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rec.models.railroad FAQ-TINPLATE, Part 3 of 4

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 )
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Archive-name: model-railroad-faq/tinplate/part3
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Last-modified: 01-05-02

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

Part 3 of 4, Maintenance

This is a listing of frequently asked questions and general information
concerning the collection, operation and repair of collectable model
railroad equipment. For more info on this FAQ see part 1. Additions and
corrections are always welcome. E-mail to:
(Christopher D. Coleman)
TCA #88-26999
LRRC #0032070

This FAQ contains the following topics:

Part 1, Information


Part 2, Equipment

   * CARS
   * TRACK

Part 3, Maintenance

   * TOOLS

Part 4, The Hobby

   * MEETS


What tools are good for a tinplater to have?

     This is a basic list, see REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE TIPS for
        o bottle of track cleaner and rag
        o standard screwdriver set
        o miniature screwdriver set
        o miniature wrenches or nut drivers
        o vise
        o linesman pliers
        o needlenose pliers
        o tweezers
        o toothbrush
        o TV Tuner (non lubricating) or Zero Residue spray cleaner
        o pipe cleaners
        o erasers
        o fine sandpaper
        o lithium grease
        o light machine oil
        o test lamp (or multi-meter)
     Specialty tools available from parts suppliers:
        o track pliers
        o wheel puller
        o arbor press (step up from a vise)
        o spring bender

     AF Diesel truck rebusher
     Whistle Stop Hobbies
     258 Rt 356
     Apollo, PA 15613
     Phone: 412-568-1499

     Train Parts Tumbler (media polisher)
     Stu Perlmutter
     618 Cumberland St
     Lebanon, PA 17042
     Phone: 717-272-8481

     Arbor Press and other tools
     Hobby Horse Products
     PO Box 543
     Kendallville, IN 46755
     Phone: 219-347-3958

     Track Pliers, Wheel Puller, etc
     Marvin Laster
     1805 Hoffnagle St.
     Philadelphia, PA 19152


How should I lubricate my trains?

     For oil 3in1 MOTOR (not regular) oil is sufficient, but light machine
     oil for electric motors is best. For grease, light lithium grease in a
     small tube is good. The rule of thumb is to oil bearings and grease
     gears. Never use more than one or two drops of oil or a thin coating
     of grease. Excess will simply accumulate or fall on the track,
     collecting dirt and making electrical contact worse. Never lubricate
     needlepoint bearings or solenoid interiors. These are designed not to
     be lubricated and it would just gunk them up. Lubrication of older
     truck bearings is usually not needed except under extreme operating
     conditions. One small drop on either side of rollers periodically is a
     good idea. For the loco interiors see the next section.

My locomotive won't move.

     There are many possibilities. First take your test light or
     multi-meter, or a lamp post or other small accessory with two leads.
     With the power on, first test directly at the transformer. If there is
     no result, there is a defect in the transformer. Transformer repair
     can be dangerous and should not be attempted by an amateur. Check next
     at the track. If no response you have a bad connection to the
     transformer or dirty track. If this tests OK check your engine wheels
     for dirt or grime caked on. If all these test OK you may conclude it
     is your locomotive.

     To start working on your engine the first thing you need is an engine
     cradle. You can make one by assembling some 3/4" plywood strips to
     form an upside-down U or trough about 12" long and an interior of 4"
     wide and 4" deep. Coat the interior with clean foam rubber or thick
     felt. This provides a soft cradle for the top of your loco when you're
     working on the bottom. Next you need an exploded diagram for your
     loco. Greenberg has books of these for many makers. There are many
     different designs employed in locomotive construction so the following
     procedure is necessarily vague to cover many types of locos. It gets
     progressively more mechanical from here.

     To access the interior of larger steam locos there are often four
     screws under the frame screwed upward into the shell. Many mid-sized
     Lionel steamers use a rod through either side of the shell, just above
     the rear driver, to keep the shell on. To remove it use an
     appropriately sized punch and hammer to GENTLY drive it in one side
     and out the other. Drive in the direction in which it moves most
     easily. Newer diesel shells have two screws, one in each end of the
     plastic shell just above the frame (visible). Older style diesels have
     a rotating tab connected to a screw head under the frame at each end
     of the body shell. Rotate them 1/4 turn counterclockwise to disengage
     the tab from the shell. WHOA! Don't remove that shell yet. On many
     locos there will be a wire connecting the light in the shell to the
     frame. Be careful of this. On many Diesels the stamped steel railings
     will scratch a deep grove in your precious shell. Insert 3X5" cards on
     either side of the cab between the shell and railing first.

     After removing the shell you should see the motor and sequencer
     (Flyer's sequencers are in the tender, if steam). Find the lead that
     comes from the roller or insulated wheels. Run a wire directly from
     the transformer to it before the sequencer and connect the other to
     the frame. If the motor now runs you have bad wiring in your pickups.
     If not try the field lead not connected to a brushwell (see motor
     diagram below). If the motor runs either the sequencer or sequencer's
     wiring is awry. If it does not run then the problem is with your
     motor. For sequencer trouble, see the sequencer section below.

     This section covers universal AC/DC motors not DC only can motors. Can
     motors are a steel can with plastic ends. Universal motors are open on
     one side and have the wire wrapped field coil on the other and are
     much larger. See the motor sections for more details on this. Lionel
     universal motors come in two types, spur and worm geared. Worm geared
     motors will usually be mounted vertically or diagonally and have a
     corkscrew gear on the armature that mates with a gear with diagonal
     teeth. Spur geared motors are mounted horizontally and are usually
     used in mid-range to cheap steamers and cheap diesels. They use only
     gears with straight teeth. Some motors are more readily disassemblable
     than others. If it's won't come off, chances are it was never meant
     to. Worm gear motors are usually easier to service than spur gear

     To service your motor, first remove screws or nuts holding the
     brushplate on. BE CAREFUL when you remove it. There is a delicate wire
     connecting it to the field coil. If you break it off at the coil
     you've ruined the motor. Also the spring loaded brushes will pop out,
     so be ready. You can now see the three segment copper commutator.
     Inspect it for dirt or pitting. Clean it with zero residue cleaner or
     track cleaner, or if it is worse a soft pencil eraser. NEVER use
     anything harsher or abrasive. Clean the ruts between plates with a
     toothpick. Similarly inspect and clean the brushes, springs and brush
     wells. If pitting has occurred the part must be replaced.

     Not all armatures are removable but if yours is, do so and look into
     the gear cavity (for worm-gear motors). Remove old dirty grease as
     best you can and apply a thin coat of fresh grease. Look for worn
     gears. The gear that meshes with a worm gear is the most common to
     wear out. If you have a spur gear loco (mid to cheap steam locos) the
     spur gear of the armature is likely exposed in the opposite side of
     the loco from the brushplate. Again, remove old and apply new grease
     to all gears, including those on the wheels.

                             T         T     screws
                            ___O__^__O___    brush wells and armature bearing
                           |_____________|   brush plate

                               O     O       brushes
                              ____|____      commutator
                              | |   | |      armature windings
                                  I          armature shaft
                                  O          armature gear
                             H          H    mounting studs
                           +==============+  motor housing (field core)
                           |==============|        |  field coil


     Reassemble the reverse of how you disassembled but watch to mesh gears
     properly and if the brushes have grooves for the brush springs make
     sure they are properly aligned and right-side-up. When reconnecting
     plastic shells DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN!!! This will cause the shell to
     crack immediately or over time.

     DC can motors are generally unserviceable and should be replaced if
     they fail. They are usually mounted in the trucks. A drop of oil on
     the end bearings will help if they are exposed.

     Similar procedures can be used when servicing motorized accessories
     and whistling tenders.

What are warning signs for your locomotive?

     If your loco jerks as it runs or runs much better in one direction
     than the other, and you have eliminated all electrical problems, it
     likely needs a new motor armature. Most toy train motors have three
     pole armatures so if one is failing, the motor will push for two
     thirds of a spin and be dead weight for one third, causing jerking.

     A loco that makes a "jjjjjsssshhhiinnnngggg" noise may have worn
     gears. Inspect the gears. If the edges of the teeth are straight and
     angular they should be OK. If they have become curved and dulled they
     have become worn and will only get worse. Replacing gears and wheels
     may be expensive and difficult, especially on steamers.

     When traction tire equipped locos slip on grades, run your finger
     across the rubber tire. If this soils your finger the tire should be
     replaced. Grime sticks to the tires and reduces traction. Replace,
     don't clean them. They don't cost much, but are tricky to get on. If a
     magnetraction loco slips, the permanent magnet may have failed. A
     sharp blow can weaken a permanent magnet so dropping locos doesn't
     help magnetraction much. DON'T try to replace the magnet yourself! It
     takes special adhesive to connect them properly.

     A loco that jitters or stalls under light loads is saying "clean
     wheels, rollers and track!"

My locomotive whistle/horn doesn't work.

     Lionel's whistles/horns use an often testy relay to trigger them.
     Normal track current is AC which causes the solenoid to reverse
     directions of "pull" 60 times a second causing the unit to buzz
     slightly in neutral (see MOTOR DESIGN for further discussion). When
     the whistle activator is pushed some current is diverted through a
     rectifier and converted to DC. This DC supply superimposed on the AC
     causes a constant field on the solenoid, pulling up a contact arm to
     its contact. The contacts form a switch between the battery and horn
     or the track and the whistle motor. Diesel horns use a vibrator
     permanently enclosed in a metal casing while steam whistles use a
     motor driven impeller in a resonance chamber.

                   to coil frame  +-+        coil supply and supply to 
                            |-------------| +-   supply to whistle/horn
                            |-------------| | +  coil supply
                            |----coil-----| | |
                            |-------------| | |
                            |-------------| | |
              to coil frame =============== |__  upper contact
                            I__________________  lower contact arm

     The whistles on Lionels are located in the tender and horns in diesels
     and electrics may be in either the powered or unpowered unit. Follow
     the discussion above for removing shells. FIRST if you have a diesel
     or electric check the battery. Never leave a battery in a diesel for
     extended periods since it can corrode and destroy your locomotive with
     battery acid. Check the battery's charge.

     Test the relay. One common problem is that the relay's lower contact
     arm is not reaching the upper contact arm. Place the unit on the track
     and try to activate it manually with a small screwdriver (you will
     need track power for whistles, but not for horns). If it sounds, there
     is a problem with the relay or the wiring to it and if not it is with
     the horn or whistle or the wiring from the relay to the whistle or
     horn. If the coil does react to the activator, but the contacts do not
     reach each other, the arms may be CAREFULLY bent closer if needed, but
     not too close or it will contact at every bump in the track. If there
     is no response from the coil from different activators, try connecting
     the supply directly to the coil supplies (not the contacts) and
     throwing the activator. If this fails to activate the coil, it is
     likely burned out and needs to be replaced. If it alleviates the
     problem, your track pickups or wiring to the coil are at fault.

     To test the whistle apply transformer leads directly to the inputs to
     the motor (one may be the frame)(throwing the activator is NOT
     necessary). If it runs, the whistle motor is not the problem. If on
     the other hand you trace the problem to a whistle, test and repair it
     just as described in the locomotive motor repair above. The same basic
     motor design is used. DO NOT TRY TO OPEN THE RESONANCE CHAMBER! You
     will destroy it. You may remove the motor and flush plastic ones with
     water but usually not metallic ones.

     To test the horn use a couple of jumper wires to connect the battery
     terminals directly to the horn leads (one is a common ground with the
     locomotive's frame ground). If it operates, the wiring is at fault. If
     you trace it to the diesel horn, there is a small adjustment screw on
     the underside of the horn with a locking nut. It adjusts the play in
     the vibrator that creates the horn noise. Try various positions with
     battery power applied. If you still get no response replace the horn
     unit. Replacements are available.

I'm all confused by whistle trigger polarity.

     There are three kinds of whistle triggers available. The first,
     original, and oldest is the electromechanical whistle/horn relay
     discussed earlier. It does not care which way the superimposed DC
     current goes, just that there is one. The transformers designed to
     activate these use a diode to rectify part of the AC signal. A
     resistor was in parallel with a diode to allow most of the AC through
     to power the train, and rectify only enough DC to trigger the
     whistle/horn relay. The result was a sine wave modified to a sine wave
     with attenuated (smaller) peaks on one polarity. This is not a true DC
     offset, but does change the RMS (average) voltage to a non-zero value.
     That is sufficient for whistle relays of that era. The higher priced
     models used a two position trigger in which the first intermediate
     postion, all current passes through the diode, and in the second, the
     bypass resistor is introduced. This provides an initial strong DC
     'current' to activate the relay and then a smaller one to sustain it
     in its position. These models also usually cut in a 5 volt 'booster'
     coil that compensates for the additional current drain placed on the
     transformer by the whistle motor.

     The second trigger emerged in the early Fundimensions era of Lionel
     and is electronic. It uses a circuit board to sense the presence of a
     net DC current. Because these units are electronic, they are more
     sensitive and discerning of input signals. They were designed for use
     with solid state circuits. The older diodes used for mechanical relay
     triggering were ineffecient and noisy. This tends to confuse the
     electronic detector. Often it is necessary to hold older controllers
     in the intermediate position (all current through the diode) in order
     to get enough DC to trigger newer triggers. Additionally the
     electronic triggers are polarity sensitive. One polarity activates the
     primary function (whistle for steamers or horn for diesels or
     electrics) and the opposite polarity for an optional second feature,
     usually a clanging bell sound. The correspondence of available power
     to this trigger arrangement will be discussed in a moment.

     The third type is part of the TrainMaster Control system. This system
     uses encoded digital signal transmitted on the track to trigger
     decoders mounted in the locomotives. This uses wholey unrelated
     methodology. TM is, however, equipped with a retroactive horn/whistle
     and bell activators for track blocks. This presumably works the same
     as the previous electronic activators.

     Now back to the original and its diodes.

     - Cathode-----|<------Anode +

     The anode is positive and the cathode negative, and since current runs
     from positive to negative, it runs only in the direction the arrow
     points. This is an electronics convention. For our discussion we will
     use the common Lionel ZW and 1033 as examples. The ZW is usually wired
     with the common U terminal wired to the common outer rail, and the
     1033 with terminal A wired to the common outer rail. According to
     Lionel's schematics, when the whistle is triggered, the 5V booster
     coil (which compensates for the whistle motor and diode loss drain) is
     put in series with the variable coil and a diode-resistor combination.
     According to the Lionel diagram the anode is positioned toward the
     center rail terminal.

          Lionel's questionable diagram:

                              common                         common
            1033   +--------- A --+         ZW  +----------- U      --+
                   |  - +         | load        |  - +                | load
                   +--|<----- U <-+             +--|<------- A or D <-+
                     diode    power              diode       power

     This would imply a negative charge on the power rail relative to the
     common rail for a current to flow in the direction the diode indicates
     (Current always flows positive to negative). Another way to look at it
     is that since the diode is conductive in the direction of the current
     shown, the diode 'pulls' the power rail negative. Concluding from the
     diagram, the horn trigger uses a center rail negative DC current, but
     this is not the case. There are three test that confirm this.
        o Testing continuity with a silicon diode in series with the copper
          Lionel diode. The combination will only conduct when the two are
          anode to anode or cathode to cathode (according to the Lionel
          diagram). This can be done with a plain diode and a continuity
          testor or with two AAs and a LED. Same results.

        o The horn of a current direction dependent locomotive can be
          activated just as the built-in whistle controller does by adding
          a silicon diode in the circuit to the track. The successful
          direction of the diode is the opposite of that shown in the
          Lionel diagram.

        o Inserting a AA into the circuit to the track activates the horn
          of a current direction dependent locomotive when the positive end
          of the battery is contacting the center rail. The battery would,
          in effect, add a positive offset to the AC from the transformer.
          This is a positive offset on center relative to outer. The
          reverse configuration does not activate the horn.

     A modern MRC 027 transformer is reported to actually use negative
     center rail DC for horn activation. This may have resulted from 1) MRC
     taking Lionels diagrams verbatim or 2) not caring which way the DC
     current went, as where it is irrelevant for electromechanical whistle

     It has been reported that MTH (QSI) do use positive center rail DC for
     whistle/horn activation and negative for bell control. MRC and the
     Lionel schematic drawers made mistakes.

My stock car cows will move fine in the corral but not in the car.

     This is a generic defect and most corral sets suffer from it. It is
     caused by the fact that the car vibrator does not work as well as the
     corral vibrator. Sometimes adjusting the spring on the car vibrator
     plunger will help, but no reliable solution has been found. If yours
     works count your blessings.

My milk car keeps jamming!

     Remove the shell and milk can ramp cover. Early shells are removed by
     first removing two wire clips under the car which pass through the
     frame and shell on both sides. Later cars have screws on either end of
     the car. Clean every trace of dirt, oil and grease from inside the
     milk can ramp. This will usually solve the problem. Also make sure
     your platform is set to the correct height for O or O-27 track using
     the appropriate slots for the metal platform.

My #394 beacon won't spin.

     This too is normal. You can play with the vanes and sometimes increase
     performance, but this is why Lionel replaced it with #494. Make sure
     the top is balanced by carefully adjusting the pin inside the top. The
     394 has to be running for a couple minutes before it generates enough
     heat to turn the top.

How do those vibrator motors work?

     There are two types of vibrator motors. The first is used on rotating
     accessories like the 494 Beacon, spotlight cars, and rotating radar
     antenna. These use a method similar to that in the corral cars. A coil
     with an iron core is supplied with AC so it vibrates 60 times a
     second. A rubber ring with angled fingers sets on the coil and with
     each vibration the fingers loose contact with the surface for an
     instant and when contact is made again the fingers push in the
     direction of their lean. Doing this 60 times a second causes a
     (nearly) smooth motion. For the fingers to grip these motors they
     should never be lubricated.

     The second type is used in the culvert loader and unloader and in the
     aquarium car and animated gondola. It uses a coil near a flexible
     steel strip. Similarly it pulls and pushes the strip 60 times a
     second. Connected to the strip is a nylon cable wrapped around a
     pulley. As the strip moves toward the pulley no force is exerted. When
     it is moving away the cord pulls slightly on the pulley. The result is
     smooth motion (noisy though). The pulley surface should not be
     lubricated but its bearings and gears may, depending on the material
     from which they are made.

I have trouble with my locos reversing properly.

     A sequencer is the device that controls locomotive direction. The
     "E-Unit" was originally developed by Ives. It was a trademarked name I
     believe, where the generic name for the device is a sequencer. When
     Ives went bankrupt in 1931 Lionel bought it principally to acquire
     it's superior sequencer. Until then Lionel had used a simpler and less
     reliable two position sequencer. Ives' was the three position seen in
     'modern' tinplate locos. During it's classic era Lionel designated
     locos with E-units as -E such as the 300E and 700E. Flyer never owned
     the right to use the name E-unit specifically, but their sequencer is
     the same principal interpreted differently. I believe the E stood for
     Electronic unit. Although it wasn't really electronic by today's
     standards, it must have seemed that way in those times before
     transistors, and vacuum tubes were the cutting edge.

     Most sequencers work by means of a rotating drum and contact fingers.
     The drum has copper contacts on its surface arranged so that there
     will be connections made between different fingers for different
     positions of the drum. The circuitry of this is explained in MOTOR
     DESIGN. An electric coil plunger engages a series of teeth on the drum
     and pulls it a fraction of a rotation each time the coil is energized.

     The most common problem with sequencers is a lack of proper contact
     between fingers and drum, or a failure of the coil to properly
     position the drum. The contacts are best cleaned with Zero Residue or
     TV Tuner spray cleaner. If this fails you may carefully clean the drum
     in place with an eraser. Be careful not to touch the contact fingers.
     THEY ARE VERY DELICATE so BE CAREFUL. If the drum is pitted or damaged
     it needs to be replaced. Disassembling a sequencer is VERY tricky and
     delicate. For Lionel units the sides of the unit must be forced apart
     to remove the drum, and a pair of external snap ring pliers are good
     for this. The drum and finger assemblies will pop out. When
     reassembling press the assembly together by hand first and gently
     finish it in a vice. If the fingers are damaged it may be possible to
     re-bend them with precision pliers, but replacement is the best
     option. If your coil plunger is sticking do not oil it! The oil will
     "clog" it up. A pipe cleaner is useful here to clean the interior of
     the coil, as is spray cleaner. When the interior is clean, the plunger
     should slide easily. If not, the coil case is likely warped, so
     replacing the unit is the best solution. This same procedure may be
     used for accessories using the coil plunger system, such as crossing


     The best thing for keeping your old trains tidy is MILD detergent and
     water. A SOFT bristle paint brush is useful for occasional dusting.
     I've heard of using petroleum jelly but never tried it. Also there is:

     Toy and Train Cleaning Solution
     Hampton Hobby Products --- also has many other useful supplies
     2475 Hitching Post Drive
     Allison Park, PA 15101

     It is advisable to test any cleaning solution on less valuable stock
     and/or an unexposed region before committing to it. Avoid using any
     type of cleaner on decals and if you get them wet be very careful.
     They can easily tear, disintegrate or slide out of place.


     Modifications are not covered here as where they change the service
     routine from the predictable factory norm. The most common addition is
     that of modern electronic sounds and sequencing. Here are a few makers
     of add-on electronics.


     2575 N E Kathryn St #25
     Hillsboro, OR 97124
     Phone: 503-648-7765

     Dallee Electronics
     10 Witmer Road
     Lancaster, PA 17602
     Phone: 717-392-1705

     PO Box 2093
     Warrendale, PA 15086
     Phone: 412-776-4061

     Electronics for Trains
     1225 Johnson Ferry Road, Building 400
     Marietta, GA 30068

     Hyde-Out Mountain Live Steam
     89060 New Rumley Road
     Jewlet, OH 43986

     Ott Machine Services, Inc
     118 E Ash St
     Lombard, IL 60148-8701
     Phone: 708-932-9492
     Phone: 708-964-0587
     Fax: 708-719-0114

     Train America Studios


Where can I get replacement parts for my train?

     Both original new and used, as well as reproduction parts are
     available. Below is an incomplete listing of sources.

     Alfra Engineering
     7910 Poplar Hill Drive
     Clinton, MD 64138

     Bowser - Standard Gauge Wheels
     PO Box 322
     Montoursville, PA 17754-0322

     Brasseur Electric Trains
     4215 South Wayside Drive
     Saginaw, MI 48603
     Phone: 517-793-4753

     Lou Cantafio
     6 Como Trail
     PO Box 472, RD 3
     Lake Hoptacong, NJ 07849

     Charlie's Trains
     PO Box 158
     Hubertus, WI 53033
     Phone: 414-628-1544

     Classic Model Trains - supplies custom mixed paint to match original
     Charles Woods
     PO Box 179
     Hartford, OH 44424-0179

     Allison Cox
     18025 8th Avenue, NW
     Seattle, WA 98177
     Phone: 206-546-2230

     Doctor Tinker's Antique Toy Trains
     Parts and Service
     David Laughridge
     1 Belfry Terrace
     Lexington, MA 02173-4909

     William J Doomey
     Model Engineering Works
     PO Box 1188
     Ramona, CA 92065
     Phone: 619-789-0674

     East Coast Train Parts
     PO Box 604
     Englishtown, NJ 07726
     Phone/Fax: 732-972-8263 Tues-Fri 11-5:00
     (Confirmed in business 10-2001)

     Al Franceschetti
     Alpha Engineering
     7910 Poplar Hill Drive
     Clinton, MD 20735
     Phone: 301-868-1557

     Fred's Train Parts
     2102 Concord Road
     Chester, PA 19013
     Phone: 610-494-4578
     Fax: 610-494-7769
     (confirmed in business 10-2001)

     The R.F. Giardina, Co. - AF new and reproduction parts
     PO Box 562
     Oyster Bay, NY 11771
     Phone: 516-922-1364

     The Robert Grossman Company
     857 East 237th Street
     Euclid, OH 44123
     Phone: 216-261-0531

     Hobby Surplus Sales
     287 Main Street
     PO Box 2170
     New Britain, CT 06050

     Ronald Kolander
     131 W Washington Avenue
     PO Box 381
     China, TX 77613
     Phone: 409-752-3311

     E C Kraemer Reproductions
     105 Hollywood Avenue
     Fairfield, NJ 07006
     Phone: 201-227-5484

     Ron Leventon
     Leventon's Hobby Supply - AF supplies
     PO Box 1525
     Chehalis, WA 98532-3707
     Phone: 206-748-7507

     Lionel Classics Service Center
     9693 Gerwig Lane, Unit A
     Columbia, MD 21046
     Phone: 301-381-2588

     Locomotion Service Center
     4887 132nd Ave
     Hamilton, MI 49419
     Phone: 616-751-7119

     Madison Hardware
     1915 West Fort Street
     Detroit, MI 48216
     Phone: 313-965-9888

     Mike's Trains & Hobbies
     104 West Ocean Avenue
     Lompoc, CA 93436
     Phone: 800-772-4407
     Phone: 805-736-6747
     (reported to be out of business)

     Model Engineering Works
     12600 Frost Road
     Kansas City, MO 64138

     Model R.R. Centre
     90 Saxon Bay
     Winnipeg, Man
     Phone: 204-489-9001

     Ted Nyerges
     580 Humiston Drive
     Bay Village, OH 44140

     L M Olsen
     2192 McKinley Avenue
     Lakewood, OH 44107

     Stanley Orr - attends York meet
     PO Box 97
     Stormville, NY 12582
     Phone: 914-221-7738

     P K Train Parts
     220 Trouville Road
     Copiague, NY 11726
     Phone: 516-691-7628

     Doug Peck Port Lines Hobbies
     6 Storeybrooke Drive
     Newburyport, MA 01950-3408
     Phone: 508-465-8798

     David G Reinhert
     The Train Cellar
     1416 3rd Street
     Trevose, PA 19047

     Rick's Trains
     240 163rd Place, SE
     Bellevue, WA 98008
     Phone: 206-746-0686

     Mike Sabatelle - not recommended, experienced order trouble
     PO Box 040136
     Brooklyn, NY 11204
     Phone: 718-236-1278

     Richard J Sapetelli
     390 Dartmouth Street
     Wyckoff, NJ 07481

     Joseph Schwingl - Recommended, good service
     92-61 246 Street
     Bellrose Terrace, NY 11001

     John Severns
     John's Trains
     PO Box 46238
     Philadelphia, PA 19160-6238

     Doug Stott
     105 David Lane Lansdale, PA
     Phone: 215-362-7379

     George Tebolt
     Box 149
     Spencertown, NY 12165
     Phone: 518-392-2660
     Fax: 518-392-7434
     O, O-27, Standard Gauge; Lionel, AF, Ives, Erector
     (Confirmed in business 10-2001)

     That Train Place - Only place for NEW Marx parts
     56644 C R 3 South
     Elkhart, IN 46516
     Phone: 219-293-9182

     Tom's Trains / Triple S Supplies (Flyer parts)
     Shoppes of Nobb Hill
     288 Lancaster Ave
     Malvern, PA 19355
     (Confirmed in business 10-2001)

     Town and Country Hobbies
     PO Box 584
     Totowa, NJ 07512-0584
     Phone: 973-942-5176
     Fax: 973-790-8151
     (Confirmed in business 10-2001)

     The Train Shop
     Preakness Shopping Center
     Hamburg Turnpike
     Wayne, NJ 07470
     Phone: 201-649-0311

     The Train Tender
     135 Hamptom Way
     Penfield, NY 14526
     Phone: 716-381-0705 (eves and weekends)

     Trains and Things
     209-1/2 W Clark Street
     Champaign, Illinois 61820
     Phone: 217-398-0910

     Richard A Trickel
     PO Box 262
     48 Sunset Drive
     Paoli, PA 19301

     Triple "S" Supplies - Flyer S Parts
     PO Box 343
     Secane, PA 19018
     Phone: 610-296-9428

     Dennis Waldron
     Just Trains
     PO Box 841
     Sparta, NJ 07871
     Fax: 201-702-0545
     Phone: 201-702-7001 e-mail (temporarily) DWALD86426@AOL.COM

     Warren's Model Trains - good list, attends York meet
     20520 Lorain Road
     Fairview Park, OH 44126
     Phone: 216-331-2900
     Fax: 216-331-2559

Where else can I get parts without paying so much?

     Some basic parts can be found at your local hardware or electronics

     Light bulbs:

          Lionel #   GE #              base type           Radio Shack #
          47-300     47         6.3V bayonet              272-1110
          50-300     50         7.5V miniature screw      272-1133
          52-300     52         14V bayonet               272-1117
          53-300     53         14V miniature screw       272-1127


Is my tinplate train motor AC or DC?

     What follows is a technical description of the situation in as much
     layman's terms as possible and still be accurate. There are three
     basic types of electric machines in use today:

     DC MACHINES: These have a non-moving field coil on the stator and a
     moving armature on the rotor. It uses a commutator, which is a
     segmented plate which constantly redirects the current direction in
     the armature. This change in current causes a change in a magnetic
     field so that it keeps pushing against the field produced by the field
     coil. The more current, the more field, the more push, the faster the
     motor goes and no matter how fast it goes the commutator keeps the
     fields opposing each other, thus the variable speed.

     SYNCHRONOUS AC MACHINES: These have a non-moving armature on the
     stator and a moving field coil on the rotor. Since the field is
     constant, it has a solid slip ring instead of a commutator and relies
     on the change in the AC voltage supplied to it's stator to create the
     changing field and hence the motion in the machine. Because of this IT
     CAN TURN AT ONLY ONE SPEED at a given AC frequency for which it has
     been designed, usually a factor of 60, the frequency of standard AC
     current. (frequency can be varied by specialized electronics)

     INDUCTION AC MACHINES: These are a variation on synchronous machines
     that rely on induction to supply current to the rotor field from the
     stator armature (slip rings are then not needed), but are otherwise
     pretty similar.

     The Universal motor in operation

     Essentially all model engine motors are DC machines. The difference is
     in the field. Traditional Lionel, Flyer and Marx locos use an electric
     field coil. When DC is applied, the armature current goes one way and
     the field current goes one way. It pushes the motor in a particular

     If the terminals of a universal motor are reversed, the motor still
     spins the same way. The current through BOTH the field and armature
     are reversed so the field RELATIVE to current in the armature is the
     same. The two must change RELATIVE to one another to reverse the
     motor. This is why sequencers (E-Units) are used to reverse the field
     current RELATIVE TO the armature current.

     Now, AC current changes direction 60 times a second (50 in Europe). It
     is just like reversing the terminals 60 times a second. When AC is
     applied, the field current changes direction right in step with the
     armature current so that they are always flowing in the same RELATIVE
     direction. The force stays in the same direction.

     These motors are conceptually designed for DC but will usually work
     fine on AC too, as is the case in tinplate trains. It is, however,
     common practice in the hobby to call them "AC" or universal to
     indicate that they CAN run on AC, unlike "can" motors. I'm not trying
     to change this, but rather show how it all really works.

     The Can motor in operation

     "Can" style motors are used in N, HO, G and some Lionel offerings use
     a permanent magnet instead of an electric field coil. When DC is
     applied, the current in the armature runs one way and the permanent
     magnet substitutes for the field with current running one way. It
     pushes the motor in a particular direction.

     If the terminals of a can motor are reversed, only the armature is
     reversed (remember the field never changes). The armature has changed
     RELATIVE to the field so the motor direction reverses.

     Now, if AC is applied, the field of the permanent magnet does not
     change direction when the armature does. The RELATIVE directions
     change with the AC. The motor tries to change direction 60 times a
     second causing it to just shake violently.

     Below is a table which tries to graphically show the different
     behavior of these types of motors under AC and DC. 1 is a magnetic
     field in one direction and 2 is in the opposite direction. When they
     point in the same direction the motor will spin one way and the
     opposite way for opposing fields (here I arbitrarily chose the
     directions of rotation as clockwise CW and counter-clockwise CCW).

          ELECTRIC FIELD COIL              reverse motor leads
            (universal)                             |
          time (sec) 1/60  2/60  3/60  4/60  5/60...| 1/60  2/60  3/60  4/60  
          DC supply                                 |
          field       1     1     1     1     1     |  2     2     2     2     
          armature    1     1     1     1     1     |  2     2     2     2     
          result      CW    CW    CW    CW    CW    |  CW    CW    CW    CW    
          AC supply                                 |
          field       1     2     1     2     1     |  2     1     2     1     
          armature    1     2     1     2     1     |  2     1     2     1     
          result      CW    CW    CW    CW    CW    |  CW    CW    CW    CW    
          PERMANENT MAGNET FIELD (can)              |
          DC supply                                 |
          field       1     1     1     1     1     |  1     1     1     1     
          armature    1     1     1     1     1     |  2     2     2     2     
          result      CW    CW    CW    CW    CW    |  CCW   CCW   CCW   CCW   
          AC supply                                 |
          field       1     1     1     1     1     |  1     1     1     1     
          armature    1     2     1     2     1     |  2     1     2     1     
          result      CW    CCW   CW    CCW   CW    |  CCW   CW    CCW   CW    

     DC can motors can be used with AC if it is converted into DC through a
     rectifier or other means. This is done with many new offerings from
     Lionel and MTH. However, this requires a slightly different type of

     The cheapest Lionel offerings are equipped with non-rectified can
     motors without sequencers. These are provided with DC power packs and
     require a polarity change from the power pack to reverse, as in HO, N
     and G scale. They are incompatable with the rest of the AC powered
     line. (you get what you pay for)

     Conversely, you can run universal motor equipped locomotives on DC.
     However, since whistle, horn and bell activation relies on DC
     signaling (except the TrainMaster System), DC power cannot be used on
     a locomotive so equipped.

     Also, smaller size can motors require less current to run and hence
     smaller transformers. I have several HO transformers I use to run
     lights and most do not generate enough current to run tinplate trains
     with universal motors. The current limitation of DC power packs has
     traditionally been linked to the inability to rectify large amounts of
     AC house current to DC. Also, can motors have traditionally not been
     as powerful as universal motors and only in the past 10 years have
     they been considered to have enough power per size to use in the
     better Lionel offerings.

     As a result of all this, AC power and universal motors have been the
     system of choice from the 1890's through the 1990's. Still today, many
     of the best units have universal motors, albeit with five poles rather
     than three.

End of the Tinplate Train FAQ, Part 3 of 4
On to part 4 of 4

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM