Dedicated to the S Gauge American Flyer Trains of A. C. Gilbert! header image 2

Stumpy’s Station – “Project Atlantic” Part Two

October 5th, 2012 · No Comments

The first thing to do when you have your project engine is to disassemble the locomotive partially by removing the tender from the engine and taking the shell off the locomotive. If you plan to install a DC can motor while you’re at it, you’ll want to take the tender shell off as well.

Depending on the condition you purchased your locomotive in, you’ll want to clean and inspect the chassis and all working components. It will not be necessary to take everything apart, in fact unless you have to, a good cleaning of the assembled chassis and mechanism with a used tooth brush is a good way to do the job. Unless the seller has done a good job, you’ll find most of these engines dirty and oily under the shell, often with a nice collection of lint. Most of this crud was attracted by lubricants.
Don’t use soap and water on the chassis and mechanisms. A good spray electrical parts cleaner or WD-40 can helps the toothbrush. Both the pressure from the can and the solvents themselves help get tight spots clean and will dry/evaporate cleaner with no residue. If you’re working with junk box parts that are rusted, PB Blaster or any good penetrating oil will work, but they leave oily residue that must be removed.
Flip the locomotive chassis over and do the bottom too! Take the gear cover off and look at the mess in the gearbox! Usually years of old grease and oil have hardened into a nearly solid mass that is no longer doing any lubricating, but IS attracting dirty and small metal particles. If you find steel wool “hairs’ this could spell real trouble for motor, gears, Choo-choo unit, and even create hard to find short circuits.
Clean the gearbox out (a very small screwdriver is useful) and use electrical parts cleaner and a small cloth to get as much of the inside of the area clean as possible.
Inspect the engine and tender chassis’ closely after cleaning. While the actual Kit Bashing is mainly “cosmetic,” you want the finished product to run as good as it looks don’t you? Any repairs should be done now.
You should also re-lube the gearbox with a good lubricant. A Teflon “grease” is my favorite because it will last a long time and doesn’t attract crud as easily as the all petroleum products. Just a heavy smear on the axle gear is enough. Don’t use grease anywhere else. You can also use oil
if done from above where the worm gear of the motor touches the axle gear. Again, Teflon oil is available and worthwhile.
Lube the gear and lever for the Choo-choo unit with oil, but DO NOT lubricate the unit’s piston and cylinder unless it is dry and binds, and if you do, put oil on your finger or a Q-Tip and spread it around thinly. Oil the axles, side rods and such to complete the lubrication.
If the plastic boiler and tender shells are dirty, another used toothbrush and plain old soap and water are the way to go. Dirty parts are a mess to work with, and paint won’t adhere to oil or dirt.
If you’re installing a DC can motor, remove the old motor field and armature from the chassis. You will have to cut or de-solder the wires to the smoke unit and headlight. The brushes will spring out if you can’t hold the armature inside the field, so work over a tray or pan to catch flying parts! You will find tiny washers where the motor shaft goes into the chassis. Save these to put back in with the can motor. Remove the reverse unit in the tender as well. I just leave the motor and unit wired together, even if there is a plug board between.
Installing the can motor is straightforward and simple. Put the tiny washers on the shaft and slide the worm gear shaft in slowly while allowing the axle gear to turn and mesh. Use the screws that come with the replacement motor, but do not over tighten them. Some engines like at least one just a tad free for best gear mesh until the gears are broken in. To complete installation, solder the smoke and headlight wires and positive and negative wires for the tender to the lugs on motor. Use a very flexible wire for the motor to tender connection.
If you’re going to run straight DC power all you have to do is solder wires from each tender truck to each wire coming from the motor. If using an electronic reverse unit to run AC track power, follow the instructions for that unit carefully. I like to put a miniature connector between engine and tender for ease of uncoupling for later service or repair.
Okay, the engine is clean and in top condition running wise. Now the real butchery can begin!

Stumpy Stone

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