How Do I Test A Lionel Post-War Motor?

Hardcoaler Mar 6, 2019

  1. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I have a c. 1958 Lionel F Unit. When I put it in the track, the headlight lights, but it just buzzes and won't move. When I move the E Unit lever under the locomotive (which I think takes the 'E unit' out of the circuit), I get the same buzz and no movement. When the locomotive was last put away perhaps ten years ago, it ran.

    I know the tack is wired correctly because my other Lionel locomotive from the same era runs fine in both directions.

    What's up here? I've read on the Internet how to test the motor(s), but I don't understand the connections being AC and all. My power pack is a Lionel Type S, which dates from 1947 I think. It has four posts -- A, B, C and U.

    Photos attached. I identified posts on a motor 1, 2 and 3 to make the process clearer to me. Thanks y'all.

    Lionel F Unit 001.jpg

    Lionel F Unit 002a.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    That particular "E" unit should have three positions. On each extreme throw, would lock the engine into a particular direction. The middle is sort of a "neutral", which the engine operates in each direction. When the transformer is used in this process, the middle position ends up as an idle, allowing track powering of an operating accessory.- coal loader, barrel loader, log loader, etc, etc. More advanced users power accessories such that track is un-powered, altogether.

    As the posted photo shows, you are connected to posts A-U. This should be variable voltage and what you need to operate or test.

    You should be able to attach alligator clips to motor "A" and "B", then use the transformer rheostat to test each individual motor. This bypasses the "E" unit.
     
  3. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Looks the same as my dad's c. 1950 unit. The E Unit on that goes neutral-forward-neutral-reverse-repeat. Throwing the big lever underneath locks it in whatever position it's in at the time, be it forward, reverse or neutral. Now that you mention it, a soft hum is normal in neutral.

    I have never used that exact transformer, but I believe I'd connect A and U to your motor brushes ("A" and "B") to test, just as BC50 said, to bypass the E Unit.

    If the E Unit is suspect, it could be wiring, it could be the little solenoid isn't moving the little claw on the little gear teeth, or it could be dirty contacts on a dirty wheel.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Having done many a Post-War Lionel repair, I have seen the wheel in an "E" unit pitted from years of arcs. Or those thin metal contact wipers worn. Hopefully it can just be cleaned. A close visual inspection is well worth the few seconds invested.
     
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  5. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    If the wheel and wiper arms aren't making good contact, that would produce your exact symptoms. So believe the man when he says that's a good investment.

    Also check the lever contact; if it's in neutral and those contacts are oxidized, it'll stay in neutral until Kingdom Come.

    That's the E Unit between the whistle (and battery compartment) and the rear motor, with the lever on the side.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I now see the little screw to dismount the E unit. I'll see if I can get it out. I'm able to turn the motor armatures by hand, so I now know that they're not bound up.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I can see a part within the E unit rise and fall with each twist of the throttle knob, so something is working within it. But man, neither motor wants to move. I have noticed that one of the motor armatures is much easier to turn than the other. Nonetheless, one or both should at least be trying to turn. Maybe Box is right on worn or pitted E unit contacts.

    Internet posts on the topic are in narrative form with no photos or diagrams and YouTube fails to explain the wiring as well.

    Oh well, not a big deal.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  8. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    The E Unit solenoid is working. That doesn't mean it's passing electricity well, though. I wish I could hear it; normally in 'neutral' it'll make a low him if powered up, not a loud buzz. If one motor has problems, it might also sap power from the healthier motor.

    You haven't bypassed the E Unit yet? Nervous about applying power directly to the brushes? I don't blame you. If the E Unit is engaged, that could cause a short. When you cycle that solenoid up and down, does the buzz change tone or volume at all? If not, I say the E Unit is not passing juice. Go ahead and bypass it and see if the motors turn.

    If cycling the E Unit does change the buzzing sound, then I'd investigate the motors (tight one first).
     
  9. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Our local library system is well blessed with Lionel books and this morning I located Greenberg's Repair and Operating Manual for Lionel Trains and am having it sent to my local branch. Hopefully it will include a motor testing procedure I can understand.

    I removed my F's trucks and motors and solved one mystery -- the front truck is locked up tight. The gears are jammed and won't rotate even a tiny bit. I took the top plate off the truck and couldn't see an obvious troublemaker. The rear truck is fine. With the motors laying out and normally wired, neither runs.

    So, I'm guessing that the E unit is at fault and obviously the locked-up front truck is to blame as well.
     
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Have you tried the suggested bypass testing, on that one truck not locked up?

    The other might just be unmoving due to corrosion, which has bound up an axle/bearing.
     
  11. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I still can't figure out how to wire up a Lionel motor. The diagrams I now find show four wires attached to the motor (motor case, coil and two brushes), but it still doesn't make sense to me. I'm very reluctant to start unsoldering wires, but if I can find a clear diagram that shows motor wiring sans the E unit and unsoldering is necessary for the test, I'd probably try it. I don't want to make things worse just messing around.

    Your thought on corrosion is a good one and I hadn't thought of it. The truck is absolutely locked up tight, with no movement whatsoever.
     
  12. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Some welcome progress tonight! :) Some of the wires had broken loose as I messed around with the locomotive, so I resoldered them. The hacked wiring and solderwork was poor to begin with.

    When I set it on my workbench and powered it up, both motors lurched! I centered the locomotive on a wooden block and the rear motor and truck were spinning freely. I immediately shut the throttle off knowing that the front motor couldn't turn because of the locked up truck gears. I removed the front truck and the front motor too began to spin freely! In fact, the armature pinched my finger between it and the motor housing when it started. Ouch! Those buggers are STRONG. Never had that happen in N Scale. o_O

    So, the remaining problem is the locked up front truck. I have the mechanism out of the truck sideframe and am looking at the gears, all now exposed. Time for a close look with a magnifier …….
     
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  13. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Good news!

    Yes, those AC motors have some torque.
     
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  14. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Into the truck we go. As per the photo below, I lifted the main drivegear set out of the truck and find that the leftmost (thinner) gear is stuck tight to the plastic bearing block identified by the arrow. Puzzling. But, the good news is that with this drivegear set removed, the gears and axles in the truck run well. So, if I can figure out how to free this guy up, my F will run again.

    Lionel F Front Truck Gear - for upload.jpg
     
  15. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    That's hard, brittle stuff. It is or is like Bakelite. Be gentle with it or it'll crack.

    It looks like the end of the shaft is splined. The block could have slid down on the splines, and may just need to slide away from that gear a few millimeters.

    I'd use two jeweler's screwdrivers, one on each side, and keep pressure even on both.
     
  16. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    This is a great thread. I always like the troubleshooting ones. I would squirt some light oil in there and gently try to loosen it up. I shudder to recommend WD-40 for fear of being lambasted but, I might try that. It's just a glorified kerosene.

    Even greased/oiled mechanisms can freeze up. I recently got a MiniTrix F9 and it was totally bound up - stuck. I just kept shooting WD-40 into the trucks and they finally let loose so I could completely disassemble, clean, and relube them. It runs fine, now.

    BTW, we ARE going to get to see the completed unit after it's fixed, right Dan?

    And finally, now we can see from where Rivarossi stole their design for their HO motors. Or, I guess it COULD be the other way 'round. Rivarossi was here in the fifties, too.

    OK, I noticed one more thing. Early on when the guys were telling which places to connect to on the motor, I think they meant "1" and "2", in your picture, instead of "a" and "b"

    Doug
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2019
  17. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Doug and you're right, I reposted my motor photo using numbers instead of letters so as to avoid confusion with my Lionel transformer which also sports letters A, B and C.

    I placed my Lionel gear assembly in the freezer last night, figuring that the metal would shrink more than the plastic. I've not yet checked it out. Per acptulsa's caution on breaking the plastic, I agree with you that I might try a bit of penetrating oil if thinks don't loosen.
     
  18. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Good idea. The freezer will shrink the metal. It could also make the plastic more brittle.
     
  19. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Freezer notion didn't work. I pulled the other bearing block off (it was easy)and now have the assembly soaking in penetrating oil. We'll see what happens next. I'm thinking that Doug is correct and that grease solidified in there and has everything stuck tight.
     
  20. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    The freezer may have helped create a way in for the oil.
     
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