Help with a 3rd Rail Engine

Very frustrated.  Got a very desirable Mollie a few years back (brand new from 3rd Rail).  Put it on the track and the bell never stops ringing, the whistle does not work and the chuffs sounds compete with static.  Sent it back to be fixed, got it back and nothing changed.  I have silently put up with it for the last several years.  I tried the TMCC reset and it did not change anything.  Looks great, runs great but sounds like sh!t.  Oh, I use Atlas track, a ZW-C, have Legacy and TMCC engines and all work wonderfully...except for this turkey.  Not sending it back again.  Anyone have any insight on this?  I can't even figure out how to open the tender and I've already broken a detail from handling too much. First failure I've ever had and I am definitely not happy.  BigRail

Original Post


The combination you are using should work as that is what I have. ZW-C with 135 bricks, running TMCC then switched to Legacy.

You might ask the guys at 3rd rail under what conditions was the engine tested?

Do you have another layout near that you can test on?

If that fails, I suspect you may need to return the engine again... I know you said you would not want to do that, but you may not have any other choice if the above fails.

Good luck.


The first thing I would do is to remove the tender shell so you can get to the TMCC electronics. Try reseating any circuit boards and check to make sure all the wiring connectors are seated properly. Also while you're in the tender does the engine have a Train America or Electric Railroad electronics.


3rd Rail and most other brass engine makers use smaller screws than what you you usually find in die cast tenders. The ones to look for for will be in the 4 corners of the underside. There may be more along the side in the middle depending if its a longer tender like a SF Northern. Maybe one pair or rarely two extra pairs of screws.

If you are still not sure then turn the tender over and take a picture and post it here.


You may want to carefully inspect the tender antenna arrangement. 3rd Rail isolates the whole shell, frame, and axles from the wheels on some of their engines. If it has been disassembled and put back together incorrectly, you may be intermittently shorting the antenna. Some of these tenders seem to be double insulated/isolated from the trucks too. The electrocoupler also has isolators and insulated bushings for the coupler screws. I have a few tenders like this I can think of (L3b Mohawk, Q1 off the top of my skull, both with OEM EOB) and had to be mindful when converting to Kadees. These tenders do not pick up ground because of this arrangement, and can cause all kinds of grief on dirty track.

Constant bell usually means it is seeing a DC offset which could be a pinched motor wire.  It also matters which system is in it.  Old TAS or newer ERR.  SOunds like probably TAS.  G

MTH Authorized Service Center

Authorized ERR Dealer

Lionel Independent Repair Tech

Virginia Train Collectors Member

In my opinion, bringing your train to York expecting to have Sunset 3rd  Rail “look” at it really a bad idea.

I know you did not specify Sunset as the place you might handoff the engine, but if you did mean Sunset, then I would think again.

First, York is a sales/marketing event. Expecting someone from 3rdrail to take time away from the real purpose and focus solely on a repair situation will only take time away from other members that might want to speak with the staff about future projects, sales, or problems like you are experiencing with this engine… not a place to actually do the work.

Second, as good as the lighting is in the orange hall, a table at York, or any tradeshow for that matter, is hardly a substitute for a proper workbench. Actually, a very high chance you drop or damage something that will end up frustrating you even more.

Third, do you really want to carry around “another” engine at York? If you carrying around a boxed engine, you will probably not enjoy the rest of the show.

The one thing you might be able to accomplish at York that will be worthwhile, is to test your engine on another layout. This might confirm that your engine does not work… or it might confirm that you have a problem with your layout.

All in all, by all means stop in the booth to express your issues with the staff, but don’t expect them to actually pull out a screwdriver and start wrenching on your engine.

Good luck.



Well, I did drop my F40PH locomotives off at the Lionel Booth a couple of York meets ago, but I didn't expect them to fix them on the spot.  OTOH, I figured I might as well save the wear and tear, not to mention the money, of shipping them.

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