VERY excited! Found MY train ;)

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jjjetta, Jun 17, 2004.

  1. jjjetta

    jjjetta New Member

    I hope I don't get laughed out of town here. Wasn't sure if I should post this in "technical q & a", or here in "HO scale":

    In the late 70's/early 80's I had a Tyco HO set called the "Chattanooga Choo Choo". I am now 31 years old, and I have been missing that train set for years. Well, I just got one in the mail via Ebay! It appears to be complete - all cars, track, accessories, even the liquid smoke is there!

    I have set it up (very very basic beginner here), and the train runs rough. It "balks" and "hesitates". The lady that sold it said it was NEVER used. It does appear to be in perfect condition, though the track seems not as shiny as I recall mine did when I was little. This engine has a permanently connect coal car. The engine runs, but like I said, not well, and the coal car (also with metal wheels, must be an "engine" too?) "SQUEEKS" really bad as it rolls along.

    I understand that Tyco hasn't supported these products in over a decade. Some say that Tyco is crap anyway, but I don't care, this was MY train as a kid, and it is the only one for me as an adult at this point. :)

    What can I do to get her running smooth? Maybe she just needs a nice lube-job or tune-up? How do I clean the track to get it shiny? Does anyone know of a hobby shop that will clean and tune a Tyco steamer anymore?

    Thanks much for your help/feedback! I can't wait to get it running smoothly.

    - Justin
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Justin,

    Welcome to The Gauge! A great place for all kinds of model railroading, even the stuff some consider "toys". My first train set (still have it) is a middle of the road Bachmann set. I have three of the four original cars, and the engine still pulls like heck. Just ignore the "fire in the cab" headlight...! ;)

    Anyway... after all this time, you engine probably is in need of an overhaul - cleaning out dust and lubing to start. Go very carefully, and take notes about how (and what) you take it apart. I use a stack of mini ziploc bags to store and label parts as I am going.

    As for the track - a good metal polish will remove the oxide and restore the track. If that does not work with a clean cloth, then try a "Bright Boy" - this is more abrasive, so go gently. Your track is probably brass, so expect it to return to a bright yellow colour, and to have to clean it a bot more frequently than the "new" nickel silver stuff. While you are at it, the loco and the tender should have their wheels cleaned. You can also do this with a q-tip and a tiny amount of the polish.

    One last thing you might want to consider is not to restore it - just display it, especially if you value it for it's "collectability".

    Good luck!


    PS - Any chance of a picture of the set?
  3. jjjetta

    jjjetta New Member

    thanks. no pics yet. but, if you do a search on Ebay for "Chattanooga Choo Choo" you will get some hits. don't pay attention to the newer models. they don't have the cars that my set from the late 70's has. they don't compare, haha. mine has the electric horn and billboard, the workable "crane" car, the Gulf three topper tank car, the Old Dutch cleanser car, the red cab, and a type of "work" or "panel" type car. the Crane car and the Panel car came in a big box together. the engine itself has a light, and it smokes. that smell brings memories of being a kid flooding back to me in seconds!

    just set it up last night. it really is very basic. but it just has lots of memories for me. most others would probably find it really lame. but like i said, i am so happy to have it again.

    gotta be honest, i am scared as hell to take the engine a part myself. there isn't a place that i could send it to get cleaned and overhauled? i called a few local shops, no one will touch Tyco anymore, they say there are no parts. i don't think it needs actual "parts".....just a good cleaning.

    so, rubbing alcohol will do that trick on the track and wheels, right?
  4. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    The loco itself is unpowered. The tender is the power unit. Them locos were known for being hard to push due to the smoker, rods binding, and bearing friction. A little Labell model oil in the wheel bearing areas and on the rods will help as will putiing a couple drops of smoke oil in the bell hole. The tender will be the one you will need to remove the cover of and oil the motor bearings and gears. All these should be oiled sparingly. The track was brass and will need cleaned with alcohol and then polished a bit with a brite boy which is a rubber eraser with some grit in it. Polish just the tops of the rails. Then run it a while and it should start running better. Did I mention cloean the wheels too? Now be aware they didn't run real good when they were new and will derail in turnouts pretty regular if you add any to the oval. They are fun, just don't expect too much from it. And please don't take the loco apart. FRED
  5. jjjetta

    jjjetta New Member

    ahhh, good to know! thanks for that. so the coal car is the actual "engine" in this case...

    thanks much!
  6. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Another thing you might notice, there is a wire between the tender and the loco. The tender has rubber tires on one side. The tender picks up power from the bare metal wheels off of one track and get's its power fro the tired side from the loco. The loco also gets power from both wheel sides to power the smoker and headlight. That little wire will sometimes break and they will not run. but the headlight and smoke will work. Just a future thing to watch out for. Fred
  7. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member


    I had a Tyco train set as a kid too, but my memories have never been that fond, since cheap train sets never run very well. If you do the following: clean, lube (sparingly) the engine & tender, and shine the track, that will allow your set to run as well as possible.

    I have always been unhappy with train sets because of their cheapness, and they probably discourage more kids and teens from getting into the hobby because of the poor quality they generally have. But, different strokes for different folks. I would never recommend buying train sets to anyone getting into the hobby, but in some limited circumstances, they do serve a purpose. Memories can be one of them :)
  8. Benny

    Benny Member

    Riogrande, I think this is one example where the Nostalgia of the trainset, no matter what the quality, is responsible for bringing one back to us. That should never be discounted! And besides, there really is WAY too much potential and opportunity available to teenagers (and always has been) for them to get tied down to this hobby in the serious way most of us are about it. Now when these kids get all grown up, married, and into middle age, then they are perfect, because they know about the hobby, have a little disposable income(or at least the ability to save towards something), and have some time left over at the end of the day, especially once the TV is turned off.

    Justin, concerning your engine. I have one, and after I tore it all the way doiwn, i can full tell you that it is a very simple mechanical design but it is a bit of a puzzler if you are not mechanically inclined. if you that the engine part, the odds are great that you will snip a wire, or you will have a ball of a time getting it back together. Whenever I am a little challenged, and need a challenge, try reassembpling the steam chest and the siderods, Boy is that a hard one to put together (actually, all Mantua/Tycos will be challenging here, but it only takes patience to reassemble the thing).

    In the future, I am probably going to use the powered tender for something, but as of yet I cannot figure it out. I might put it behind an Athearn Snowplow, or a crane, one I identify those that were self propelled. Ad then again, I might use that drive for scenery animation, as it is simple but not really made for power or heavy hualing. The tender is very easy to take apart, at least the shell is, it pops off onc eyou put a little air between the tabs that hold it careful doing that, it doesn't take much to send the screwdriver point ripping through the plastic wall.

    Now of course most shops won't touch this locomotive with a ten foot pole. Not only is it not reall worth it, but they also have a slew of new engines they have to sell anyway. I personally think that the shops where people tinker and fix things are rapidly disappearing, or atleast, have been disappearing over the last 30 years. It really helps when the mentality is "throw it away" when it breaks.

    My personal suggestion to you is that you find a Spectrum 2-8-0. It would eb best that you get it from a shop, where you can test it first. The Bachmanns that run good are sweet, but the lemons in this case are the same color as the oranges. If you get a lemon, Bachmann will help you out for a fee. There is one other problem, and that is your new spectrum will have knuckle couplers, so I would then suggest getting an Athearn car, and puting a knuckle coupler on one end and a hornhook couple of the other end, allowing you to use your heritage fleet without decimating its value(sic!).

    And a couple of books on building models, a few old magazines...polly!
  9. jjjetta

    jjjetta New Member

    thanks for all of the replies! i know, i know, my Tyco set is cheap. and i knew i would get frowned upon for coming in here a little bit, but i was at the end of my rope.

    i really appreciate everyone in here. i found a local guy here in Loudoun County VA that says he can tune up my unit.

    anyone ever used ?
  10. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Hey, no worries about being frowned on...most of us started with a train set...I did too, by Tyco no less! :) Mine was a Penn Central set with a silly GREEN F-unit and a Burlington Route caboose! I loved it! I still have the engine but removed the motor, painted the shell black, and added PC logos. I run it as a dummy in front of a powered B unit and its just fine. I like still being able to keep my first HO engine.

    You asked about alcohol for track cleaning. Yep, it works well. I also run engines over an alcohol soaked piece of t-shirt material tacked tightly over track. Hold the loco as the wheels spin themselves clean.

    Good for you, by the way!
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    When you get around to lubricating the unit yourself, make sure you use plastic compatible oils and greases. Labelle makes several, and they are labelled. (Pun not originally intended.) Its great that you have someone who will do it; see if he will show you how it comes apart. The body will either clip on or be screwed on. Finding the clips is the hard part. Making sure the screws undo what you want removed is a small risk. Stop when you get to the rivets.
    (Haven't been to leesburg hobbies. My wife's nephew lives outside Harper's Ferry and we drive through Loudon County to visit him -- all 500 yards :D Will try them the next time we're there.)
  12. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member


    I apologize if I sounded critical... I didn't mean to cast ill will toward you and I can understand how you may feel. The bottom line is if you are enjoying your trains. I know that people enjoy the hobby from many different levels so I hope you are successful at improving your set.

    The general point I was hoping to make is that most train sets are of low quality, usually to keep the price down. But that low quality can be discouraging to those who use them. So, having been in the hobby for some 30 years, I would always offer other alternatives to folks who are new to the hobby in hopes that their experience will be more encouraging. Cheers. :)
  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    This is The Gauge... You should never feel "frowned on". It is all about the trains, new or old, steam or diesel, plastic starter sets or high-end brass. I think that people are giving you good info, and trying to manage your expectations. A 20-something years old starter set is just not as good as a) the new stuff, and b) you remember ;) I think people just don't want you to be disappointed. But you sound like you know what to expect.

    Good luck with the tune-up! You can tackle it yourself if you are careful and patient. Just label everything as you go. If you have a digital camera, take pictures to help you get things back together. To clean it, you probably do not have to do too much beyond just removing the shell of the loco and tender. Be sure to get all the dust and fuzz out before you add any more lubricant, and go very lightly on the lube - I use a pin to put little drops where required. Never squirt it right out of the bottle, no matter how small you think the nozzle is...! (ask me how I know... ;) )

  14. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Don't feel that way, howdo you think I so knowso much about them? Don't be afraid to ask here. Fred
  15. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    Hey, I had the Chattanooga Choo Choo when I was a kid!

    One thing I recall was there was a little gear attached to the motor shaft which would sometimes spin on the shaft, and the motor would run but nothing would happen. A VERY small amount of ACC (super glue) will hold the gear to the shaft, but don't get it anywhere else. This happened with a couple other Tyco engines I had too.

    Enjoy your train ride down memory lane!
  16. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    My very first HO scale set was a Tyco. The one with the Santa Fe Plymouth switcher and a couple of cars. You could pick up Tyco freight cars at any retailer back then in the toy section, and they were cheap. Better-Half bought a box of "junk" cars at a show a couple of years ago that had some Tyco cars. Some KD conversion couplers and trucks, some weathering, and you can't tell the difference between anything on the market today.
  17. Mastiffdog

    Mastiffdog Member

    I have a few nostalgic trains from my childhood that I only display. I bought one of the "Pulaski" display cabinets and placed all my memories in it. Nothing great, but every morning and every night when I come home from work I pass by the case. I can't help but look inside and smile. The memories.

    Combine the memories with a new piece of equipment. The suggestion of a Spectrum 2-8-0 was very good. Start with a loco like that and buy a few new ready to run cars and some Atlas nickel track and a powerpack. See if you enjoy how it runs. If you are amazed, then you are on your way to a hobby you will never regret!


    Attached Files:

  18. b28_82

    b28_82 Member

    I remember mine being the Chattanooga Choo Choo. I think mine was the next design (early to mid 80s) I remember my engine had rubber wheels on the drivers for traction. After a while they dryrotted and came off and i couldnt get any traction out of it to move itself. That was sort of my start in the hobby and after a little bit my dad made a caboose that they bought for me as a transition car between the hornhooks that were on it and the kadees. A couple of those cars that came with it got changed and are still around the layout in the basement at my parents house.
  19. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    My Tyco set also had that little 4 wheel switcher - you had to run it fast or it would stall on turnouts and dirty track.

    As for converting and weathering the cars, that does do a world of improvement to them for sure, but I can still tell the difference between them and most of the better quality cars on the market today. At least, an experienced eye can easily see the difference as long as you haven't shaved off the molded on styrups, grab irons and roof walks etc. ;)
  20. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    another of the tyco crowd here, way back in 1976 when I was 3 years old no less

    Mine was the Tyco "Spirit of '76" diesel train in Seaboard Coast Line markings that came with 4 or 5 cars and a figure 8 of track.

    I would love to one day find one of those on Ebay and put it on display somewhere in the house for nostalgia's sake.

Share This Page