Cleaning up 50-year-old trains

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by 60103, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mar 25, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I've just started a project to make operable what's left of my 1953 Lionel trains.
    I dug out the cars and started to clean them. I'll just pass on a few observations.
    Who said metal wheels don't pick up dirt? I've scraped and scraped a thick layer of gunk from all the wheels. I took the trucks off and ran them through an ultrasonic denture cleaner which didn't make a dent in the gunk.
    I found a ring of rust under the gunk on a couple of wheels. There is also some rust on an underframe and on some track -- my father had a leak in the basement. I have some automobile deruster that I've used on this.
    There are some loose sideframes. I've used gap-filling ACC on a couple of them.
    Who knew the Lionel wheels were loose on the axles? One also seems to roll at an angle - can't see why.
    There is an interesting wear pattern on the wheels-- still black right next to the flanges. I think because of the tubular track. There's also some wear showing on the treads. One car has some wheels where the tire seems thinner, and there are bits where there's a bit of metal starting to move onto the face (like a casting line, almost).
    A few couplings have lost their spring. One caboose is missing a whole coupling casting (The sheel metal bits are still there.)
    I'm missing the frame of my tender -- have the body and the whistle.
    A few more nights work and I may be able to run them on my wife's Polar Express. Then a look at the loco.
  2. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Apr 7, 2004
    Likes Received:
    At times it can be a bit of a pain, but there's definitely something gratifying about getting a 50-year-old train in running shape again.

    As far as that tender, I know I bought a tender frame at a show a year or two ago to salvage trucks off it. I kept the frame, but I'm not sure where it is at the moment. When I measured what I thought was the frame against a tender, it didn't match up. Digging in the boxes under the tables at train shows would likely yield a tender frame eventually. Or you could get a non-whistling tender cheaply, put the whistle in it, and use whichever tender body looks better. If you're missing the trucks too, trucks with roller pickups are easy to find but not always easy to find cheap.

    Replacement couplers and assemblies are available. I know it's possible to fix them, but I don't know what book or magazine the instructions were printed in.

    I know the standard advice in the HO/N world is that metal wheels don't pick up crud like plastic wheels do. Maybe running trains on AC causes more crud to pick up than on DC, because most old Lionel wheels have a hard ring of crud around them. Usually I have to scrape it off and once I manage to get part of it, the rest will fall off.
  3. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    May 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Keep at it, Dave. I can think of nothing more satisfying in this hobby than to rescue the old timey stuff... :thumb: