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Thread: Suggestions for Getting Old Locomotives Ready to Run

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    Default Suggestions for Getting Old Locomotives Ready to Run

    Hello All,

    I'm getting ready to run my father's locomotives that have been stored for over 30 years. They've been stored in plastic bins away from heat, light, and dampness.

    Is there anything I should do before I try to run them on a test track?

    I've never tried to do any troubleshooting on model railroading equipment, and although I'm fairly handy, I'm not sure where to start if I run into issues.

    If the recommendation is to get professional repair help I'm happy to go that way, but thought I'd open the question up to the community to get a sense of what to do first!

    Thanks!
    Trish W.

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    Certainly no expert here and hopefully some of the old guys will comment regarding 30yr old equipment. Some people use a 9 volt battery to test the rotating assembly of modern DC locomotives. Really is a good question! How are you powering the track? Would hate for you to send to much voltage to the rails and burn something up. If it starts smoking probably a good time to stop.

    If the wheels and linkages turn freely I'd set it on the track and start on low power turn it up slowly. Hopefully it will start moving smoothly. Good Luck.

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    What Rook said should be fine!
    The 9V battery trick would be the safest if you're unsure of your power source.
    The Little Rock Line blog


    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." George Carlin

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    I would just put each one on the track and slowly increase the speed control. If the loco doesn't start moving fairy quickly at about a 9 - 10 o'clock setting on the control, stop and the loco will have to be checked out. The nine volt battery check is OK but a nine volt battery can't handle much current and may not be able to start the loco running.

    Just don't crank up the speed control and leave it there if the loco doesn't start moving. This is how motors get burnt out.

    If the loco moves, you then just need to lubricate the motor and other bearings with model loco oil and the gears with model loco grease. The ones that don't start will need to be checked out as to why they don't.

    Can you list some of the ones you have?

    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    Rook,

    Thank you for your reply and suggestions. I do have a newer Bachmann n-scale PowerPack and Speed Controller from an n-scale set and I was going to use that to power my test track. I used it to run a small oval track layout under the Christmas tree this year so I know it works. I have several MRC PowerPacks in my Dad's stuff, but I wanted to test one thing at a time, I figured using a known-working PowerPack would take one possible issue out of the equation.

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    Doug,

    Thanks for the advice! I've finished going through all the rolling stock but haven't written a detailed inventory yet. There're about 2 dozen engines so it shouldn't take me too long to post a list. I'll get the track set up and try a few of the less precious ones first to see how things go. I'm pretty sure one of the engines wasn't working when it was stored (a diesel bicentennial engine) so that one will need attention at some point in the future.

    Trish W.

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    Before I did any kind of running, I would break down the mechanisms, clean out the fuzzies and dirt, clean the gears with Simple Green, reassemble, then relube with Labelle or Nano-oil products.

    Once the motor and mechanism are working freely up and down the voltage range, I'd then get the wheels as clean as possible using a lint-free cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Hold one end of the loco on the rails for power, or clip leads from a power pack to the locomotive, set the other end on the dampened cloth, and dial the throttle to medium.

    Rinse and repeat for the other locomotives.
    Last edited by Paul Schmidt; 22nd Aug 2019 at 08:22 PM.

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    Degrease then lube.

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    Paul,

    Thank you! It looks like next week will be locomotive cleaning week.

    Trish W.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Before I did any kind of running, I would break down the mechanisms, clean out the fuzzies and dirt, clean the gears with Simple Green, reassemble, then relube with Labelle or Nano-oil products.
    This x10.

    Any locomotives that old will likely have either no lube, or lube that has turned to glue. Disassemble, clean, reassemble and PROPERLY lube. It takes less than you think.

    But locomotives that old may have other issues:

    The use of plastic tubing as a drive shaft, which is now so brittle it just snaps. You'll have to remove it and replace it.

    The use of rubber band drives. Yes, those were a thing. Yes, new rubber bands is the fix.

    The first time I ran it I would make sure to use a current meter (I'd use an RRAmpMeter as I have one, but there are many other methods) and watch it closely. If the current spikes to high I'd take apart and check for binding and other issues again. Even on an old motor, about 0.5 amps running light tops, hopefully less. Modern engines light can be down in the 0.2 amps range.
    --
    Leo Bicknell

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    My post was predicated on determining which ones at least run to begin with. The other stuff like disassembling, cleaning, etc. can come later. Now, don't get me wrong. I have done what you guys suggest. It's just that, if I have several to check out, I want to see if each one will run, first.

    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    Doug,

    I agree with the other posters that cleaning will be needed, but it was good to get a chance to see if any of them would run first!

    I didn't try all of the locomotives yet, just the ones I'm hoping to display or run with the small space I have.

    All but one of the engines ran--some more willingly than others! Boy, getting those wheels on the track is sure harder after 30 years. :-)

    As you asked, here is a list of the one's I tested. I was able to locate most of them on spookshow.net which helped with identification and the potential disassembly process. I'm a bit intimidated to disassemble the engines for the cleaning/lubrication process. I'm sure there are video and website resources out there--any recommendations on good videos/sites to start with would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Trish W.

    Manufacturer Road Name Classification Notes
    Bachmann SantaFe 0-4-0 Docksider w/Tender Working
    MiniTrix (Marked 'Trix West Germany') SantaFe Diesel F9 Round Nose Working
    Atlas ATSF 0-8-0 Yard Goat w/Tender NOT Working
    MiniTrix (Marked 'Trix West Germany') SantaFe Diesel U28C Square Nose Working
    Unmarked ATSF Plymouth MDT/WDT Working
    Arnold DB(Deutsch Bahn) Side Tank Switcher Working
    Arnold PRR GG-1, Green Livery Working but needs larger radius
    Bachmann ATSF 4-8-4 Northern w/Tender Working but squeeks
    Con-Cor SP Daylight 4-8-4 w/Tender Working

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    Wow, much of that list is like reading my "want to have" roster from the late 1970s.

    Getting them running to their best potential will be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Just be aware that motor and mechanism quality has improved drastically the past 30 years, so these won't run as well as even models from the early 2000s, although the Arnold and Minitrix units will likely be the best of the bunch.

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    Paul,

    Thanks for the encouragement! The two Mnitrix did run the best so far (except for the GG-1 and Daylight which had never been run). The Arnold pieces seemed to have the most wear--so the need for maintenance makes sense.

    I was surprised of having so many ATSF engines--Dad was more of a Southern Pacific fan, but maybe SP was harder to find at the time. I bought the GG-1 for him as a gift (he lived in PA for a few years before retiring back to California), but since it doesn't fit my current plan (or radius limitations) I may try to find it a new home.

    Trish W.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trishweber22 View Post
    I was surprised of having so many ATSF engines
    Back in the day, manufacturers could slap "Sante Fe" or ATSF on just about anything and sell it -- even if the Santa Fe never had it on the roster.

    Some still do.

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    Yeah, I'm surprised nobody ever made a Santa Fe GG1. Or did they?



    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    Probably the most problematic of the bunch is the 0-8-0. The round Rivarossi-made motors have a circular softish-magnet around the armature that seemed to both attract all manner of gunk, run hot, and finally burn out. Parts are not available, although there's a lot of 'stash' out there. Problem is that those motors really don't get better with age. And the frames are notorious for zinc pest. http://www.spookshow.net/loco/riv080.html


    It's easy enough to get the boiler off with a screw on the top. The motor is held in place with a couple screws. Look carefully at the frame to see if there are cracks and swelling, that's a fatal typical of the zinc frame castings. Remove the motor, and see if you can roll the mechanism smoothly with it removed, as that zinc deterioration also tends to bind up frames and axles. If that's OK, put a couple wires to the motor brush housings while it is out to see if it wants to spin OK. If it rolls smoothly, and the motor spins OK, it's probably fixable, but if either of those issues shows up it's probably toast.

    The Trix and Rapido stuff are darn durable, with all-metal gears. They are worth your time.

    The Bachmann 4-8-4 has many versions of mechanisms, check out Spookshow's site to identify which one you have as they go from bad to great. Most aren't that great but you can still get them to run. This is the go-to site for all of us on identifying what is what.
    http://www.spookshow.net/locos.html

    I've been in N since '72, and I'm probably more comfortable with that stuff than anything loaded up with a decoder and sound. There's several of us here that have been in N since dirt was invented.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Funny, I don't remember dirt being around back then.



    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    First locomotive I ever saw with a Faulhaber motor and gearhead in it was a rebuilt Rivarossi 0-8-0. Top speed of it was like 15mph and it ran like butter. So it is possible to have a honey one of those if you manage to get one with the frame that is still OK.

    I got one of those notorious 'display only" Atlas factory return 4-6-2's, new in box returns, amazing. With some work on freeing up the axle slots from zinc pest swell it still ran very well, until about this year when the swell got so bad the pilot is now bending down and touching the railhead. Zinc pest is a cruel end for some otherwise wonderful legacy models of N.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Most locos that have been sitting for a long while could stand a blast of DeOxit wherever their elecrical pickup wipers are. That will get the +'s and -'s flowing.

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