical contact parts. It is probably a good idea to use plastic gloves when scrubbing with mineral sprits or any solvent for that matter.

    For a full fledged tune up, I prefer to replace the following parts:
    Brushes (4) 622-121
    Brush springs (4) 622-191
    Thrust washers (8) 671M-23
    Thrust bearings (4) 681-121
    lamps (2) 1445
    Motor shaft E clip (2) 671M-22

    George Tebolt sells these parts
  10. Fred

    Fred New Member

    Reviving an old 1033 myself

    Hello All -

    Would someone be so kind as to remind me how the whistle function of a 1033 transformer works ? Does it simply boost the voltage/current to a higher threshhold value ?

    Why would'nt the tender just whistle constantly ? Why would'nt the Loco engine simply speed up with the activation of the whistle function?

    I'm trying to rationlize this in my mind after working on my family's 1950 set for about 18 hours straight.

    Might be ready by Christmas

    Thanks in advance

  11. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    When you activte the whistle lever, you are inducing DC electricity into the track. There is a relay in the tender called a "shaded pole" relay that only activates with DC electricity. The relay activates the whistle. The motor in your locomotive runs on both AC or DC. Because the momentary chops (60 times a second) in AC electrity are removed with DC, the engine speeds up (10 volts becomes around 12 volts). Modern electronic transformers prevent this by regulating the voltage.

    Sometimes the relay contacts in the tender get gummed up and the whistle won't work at all. The contacts can be cleaned with emery cloth. You have to do this carefully so you don't bend the copper strip. Another problem is the relay solenoid shaft gets stuck. This can cause the whistle to blow constantly or not at all. You can squirt the solenoid shaft with tuner cleaner and work it a few times.

    Sometimes the whistle lever on the transformer won't work. This can be dirty contacts that can be cleaned with tuner cleaner. The problem can also be a bad rectifier. The rectifier is a selenium disc and looks like a big washer. It should be replaced. You need to be cautious when working on transformers because there is 120 volt wiring in it.

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