394 Rotary Beacon

I have a 394 Rotary beacon I picked up a a hobby shop.  cleaned it up - gave her a paint job and she looks good.  I have the 394-10 bulb with the dimple.  I did not have the Red - Green Lens.  I got one from Town + Country Hobbies.  Looks good with the light shining through.  But - the rotary Lens never turns, even if I give it a little nudge, it stops turning and just sits there.  So,  my question is - does anyone have a 394 Beacon that the Lens turn from the heat from the bulb.  I am using 18 volt accessory voltage off my ZW.




Original Post

Even when new, these barely turn and you better not have any drafts in the room or it will affect the operation as well. I've heard there are repro signal tops that weigh more than the original; the extra weight may slow operation as well. My take on the 394 is it's a good PPW or display item; operationally, not so hot.

I also have a LTI motorized version in red that even new out of the box, has issues (the signal head powered by the rubber washer and "feet' on top of the vibromotor. Mine runs awhile and then stops and starts at random. Sometimes it needs a helping hand to start at all. Not my favorite accessory for reliable operation in either form.

I have a silver 394 with box and original top for someone that wants to pay the shipping.

I must have an exceptional one. Turn power on, 18 volts. After a minute she starts to slowly turn. Hasn't missed turning in 5 years. I find make sure it level, and adjust the fins about an 1/8 open all around. Also bottom lip, slightly ourward. Heat creates a draw of air.

Or maybe I'm just lucky, but originally did have to fiddle with the vanes.

1) be sure the tower is level (both ways)

2) be sure the pin of the rotating lens that rests in the dimple of the bulb is clean and straight - and somewhat "sharp" - to reduce drag as it turns.

3) the trick is all in the little "fins" or vanes in the top of the rotating lens.  It is the hot air rising from the bulb through these fins that makes the lens turn.  They usually need to be fine tuned.  They want to be bent upwards at the right angle - too much angle and the hot air escapes without turning it.  Too little and the hot air cannot escape in a good enough stream to turn it.  Keep varying them and trying.

4) match your transformer accessory voltage to this beacon with the voltage of the bulb you are using.  You want the bulb to get good and hot, but if too hot (18v with a 12 or 14v bulb?) it may actually soften (melt) the plastic pin that rests in the dimple, which will increase drag.


overall it is finicky no matter what, which is why they switched to making the vibrating one a few years later, which is also finicky and unreliable.  primitive technology.



Is the top an original or a repro. Unfortunately whoever made the reproductions made them far too heavy and they won't turn no matter what you do. If you're happy with your modification then go for it, but if you want to have it original and turn as it should, let me know.
Originally Posted by Steve24944:

Thanks for your comments.   I have built a flasher unit from parts from good old Radio Shack,  so if the red-green Lens wont turn, at least I have a flashing light.


You might try a rotating head from a Marx beacon.  I don't know how (or if) they differ in construction materials from a Lionel equivalent, but my old Marx beacon would not only rotate, it would rotate so fast that it looked more like a strobe than a rotary beacon.


I do recommend the #494 beacon, though, as others have.  I have my 494 on a variable voltage source, so I can fine-tune the amount of power and the speed of spin.


Prewar Pappy posted:


Your can purchase a vibratory motor (Lionel 494) easy conversion. Contact Dennis Waldron at Just Trains. Dennis' email is in his profile. Note: It's not the Just Trains in above blooper buttons.



Does anyone know where I can purchase the conversion kit for the 394 Beacon mentioned in the above thread?  Thanks

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