At present, I have no Lionel original post-war coal to use in my grandson's 397 loader.  We tried the Lionel coal tipple coal that I happened to have on hand but it doesn't want to play nice and move up the ramp.  I even tried cutting the rounded pieces in half, but they still don't work.  I saw some modern era Lionel coal on Evilbay, but if I recall it's cut up pieces of tubular plastic which I don't think will work either.  I don't want to pay the prices some sellers are asking for original Lionel coal.  

Are there any other readily available materials that could work ?

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Original Post

I have been told by several Lionel dealers that postwar Lionel coal was crushed black bakelite, and just looking at it convinces me that this is true.  I don't know if this helps you on your quest or not, but maybe it will at least suggest some alternatives.

Dan, I don't have a direct answer to your question about what particular coal works with the 397 coal loader, but will share my experience with Postwar Lionel coal loaders.

As a child I had a 397 coal loader with the coal that came with it, and always had trouble getting the coal to work. It would also get stuck under the red belt and screw things up.

As an adult I got the Postwar 97 coal loader that has always worked like a charm. Here it is:

20180829_131223

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

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Arnold D. Cribari posted:

Dan, I don't have a direct answer to your question about what particular coal works with the 397 coal loader, but will share my experience with Postwar Lionel coal loaders.

As a child I had a 397 coal loader with the coal that came with it, and always had trouble getting the coal to work. It would also get stuck under the red belt and screw things up.

As an adult I got the Postwar 97 coal loader that has always worked like a charm. Here it is:

20180829_131223

Interesting, Arnold.  I was thinking of replacing the 397 with a 497 that I have.  I think my grandson will get more enjoyment out of it and not get frustrated trying to make the 397 work.  He's ten and has many interests, which doesn't allow for too much tinkering time.  And I don't want him to get discouraged.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever tried Woodland Scenics (or similar) medium or coarse "Cinders" track ballast?  It's supposedly just crushed walnut shells, painted or dyed black.

Paul  

Ship Rock Island ROCKET FREIGHT

 

2 Rails?  3 Rails?  Doesn't matter, I can't count that high in either case.

I love the smell of fresh-brewed creosote first thing in the morning.

If the government knew how much fun O-gauge railroading was, they'd outlaw it!

Common sense is my second best trait.  Nonsense is my first, of course. 

eddie g posted:

I don't understand why you call it EVIL Bay. You want pre & postwar Lionel coal, buy it on Ebay,  it's cheap, it is what your supposed to use with the 397 & 97 coal elevator.

Evilbay is like Big Brother, controlling everything.....LOL.

As for the cost of post-war coal, have a look at these listings;

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vinta...5:g:XGMAAOSwwf1bc-nm

https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-Dif...sIAAOSwScJa8kGbStill think it's cheap ?

There are some listings for post-war coal that are running in the twenty-five to thirty dollar rage for a single bag.  It's still too much to pay for something that may wind up in the vacuum cleaner.

Then there's this listing;

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Lione...1:g:etUAAOSwrklVSX5p

At the BIN price of $390.00 it works out to $1.89/bag.  Now that's cheap.  But I'm not about to spend almost $400.00.  Of course I could buy it all and resell it to make a profit.  Maybe not.....LOL

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

rjsmithindy posted:

The thread below suggested black acquarium gravel or medium blasting abrasives.  Has anyone had success with either?  I’d be interested in finding an alternative as well.

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/coal-1

 

Ha, that's my post from two years ago.....LOL

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I've tried to find a video of us using aquarium gravel in the 397. I can tell you that it works pretty well. The Dollar Store had some green/white/black bags of it that seemed a little lighter that I bought and it worked well.

-Ed, O-27 trains and track, building out our little train empire one piece at a time.

 

KE8JLT

At the BIN price of $390.00 it works out to $1.89/bag.  Now that's cheap.  But I'm not about to spend almost $400.00.  Of course I could buy it all and resell it to make a profit.  Maybe not.....LOL

That is 39 dollars a bag. I doubt he'll get any takers. Folks can ask whatever they please.

Doesn't Lionel offer coal any longer?

The only drawback you MIGHT experience with using aquarium gravel for coal is having pieces that are too small. When the pieces are too small they can get underneath the belt and foul the mechanism.  Same goes for the 97 coal elevator.


C.W. Burfle

Dan, I guess you are right. Usually they are on the bay for about $10. a bag. That guy with the 10 bags started them at $1.000 about 6 months ago. Every month he comes down a little.  I used to have some bags. if i find them, I mail them to you.

Eddie G

Is the # 397 loader the one with the red conveyer belt and red plastic tray that a side dump car unloads into ? If so I had one that always jammed,stuck, or not go up the plastic tray. Then I was told by a Lionel, MTH repairmen to use the MTH coal.  And that fixed it, worked perfect every time

You might try a trip to your local Michaels, Hobby Lobby or AC Moore craft's stores or search them on the internet. I know Michaels stocks a pretty good supply of rocks and gravel, some in black, that might suit your needs and I would guess that the others do as well.

I had the coal loader that was the more simple one, the open conveyor belt (the one that had the piece of plastic at the end to make sure the coal deflected down into the hopper car). I used clay cat litter, and some cheap black gloss spray paint I had, to saturate the litter, then made sure to break up any clumps. It worked well for me, and being on a very limited budget as a teenager, it worked pretty well 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

C W Burfle posted:

At the BIN price of $390.00 it works out to $1.89/bag.  Now that's cheap.  But I'm not about to spend almost $400.00.  Of course I could buy it all and resell it to make a profit.  Maybe not.....LOL

That is 39 dollars a bag. I doubt he'll get any takers. Folks can ask whatever they please.

Doesn't Lionel offer coal any longer?

The only drawback you MIGHT experience with using aquarium gravel for coal is having pieces that are too small. When the pieces are too small they can get underneath the belt and foul the mechanism.  Same goes for the 97 coal elevator.


Wow, did I have the math wrong.  I read it as 206 bags of coal, figuring he was only showing a sampling.  I guess he figures if he shows it against the wall and it doesn't come back, he's $390.00 richer for something that probably sold for $.25 per bag back in the day.

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I have a Postwar 397 coal loader and 3469 dump car on my layout. The dump car came with a bag of Postwar coal. It works pretty good. The only issue is no matter what after running the 397 about 10-12 times a piece or two of coal get under the belt and it stops moving. The trick to fix that is to remove the 397 from the layout, tip it upside down, and stretch the belt a bit. The offending piece/pieces of coal will pop out and the 397 is back to working great again. 

I have found that my 397 likes about 12 volts. It operates smoothest and throws the least amount of coal around at the voltage. 

Santa Fe, All the Way

Hi Dan,

I get these posts on a weekly digest, so just saw this today.  I had the same problem with my vintage 397 coal loader and solved the problem as follows (credit given to sources as noted):

1. First, be sure to cover any openings on the beam with scotch tape or masking tape.  See photo of outside of beam and under the belt.  Read this little tip in "Toy Train Repair Made Easy" by Ray Plummer.

2. I can't locate the thread on this forum, but I'm sure I read over a year ago the recommendation to purchase aquarium gravel at Petco, and a cheap, plastic collander to strain out the small pieces of coal.  I purchased both.  I attached a photo of the collander, and drilled out the bottom holes to the size I wanted as suggested on that thread.   The smaller pieces represent what went through; large pieces are what I use on the 397 without jamming.  Penny added to show reference. 

3.  I would also suggest to replace an old conveyor belt. After I did the above and then had some belt slipping, a new belt solved that problem. 

And BTW, I have several vintage Lionel operating accessories that need constant attention - but the grandkids just love 'em!!   I have fun with them as well despite their weird scale size. 

Hope this helps.

Michael

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I just put my old 397 coal loader back into service and while it works pretty well I’ve always wondered about alternatives to the standard Lionel coal. After a search found this thread which as usual offers some great suggestions. 

Question: How about the “coal” that is sold with the coal tipple? These are larger pieces and sort of rounded off like beads. Wondered if anybody has had success using them in the their 397? May also explore the aquarium gravel idea as that’s been mentioned a few times.

TCA, LCCA

I often wonder at these sort of issues re PW accessories...like the 397??? 

What granular medium did the creative minds of Lionel use in the development/design of the original accessory???

What variations of material, composition, size, et al, did they evaluate predicting human desire to deviate from the printed instructions/recommendations??   What about Cheerios??.....Kitty Litter??....Crumbled old fruit cake??....Grape Nuts???...

Did they really expect an accessory with a rubber belt and 'Magic Fingers' vibratory system to deliver flawless operation in the hands of the common-man 60 years and 2-3 generations later through environmental/storage/usage variability?  (answer: Of course not....the future is unimaginable in the toy industry.)

Etc.

(Better thought-fodder than wringing one's hands over the outcome of a pending election!)

MTH makes accessory 'coal'.....our customers (LHS) seem happy with it.....however it's being used.

I tried some old-and-new 'coal' from my PW+freshly purchased 'coal' supply in my 97, 397, 456, and Gilbert Seaboard Coaler accesories after their installation.  Yepper.  Coal everywhere.  Jumping bits-O-black polymer everywhere.  Some of it even where it was supposed to go!!  Such happiness from electro-mechanical mayhem!!  

So, just what is 'perfection' in the operation of a Post-War accessory?.....especially the coal-flinging variety??Bouncing cattle, flying milk jugs, wayward horseys, stubborn beacons, ......Again, more fun to think about than the world would have us spend our time.

Then, there's that search for an improvement....   

More fun!

I wonder?.....Were the Lionel inventors really lay psychologists???.....Knowing what was good for the mind, skills, and happiness in our later lives if we stayed with the hobby??....

Good Job, guys!

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