Acela Pantograph issues

Well, at one point both of the pantographs in my non-powered unit quit working.  i did follow the instructions in the manual and reseated both of them. One works...the other is still a paperweight.  Here's the issue and questions I posed to Lionel today.

 

"Hello. Pantograph question and problem:

1. At some point do all 4 pantographs move? 

2. I’ve noticed the front pantograph on my non-powered unit never moves. (I’ve checked and it is properly installed and seated in the U channel per your “Acela Pantograph Installation manual.  is this correct?

3. Also, when I reverse direction so the non-powered unit is in the lead, it’s rear pantograph deploys as it should but also the lead pantograph on the powered unit remains raised. Is this the correct configuration?  I thought only one Pantograph should be deployed on the engine in which the train is traveling.  That pantograph is the rear pantograph on the engine. The other 3 should be down.  Is this correct? 

i have followed the directions in the manual and your “operating tips” to program/reprogam but this has not changed the behavior of the pantographs described above.  Any help, guidance would be greatly appreciated."

 

I should have paid closer attention to the operation of the pantographs from the start when everything was working so I would have had a baseline.  what puzzles me is why one pantograph on the non-powered unit works, the other doesn't and why a pantograph on the powered unit remains up when it is traveling in the reverse direction... I love this hobby. 

 

ed

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Original Post

Get with Lionel about the pantograph issue.

 

I think they were Amtrak engines so I don't know if they followed the Pennsylvania RR about using the rear pantograph when going forward.

 

Lee Fritz

Philadelphia & Reading Railway, one of the first railroads in the USA, first to have a double track system in the USA.

I second the idea, Get with Lionel, or Marty Fitzhenry, they are very knowledgeable about this Hi End Set.  Your track has to be laid very even, no bumps or narrow curves. It runs best on 096 up....Good Luck as this is truly A Fun To Run Passenger Train.  

Happy Railroading.....

Originally Posted by leapinlarry:

I second the idea, Get with Lionel, or Marty Fitzhenry, they are very knowledgeable about this Hi End Set.  Your track has to be laid very even, no bumps or narrow curves. It runs best on 096 up....Good Luck as this is truly A Fun To Run Passenger Train.  

Happy Railroading.....

Yes, I did send the questions to Lionel this morning. (See bold in my post above).  I wish I could lay O-96 but alas, O-72 is the best I can do. The real challenge for me will be assuring the track is level/even. 

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

The Acela runs with a pan up on both ends. Going forward the front pan is up on the head end and on the rear locomotive the rear pan is up.  When the engine changes direction the pans change to make the head engine have the front pan up on the head engine and the rear pan on the end engine.

 

I am lucky to live down the street from the RT 128 Amtrak station.  Not a day goes by that I do not get to see the Acela.  Dotty and I are frequent Acela passengers.  I have had many LCCA members coming to Boston in two weeks ask questions about the Acela.  When we head southbound, the Acela leaves RT 128 station and cranks up to 150 MPH.  A must experience for any train lover.

 

 

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Thanks for responding.  Interesting. Red below  shows what happens to my train.
 
Originally Posted by Marty Fitzhenry:

The Acela runs with a pan up on both ends.(Yes, if lead engine is the non-powered unit. In which case the rear Pan of lead is up and the front Pan of the rear unit  (powered) is up)  Going forward the front pan is up on the head end and on the rear locomotive the rear pan is up. (not quite see above)  When the engine changes direction the pans change to make the head engine have the front pan up on the head engine and the rear pan on the end engine.  When the lead engine is the powered unit, only it's rear Pan is up, all others are down.

 

Under no condition does the front pan of the non-powered engine ever move. 

 

I've gone through the reprogramming drill in the manual...nothing changed.

 

 

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Good luck with the "Panties" Ed... 

Only one of the four work with mine. These sometimes get bound up and the limit switch cannot reverse the direction or shut them off, they then turn to bind and burn up. What the sacrificial lamb of the system is either a triac in the the board or the motors and switches them selves.

You can do a component swap which I tend to do with mine, until the red x is found. 

Either way if you get one that stops working, shut it down so it does not burn up...

 

Did you confirm the Pantagraphs are engaged in the slider mechanism?

 

Lionel will probably want them back to repair. I would check the car tilt system too before you send them back....

TCA Number 16-71884

Originally Posted by VinceL:
Originally Posted by ToledoEd:

Oh, we did travel on the TVG in France a while back...not sure but I think we hit 135mph or so.  Very cool.

More like 200 mph!  It is fast and smooth.

Wow. We travelled on them in 2003...I was young (55) and inexperienced. 

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Originally Posted by J Daddy:

Good luck with the "Panties" Ed... 

Only one of the four work with mine. These sometimes get bound up and the limit switch cannot reverse the direction or shut them off, they then turn to bind and burn up. What the sacrificial lamb of the system is either a triac in the the board or the motors and switches them selves.

You can do a component swap which I tend to do with mine, until the red x is found. 

Either way if you get one that stops working, shut it down so it does not burn up...

 

Did you confirm the Pantagraphs are engaged in the slider mechanism?

 

Lionel will probably want them back to repair. I would check the car tilt system too before you send them back....

I know for sure one is. I had to reseat both of them as they had somehow slipped out of the pivot points. I do think both are. Their position looks identical to the other set that is working properly.  I wonder if some linkage inside as slipped so only one of those U channels is engaging. I've asked Lionel about this issue.  Thanks for the info.

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

If your ok taking them apart, I would swap boards and see what happens, then swap the motor units and see which is the bad one.

I had the powered unit opened up and tried to apply a 9 volt to each motored unit, but I cannot get them to move.... might be the darn switch in the motor module....

I assumed the board is working, for there is a flashing green light on the board and it is on.... but I am going to take a digital multi-meter to it to confirm.

 

TCA Number 16-71884

My Acela was running fine until this morning.  When I started it up, it went through the normal pantograph dance except one pantograph no longer moves.  The motor makes no sound.  I've opened up the non-powered unit and could visibly see one motor move.  I checked the wiring and nothing seems out of the ordinary to my eyes.  what I would like to do to isolate the issue is disconnect the dead motor from the PCB and put power to it directly. If it comes to life then I guess the Board is the issue.  However, I'm uncertain as to the DC voltage I should apply. I don't want to fry it but also want to be sure I put enough to it.  I was thinking 9 volts as I read that in some other thread.  Oh, one other question to anyone (ALEXM are you there? :-) ) that's removed the motor assembly, which and how many screws should be removed. I don't want to remove one and have some spring pop out and disappear to that place where socks in the dryer go.  Thanks.  

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

I have not had your exact problem with mine but at one stage the pantographs simply stopped functioning and I think only a high voltage jolt from the transformer revived them. This happened totally by accident and is not my recommended repair/testing method! In any case they worked again as Marty Fitz has described and the problem has not recurred. BTW, it follows that the answers to your original questions 2 and 3 are “no” as that is not the right operating sequence. I think that the right one is described in the owner’s manual but I don’t have it on hand to check.

However, I am aware that the motor units for each of the pantographs are problematic and when I looked into sourcing spares in case any one needed to be replaced, I found that Lionel had issued a new version, I think revision B, in place of the original equipment. I think that this has some mechanical design changes. But don’t take my word for it - see what Lionel says although I suspect that if they are able/willing to effect repairs you’ll have to ship the engines in. One the other hand, there was a recent thread in which Alex M. doing repairs on the Acela and frankly he’s more reliable about repairs than Lionel itself.

Thanks for the help.  I just discovered one of my 9v batteries is now a 4v battery so I'm going to put 4v to the motor I've unplugged from the PCB.  In any case I'll check the Lionel parts list and take from there.  Seems to me it's either the motor, the PCB or those little switches inside the motor shell that you can see working in AlexM's great video above.

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

If you're 9V battery is reading 4V, it's dead!  It likely won't have enough oomph to move the motor, even if it's good.  Use 4-5 VDC to test, but you need a source that can supply enough current.  It shouldn't be more than around 100ma max.

Update: I removed the pantograph motor that was not responding.  I then put 9v DC to the motor and it started right up.  I then connected the powered unit and non powered unit on my layout, powered the track and once I aligned the tether, all the motors responded appropriately.  I'm thinking some advice GunrunnerJohn gave me about motors in smoke units...sometimes they hit a dead spot and once you manually nudge them, they start working again. That's what I'm thinking here.  Of course, I sent one of those little screws that hold the motor to the shell into the next dimension, at least I hope so and it's not waiting to fall out of 'somewhere' on the 4th pass around the loop and short everything out...   I'm going to look for a replacement screw....

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Very good news that normal service is restored!

I suppose one other cause might be the lubrication on the gears/screws that the motor runs the pantographs on. Over time the original lubrication might have coagulated (for want of a better word). From the Alex M. video linked above, they look similar to the Acela door mechanisms, which are a real bore to try to maintain. As my set had lived in a box for some years, I put light oil on the door gears to get them running. This was no easy task; I have never had the nerve to take one of the cars apart although I have had both engines open.

Hancok2, thanks for the advice.  I did open the motor up and the grease on the gears was good.  However, after buttoning up the shell, I started the engines up and all was well.  I put it through a few startup, shutdown, and direction reversals and all was well.  A few loops around the layout and...yep, the pantograph motor stopped working again.  Ahem....the thought of taking the pantographs off and putting them on again makes me  nauseous....  I've decided to just replace the motor assembly and pantograph board.  Lionel should be shipping the parts soon.  I can't wait to get them....  I love this hobby, I really do....I keep reminding myself.  

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

choochoopaul posted:

Morning Ed:

Before you do anything else try this.

Reboot the lead engine. Prog/Run switch to Prog.

Eng # (set) Eng # Aux1 7 6 Return switch to Run

 

OK, will do. Thanks. 

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Choochoopaul, unfortunately, no joy. Thanks. I ordered a new pantograph PCB and motor unit.  Hopefully that’ll do it. Although I am now hearing low level static in the non powered unit. Sheesh. I love this hobby!

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

david1 posted:

The best times i had with my Acela was the day I bought it and the day I sold it. I will never own another one. 

Dave

Yeah, it's a real enthusiasm-killer, this model. I knew it had issues when I got one but then some people reported, and showed videos of, sets running as they were meant to. 

In my experience most of the problems (but not all) were in the IR signal transmission. Going over to wired connections sounds like a good idea. 

I have worked on several of these units and found that the motors need to be cleaned . I used spray contact cleaner on the armatures and brushes. They build up crud on the brush wells.  Try it, it works for me. There is no adjustment on  the limit switches and the  motors operate on low voltage.

Bob

tca 75-8237

LCCA 2308

Authorized Lionel independent service station

Hancock52 posted:
david1 posted:

The best times i had with my Acela was the day I bought it and the day I sold it. I will never own another one. 

Dave

Yeah, it's a real enthusiasm-killer, this model. I knew it had issues when I got one but then some people reported, and showed videos of, sets running as they were meant to. 

In my experience most of the problems (but not all) were in the IR signal transmission. Going over to wired connections sounds like a good idea. 

Yes the IR is hinkie at times.  I’ve had good luck with all but one car. The signal gets through because the powered and non powered talk to each other and operate OK. But one car’s ground lights start blinking almost immediately and will go out at reset but then bingo, start blinking. Good news is doors work so I ignore it. 

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

Success!  The new pantograph PCB (Rev.B) arrived today and after installing it, the pantographs now work as they should.  Fankly, hte most difficult pat of assembly is re-seating the pantographs.  I had the darndest time getting that control arm dimple back into place. I struggled with it and finally decided to loosen the control arm pin screws so one was probably no more than one turn to coming out.  Only then would those dudes seat properly.  By accident, when I removed the pantographs I loosened one of the control arm pins too far and it, the little spring and the pin itself fell out. Fortunately i found everything readily and I learned that spring doesn't fly out...it merely spilled out along with the rod.  

I do have a question for the experts here.  Should I have bought a second pantograph control board?  I'm thinking I should just in case the pantograph PCB in the powered unit fails some time in the future and Lionel runs out of them?  Thanks again to all for the good advice.

Ed

Yardmaster

Bristow Pike

"It's always something."

I'm most definitely not an expert but I do have an opinion/experience on this very question. When I sourced my spare boards,  I got a pair for exactly the reason you mention. With such frequent and indeed strange issues concerning the Acela, I decided to hedge my bets over these particular parts.

I have a feeling (based on some research I did six years back) that Lionel might have got in a quantity of the Revision B boards because of the frequent issues over pantograph operation with the original PCBs. Indeed I just looked at my replacement parts receipt (from 2012) and I see that I got two PCBs and two motor and gearbox assemblies.  I think that there was some change in the latter as well as the PCB but after this length of time I can't recall what it was.

Anyway I'd go for the extra one. I'm sure Lionel will be grateful for the extra sale.

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