General Tips & FAQs

From kitbashing ideas to dazzling TrainMaster™ magic, from wiring diagrams to spectacular scenery, the real expertise comes from you -- and so do many of these hints. To submit your own hint, please go to Talk to Us and drop us a line. It may show up on Lionel.com!

Meanwhile, this is the place to find the information you need to take your hobby to the next level of fun.

Incorporating the Lionel Command Control System Into an Existing Layout

Incorporating the Lionel Command Control System Into an Existing Layout When incorporating the Lionel Command Control system into an existing layout be aware of the following condition as it could cause problems. Remove any previous wiring that exists such as a coil of wire bunched up or tied up with wire ties, or bad connections. These conditions could create a magnetic block of the radio signal, creating confusion for your command equipment. If your locomotives are behaving erratically, have flickering headlights, have slurred or slowed down command signals, etc. it could be caused by the above condition.

Mr. Larry M. Wilson

Indiana

How To Convert a DC-Only Locomotive To Operate On AC or DC

These parts are available through any Lionel Authorized Service Center. To locate one near you, see our dealer locator or call 1-800-4Lionel. The parts are also available directly from the factory customer service department.

Part Number and Description Quantity Needed

600-0103-001
600-8616-055
600-8251-035
600-7227-030
600-3664-303
Reversing Unit 1
Mounting Bracket (steam loco) 1
Adhesive Pad (diesel loco) 1
Wire Nut 1
On/Off Switch (optional) 1

Over the years Lionel has produced locomotives that were labeled as DC (direct current) only.

These locomotives were equipped with a DC "can" motor that had to be operated by a DC transformer, as an AC (alternating current) transformer would cause permanent damage to the motor.

The DC set-up was fine if you were satisfied with operating your locomotive with direct current. But if you wanted to build a small layout and expand upon the set-up by adding switches and accessories, in many cases, direct current just wouldn't fit the bill. A locomotive can be modified in two different ways, one way is to install a bridge rectifier (found in most electronic supply stores) to the motor in the locomotive, but this limits you to only being able to move the locomotive in one direction only, forward, of course. This would be ideal if you just had the set on display and weren't looking for much play value.

The other way to modify the locomotive is to have an electronic reversing unit installed. With this unit installed, your locomotive has three different operating modes; forward, neutral and reverse. Any time you use a directional control on a transformer or interrupt power to your layout, the reversing unit will cycle into the next mode. The sequence of the modes are; forward-neutral-reverse-neutral-forward.

In supplement numbers twenty-one and thirty-two of the Lionel Parts Lists and Exploded Diagrams (available directly from the Lionel Consumer Services Department or through Lionel Authorized Service Centers) you will find a wiring diagram and parts breakdown for the basic steam locomotive used today. The wiring diagram is located in supplement twenty-one, section three, page five. The parts breakdown is shown in supplement thirty-two, section three, pages five and six.

The wiring diagram will show you where to put the six wires from the reversing unit, two of the wires are optional, the blue and the white wires. These wires can be soldered to an on/off switch (optional) that will enable you to lock the reversing unit into one of it's positions, example forward. If you do not want this option, the blue and white wires can be cut off of the circuit board.

The wiring diagram also shows a smoke unit, just disregard the wiring information of this unit. The remaining wires are black, red, brown and gray. First, unsolder the wires attached to the two terminals on the motor. The black wire from the reversing unit needs to be soldered to one of the motor's terminals (doesn't matter which one) and the red wire needs to be soldered to the other motor terminal. Use a wire nut to combine the gray wire with the wire that is coming from the locomotive's center rail pick up. The brown wire needs to be combined, using a wire nut, with the wire used to ground the locomotive. Test the locomotive on a piece of test track before completely re-assembling the locomotive. If all is fine, complete your assembly and you are now ready to roll! The locomotive will now operate on either AC or DC, and you will never have to worry about compatibility again! This conversion works for either steam or diesel locomotives.

How To Convert Old Style "PELLET TYPE" Smoke Units To Work With Lionel Smoke Fluid

First determine whether you want to continue to use the pellet type unit. You actually can add smoke fluid to these units, but you must not add more than one or two drops maximum or the unit will not function. Quite frankly converting the unit makes the most sense. If you decide to convert the pellet type unit to a smoke fluid type unit, here are the parts you will need.

Part Number and Description Quantity Needed
600-0671-181 600-0671-221 600-8141-056 600-2029-016 600-2029-015 600-8141-055 600-2020-M09 stack gasket 1
smoke unit liner 1
resistor wick 1
smoke unit cover 1
insulation sleeve 1
smoke unit resistor 1
solder lug (optional) 1

These parts are available through any Lionel Authorized Service Center. To locate one near you, see our dealer locator or call 1-800-4Lionel. The parts are available directly from the factory customer service department.

Here's what you will need to do to convert the unit. First, remove the locomotive's cab to expose the smoke unit. Next, carefully pry the top off of the smoke unit. You may see pellet residue in the smoke unit chamber, use a small knife or flat-blade screwdriver to remove it. A small amount of light oil sprayed into the cavity will make removal of the residue easier. Make sure the hole in the bottom of the smoke unit is cleared to allow the flow of air, from the action of the piston, to continue through the smoke unit.

Once the residue has been removed you can start to rebuild the unit. First, slip the silver colored wick over the smoke unit resister, then bend the smoke unit resistor into a U shape and put the legs through the holes in the new smoke unit cover. Now, place the black insulation sleeve over the leg of the resister that's through the larger hole in the smoke unit cover. Make sure that the insulation actually fits through the hole. Place the new smoke unit liner into the smoke unit chamber and then reassemble the cover, with the resistor, by firmly pressing it into the smoke unit chamber. Place the stack gasket on top of the smoke unit cover.

Next cut the insulated wire going to the old smoke unit resistor and solder the new insulated leg of the resistor to the old smoke unit wire. Wrap the connection with electrical tape. The remaining bear wire can be soldered to any convenient ground ( outside rail ) connection, or you may add the optional solder lug at the smoke unit mounting bracket and solder the wire to the lug.

You are now ready to test your work. Add 2 to 4 drops of smoke fluid through the top hole in the smoke unit and power-up your locomotive. Once you're assured everything is working properly, reassemble the locomotive and you're ready for many years of realistic puffing smoke.

Running Longer Trains

Long trains can add more drag as the locomotive labors to pull the consist through the curves on a layout. To help minimize the drag on tighter radius 027 and 031 curves, try adding a piece of 1/2 straight track or a piece of full length straight track to these curves. Put the track between two curve sections to increase the radius and make it easier for the locomotive to pull the consist.

When running long trains, it's always a good idea to locate the heavier cars near the front of the consist and the lighter cars toward the rear. This helps prevent derailments when backing up through a curve or when going forward through a tight radius curve.