Upgrading Polar Express?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by consultant, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. consultant

    consultant New Member

    I've been reading about the Lionel Polar Express. It seems the three main drawbacks are 1) No flywheel, 2) No RailSounds/TrainSounds, 3) CW-80 transformer not very highly regarded.

    Regarding 1 and 2, what about replacing the engine and tender with the least expensive Bershire 2-8-4 that has flywheel and TrainSounds? I believe that would be the Virginian at just over $200? Is there THAT much difference in the details between the two besides the words 'Polar Express' instead of 'Virginian' on the side. Could probably E-bay the Polar Express engine and to help finance the Virginian. (To bad you can't just buy the Polar Express Passenger cars?) Couldn't you just repaint the tender to say 'Polar Express' Does anyone think this is a good idea / worth doing?

    Regard 3, it seems reviews on the CW-80 are mixed. Seems like it works fine for the casual enthusiast if you don't plan on expanding the set and really getting into it?
  2. gruggier

    gruggier Member

    I had a similar question. This is the answear I got from a forum member:

    "Gruggier, the easiest way is to buy a new Railsounds tender (some people swap the tender bodies), but there are aftermarket upgrades available. www.electricrr.com is one company that sells upgrades."

    Whats a flywheel?
  3. consultant

    consultant New Member

    I'm just getting into this but basically from what I understand it makes the train coast when it comes to a stop like a real train instead of stopping more abruptly and shaking the cars. Not sure if it's that big a deal but supposedly having a flywheel is better.

    I just found on E-bay you can buy the passenger cars separate so techincally you could build your own Polar Express set using a better engine and tender with the Trainsounds. But the package deal is so good since it includes the track and transformer and the figures. The Polar Express Locomotive itself is selling for $100-$125 on Ebay which is about half the cost of the set. Probably would be lucky to get $100 for it if it is sold out of the set, and less if it were used. Heck, if I got $75 for it, and found a Virginian for about $200, then I'm looking at just $125 to provide a significant upgrade to the set.

    What I need to do is find some good pictures to compare the difference in details. I guess the Polar Express purist would prefer to have the replica of the actual Polar Express. Wonder if you could just swap bodies?? That would be the ULTIMATE solution. Which brings up another important question - is the scale of the PE Berkshire 2-8-4 the same as the Virginian?
  4. consultant

    consultant New Member

    Oops, I sorted glossed over the quote in your post. The tender upgrade/swap seems the way to go as long as the flywheel isn't that big a deal?
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    The flywheel (at least in HO models) is a big chunk of brass or other heavy metal around the shaft that comes out of the motor. Its job is to make the motor run more smoothly, not to provide any real momentum to the locomotive.

  6. gruggier

    gruggier Member

    I just sent an email to ask the www.electricrr.com company to suggest an upgrade if possible. I will let you know if and when I get some kind of answear.
  7. consultant

    consultant New Member

    Now I'm really confused. I've read reviews on the Polar Express that says it doens't have a flywheel, yet the engine and tender sold separately, Lionel 6-28649, it says right on the box "Maintenance-free Can Motor with flywheel" I also ran across a video of the train (can't remember where) and it definitely coasted when it came to a stop. So is there or isn't there a flywheel motor on the set and if not, then this means the engine sold separately is different than the one in the set?
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Coasting to a stop can be entirely separate from having a flywheel. The illusion of coasting to a stop is done by reducing the power available to the motor, casuing it to spin slower and slower. With DCC control systems this can be done automoatically (program the decoder for more or less "momentum") or with conventional (DC) controls by simply turning the throttle slowly to zero...

    The models, even the larger scales, simply don't have the mass required to "coast" - i.e. they can't overcome the inertia of the electric motor.

  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I think the CW80 transformer has some electric momentum effects. I haven't been able to spin the wheels on starting, yet.
    I think there are a few dtail differences on the loco -- pilot casting, IIRC.
  10. cucamonga loco

    cucamonga loco New Member

    The P Express does indeed have a flywheel. I saw it with my own two eyeballs when I pulled the loc apart to convert the lights over to LEDs.
  11. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    you can get the same cars that in the set, alone, plus you can get "ADD ON" cars, or packs of cars that go with the set but dont come with the set . im not sure, but i think you get 3 or differant cars with the set, but if you get all the add ons, theres like 10 or 12 cars in all. with no repeats. i have been wanting the set, but i just want the cars, ill use one of my steamers from the 50's or one of the ones i got grom the 60's to pull them with.

    one of the reasons i have not got them yet is from 2004 and newer all lionel stuff is made in china,,,,, i just cant bring myself to buy them.... i did breack down and change over the fast track tho.
  12. Brian R.

    Brian R. Member

    when lionel first moved to china their stuff was junk. However, the last year or so they have started to really produce solid, well designed trains. I bought a clinchfield challenger last year, only problem with it is that the compartment that holds the smoke fluid had a small leak. This engine has been a great runner throughout its time on my layout.

    I did not know they made 12 cars for the polar express set. Thought it was 7 total. If i got the polar express these are the changes i would do.
    1. Install brighter bulbs in the passenger cars.
    2. Change out the filamant on the windows to a bright yellow, like in the movie.
    3. Probably buy a TMCC engine with firebox glow and add LED lights, as stated above.

    If you are looking for a good transformer, try the LW or a 90watt transformer. They are both great transformers that hold up well. Also try a Lionel AC1803000. Nice small transformer that can run one train. Has a whistle and bell button. Can be had cheap on ebay.

    Good luck.
  13. consultant

    consultant New Member

    Can you add some more detail for us newbies?

    What size and wattage bulbs?

    How hard is it to change the bulbs out? (don't laugh :)

    How hard is it to change out the filament and do you know of an online source to buy the new filament from?

    What does TMCC stand for or do I even need to know?

    I've heard the transformer that comes with the set is adequate. What are the major advantages of using the other transformers?

  14. consultant

    consultant New Member

    Was this the engine that comes in the set? There was a review about this set. It appears either it did not originally come with a flywheel or only the engine and tender that is sold seperately comes with a flywheel.

    Is there an online source to buy the LEDs and how hard is it to change them out?
  15. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    im not buying the new lionel stuff from china because i think its all junk, im not buying it because when it changed over to china, it was one more AMERICAN company thats putting AMERICANS out of work

    i buy woodland scenics products not only because there good, but i know there made in the USA. and even in the midwest. in MO.

    i know when it comes to my N scale layout on some things i will have no choice but to buy stuff made in china or other places. but i do what i can.
  16. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    oh, im not for sure how many add ons there are, i was thinking 10 to 12, i know i seen ya ger the 3 with the set, then an expansion pack of 3. then i thought i seen on ebay 3 or 4 cars that sold sepritly that was not the same as the first six..... i may be wrong tho.

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